The drive up Emigration Canyon is one of my favorites. Despite the new mini-mansions, the canyon has an old, otherworldly vibe that reminds me of Sonoma, which is maybe why it’s been home to timeless eateries like Ruth’s Diner, or the much-missed Santa Fe Restaurant. The Sun & Moon Cafe is another such restaurant: one that is not so much stuck in time, but happily indifferent to it. It doesn’t aim to be hip or trendy, but hits “comfy” right in the bull’s-eye. The Sun & Moon Cafe is a place where the owner, Carl Weyant, seems to know most of the restaurant’s patrons, and they, in turn, all seem to know each other. It’s hard not to feel like part of a family when you eat there.
When I moved to Utah, the space that is now The Sun & Moon Café was Crompton’s Roadside Attraction. I still miss Karen Crompton’s white-bean chili, and the awesome avalanche omelet. Well, Crompton’s closed in 1997, but the space was rescued by Weyant, who hails originally from New York City and, more recently, was a chef at Solitude Resort’s Yurt and St. Bernard’s restaurants—none of which explains Weyant’s affection for the Oakland Raiders. You’ll often see him sporting Raiders’ garb; there’s even some silver-and-black décor in the men’s restroom, not to mention candles—just a couple of the quirky things about The Sun & Moon Cafe.
I envy Weyant’s work commute. He lives right next door to the cafe, which itself is very homey and cozy. By day, it’s a popular breakfast and lunch spot, with tasty omelets accompanied by the restaurant’s signature breakfast potatoes. There’s also a killer crab-cake eggs Benedict ($13.99) on the menu, along with Tex-Mex options like pork chile verde served atop breakfast potatoes ($11.99), a chorizo scramble ($11.99) and good old huevos rancheros ($9.99).
Sun & Moon Cafe lunch favorites include terrific half-pound burgers ($8.99); a darned good rendition of one of my favorite Italian comfort foods, chicken parmesan ($9.99); a classic BLT ($8.99); and lots of other choices, including excellent salads like the tomato & avocado salad with black beans and roasted corn on a bed of greens ($9.99).
At night, however—or at least on certain nights—the Sun & Moon Cafe becomes a rockin’ roadhouse. In some ways, this is a well-kept secret. But those in the know are aware that the Sun & Moon frequently features nationally known blues acts, in addition to local musicians. When the weather was warmer, we enjoyed a live set on the patio during dinner by Utah’s own Dan Weldon, who tore the place up. I remember a cute little girl in cowboy boots getting down to Weldon’s tunes, while my son, Hank, enjoyed a bowl of mac & cheese from the kids menu.
As for me, I enjoyed a soup starter of fire-roasted red-pepper & tomato bisque ($4.99). The bisque has a lot of spicy heat, which I like a lot, with rich, deep flavors of tomato and red peppers. A heaping portion of house-smoked pulled pork with spicy barbecue sauce ($15.99) was just what the doctor ordered, as Weldon wailed. I snuck a few bites of my wife’s grilled salmon, topped with a sauce of grape tomatoes, garlic and avocado ($16.99), and was quite pleased.
On a recent October evening—the first snowy night of the season—we again dined at The Sun & Moon Cafe, this time enjoying guitar great Scott Holt, who, for many years, was Buddy Guy’s guitar-slinging sidekick. The restaurant was sold out (not surprising at only $20 per ticket), and it felt a little like we were crashing a private party, as everyone there seemed already to know one another. We quickly made new friends and the evening ended with Holt, in Buddy Guy style, walking though the crowd playing his guitar and even heading out the door and into the snow as happy patrons followed him like he was the Pied Piper.
There aren’t many places where you can enjoy a meal to the live sounds of artists like John Lee Hooker Jr., The Avey Brothers, Chris Duarte, Guitar Shorty, Eddie Turner and the like. But, The Sun & Moon Cafe is one such place.
While Scott Holt was getting started onstage, we dug into the best empanadas I’ve ever tasted. OMG! The beef empanadas appetizer ($8.99) was three crispy housemade dough pies stuffed with a spicy blend of beef, caramelized onions and herbs—simply sensational. I couldn’t get over how good those empanadas were, but then found out that Weyant has a secret weapon in his kitchen: an Argentine chef.
A fillet of fresh Alaskan halibut ($18.99) was simply sauteed and served with an uncomplicated but delicious chive beurre blanc, along with sides of roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and steamed carrots and broccoli. It’s not food that is cutting edge, but it’s solid, straightforward cooking of a type that seems to be disappearing. Likewise, the service reminds me of the traditional, warm hospitality you’d find in your favorite old-fashioned diner. All the servers we encountered at The Sun & Moon Cafe were friendly, but we especially remember the big smiles of a server named (I think) Jaclyn. It’s rare to see someone who seems to enjoy their work so much.
But then, that’s just the kind of place Carl Weyant’s Sun & Moon Cafe is—a place filled with happy, smiling people.
THE SUN & MOON CAFE
6281 Emigration Canyon