Those familiar with Backcountry Journeys tours can attest that we consider dining choices very important. We carefully choose local restaurant options when available to compliment our delicious and nutritious picnic breakfasts and lunches.
Sometimes, in fact, the food is SO good that we have to remind ourselves that we’re not on a “food tour,” and that there is photography to be done! Seriously, though, a lot of thought does go into where we’ll eat on a particular tour because we’re often working hard out there in the field, and what better way to put a stamp on the day than with a great meal?
Enter our new blog series, “Oh, the Places We’ll Eat!”
With this new series of articles, we’ll take a closer look at restaurants that we find ‘extra special,’ and that we’re always sure to visit while on our photography tours.
For those who have been reading our blog posts for a while, you might recall this piece, where we briefly covered a handful of our favorite restaurants at once. “Oh, the Places We’ll Eat” will look to showcase these deserving eateries in more depth so that you’ll know what else to look forward to while on the photography tour of your choice!
The Sunset Grill, in Moab, Utah offers diners wonderful food, service, and simply the best view in town, and will be our first featured eatery.
We’re always sure to dine at the Sunset Grill while on our Canyons of Utah: Arches & Canyonlands tours. The view at the Sunset Grill is enough to make this restaurant a can’t miss, however, what really stands out is the “rich” history of the house in which the restaurant resides.
The Sunset Grill has been in operation since 1993 and is, in fact, the oldest operating restaurant in Moab. If you’ve ever driven down Main street in Moab you are familiar with the Sunset Grill whether you are aware, or not. It’s that really cool house way up high on the rock wall on the east side of the road. There is no doubt that the view is the best restaurant view in town.
This building was not always a restaurant, and the story and “rich” history behind the building are what really makes the Sunset Grill so cool.
Charlie Steen came to Moab in the early 1950s when the town was a simple farming community, far from the bustling tourist epicenter that it is today. You see, back in the early 1950s both Arches and Canyonlands were not yet National Parks, and therefore not quite the international attractions they are now.
At this time the Atomic Energy Commission was offering a $10,000 reward for finding domestic uranium. As a geologist, Charlie Steen possessed the wherewithal to find uranium, so he set out to do just that. Steen spent roughly three years hunting for deposits before finding success. While on what was going to be his final attempt to extract ore samples from 240 feet beneath the earth’s surface, he discovered that he had broken his drill bit. He returned to town with some ore deposits in the back of his Jeep. Needing gas he stopped at a service station where the attendant noticed the ore and grabbed his Geiger counter. As the attendant approached the jeep with the Geiger counter, both he and Steen were surprised at the readings the ore was producing. Charlie’s Mi Visa Mine eventually shipped a million dollars’ worth of ore in its first six months. He had hit “paydirt,” and would be now known as “The Uranium King.”
Life changed quickly for the Steens, who had barely survived financially during Charlie’s two-year-long quest. Money was no longer going to be a problem for the family, as they went from using a washboard in the river to have their laundry flown by Charlie’s private pilot to Grand Junction, Colorado to be cleaned. At this time in Moab, television reception left a lot to be desired. Charlie wanted the family to be able to watch their favorite shows, so he put a television on his plane and the family would fly around Moab in order to get better reception.
This lavish behavior by no means meant that Charlie was “the rich guy up on the hill.” In fact, he was very generous with his wealth, donating property to local schools and churches, and building “Steenville,” a housing development for his employees, built so that he could offer low-interest mortgage loans. Each year he would invite the entire town to annual parties where he would donate $50,000 toward a local hospital.
Steen’s ‘crown jewel,’ so to speak, was his dream home, which he built on top of the mountain right there in town. The $250,000 house was built complete with a greenhouse, servants quarters, and with what was at the time the largest swimming pool in the state of Utah.
After nearly a decade living in the beautiful house on the hill, the Steen family moved on to Reno, Nevada, and then to Colorado. Steen and his wife, Minnie Lee, have both since passed, but will always be remembered as Moab’s most famous millionaires.
The former Steen home is now The Sunset Grill.
The Grill offers a menu of delicious and tempting steak, chicken and seafood choices, among other dishes. The views are magnificent, and dining in the old Steen family living room is like taking a step back into the 1950s in and of itself. On display at the restaurant is a 3-foot replica of Charlie’s discovery boots, cast in bronze, among other memorabilia from the family’s time at the hilltop home.
We’re sure to visit the historic Sunset Grill on our Canyons of Utah: Arches & Canyonlands tours, which we have set for spring and autumn dates. This tour is a ‘hiker-photo’ tour. For more on ‘hiker’ vs. ‘standard,’ click here.
So, join Backcountry Journeys this autumn, or next spring, in the high desert and get a tasty slice of Moab history alongside in addition to a world-class landscape photography tour!
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald, where for 3+ years he wrote news articles and photographed on a variety of topics such as community events, travel, and even mixed martial arts. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wild lands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart as nothing else could. This realization led to a relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah, and internationally in Costa Rica. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah and mountain biking. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.