Cabela's High Uinta Restaurant and Grill
2502 W. Grand Terrace Parkway, Lehi ; 801-766-2500
Cafeteria with an exotic menu of ostrich, wild boar and more. Traditional items include pizza, chili and biscuits and gravy.
Cuisine: Eclectic, American
Hours: M-F, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; S, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Su, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
October 5, 2005
Wild dining: Cabela's restaurant hopes hungry shoppers are game to sample exotic menu offerings
By Nancy Hobbs
LEHI -- Browsing through a store the size of almost four football fields takes energy, especially if you stop to pull back the bowstring on a few bows, or take aim at wily targets with a laser-loaded gun. Yes, Cabela's new emporium of outdoor gear, just south of the Point of the Mountain separating Salt Lake and Utah valleys, is as massive in size and entertainment as all the grand opening gush promised.
It's enough to stoke an appetite . . . unless the sight of 430 stuffed and mounted animals throughout the store turns your stomach otherwise.
Cabela's is banking on the former, with an in-house diner -- the High Uinta Restaurant and Grill -- to quash those pangs of hunger. Like the store itself, it goes beyond the ordinary (60 different camouflage clothing patterns?) and offers the exotic: ostrich and wild boar, in addition to the somewhat less remarkable elk, bison and venison.
Roast beef, turkey and an all-American hot dog also are on the menu, but why bother? When in Rome . . .
That is the credo by which my fellow shoppers/diners and I spent the day by recently as we followed the line of cars off I-15 and up Cabela's Boulevard to the first of the store's several parking lots, including one for semi trucks and horse trailers. (In keeping with forecasts of first-time visits to Cabela's consuming more than four hours, there are horse stalls and dog kennels for the comfort of pets while their humans shop.)
Inside the 177,000-square-foot store, around the base of the mountain diorama populated by deer, moose, wolves, bighorn sheep, etc., we eventually found our way to the stairs and the High Uinta. The "restaurant" would more aptly be called a cafeteria, with different stations offering deli sandwiches, grilled items, pizza, chili and self-serve fountain drinks.
Ostrich was my choice at the deli counter, and the "outfitter" -- the term used for all Cabela's employees, including sandwich builders -- suggested I have it garnished as I would a pastrami sandwich, since its flavor is typically compared to that. I had a choice of several kinds of bread or a wrap, and chose the latter for a higher, more critical ostrich-to-bread ratio.
My dining companions chose the wild boar wrap and, on the grill side, venison bratwurst and an order of batter-dipped and fried onion rings.
We found an empty table with a view of the mountain "summit" staged with bighorn sheep and deer. Our post-lunch destination also was in sight: the "Home and Cabin" department, with its antler chandeliers, kitschy bathroom decorations, and the perfect cabin-warming gift: mounted jackalopes.
As we enjoyed our sandwiches -- big enough for the heartiest appetite, and all priced from $5 to $8 -- we couldn't help but notice other diners around us. Though the majority advertised favorite teams or products with their T-shirts and baseball caps, there were a surprising number of men in dress shirts and ties, undoubtedly getting in a little shopping -- or lusting -- with lunch.
Deli manager Kim Mock says the restaurant is more of destination diner than anticipated, with faces from Lehi businesses and the nearby Utah State Prison becoming familiar.
Weekends are still the biggest draw, however, with an average 2,000 meals served daily, starting with biscuits and gravy as soon as the doors open until the burners are turned off one hour before closing. About half that number is served on weekdays.
In its first month of business, High Uinta's most popular item has been the elk sandwich, reports "deli lead" B-Jo Laing. Next is the ostrich, which does taste like pastrami, peppery and spiced, with a similar texture. The wild boar tastes like sweet, smoky ham which, when you give it a moment's thought, isn't that surprising.
Venison is generally very lean, and the bratwurst ($4.29) is no exception, though it was still moist and not overly dry.
Cabela's also serves bison bratwurst and bison sandwiches, but with the Buffalo Point cafe on Antelope Island serving buffalo burgers, it doesn't have quite the cachet of the other "exotics."
Even as unusual as these game meats are -- and how easy it is to imagine the beasts in the wild, particularly with the dramatic African diorama just footsteps away -- all are farm-raised and processed in neighboring Colorado, at the House of Smoke in Fort Lupton.
That still may not be enough to settle some stomachs.