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Restaurant Happenings  January 2003
Recipes will return next month.

Branding Iron Restaurant Makes Its Mark in Moab
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Susie Taylor, owner and chef of the Branding Iron, is a vivacious redhead who stands just over five feet tall. Her petite frame belies the exuberance and energy she radiates. You just want to like her, and in getting to know her you realize that you have every reason to do so. Susie is the type of hostess you want to be invited by to come in, kick up your feet and eat some of her good home cooking. Which is exactly the sort of down-home, earthy charm and food the Branding Iron offers.

Susie’s father, Karl Tangren, originally came up with the idea of opening a hamburger joint along the highway thinking that travelers would enjoy a quick stop. He built the establishment out of a double wide trailer, split in the middle where an elevated ceiling and dance floor now reside. The two additions that Susie eventually added on obscure the restaurant’s modest trailer origins, but if you look beyond the cute wood fence out front and the side rooms inside, you can still make out the basic rectangular building.

Susie didn’t take over the Branding Iron right away. While Karl was running the burger joint, a woman by the name of Anna Williams made him an offer to buy the place. Susie remembered the restaurant as a fun place to be, which galvanized her into buying the place back in 1994. Having no real experience in the restaurant business, she relied on her background as a rancher’s wife, cooking for upwards of twenty people during the busy season. So, when the Branding Iron claims to offer a real cowboy’s menu, you know you’re getting the authentic deal.

The difference between running a ranch and a restaurant, however, seemed rather significant to Susie when she began. She succinctly describes it by explaining, “On the ranch I was used to telling them when to eat and what they were going to eat. Here, they tell me when and what.” She quickly adapted to the business and has been successfully serving up her prime rib, home-made fry bread and taquitas, among other specialties, for going on nine years.

One unexpected aspect of this down-home cowboy restaurant is the inclusion of karaoke. Eight years ago, Randy Stephens offered to bring the equipment and run the karaoke system, which takes place every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Participants with melodic voices can compete in the two contests that occur every year over a series of weeks, slowly eliminating singers until the best one wins.
But the real winners, in my opinion, are diners who order the prime rib, the specialty of the house. The meal includes salad, homemade fry bread, baked potato with generous dollops of sour cream and a flavorful gravy. The Navajo tacos, homemade chili and taquitas are other items Branding Iron customers rave about. For diners with a less robust appetite, the menu’s extensive offerings include a halibut dinner, veggie burger, chicken breast salad and a “young buckaroos” selection for the little people. Beer and wine coolers are available for those in search of “firewater,” as the menu lists them. Susie put together the menu herself, inspired by foods she knew and liked to cook. When the menu beckons you to “Come taste the West,” you know you really will with Susie in the kitchen.

The authenticity and genuine goodness of the food is the primary reason the Branding Iron enjoys such a loyal following among locals in town. The restaurant stays open year-round and Susie claims that she actually does better business in the winter, an anomaly for Moab. As Susie puts it, “We are blessed with the regulars,“ and the appreciation she and the staff feels seems genuine. On the night I interviewed Susie, I was so taken with her warmth and comfort of the restaurant that I invited my family to join me and eat there. We were especially impressed with the hearty, personal greetings the customers received when entering.

The menu is affordable, with most entrees under $10, the ambiance is rustically charming and the food is pleasing and plentiful. If you’re a regular and the Branding Iron has already left its mark on you, I hope you recognize my description of it. And if you haven’t tried it, there is no time like a cold winter night in the valley to try this local landmark and enjoy a little taste of the West.

The Branding Iron is located at 2971 South Highway 191, just three miles south of Moab. The telephone number is (435) 259-6275. They open at 10 a.m. every day of the week and close at 10 p.m. on every day except Karaoke nights, when they are open until 1 a.m. No credit cards accepted.

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