are restaurants that are more than places to sit down and
eat. They are centers for gathering and celebration where
you meet your friends and neighbors. They are the places
where memories are built. There is such a special restaurant
in Moab. Its called the Center Café.
Paul and Zee McCarroll are well-equipped
to provide a place to share a meal or to make a meal an
evenings event. The two were both in love with cooking
before they fell in love with each other at culinary school.
So naturally, they bring love to what they do at the Center
Café in Moab.
Prior to moving to Moab in 1994, they
prepared meals at the Otter Bar Lodge in northern California,
a wilderness lodge in the middle of nowhere. Winters were
spent at a ranch in Colorado where they also cooked. In
their journeys across the West, they learned about Pack
Creek Ranch and came to Moab for a visit and fell in love
with the mountains, the red rock and Pack Creek Ranch. They
told Pack Creek owners, Jane and Ken Sleight, that if they
ever needed cooks to call them. Three weeks later they received
the call and moved to Moab. As things change in Moab, Paul
and Zee worked at a variety of restaurants for the first
year or so. They cooked at the now defunct Dos Amigos and
when Paul went to work for Tim Buckingham at the Center
Café, Zee managed Eddie McStiffs. After less
than a year at the Center, Tim, on a sweltering hot summer
afternoon, asked Paul, How would you like to buy a
restaurant? Within hours he had made up his mind and
informed Zee that they were going to buy a restaurant. On
January 2, 1996, Paul and Zee McCarroll became the proud
and loving owners of the Center Café which was, at
that time, still located on Center Street.
year, Paul and Zee made the big leap to purchasing their
own property, the old site of Honest Ozzies and began
a grand renovation that will continue to evolve over the
Its a labor of love and a
work of art, says Zee. We will be adding all
sorts of things over the winter. Plants, fabrics, rugs
the things to make it more intimate and quiet.
The restaurant is already loaded with
ambience. A crackling fire burns in the corner and large
saltillo tiles the color of sandstone make up the floor
surface. Unique light fixtures add a contemporary flare
to the southwestern décor. While the atmosphere is
inviting, its the food that people travel all over
indeed, the world
.to sample. Twice
named Best Restaurant in Southern Utah, the Center Café
is getting quite a reputation statewide. Nationally, the
Center has received the Award of Excellence from Zagat for
three years. The restaurant also received of one Salt Lake
City magazines 100 Best of Utah Awards as one of the
one hundred special things about Utah.
All of these awards are well-deserved.
Paul and Zee are passionate about food and share a warm,
traditional philosophy about its preparation.
You really have to respect the food, says Paul.
We like to see if grow from seed to plant to the table.
Much of what we cook is from local growers or sources, but
when we do need to obtain fresh produce or seafood from
elsewhere, we get it shipped overnight so it is still a
fresh as it can be.
Zee describes a shipment of fresh scallops: When we
open the bag, you can smell the ocean, thats how fresh
The food is prepared in such a way to
bring out the very best flavors and its finest qualities.
They believe they are so successful at what they do because
they love their lifes work so much.
Its hard for me to even find
the words to describe how passionate we are about what we
do. We love not just the food and the restaurant, but the
people, too. I love to nurture the people who come here.
I love taking care of them and making them happy,
explains Zee excitedly.
couple takes care of people by serving a variety of mouthwatering
entrees including cedar planked salmon with applewood smoked
bacon and shallot crust, or pan roasted free range chicken
with chanterelle mushrooms, tomato-garlic fondue and basil
mashed potatoes. Some people choose to make a meal out of
the delicious appetizers such as crab cakes with fresh tomato
coulis and citrus crème fraiche or the favorite sweet
potato and goat cheese ravioli, with sage, pine nuts and
brown butter. Even the salads are creative, for example,
roasted red and gold beets, lentil-goat cheese tian, mixed
greens or a mesclun salad with pears, candied pecans, and
blue cheese. The menu changes seasonally on a whim
to take advantage of fresh-grown produce and Pauls
If you dine at the Center, be sure you
save room for dessert that might include warm chocolate
molten cake, profiterole with chocolate chunk ice cream
or a tuile cookie filled with chocolate mousse. If youre
avoiding chocolate, something like the ginger-pear tart
with chantilly cream might tempt you. All of these beautifully
prepared meals may be complemented by the Center Cafés
extensive wine list and are served by Moab community members
who have made their lifes work that of helping others
enjoy a special meal in a special place.
This special place will continue to become
even more special to the community of Moab if Zee has her
way. She will be traveling to Berkeley this winter to apprentice
with Alice Waters owner of Chez Panisse. Zee is so impressed
with this restaurateur because of her involvement with the
She works with the local youth
garden and involves the kids in growing food for the restaurant
and even teaching them kitchen skills. Its something
Id love to do! The Center Café is definitely
more than a restaurant and I want to reach out to everyone
in the community and pull them all into what we do here,
Center Café is open this fall and winter Tuesday
through Friday for lunch, and for dinner Tuesday through
Sunday. Reservations are recommended for dinner. You can
also enjoy their market/deli which features sandwiches,
soups, and salads which you can grab on the run for a picnic
out in the red rock. The market also offers artisan domestic
cheese, imported cheese, specialty meats, as well as specialty
vinegars and olive oils. The market is a perfect place to
do some early Christmas shopping as the Center creates gift
packages that will make anyone on your list smile.
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