El Chanate | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

El Chanate 

Oom-pah Ole! Germany meets Mexico at Snowbird.

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El Chanate - JOHN TAYLOR
It sounds like a World Cup soccer match. But the nexus of Germany and Mexico occurs here in Zion at the intersection of Snowbird’s annual Oktoberfest celebration and its El Chanate restaurant. In a nutshell: You can go from oom-pah to ole! in a short walk at Snowbird.

You still have a couple of weeks to get in on Snowbird’s 38th annual Oktoberfest, which carries on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 10. Germany’s ginormous Oktoberfest, held in Munich, is the single largest festival in the world. Over the duration of the two-week celebration, Munich’s Oktoberfest hosts some 6 million visitors. That’s a lot of suds. Annually, an average of about 6 million attendees drink nearly 1 litre of beer each. But what really surprises me is that more than 1 million liters of nonalcoholic beer are also consumed—this, apparently, by designated drivers. In addition, half a million pork sausages, half a million chickens and 59,000 pork knuckles are eaten at Oktoberfest, not to mention 87 oxen.

The scale of Snowbird’s Oktoberfest is a little less majestic than Munich’s. On the other hand, you don’t have to learn German to order a beer here. Just stroll up to Oktoberfest Halle, a big heated tent located just off Snowbird’s Plaza, and let the fun begin. There’s free entertainment that includes music and dancing, and for the youngsters there’s face painting, inflatable rides, clowns, balloons and more.

But, of course, Oktoberfest is first and foremost about beer and food. And this year’s Oktoberfest at Snowbird combines a Bavarian-themed menu with a mini brewfest. First, I’ll usually sink my teeth into the lightly spiced weisswurst ($9.75): mild cream-colored veal sausage served on a sourdough hoagie with sauerkraut and a pickle. Other wurst options include bratwurst ($9.25) and chicken-apple sausage ($9.75). Of course, I’m always a sucker for Snowbird’s herbed spatzle ($5), small egg-and-flour dumplings served buttered and then bathed in rich brown gravy. Other tempting sides include potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce ($5.50), warm German potato salad ($4.75) just like my grandma used to make, and apple-braised red cabbage ($4.75). Entrees like beef rouladen and paprika chicken round out the Oktoberfest menu, but you’d be nuts to depart without trying the apple strudel or German chocolate cake. The Snowbird culinary team takes pride each year in the German-style cuisine offered at Oktoberfest and, I have to admit, it is excellent.

What would Oktoberfest be without beer? Well, no worries here. There are plenty of beer options—some 20 or so selections (which vary depending on the day) on tap, plus bottles of Spaten Optimator, Ayinger Jahrhundert, and Sierra Nevada. Among the draft beer offerings are Czech Pilsner (perfect for a fall Oktoberfest day), Viennese Lager and Cherny Bock from Bohemian Brewery. Uinta/Four is serving their Blue Sky Pilsner, Golden Spike Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Black Bier, Punk’n Spice and Cutthroat Pale Ale, among others. From Wasatch Brewery, there’s Raspberry Wheat, Evolution Amber Ale, Autumn Bock, and Apricot Hefe-Weizen. And, Squatters is pouring Full Suspension Pale Ale and Chasing Tail Golden Ale. Prosit!

But man cannot live on beer and brats alone. So, if you tire of the oom-pah bands and Bavarian cuisine, I suggest a retreat up to Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge and El Chanate restaurant. On a warm, sunny day, there are few places more scenic and inviting than the patio deck at El Chanate, where the mountain views are stunning. I guiltily confess to loving the creamy, gooey, slightly spicy queso dip and warm tortilla chips ($5.50) antojito as much as my kid did. The “crisps” here are also a great meal starter: large flour tortillas pressed on a grill with olive oil and topped with a choice of cheeses, garlic and onions, cilantro, jalapeños, black beans and sautéed Mexican shrimp. They’re akin to open-faced quesadillas.

One of the best southwest-style dishes I’ve had in a long time was a daily special of chile Colorado: beautifully spiced chunks of tender sirloin in a rich, red sauce with hints of cumin, cinnamon, garlic and New Mexico red chiles. Unfortunately it’s not a regular menu item, but it should be. An equally delectable El Chanate specialty is the pork carnitas platter ($13.95): luscious, braised pork which is served family-style, with both black and pinto beans, guacamole, flour tortillas, Mexican rice, garlic-yogurt sauce and Mexican or cheddar-jack cheeses. It’s a DIY plate that allows everyone to individually customize their carnitas.

If your appetite isn’t quite so big—perhaps you’ve been eating bratwurst all afternoon—a la carte items at El Chanate include tacos in a wide variety: fish, shrimp, beef, pork, chicken, bean and even tofu. Most of the same stuffing options are available for the enchiladas and taquitos. There is also a “gringo” menu of steaks, burgers, a pulled BBQ pork sandwich and even damned good fish and chips. For dessert, the traditional flan ($6.95) is exceptional, as is the zippy chocolate-chili brownie a la mode ($7.95).

With El Chanate’s Mexican/Southwestern fare, you’ll be tempted by the extensive selection of over 30 premium tequilas, as well as specialty drinks like the Chanate Coffee ($7.95), which is Patron XO Café Liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream and Millcreek coffee, topped with whipped cream (try not to count the calories). If you’re feeling flush, order a shot of Gran Centenario La Leyenda Extra Añejo for $35, served in a snifter and shout olé!

Cliff Lodge, Level A
Snowbird Resort

Ted Scheffler:

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