of the MONTH - January 2008
By Annabelle Numaguchi
the friendly no-frills burger joint located at the corner
of 4th East and Mill Creek, qualifies as a local landmark.
It meets two criteria that I use to judge a place so. First,
when you mention it everybody in town knows where and what
you’re talking about. Second, I always recommend it
to visitors to Moab. Although I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek,
it’s sort of like going to Delicate Arch; it’s
a step back in time, one geological, while the other nostalgic.
Milt’s history, and it has one, goes back to 1954,
when Milt Galbraith opened the diner. Today, when you eat
at Milt’s, you go back to that same time period, as
practically nothing has changed. The vinyl-topped stools,
the patterned Formica counter which overlooks the open grill
and kitchen are all original. Despite its age, the restaurant
remains neat and inviting, illuminated by large windows on
three sides of the small building. It’s a challenge
to find the differences between a photo of Milt’s taken
on its opening day to one taken today.
The one feature that has not remained is Milt, himself. After
running this successful eatery for 24 years, he sold it and
relinquished the reins to the next owner, who also kept it
for over two decades. Despite Milt’s long retirement
from the restaurant, his imprint and influence remain today.
Recently, the establishment has changed hands several times,
landing in the very capable ones of B.C. LaPrade and Danelle
Ballangee, who respect the institution of the diner.
Danelle Ballengee and
B. C. LaPrade
They are young, fresh
and are bringing many interesting experiences with them that
will enhance, but not change, the core of Milt’s. With
his extensive experience as a chef and proprietor of a café in
Leadville, LaPrade is obviously in his element behind the
counter. He is as adept at recreating a favorite menu item
as creating new ones. The down-home chile at Milt’s,
still made from the original recipe, tastes as it always
has, attested to by Milt himself who still comes in occasionally.
LaPrade is placing his mark on the menu, too, by adding new
items, such as the Santa Fe Burger with green chiles, pepper-jack
and chipotle sauce and specials like a Dill-Havarti Grilled
Salmon Hoagie Melt. Most importantly, he knows when to keep
tradition alive and when to push the boundaries, gastronomically-speaking.
thing is, when cook and customer are only a few feet away
from one another, the customer is not going in just for food.
Milt’s relies heavily on local business, and many of
the people who eat there have been coming since it opened,
back when they were kids. Like the “Cheers” theme
song describes, they come here because “everybody knows
your name,” and they expect familiarity in the form
of a feeling, an atmosphere and familiar flavors.
Another aspect of the diner that hasn’t changed in
the last fifty years is its good value. The prices have barely
risen over the years and you can still get a burger for under
$5 or a meal that costs in the single digits. The quality
of the food is also reminiscent of a former era, offering
home-made fries, all-natural chicken and meat from local
butcher, Ye Old Geezer. Milt’s is home to probably
the best deal in town, found in the form of the Chili Cheeseburger,
which comes with two patties, for $5.55.
With an open set up that is reminiscent of bellying-up-to-the-bar,
Milt’s offers the opportunity for conversation as well
as a cheeseburger. This expectation places a certain responsibility
on the new owners, who have fascinating stories to tell.
Even if you don’t recognize Ballangee’s name,
I bet you’ve heard of her.
A year ago, Ballangee, an endurance athlete and coach, went
for a trail run around Amasa Back, slipped on ice and spent
52 of the longest hours of her life fighting the cold and
pain from a cracked pelvis by doing crunches continuously.
She has singlehandedly brought shower caps back in fashion
as she relied on the one she wisely carries in her pocket
to store body heat during this grueling survival experience.
This remarkable story has been recorded in various newspapers
and magazines, but those who visit Milt’s might get
lucky enough to hear it first hand.
Knowing that Ballangee was an elite athlete and has earned
a certain celebrity status because of the ordeal she survived,
I was pleased to discover that both she and LaPrade are warm,
unassuming people. In responding to my interest in her story,
Ballangee made a distinct point of how grateful she is to
the exceptional Search-and-Rescue team of Moab, who followed
her dog, Taz, to where she was had fallen and for handling
the situation so efficiently. In all the coverage her story
received, she wishes that they had received more recognition,
Whether you’re stopping in for a burger, a shake or
some company, you’re sure to find an authentic old-fashioned
diner experience at Milt’s. Located on the way to the
world-class mountain bike Slick Rock Trail, it’s the
perfect spot to refuel and swap stories. In our increasingly
complex society, Milt’s offers nostalgia and a last
bastion for the best parts of a simpler era.
Milt’s is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day
and can be reached at 259-7424. Pick up is available.
Nut Crusted Salmon Steaks
with Horseradish-Tarragon Mustard Sauce
2 oz. Chopped Macademia
1 cup bread crumbs
4 5 oz. Salmon filets
1 egg, beaten
½ cup water
3/4 cup oil
Salt and pepper
Mix the bread crumbs
and nuts. Dip the salmon in the water and beaten
egg, really soaking the salmon. Dredge the salmon
in the chopped nuts and bread crumb mixture, really
coating the salmon. Fry the salmon steaks in the
oil for about four minutes, until crispy. Place
the salmon in the oven at 250 degrees to finish
the cooking process.
3 Tbsp. Butter
½ cup white wine
1 tsp. Tarragon leaves
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Horseradish (minced)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
In a medium sauce pan, melt
butter, add wine, tarragon, mustard and horseradish.
Simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream. Simmer
1 minute and season.
Serve the salmon in a puddle
of sauce with your favorite vegetable and starch.