I hope I am posting on the right board :) I usually write (if at all I do) on the Los Angeles board, where I reside. Also, this is a long post.
In December 2006, we visited Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park, and had an absolutely delightful stay in Springdale, UT. We found the restaurants in Springdale to be surprisingly good (initially, I think we had a little of the "it can't get better than LA" attitude, which was a mistake to say the least). Also amazed at what we saw in Zion and Bryce we realized we had to head to Moab and the national parks around it. Finally, we visited Moab, UT in December 2007.
In all we had the opportunity to have 12 meals in Moab (6 x 2), on which we did good. An important caveat for the 12 restaurants we visited is: a number of restaurants were closed for the season (ex: Buck's Grill House, Miguel's Baja Mexican Grill etc.). Hence, in some sense, we were limited in terms of choices. Secondly, on Christmas day, most restaurants were closed hence, we were forced to visit Denny's. I have listed the restaurants we visited in chronological order. If parentheses are absent, then by default it was in Moab, UT.
1. Timberline Inn (Beaver, UT): We had stopped for filling up gas - but decided to visit this restaurant which seemed to be the "homely-family-owned" kind. I have a weakness for spicy and I must say I had one of the best Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich at this restaurant. The chicken was perfectly marinated in a spicy rub and grilled to perfection! The SO ordered a Turkey Sandwich with avocados and alfaalfa sprouts. This too was excellent. If you are on I-15 are in the vicinity, I would suggest stop by even if you aren't hungry.
p.s. They have AYCE salad bar and a lunch buffet (though not sure about the lunch buffet).
2. Fiesta Mexicana: Went there on the day we reached Moab (after a 10 hour drive from LA). Ordered a couple of tequila shots and a couple of margaritas. The chips and salsa were nothing to write home about, but weren't bad either. We ordered two entrees: Chicken Fajita and Garlic-Butter Shrimps & Mushrooms. Both of these dishes were excellent - in particular the mushrooms which were cooked perfectly. The Fajita platter was spicy enough (though not blazing hot). Overall, our experience was pleasant. The tequila shots were good sized :) Please note, this is part of a local chain (Colorado and Utah), but is still quite good.
3. Zax Wood Fired Pizza: This place is an AYCE pizza parlor which has some interesting pizza toppings. After a day of hiking, we ordered Quesadillas and Hot Wings as appetizers. The Quesadillas were nice, the Wings were a little too tangy - but certainly hot. For the pizza, we ordered individual sized Garlic Pesto and The Tree Hugger - which were quite good. The crust was baked to perfection - the pesto was quite delicious.
4. Madarin Szechuan (Sichuan) Restaurant: At the risk of sounding conceited (due to being a regular at the San Gabriel Valley establishments)- this is purely American - Chinese. The food was OK - not great but not bad either. What ticked us off was a 15% tip being charged as part of the "check". It was annoying - I asked the waitress if this was a standard practice, to which the response was a yes. I would suggest one and all to avoid this place for two reasons: average food and below par service.
5. Wagon Wheel Pizza (Monticello, UT): We stopped by at this place in a small town called Monticello. While we did not order pies per se, we ordered their version of calzone called "Turnovers". We also ordered a Grilled Chicken Sandwich and a Turkey Sandwich both of which were good but not great. The Turonver took a long time to come, but was worth the wait. It was a really homely place and perhaps offered greater sociological impetus than culinary prowess. Nevertheless, for a hungry weary traveler, this is a nice place to stop by.
6. Woody's Tavern: Let the drinking begin. This is a private "member's only" club (I won't go into specifics here). They have about 4-5 local beers on tap and make some killer margaritas. They have basic pub grub - we ordered chicken nachos and french fries (the fries are similar to Carl's Jr's "Criss Cut Fries"). Decent but nothing spectacular.
