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Chick's Café  is a beloved Heber City landmark.

There’s just something about road food—those big or little indulgences that are part of any journey, either short or long. Or, in some cases, the food is the destination and the journey is just a great excuse to get to that thing you crave. Whatever your modus operandi, be sure to check out these delectable discoveries—small operations run by locals, doing what they love—sometime this summer or fall. All are within an hour’s drive of Park City, by the way, which means you don’t have to be on an official road trip to dig into anything on this list. You just have to be hungry.

1. Woodland Biscuit Company

Down an idyllic country lane in Woodland, Laurel Bartmess’s Woodland Biscuit Company beckons with its siren song of refined homestyle cooking. The setting is the old Woodland Cash Store, a tidy brick landmark fronted by a white picket fence. Inside, the décor is simple, with rough wood tables, whitewashed walls, and lots of natural light. Bartmess offers a wide and maddeningly tempting range of fresh breakfast and lunch items made with as many local ingredients as she can get her hands on—from her signature biscuit sandwiches to Crittenden Ranch (just around the bend) burgers. Don’t miss the dreamy chicken, biscuit, and grilled veggie plate. Picture a flaky, open-face biscuit topped with shreds of juicy house-roasted chicken sprinkled with petite mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, and maybe some bites of kale—all topped with a light, savory gravy and the perfect sunny-side up egg. 2734 E State Rd 35, Woodland, 435.783.4202

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Woodland Biscuit Company’s Laurel Bartmess.

2. Rafter B Gas & Grub Sinclair Station

From the outside, the Rafter B Gas & Grub Sinclair station resembles a well-seasoned, heading-toward-rickety country store, complete with a stagecoach wagon wheel, a worn wood-slat porch, and an old screen door. Inside, the wall behind the cash register is plastered with a collection of paper currency from all over the world. The real draws here: owner Kim Anderson’s handmade cheesy, gooey pizzas and house-smoked, pulled-pork sandwiches. She sells her pizzas by the huge slice, topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, or bacon. As for the pork, Kim and her husband smoke their own, right outside the store next to a small group of outdoor tables. Kim then transforms that pork with her own “secret recipe”—a tangy, spicy concoction, slow-simmered in a crockpot and served on your basic hamburger bun. (2246 S State Rd 32, Coalville, 435.336.2632)

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Samak Smoke House

3. Samak Smoke House

The legendary Samak Smoke House along the Mirror Lake Highway has been around since 1937. (FYI: Samak is Kamas spelled backwards.) Today, the country store with its adjacent smokehouse is the go-to snack stop for cross-country skiers, hikers, fishers, hunters, bikers, and basically anyone passing by en route to the Uintas. Inside, tasty, mostly house-made treats from smoked cheese and trout to pine-nut cookies, spill over shelf after shelf. Do try the amazing Samak Stickies—“granola bar” nuggets made with peanut butter, walnuts, honey, and other assorted natural ingredients. Yes, they’re sticky. Also chewy, tasty, and surprisingly filling. Of course Samak also offers a full selection of jerky, including their always-welcome pepper beef jerky. Smoked over cherry wood and preservative-free, it’s tender but chewy with just the right zing. 1937 Mirror Lake Hwy, Samak, 435.783.4880, samaksmokehouse.com 

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The doughnut case at the Kamas Chevron.

Image: Austen Diamond 

4. Mirror Lake Service - Kamas Chevron gas station

“Filler up” takes on a whole new meaning at Mirror Lake Service, the unassuming Chevron gas station and food market on the corner of Main and Center in Kamas. If you blink, you might miss the station’s blue awning with the word “Bakery” printed in white—but there it is, just above the door. Inside are cases filled with doughnuts of every shape and color. Then there are the station’s famed glazed fritters. As big as a dinner plate, available in apple, raspberry, and blueberry—each one dense and cake-like, with a knobby crust that’s easy to pull apart so that you can pop little bites into your mouth. True, you can get some kind of doughnut in any number of little roadside food marts, but these doughnuts and fritters are homemade from scratch right there in the back kitchen. Go early, or you can order ahead. 2 N Main St, Kamas, 435.783.4375

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Spin Café gelato

Image: Austen Diamond 

5. Spin Café

As a college student in Florence, Italy, Vincent Esposito fell in love with gelato. So much so that when he returned to the States, he bought a tabletop gelato machine and started making the creamy dessert at Vincent’s, his dad’s New York City restaurant. Fast-forward to today where this gelato ace fills the case at his modern/eclectic Spin Cafe' in Heber City with 12 flavors of the delectable Italian staple. Slow-churned and dense, gelato may seem ultra-rich, but it actually has less fat and air than ice cream—hence the more intense flavors, including Esposito’s salted caramel chocolate gelato. On the even lighter side is his fruit-friendly sorbetto. Starting in mid-to-late summer, he makes a magical white peach sorbetto with ripe, puréed peaches from Smith Orchards in Provo as long as they’re available. A fleeting seasonal treat, it’s so worth the trip for a triple scoop. 220 N Main, Heber City, 435.654.0851

