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Restaurant Happenings - April 2004

The Poplar Place Restaurant & Pub
100 N. Main Street

Pop on Down to The Poplar Place
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Looking for a good pub to have a cold beer? How about pizza tonight? Or are you thinking of a hot bowl of soup and a sandwich? Maybe dining on Shrimp Scampi over a bottle of wine sounds good. If any of these ideas tempt you, I have an answer. I know a great little restaurant that’s got good food and a really warm ambiance and it’s probably not far from where you’re sitting skimming this article. Pop on down to Poplar Place. This eatery offers everything a person wants in casual dining and that‘s resulting in a booming business for Cindy and Jody Cheney, owners and managers of Poplar Place. This restaurant is doing so well, it should really have a “u” in the middle of its first name.

It’s not hard to guess why people who walk by want to pop on in. It’s not just the cute signs Alisha, the Cheney’s nine-year old daughter, paints and puts up outside the restaurant’s entrance. Cindy and Jody are down-to-earth people who have been on and off in the food industry most of their adult lives and they know what pleases diners and keeps them coming back through the front door.

Pizza is the first enticement. Poplar Place is known for their pies and offers a variety of vegetable and meat toppings (think roast garlic, fresh basil, teriyaki chicken and a blend of crab and white fish called surimi in addition to traditional pizza ingredients like olives, spinach, sausage and pepperoni). The crispy crust is home-made daily as are the Savory Tomato and the Creamy Alfredo Sauces. The menu invites the diner to “Make a statement. Be creative. Let your imagination run wild as you develop your own artistic masterpiece.”

If that type of creative license is too daunting when ordering a pizza, there’s a selection of eleven specialty pizzas. They vary widely in flavor so it’s hard to imagine not finding one that will please everyone at the table. The possibilities include the Pizza Diablo with southwestern Marinara sauce, sausage, spicy chicken and green chile, the Hawaiian Stylin’ which sports Canadian Bacon, teriyaki chicken and pineapple on alfredo sauce, and the Jamaican Spice featuring diced sausage or southwestern chicken, onion, and green pepper on their “spicy but flavor-loaded Caribbean sauce.”

Pizza is the most popular draw at Poplar, and has led to out-of-town customers asking the Cheneys to move their restaurant as far east as Maine and Florida because, as Cindy puts it, “they wish they had something like this in their hometown.” The rest of the menu, however, is just as tantalizing. The food is home-made from scratch every day so all the dishes are fresh and consistent in flavor.

Poplar Place offers traditional Italian and Mexican dishes like lasagna, chicken Parmesan, tacos and quesadillas. Two customer favorites are the Shrimp Scampi, succulent shrimp sauteed in garlic butter sauce served over a bed of linguine, and the Pork Verde Burrito, pork in a spicy Verde sauce rolled in a flour tortilla. Another aspect of the menu that keeps the restaurant hopping at lunch time are the Soups and Sandwiches.

Don’t let the name of the Cabbage Chowder, a recipe that Jody and Cindy created, discourage you from digging into the delicious flavor of this creamy soup filled with bits of tasty sausage. The Chowder is always on the menu along with a second soup that changes daily and can be White Chile, Tomato and Basil, Chicken Noodle, Southwest Turkey or another home-made creation. The perfect accompaniment to the soup is one of Poplar Place’s hearty sandwiches. The menu lists a selection of five, hot and cold, and all of which are served with a side salad. Every day they offer a lunch special which often features something not regularly listed on the menu.

Another special the Cheneys offer that has won acclaim is the Prime Rib on Friday and Saturday evenings. Ending the week with dinner at Poplar’s is particularly appealing since live music plays through dinnertime. The Cheneys manage to blend a family atmosphere with the pleasures of leisurely dining.

The interior of the restaurant is made mostly of wood carved into southwestern motifs. The upper mezzanine balcony looks down onto the first floor giving the adobe structure, one of the oldest buildings in Moab, a Spanish-Mexican atmosphere. The tile mosaic decorating the bar enhances the south-of-the-border appeal while the wrought iron art depicting local legends such as Kokopelli reminds diners of their locale. The decor over the bar, however, crosses regional lines and reflects one of Jody’s passions. Nascar emblems, signed autographs and model cars adorn the wall.

Amid the tastefully arrayed race car memorabilia are four scorched beer bottles. They are all that remain from a serious fire that gutted the restaurant in 1989. The building has an interesting history which reflects the food process. Built in 1885, the structure was used for sundry purposes, including a church and a brothel according to local rumors, until it became a stone grinding service for wheat and oats. In the fifties, it turned into a grocery store and a decade later into a tavern. In 1972, the original Poplar Place opened. The Cheneys didn’t acquire the restaurant until September of 2002 although they had worked there for the previous owner since 1995.

For those familiar with the restaurant prior to the Cheneys owning it, it’s worth reacquainting yourself with it under their care. They maintain a personally high standard for their operation and have given Poplar Place a warm, personal touch that makes it a popular place to eat good food in a pleasant environment.

The Poplar Place Restaurant & Pub is located at 100 N. Main Street and can be reached at 259-6018. They are open every day of the week from 11a.m. ‘til 9 or 10 p.m. (depending on business). Entrees range in price from $6.50 to $13.75.

Recipe of the Month

The Poplar Place

White Chile

2 lbs. dried great northern beans
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, mined
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chili

Place beans in a saucepan covered with water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Soak for 1 hour, drain and rinse. In an 8 quart Dutch oven, saute onion in oil until tender. Combine seasonings and add half to Dutch oven. Saute for 1 minute. Add beans, broth and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Coat chicken with remaining seasoning mixture and bake until chicken is done at 350° for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Add chicken and green chili to bean mixture and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Enjoy!

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