7. Pancake Haus: The SO claims to have had the best ever French Toast at this establishment (the SO is a French Toast snob). I ordered the Eggs Benedict. Both of them were excellent. Please note, this is open only from 7 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (at least in winter). This should be on the "must-visit" list.
8. La Hacienda: Purportedly "Mexican". This was singularly the worst place we visited in both our trips to Utah. The food was bland (think Chili's) and boring. I ordered the Chicken Fajitas just to compare the same dish at Fiesta Mexicana and it was tasteless to say the least. The SO ordered Shrimp Vera Cruz - which is a lot of salsa and a few shrimp sauteed together. It was extremely sour and had had no other taste whatsoever. For some reason, this is an extremely popular restaurant (we had to wait for 20 minutes) - so maybe, just maybe they are good at something they make. However, La Hacienda is certainly on my "Never Again" list.
9. Moab Diner: Classic diner food - I ordered #5 (smothered) from the Breakfast menu called the "Sweetwater Skillet" - which was potatoes, bacon, bell peppers grilled and smothered with green chile sauce. It was absolutely fabulous. The SO ordered another round of French Toast - which was good but not like Pancake Haus. Nevertheless, great place to go to :)
10. Moab Brewery: Fantastic - great beer, great food. I had to get their t-shirt :) I ordered the Scorpion Pale Ale - which tasted exactly as stated - very twisting with a surprising ending! The Hefeweizen was smooth and refreshing and the Oatmeal Stout - was also quite good (but I didn't enjoy it as much - I prefer creamier stouts). We ordered the "Small Nachos" which were good enough to feed a family of four and tasty enough to quieten the most stringent critic. The French Fries were well done - and then we ordered something interesting: The Texas Pit Smoked Chicken. Excellent BBQ sauce (almost reminiscent of Philip's BBQ in LA) and the chicken was succulent, tender and perfectly grilled. BTW, they have $2.50 for pints all day everyday (in winter at least) - and also they get busy early and pretty quickly ;)
11. Smitty's Golden Steak Restaurant: I ordered a burger here - it was good - juicy, in spite of being a little more than medium-rare. Ordered the chicken strips which were excellent.
12. Eddie McStiffs: They also make their own brews - which are good but IMO, not in the league of Moab Brewery (you almost get the feel that they lost their crown to Moab Brewery). We ordered steaks here (don't ask why!). I ordered ribeye and the SO ordered Grilled Sirloin Steak Mojo. They were good but not great. I ordered the medium rare - but it was definitely cooked more than that. The waitress goofed up over order (we order chicken fingers, she got us wings) - but the wings were really good - in fact much better than Zax!
Some places which we wanted to but couldn't visit: Mondo Cafe for panini sandwiches, Buck's Grill House (closed), Desert Bistro (wanted to visit, but just didn't happen). I think the food was generally very good (or is it because I am always in a good mood during a vacation?) - it was almost always fresh, and prepared and presented in a manner alluring to the senses of a foodie. One major caveat is: on both our trips we visited them in the off-season, and hence, I don't know if there is a difference in the quality of both - food and service during the busy summer months.
Nevertheless, happy hounding in the new year :)
I've never had a memorable meal anywhere in Moab -- but then, we've never gone to Moab for the food. Totally agree re La Hacienda -- a place I wanted to like but just couldn't. Eddie McStiff's has been there forever and is THE local institution. There was a pretty good downtown cafe/espresso place that we went to for bkfst, but I don't remember the name.
We also enjoyed a lunch at Moab Brewery back in September. We were on our way by car from L.A. to Colorado, had spent the prior night in Salina, Utah, and had eaten a crappy dinner the night before and a slightly-less-crappy breakfast that day at Mom's Diner in Salina. Detoured off the interstate to see Arches and have lunch in Moab. I had a spinach salad with chicken and it was very fresh and well made. I'm pretty sure my husband had a burger. Since we still had hundreds of miles to drive that day, sadly we didn't sample any beers. Service was friendly enough, if not the quickest.