6. Chick's Café

Beloved by regulars and routinely discovered by people passing through Heber City, Chick’s Café is the quintessential small-town diner. A bit frayed, the décor here is authentically old school: basic booths and a counter, faux wood paneling, and shades of beige. If nothing else, the ambience says “comfortable.” In fact, you could probably show up for breakfast in your PJs and slippers and no one would bat an eye. In addition to a menu of full-on traditional items such as chicken-fried steak and bacon and eggs, Chick’s is known for its fresh Utah scones—served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unlike the crumbly, biscuit-like scones of traditional tea-times around the world, the Utah version is a sizable, square-ish puff of deep-fried dough, usually cooked to order. At Chick’s, the scones are denser—in a good way—than they appear. The outer shell offers the perfect crackle—all the better to bite into when topped with melting honey butter. 154 S Main, Heber City, 435.654.1771

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Chick's Café's Lynette Wright

7. Denise’s Home Plate

Denise Pace, namesake of Denise’s Home Plate in Coalville, has been baking pies since she was 10 years old. As a kid growing up on a dairy farm, she was in charge of feeding the hay crew—10 to 15 hungry workers who came running at meal time—day after day. Today, she runs a small café and bakery in her hometown, but she breaks for weekends. If you want to indulge in a pie or 2 (or 10), you need to order in advance and pick up on a weekday. Since she waits patiently for Brigham City peaches and local apples, her magnificent fruit pies don’t show up until late summer. But until such time as the fruit is deemed “ready,” Pace offers an assortment of made-from-scratch, eggy, custard-lovers’ dream pies, including banana, coconut, and chocolate cream. She admits that “you just don’t find a much better crust” than hers. Note to nearby fans: She makes chicken pot pies once a month, but there’s no set date, so you may or may not get lucky. 49 N Main St, Coalville, 435.336.2249, deniseshomeplate.com

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The popular jalapeño burger at Taggart's Grill

8. Timp Freeze

Who can resist a true roadside burger and shake stand? An oasis in a fast-food world, a local joint is especially welcome in the dog days of summer when you’re fresh from a hike or bike ride or are toting a car full of disheveled campers or cranky kids on a Sunday drive. One such oasis is the vintage Timp Freeze in the pretty little Swiss-Miss town of Midway. No drive-thru here. You have to get out of the car or park the bike and walk up to the window to order the best thing on the menu—a fresh strawberry or raspberry shake. Extra thick, these summer shakes deliver the ultimate icy-cold, sweet, fruity, and creamy nostalgia—with the requisite brain freeze if you can’t help yourself and indulge in one too quickly. But even that temporary sensation is part of the fun. 24 E Main St, Midway, 435.657.5005

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Taggart's Grill is located about 45 miles from Park City in Weber Canyon.

9. Taggart’s Grill

Officially off the beaten path, Taggart’s Grill may be the only Utah restaurant with its own freeway exit. That would be #108 off of Hwy 84 between Morgan and Henefer. This alone qualifies it as a roadside eats destination. Add this destination’s big log home/vacation-y mountain ambience, patio seating, lush landscaping in a canyon setting, and the random pet peacock wandering the grounds, and it’s a slam dunk. You may be tempted to order dessert first  (we recommend the carrot cake or cheesecake), given that Taggart’s is famous for its glass-enclosed pastry cases at the entry. But hold on. Start with the legendary jalapeño burger—a generous half-pound beef patty, cooked to order, slathered with cream cheese and sweet jalapeño-apricot jelly, piled high with sliced jalapeños and Monterey Jack cheese, all on a pillow of a house-made bun. Yes, it’s messy. Messy good. (1105 Taggart Lane, Morgan, 801.829.3837)

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A sandwich from the Sundance Deli

10. Sundance Deli

First off, you really can’t go wrong with any of the edibles at Sundance Mountain Resort. There’s the award-winning, white-tablecloth dining at the Tree Room and the Foundry Grill and nachos at the famous Owl Bar, outfitted with a restored 1890s bar transported from a tavern in Thermopolis, Wyoming, where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang used to hang out. But on any summer afternoon, you’ll want to head for the Sundance Deli in the heart of this luxuriously rustic resort village. Seek and you will find the ultimate turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich—perfect for tucking into your backpack for a hike to Stewart Falls. Thin-sliced turkey on hearty wheat bread, it’s stacked with thick-cut bacon, house-special avocado paste, mayo, and shredded lettuce—all neatly wrapped to go. Every hike deserves a cookie, too. Go for the five-inch oatmeal cranberry. 8841 N Alpine Loop Rd, Sundance, 801.223.4211, sundanceresort.com

For more scrumptious images, check out the slideshow.




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