I feel like a very lucky bunny because I got to spend this past weekend at one of the most beautiful spots in the West: Boulder, Utah. Or, more specifically, the Hell's Backbone Grill, a small restaurant right on the edge of the Escalante National Monument.
The story of this place is so great that even the condensed version draws you in: Two friends from Flagstaff, Blake and Jen, who divide their time between catering gigs and cooking on river rafting expeditions, decide to open a restaurant. Blake is a Buddhist, and they agree to run the place by the principles of Right Livelihood, with organic, place-based cuisine and an emphasis on local ingredients. Fair wages, recycling, all that good stuff.
Just one catch: The restaurant they find is in a tiny town in the middle of a wilderness, 4 1/2-hours from Salt Lake City, the nearest grocery store more than an hour away. There are 100 or so residents in Boulder, and most of them are devout Mormon ranchers. At first, no one will apply for the jobs they've advertised. And they can't get a liquor license.
They try reaching out. They meet with the town council, listen respectfully, and throw an ice cream social for the whole town on 4th of July. Six years later, the restaurant is thriving. After a slow start, they've become an integral part of the community (and finally have that license). Now they draw their own fan base to the town (during my stay, I met people from L.A., San Francisco, and Australia). Most importantly, they make the best biscuits I have ever had in my life.
I can't wait to go back. For more of the story (and the biscuit recipe), buy this.