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Restaurant Happenings - October 2003

A Classic American Diner in Moab
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Ten years ago, when Geoff Thomas, a manager of multiple restaurants in Wyoming, was visiting his in-laws in Moab, he laughed at the idea of owning a diner. At the time, the family was eating in a quaint down-to-earth eatery which has since become the Moab Diner. His wife’s mother suggested he buy the place and move his family here. Twenty years in the restaurant industry and a high level management position caused Geoff to laugh off the idea thinking, “I can do better than that.”

Geoff and his wife Teri, owners and operators of the Moab Diner, just celebrated the restaurant’s ten-year anniversary this last May. Geoff is still laughing at the idea, but now it’s because he loves it and is having a great time providing a classic diner experience to locals and visitors alike.

The decor evokes a time warp, as if you were stepping back into the quintessential fifties. The black and white checkered tablecloths contrast the bright, multi-colored neon signs glowing in various corners of the diner. One sign depicts a cheery waitress in a short flouncy skirt and another neon design, located across the room, depicts the diner’s signature Kokopelli Chicken merrily playing his flute. The effect of the large windows and back atrium complement the clean look of black and white lines and give the diner a crisp, airy atmosphere.

What accounts for the warm, cheerful bustling ambiance is the friendly, long-time staff at the diner, some of whom have been connected to the place longer than Geoff and Teri. Geoff guesses that the average tenure of his staff is about seven years, which he tries to ensure by treating them well and taking care of them. He says, “If there’s one aspect of the restaurant that I want to stand out, it’s that the people are really friendly and helpful.”

Geoff has remained true to the diner model in the food he offers. He describes the prolific menu which spans the entire three-page fold out, back and front, as food with “a 50’s motif and a Moab flair.” This is evident in their most popular item, Green Chili, which comes with two flour tortillas. The chili also gets incorporated into other dishes, such as an omelette, a cheeseburger or a smothering topping on items like the Sweet Water Potatoes and Kokopelli Chicken.

True to its tradition, the diner is accommodating in its hours, willing to serve folks daily starting as early as six in the morning and lasting through dinner. Breakfast foods, which tout names like Lion’s Back Breakfast and Jeep Safari Special, hearty variations on the ham-and-eggs theme, are served anytime of the day.

The menu not only reflects comfort foods of days gone by but also of low prices long since forgotten. Moab Diner offers Steak and Eggs, also served any time of day, at a mere $5.99. A customer can easily fill up on a meal of a sandwich or burger, soup or salad, french fries and ice cream for $7, not including tip, thanks to their “Ask for the Works” option. At the Moab Diner, it’s easy to fill up your stomach without emptying out your wallet.

It’s no wonder that the food is so popular. Once Geoff had realized that he did want to own a diner in Moab, he sought out a Diner Guru to find the right recipes. He found her at a local truck stop on I-80 outside Laramie. Geoff recounts how someone had suggested he go talk to this “gal” who was known for some fabulous down home food and she happily shared her recipes, including the one for Green Chili.

Obviously, the gal knew her stuff because the Moab Diner is a hopping place. A true sign of a good restaurant is one in which locals eat regularly, and the diner enjoys this loyalty in Moab. Visitors to the area flock in, too, most likely attracted to the idea of finding a real bit of Americana. It’s not unusual for tourists, particularly Europeans, to pull out their camcorders and record their diner experience.

Another draw is The Ice Cream Shoppe, an offshoot of the diner, which offers over a dozen delicious flavors and keeps the place hopping. Especially on a hot summer day, it attracts customers like bees to honey.

The reason for Moab Diner’s success is obvious. The restaurant offers good food, friendly service and a step back into bygone years, all for unbeatable prices. As Geoff Thomas eventually realized, you can’t do better than that.

The Moab Diner opens at 6:00a.m. every day and is located at 189 South Main Street. Tel. (435) 259-4006. Entrees average between $5 and $6. The Ice Cream Shoppe is located within, seating available when the diner isn’t packed!


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Recipe of the Month

Sweet Water Potatoes
Moab Diner

2 pounds Potatoes
(with skins on and cubed)

Handful each of the following:
Green Peppers, diced
Green Onions, diced
Bacon Bits

Spice Blend:
(equal parts Thyme, Basil and
Coarse Black Pepper)

Cheddar Cheese

Pre-boil potatoes until they are fairly tender. Fry potatoes in a skillet with the rest of the ingredients (proportioning them to taste). Top with melted cheddar cheese and dig in!

 
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