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Restaurant Happenings - September 2004

Sunset Grill
900 North Highway 191
(435) 259-7146

Food with a View - Sunset Grill
by Annabelle Numaguchi

I have certain tried-and-true recommendations for friends who visit us in Moab. For bikers, I suggest the Slick Rock Trail; for hikers, there’s Delicate Arch (especially in the moonlight) and for photographers, there’s Dead Horse Point. On my list of Must-See sights, I always include the Sunset Grill for there’s no better place in town to dine well while watching the sun bathe the valley in a golden glow that morphs into a crystal clear twinkling night sky.

The view is spectacular from this restaurant strategically perched on a west-facing rim. If you were a millionaire, this is where you would have built your dream home to catch a view worth every dollar you own.

Charlie Steen, one of Moab’s most renowned and eccentric historical characters, did just that. Once he managed to find his fortune in uranium during the Fifties, he built an enormous house that cleverly capitalized on the view from just about every vantage point in the building. The house was a testimonial to his good fortune and transformation from a pauper (he almost ruined himself and his family looking for uranium) to an extravagant millionaire (he reportedly filled his pool with champagne).
The house was converted into a restaurant long before John and Laurie Clayton, current owners of the Sunset Grill, bought the place ten years ago. Their story carries some of the unexpected twists found in Steen’s.

Originally from Pennsylvania, the Claytons had moved to Salt Lake City for John’s job as an aerospace engineer, building rockets and missiles. Having no restaurant experience, they plunged into the business headfirst by buying the restaurant, known then as Mi Vida.

They hired a local high school student to cook while John did dishes. John has since learned to cook himself and both he and Laurie devote themselves to running the restaurant. John confesses with a smile that “being a rocket scientist is easier than being a restaurateur.”

They have since added two cooks who have been with the Sunset Grill for ten years, an exceptionally long time in this industry and a testament to how well the Claytons run the place.

Their menu has evolved over the years to reflect the family dining atmosphere of a steak and seafood house. The Claytons have four children, all of whom have inspired a namesake dish, although the Linguini Olivia is the only one currently on the menu.

The food often features French, Italian or Asian flairs such as Escargot in garlic herb butter, Lemon Chicken in a white-wine cream sauce and Salmon Filet in an oriental glaze with a light soy-sherry cream. The food is refined without getting uncomfortably exotic.

The specialties of the house are steak and seafood. They cut the meat on the premises, use their own blend of seasonings and grill it to taste. The Prime Rib, Filet Mignon and New York Strip Steak are all popular choices on the menu.

The seafood options include Salmon Filet, Shrimp Scampi, Idaho Trout and Linguini Olivia which features lobster medallions and gulf shrimp. All entrees are served with fresh baked bread, a choice of soup or salad and sauteed vegetables, making each meal balanced and plentiful.

As good as the food is, it’s hard for it not to be eclipsed by the setting. Because the dining area is composed of three long rooms with windows all along the west side, there’s practically no table in the house that doesn’t feature a spectacular view.

The restaurant also includes two vast patios, one of which consists of a cool grassy area (the remains of the champagne-filled pool) and trees. Both patios make a splendid place for eating al fresco. They are terrific options for holding large parties, family reunions or weddings, of which the Sunset Grill generally does a dozen a year.

As the name of the restaurant suggests, the peak time to dine is right before sunset so you can catch the dramatic changes to the landscape as the last rays of the sun light up the sandstone into a rich blend of reds and golds. Visitors to Moab should not miss dining at the Sunset Grill as it will leave you with a good taste and memory.

The Sunset Grill is located at 900 North Highway 191 and can be reached at (435) 259-7146. The open at 5:00p.m. daily, except for Sundays. Reservations accepted for parties of 6 or more. Entrees range in price from $12.95 (Cappilini Marinara) to $22.95 (Filet Mignon) and average around $16.95.

Recipe of the Month

Sunset Grill

Pan Fried Trout

1 fresh boneless filet of trout
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour with salt and pepper added to taste*
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper, each

Heat two tablespoons vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper to the oil. Take the trout and dredge both sides in the flour seasoning.

Put the meat side down first into the hot oil and cook until it is lightly browned (the scales on the back should start to bubble). Turn over and finish cooking for about two minutes.

Total cooking time is about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the trout. Strain any extra oil and add the fresh lemon juice to the pan.

*You can substitute the salt and pepper in the flour mixture with lemon pepper seasoning, Lawry’s seasoning salt or Cajun spices (for a spicy alternative!).

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