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Jul 23, 2012 11:22 PM

Trip report: Moab & Estes

As part of a larger road trip from San Francisco to the midwest, I recently head through the Mountain States. We used Chowhound tips to plan out places, but wound up relying on Yelp a lot because so many recommended places closed too early to accommodate our schedule. Here's our experience in Moab, Utah and Estes Park, Colorado:

Dinner in Moab Day 1: We head to Paradox Pizza because they closed late enough (10PM) to accommodate our late arrival. Their New York style pizza was very good and much more authentic and high quality than most places claiming to have NY Style pizza in San Francisco. I was very impressed to find chewy and delicious garlic knots, a New York favorite. Wow, what a find--- I moved west over a decade ago, and this was the first time I've seen garlic knots outside the northeast!

Dinner in Moab Day 2: Moab brewery. Good beer, but Christ, this was one of the worst restaurant meals I've had in recent years. The tri-tip was indistinguishable from dry brisket, the smoked ribs were more about the sweet sauce than the meat, and the chicken was dry and with soggy skin. I don't know what we were thinking getting fish tacos here, but they were pretty awful. Given the large number of disparate things on the menu, I suspect everything they make is prefrozen and from Sysco. Avoid this place.

Breakfast in Moab Day 3: On a Tuesday, pretty much all of our Chowhound picks were closed at 11AM. Sweet Cravings Bakery looked pretty good from Yelp, so we stopped there. They couldn't make us a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich since they ran out of eggs, but the bacon and cheese on the homemade roll was great. I'd highly recommend going there--- with an egg, this sandwich would be tops. They had a nice selection of quick breads which we took for the road. The strawberry was fantastic and alone warranted the visit. I loved the orange bread, but my Dining Companion found it too sweet. The banana bread didn't have enough banana flavor. The monkey bread was great too.

Dinner in Estes Park Day 3: Twin Owls Steak House: The croutons on the french onion soup were stale and by the time they softened enough from absorbing the soup, the cheese had lost its elasticity. It was okay otherwise. The Colorado Elk Medallions were nicely cooked and flavorful. I felt the seasonings to be a bit too strong, but the meat was flavorful enough to compete with them. Trout Almondine seemed like a nice way to try the local fish, but the gloopy sauce killed this dish for me. The sweet potato puree was way too rich but the white cheddar mashed potatoes were very good. The entrees were served with the vegetable of the day which was a trio of broccoli, something I forget, and a piece of (probably canned) baby corn.

Breakfast in Estes Park Day 4: Notchtop Bakery & Cafe: The mexican omelette was very good (three eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, pepper jack cheese and topped with veggie red chili salsa and sour cream).

Dinner in Estes Park Day 4: Mary's Lake Lodge: You can choose either the casual restricted menu tavern, or the more classy restaurant. We choose casual. They seated us on the outside terrace, and we enjoyed a wonderful view. The greek salad was severely overdressed, and with the kind of "italian dressing" made with dried stale herbs. The bison meatloaf was hearty and had a tangy sauce. It was one of the best meatloafs I've eaten. The Bison & Elk Meatballs were great too and were served over reg, green, and yellow striped ravioli. The waiter told us "almost everything is housemade" when I asked them where they bought their ravioli. Based on the the thickness and color of their dough, his non-answer indicated to me that they're bought frozen. The side vegetable were pretty gross and included a shriveled baby carrot.

Breakfast in Estes Park Day 5: Cascades At the Stanley Hotel. This is the place that Stephen King based The Shining after, and I was expecting a nice atmosphere and an overpriced and lousy meal. I was very wrong! The Bananas Foster Red Rum Brioche French Toast was fantastic. It had a light interior and a wonderfully caramelized exterior, making it the best french toast I've ever eaten. The smoked trout hash skilled was overall good. The generously sized filet of smoked trout was somewhat leathery and the skilled was very greasy, but the hash came together nicely and had a nice balance of trout dice and potatoes.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Going out to Estes Park for a wedding in June and appreciate the write-up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mats77

      You're welcome! Enjoy your time there and be sure to post about the trip!

    2. Thanks for the reviews! Next time in Moab, try Jeffery's Steakhouse (very good upscale American food) and the Moab Diner (diner food, but solid - especially the green chile burgers and chicken sandwiches). And in Estes, check out the Rock Inn Tavern (looks like a biker bar, but the food is actually pretty darn good).

      1. Thanks! It seems that my fear about the food of Estes is being confirmed. Going to look into the Rock Inn Tavern and avoid the places that you mentioned.... maybe the Stanley, since we're there two nights.

        1. Estes Park is tough to get great food.

          Penelope's has great burgers and perfect fries but no beer.

          Mama Rose's is good solid american italian hearty portions

          Sweet Basilico is suppose to be very good a few of my wife's students live in EP and recommend this place

          Estes Park Brewery should not be taken as an example of Colorado beer. As a former master brewer their beer is at best a C, food is greasy bar food. Drive to lyons go to Oscar Blues, Drive to Loveland go to Loveland Ale house on 4th street

          or for some of Colorados best beer drive to Ft Collins: Equinox but there are only 6 or 7 other top breweries in town