Hell's Backbone Grill and Organic Farm
Boulder, Utah, may be a teeny-tiny town, but it’s a desert-mountain hamlet of picturesque proportions. In fact, it’s rated the most remote little town in the lower 48, surrounded by wild desert, twisting rock towers, mountains, and canyons. Culinarily speaking, however, Boulder has one truly big-time restaurant that puts most city dining to shame.
Hell’s Backbone Grill has its own “no-harm organic farm,” where they grow their own vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and greens, as well as Boulder-raised, grass-fed local lamb and beef. Their 130 chickens provide eggs for the restaurant’s breakfast plates, and all weeding is done by hand (with the help of two rescue goats who never tire of chomping on wayward plants). A straw-bale greenhouse extends the growing season into the colder months, resulting in a whopping 12,000 pounds of produce grown each year.
Run by chef-owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, the restaurant itself is unobtrusive, a rustic outpost that suits its surroundings well. But the operation is supported by a skilled team of farmers and cooks who capture each morsel of food, either serving it fresh or preserving it, freezing it, or drying it for use in a lucky diner’s future meal. The owners stick close to Buddhist principles of sustainability, environmental ethics, social responsibility, and community involvement.
As a result, this little stop-off has become a destination for anyone driving Scenic Highway 12 or visiting Bryce Canyon or Capitol Reef National Parks. Hell’s Backbone Grill gathers accolades and awards in droves, (the highest Zagat ratings in Utah and was selected as a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017, 2018, and 2019), all while humbly continuing to offer food as savory as the outdoor surroundings. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and does special events — so there’s generally something to suit your itinerary.
For breakfast, a top favorite is blue corn pancakes, while farm pumpkin-piñon enchiladas are an excellent way to fuel up mid-day. Or to top off a long hike, dine on spicy cowgal chipotle meatloaf. (They also have a full list of libations and desserts you don’t want to miss.)
Most folks who stop in fall in love with this place — and if you’re so in love that you’re ready to seriously commit, you can apply to spend the summer as a farm-hand “WWOOF” (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteer who trades work on the farm for education, meals and accommodations.
Even if you can’t stay for the summer (and trust us, we all wish we could), you can snag the restaurant’s cookbook and take some of your favorite flavors home to sample again and again.
All-American Road and Boulder Mountain
Plan Your Trip
The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, and from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for dinner from mid-March through the end of November. The restaurant closes for the winter, so hit it up during the fall, spring, or summer months (or all of the above).
Hell’s Backbone Grill
20 North Highway 12, Boulder
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