Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buffalo Grill at Zion Mountain Ranch

Driving northeast from Zion National Park towards Bryce Canyon, The Dutch knew he had to brake soon, lest the hungry girlfriend gets really testy.  We rose at 5AM that morning and have been traveling all day, only stopping for coffee in Las Vegas before our two and half hour drive to Zion.  While on the road, we spontaneously decided we were going to make the run for Bryce Canyon National Park which adds about three hours to our road trip.  This was well past 1PM, we have been in three states (Nevada, Arizona, and Utah) and I was already seeing double.  Must. Stop. For. Food.  

We already passed the town of Zion where the main drag was lined with local cafes and restaurants.  I was getting concerned that that was the last strip of commerce we would see in a while.  After descending from the dizzying zigzags of Zion (and its staggering beauty), lo and behold, a ranch stood on the right side of the road and an "Open" neon sign for a grill beckoned. We parked and rushed in and was pleasantly surprised at what greeted us.

It was a rustic restaurant the urbanites in New York City or San Francisco were trying to replicate with just barely some degree of success.  This was legit.  Out here, chickens and geese literally roamed outside.  Buffalo Grill sits right on a working ranch, beyond which is a wild and free-roaming buffalo preserve, a little bit outside Zion National Park.  Imagine my awe!  I LOVE places like these!

Reclaimed wood lined the walls, and I wouldn't doubt, some tables.  The furnishings were simple and I hate to repeat myself, rustic.  It wasn't very big inside, but the sun-filled room was open and inviting and had a stunning view of the lush pasture outside. The crowd was an international set, surprisingly.  We chatted with Belgians on the way in, the couple sitting behind our table were French, and I could detect a Germanic language being spoken at the table in front.  The menu, true to farm-to-table standards, was small and comprised of organic vegetables grown onsite.   I have been craving for a good fresh salad given the heat that day and Buffalo Grill had the perfect one for my caprice.
I had grilled chicken served with a bed of fresh greens.  It was utterly simple, but it was amazing.  I devoured my salad. I especially liked the hints of spicy mustard (think wasabi) that made me wanting to start growing my own mustard in the garden.  What a revelation mustard is!
The Dutch, meanwhile, had a burger and I'm not remembering if it was buffalo burger.What I do remember though is that it was juicy and fresh.
I was really drawn to this place.  Other than the massive windows that brought the oudoors in and the wonderful food, I loved the farmhouse feel of this place. It felt homey. It felt right.  And although the price tag could come down a little bit and I feel like they should do something about the fly situation inside, overall, it still was a great experience to dine at a place like this in the middle of nowhere.  
Of all the trips we did this year, this one was planned the least, yet it surprises us that we manage to run into unique, memorable places and experiences.  It is testament that in life, not everything needs to be so rigorously mapped out.  Leave room in your life for surprises!

Zion Mountain Ranch is located on East Highway 9, Zion National Park, Utah.  Apart from the restaurant, you can also stay at one of their cabins, some with full-on kitchens with modern amenities.  Albeit on the pricey side, the scenery is breathtaking and it would be a great way to enjoy sleeping within the bounds of the Zion National Park without actually roughing it in a tent.  Zion Mountain Ranch's website can be found here

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