Comfort, it turns out, is not relative, at least with food. No matter the cuisine or the culture that any given dish springs from, it will contain one neurological common denominator, buried in the primal place in our brains: Nostalgia
In search of Salt Lake’s best comfort food, we asked six restaurateurs and chefs what comfort food means to them. Read on for a traditional take from a Utah classic: Maddox Ranch House.
The Person: Irvin Maddox
The Restaurant: Maddox Ranch House
During WWII, Irvin Maddox opened a seven-stool lunch counter on Main Street in Brigham City. As a welder, he fashioned a stove plate from an old coal oil burner, secured a used refrigerator and asked Wilma Kotter, who would eventually become Mrs. Maddox, to work as a hostess. A few years later, Maddox opened the Double “J” in Ogden. But he lived in Brigham and spied a bit of land in neighboring Perry, much closer to home, in what most folks thought of as “the middle of nowhere.” In 1949, he bought the land and built a log cabin on skids so it could be towed away if it didn’t pan out. It never moved, and three generations later, another Irvin Maddox (named after his grandfather) is at the helm of what has become a landmark Utah restaurant and Irvin the younger’s whole life.
“After my father died (Steve, who ran the business after the original Maddox passed), I realized I was never going to find a better place to affect people in a positive way,” Maddox says. He threw himself into the family business he had inherited.
And Maddox does indeed affect a lot of people. Each week the restaurant serves more than 15,000(!) customers. That’s right, 15 thousand. Some come to sit in the classic log cabin’s dining room or lunch counter, others pull up to the drive-in, still served by carhops, and others pick up a family meal to go on the way home. That loyalty speaks to the comfort the restaurant offers.
“We offer familiarity,” he says. “You know you’re going to have a great experience and that’s why we’ve been around for so long.”
That familiarity is exactly what you think. Steaks and potatoes with all the fixin’s, famous fried chicken, housemade rolls served with honey butter and jelly. There’s even a seafood cocktail featuring crab with a “K.” (“That was my dad, he didn’t realize how kitschy fake seafood is but our customers won’t let me get rid of it,” Maddox says.) Don’t forget the pie and be sure to try the youngest Maddox’s own contribution to the third-generation menu, house-brewed birch root beer.
If You Go…
Maddox Ranch House
1900 S. Highway 89, Perry, (435) 723-8545.
Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(Closed Sundays and Mondays)
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