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Restaurant Happenings - February 2005

Branding Iron
2971 South Highway 191
Moab UT 84532
(435) 259-6275

The Branding Iron
Captures the Spirit of the West

by Annabelle Numaguchi

With its raw wood look, stuffed deer head and black-and-white photos of the rodeo, The Branding Iron makes you feel like you’re part of the ol’ West, the one populated by cowboys, ranches and damsels in distress. The restaurant’s motto is “Come Taste the West,” and that’s the promise it exudes from the moment you enter.

There is also a genuine quality about The Branding Iron and its down-home, friendly staff. Whether you’re a regular at the restaurant or a visitor to Moab, you can expect a warm greeting and a hearty meal, the kind that a real rancher would call satisfying.

Since I last wrote about The Branding Iron for this column, it has changed hands. Two years ago, Jeff Butterfield and his wife, Penelope, bought The Branding Iron from Susie Taylor, whose father originally established the restaurant over a decade ago. The Butterfields have carefully preserved its western feel while making moderate changes, such as modernizing equipment and sprucing up the place. I perceived few remarkable differences as I walked in, and they were all for the better.

The Butterfields’ first visit to The Branding Iron was as customers, so they have experienced the restaurant from both sides. Jeff has three decades of experience in the food industry, either as a chef or a food distributor, which he relies on when making decisions about the restaurant.

Working for U.S. Food Services brought him, Penelope and their nine-year old son, Hunter, to Moab, and helped him discover The Branding Iron, both as a place to enjoy dinner, and, eventually, as a potential business. Jeff observed that the “food is always good here,” and bought the place with the expectation of keeping the essence of the restaurant intact. Penelope explains, “We wanted to keep the spirit of the place and add to the existing.”

Considering the popularity The Branding Iron has enjoyed in the past with locals and visitors alike, it’s nice to see that the Butterfields have preserved the soul of the restaurant. They have added personal touches, such as authentic black-and-white cowboy photographs of Penelope’s ranching family in Wyoming and souvenirs of her western upbringing, such as her first saddle.

Other changes that the Butterfields have made to improve the already successful restaurant include adding a broiler, allowing The Branding Iron to become a Bar and Grill. The back pool room is now non-smoking, brighter and warmer, thanks to a functioning wood stove. They have added a pleasant waiting area, which gets plenty of use during busy nights, particularly those featuring the ever-popular karaoke.

The food is still the biggest draw for diners living or staying in Moab looking for genuine ranch cooking. This is a good place to come when you’re craving red meat and a hearty cowboy meal.

You can satisfy the carnivore in you with a choice of hamburgers, Navajo tacos, steaks, ribs or other cling-to-your-ribs meals. If you’re willing to wait until the end of the week (Thursday through Saturday), the Prime Rib special is worth the patience. So are the Baby Back Ribs, meaty cuts succulently prepared in a tangy barbeque sauce.

One noticeable difference in the menu since the Butterfields have taken over is the selection for non meat-eaters. Penelope, a fit petite woman, explains how she and her husband have consciously tried to expand the menu to include fish and vegetables to accommodate the trend towards healthier diets. One of her favorite items on the menu is the Grilled Halibut dinner.

No matter what you order, you won’t walk away hungry. The portions are plentiful and the sides are tempting. The home made French fries are crisp and come either in a heaping portion on your plate or as “All You Can Eat” (AYCEFF) with sandwiches. My favorite part of whatever I order is the Fry Bread, a piping hot beignet-like treat delicious smothered in honey, generously offered on every table.

The Butterfields have plans of expanding the menu further in the spring. They appreciate customer input and one incentive they are giving diners to participate is a contest. People are encouraged to donate recipes to the Butterfields, and the winner of the contest will get that particular item named after him or her. What a great way to have a delicious thought associated with your name.

Another way in which the new owners of The Branding Iron want to involve the community is in celebrating the second anniversary since the Butterfields took over the restaurant. They are offering a 15% local discount through the month of February until March 15.

The Branding Iron is exactly the type of restaurant one expects to find in a small, desert town in the West; it’s hearty, welcoming and warm. It’s a family-friendly restaurant that offers great food and fun entertainment, so it’s not surprising that it continues to be a favorite of visitors and locals alike.

The Branding Iron is located just 3 miles south of Moab, at 2971 South Highway 191 and can be reached at (435) 259-6275. They are open everyday from 11 a.m. to close. Take out is available and reservations can be made. Entrees range from $5.25 (Patty Melt) to $19.95 (16 oz. Prime Rib).

Recipe of the Month

The Branding Iron

Halibut a la Swiss
(A common complaint about fish, according the Jeff Butterfield, is it’s dry and “fishy” taste. Yet, people continue to order it well done. Try this next time you cook Halibut or any fish fillet.)

8 oz. (1 cup) Ranch Dressing
4 – 5 Halibut filets
½ teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Swiss cheese

To make the herb dressing, mix dill, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice together and let sit for 1 to 2 hours.
Grill or broil the Halibut filets half way through. Turn and make a depression the length of the filet and fill with the herb dressing. Cover with Swiss cheese and steam fish until the cheese is melted. You can substitute any type of cheese or fish you like.

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