Utah, isn't a very big town. It only has about 4,500 residents. But it's
in big country. Visitors from around the world stop over or pass through
on their way to several national parks and other attractions in an area
of incredible natural beauty which Robert Houston, one of the owners of
Houston's Trails End Restaurant and Mobile Catering, calls "the greatest
earth on show."
Since 1975, Houston and his wife, mother, father and his brother and his wife have been serving three meals a day, seven days a week to Kanab residents and the thousands of tourists who visit the town. They specialize in home style, down-to-earth food like a cowboy breakfast of steak, hash browns, country gravy, eggs and toast ($6.75) or their cowboy lunch featuring chunks of top sirloin steak grill-fried with onion and bell peppers and covered with beef gravy ($6.50). In the evening in two dining rooms, diners choose from a variety of steak and chicken dishes, barbecued ribs, a baked boneless local trout ($12.25) and the restaurant's signature jumbo fried shrimp ($12.95). The most popular entrée by far, though, is chicken fried steak ($9.95). "We start with top round, peel off all the fat and gristle until we have solid chunks of meat, then cube, flour, batter and fry it. It's toped with my father's special gravy. He comes in every day to make it," Houston says. "I know the ingredients-a bacon and flour roux, canned milk, water and seasonings-but it's never as good when I make it."
Houston's father isn't the only family member who puts a special touch on the menu. His wife DayLean bakes 200 to 300 rolls a day for the restaurant.
His mother Emma is famous for her pies. Razzleberry-a combination of raspberries,
boysenberries and apples-is the most unusual one, but her "mile-high"
banana, coconut and chocolate cream pies are the most popular.
The Houston family enjoys the "lion's share of the restaurant business in Kanab," Houston says. "We (the town ) have 15 motels and lost of fast food, but only about five restaurants. Since our tourist business is very seasonal, no one wants to start one."
With the slow winter months in mind, shortly after buying the restaurant, Houston decided to get into the mobile catering business. "Our area was a very popular site for making westerns for television and the movies. We thought we could take advantage of that and cater to the crews," Houston says. Unfortunately, by 1977 no one was making westerns anymore. Undaunted, the Houston turned their attention to feeding firefighters. Since 1977, they have fed more than three million of them at remote sites in every western state. While the senior Houstons remain in Kanab to run the restaurant, the rest of the family is on the road up to 90 or more days a year.