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Restaurant Happenings  August 2003

The Jailhouse Cafe - “Good Enough for a Last Meal”
by Annabelle Numaguchi

There’s something to be said about restaurants that concentrate on one type of food; they usually develop that specialty to perfection, better than anyone else. This is just the case with The Jailhouse Cafe. They do breakfast, and only breakfast, but, boy, is it delicious. The food lives up to the Cafe’s motto, “good enough for a last meal.” If this is what food is like in the slammer, throw me in and throw away the key.

When local entrepreneur Will Petty opened the restaurant ten years ago, he decided to fill a niche that is still not found elsewhere in town. The Jailhouse Cafe is an up-scale breakfast joint, where diners find familiar morning menu items, usually done with a sophisticated twist.

For example, the Southwestern Eggs Benedict includes the traditional poached eggs and Canadian bacon on toasted English muffins, but what gives this dish a kick is a spicy Southwestern Hollandaise sauce. Traditional buttermilk pancakes grace the Jailhouse menu, along with Ginger Pancakes, inspired by a famous New York hotel, which arrive delicately spread with sweet Dutch apple butter.

Apart from the regular enticing items on the menu, the Jailhouse Cafe runs four different specials every day. The specials include tantalizing entrees like Smoked Salmon Omelet Topped with Chipotle Sour Cream (see inset for recipe) and French Toast drizzled with warm peaches, raspberries, blueberries or apples. The restaurant excels in offering healthy, organic and creative dishes, including tasty vegetarian options.

The food at the Jailhouse Cafe is consistently delicious and the portions satisfying, reflected in around-the-corner lines on weekends. Although they don’t take reservations (apart from writing your name on a list once you arrive), the Jailhouse is worth the wait which tends not to last long, thanks to their extensive outdoor seating. In the last two years, they have expanded the restaurant to include a large partially covered terrace.

Artful landscaping of desert-friendly plants and towering trees creates a cool, relaxed ambiance on the patio. Even in mid-summer Moab heat, the earliness of the morning hours can be enjoyed while eating breakfast al fresco. In the spring and autumn, passersby often see late morning diners relaxing with a last cup of coffee on the pleasant shady patio, reluctant to leave.

The coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice are reason enough to linger at the Cafe. The Jailhouse receives a special blend of beans from Salt Lake Gourmet Olympus Roasting which they roast themselves to make an exceptionally flavorful cup of coffee.

Despite the enticing aromas and flavors emanating from the kitchen, the trademark of the Jailhouse Cafe is its building. Erected in 1885 as a private residence, the building was soon converted into the County Courthouse. The current storage room for the restaurant is encased by two-foot thick adobe walls and acted as the town jail cell for a number of years. (I asked if it was ever used for errant employees, but apparently not.) As general manager, Scott Laws, explains, eating in the Jailhouse provides diners with great food and “an atmospheric experience of being in one of the oldest buildings in Moab.”

The restaurant is currently operated by a dynamic duo, Scott and Chef Teresa “Tee” Kirkendall. Between the two of them, they have 45 years of combined experience in the food industry. Both are from families of seven children and found themselves spending time in the kitchen where there mothers were, inspiring them to make careers out of this interest. Both have worked in many capacities, from catering to cooking to managing, and they consider their love of food and chosen professions in the restaurant business as a compliment to their mothers.

After attending chef school in Denver, Tee studied under Chef Dean Livesay and eventually performed in a couple of live food shows. She was the first woman to win the Apprentice of the Year Award (1990) and, with a partner, opened up a successful catering business, Biscuits and Berries, in Colorado. She relocated to Moab about two years ago and seems quite pleased with her decision, evidenced by her bold statement that working at the Jailhouse Cafe is “the best job I’ve ever had.”

Tee’s pride and enjoyment in preparing sensational breakfasts are reflected in the flair and flavor of the food. The service is friendly and efficient, the dishes downright yummy and the atmosphere pleasant and relaxing. Starting the day off in the jailhouse isn’t as bad as my mother always warned me about. The food at the Jailhouse Cafe is not only “good enough for a last meal,” but also perfect for the first meal.

The Jailhouse Cafe is located on 101 North Main Street and can be reached at 259-3900. They are open from 7:00 a.m. to noon, everyday. Entree prices average around $7.


Recipe of the Month

Smoked Salmon Omelet
Chipotle Sour Cream

3 eggs
3 oz. smoked salmon
7-8 leaves of fresh baby spinach
3 oz. Feta cheese
3 oz. roasted red peppers
4 oz. sour cream
Chipotle peppers

Beat the eggs and mix with the salmon, spinach, cheese and red peppers. Pour batter into a hot frying pan and fold in half when the bottom sets. Cook until omelet has desired firmness.

For the topping, mix the sour cream with Chipotle peppers to desired spiciness. Top omelet with sour cream mixture and serve.

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