Last week, I reviewed the hip and glitzy new Park City restaurant, Silver. This week, there’s more Silver. However, Silver Fork Lodge in Brighton is about as stark a contrast to Park City’s Silver as you’re likely to find. And, I love both Silvers.
Silver Fork Lodge restaurant first opened in 1947 and was purchased in 1993 by Dan Knopp, whose background and career until then was in engineering. In a sense though, he’s still an engineer, insofar as he’s had to do quite a bit of complicated engineering to make much-needed improvement to the lodge, such as replacing the roof to bring it up to the load-bearing standards needed for the immense amount of winter snow at Brighton. He recently expanded the kitchen, and even small details like doorknobs have been given a facelift. I love the silver forks that serve as handles for some of the doors at the restaurant.
Even with necessary updating, Silver Fork has the look and feel of an old, rustic, comfy mountain eatery, with massively thick and heavy wood beams, a cozy bar that reminds me of the Woody Creek Tavern in Aspen, and servers that manage a friendly smile even when the place is overrun, as often happens during weekend breakfasts and lunch. And, there is food to match the mountain ambiance. There’s no sous vide here, but there are sourdough pancakes ($7.75) made from a sourdough starter that is more than 50 years old. They’re imperfectly shaped, varying in thickness and circumference; some are slightly scorched, others not; they’re served with apple compote. In short, they’re perfect pancakes. But, at breakfast, I find it impossible to resist huevos rancheros ($10.50), especially ever since a server tipped me off that I could have them smothered with Silver Fork’s lip-smacking chile verde. At lunchtime, one can enjoy the chile verde in burrito form—a smothered burrito with pico de gallo, black beans, Mexican rice and salad ($10.50).
There is often a wait for much-in-demand patio tables during summer. It’s a splendid place to dine and is worth lingering for, although dining indoors is very appealing, as well. And, now there’s more outside dining available: Dan Knopp recently opened a new downstairs dining area that he built himself, replacing a section of the lawn with a paved area for tables and chairs, which takes some of the load off of the upstairs patio deck. Anyway, lunch at Silver Fork in warm weather is splendid and, along with scenic outdoor views, you can enjoy a free bird show, thanks to the hummingbird feeders that line the patio.
Portions are generous here; the salads, in particular, are humongous. So, you might want to share. The seared trout salad ($11.25) is a large (the length of a wide dinner plate) boneless, seared trout filet atop a plentiful mix of greens with tomato, onion, olives and balsamic vinaigrette, although substitutions are no problem if you’d prefer a different dressing choice. The Cobb salad ($10.75) is a massive mélange of house greens topped with rows of crispy bacon bits (real ones), sliced hard-boiled egg, black olives, ham, tomato, baby corn, avocado slices and blue cheese. There is nothing particularly innovative about these salads; they are just simple, honest and delicious. No smoke and mirrors here.
Some of the servers have been working at Silver Fork Lodge for nearly as long as it’s been in existence, while others are newer. Amazingly, in my visits to the restaurant I’ve had nothing but superb, friendly service. From young bussers and hosts/hostesses to waiters and waitresses, each staff member seems dedicated to making a meal at the lodge informal and comforting, but memorable.
From burgers and shrimp with grits to the tenderloin pepper steak and slow-cooked baby back ribs, Silver Fork does comfort food well. And, my favorite stick-to-the-ribs option is the homemade meatloaf, made from Dan Knopp’s own recipe. Knopp is a very outgoing, unpretentious guy—the sort who readily admits using onion soup mix in his meatloaf (how many chefs do you know who’d make that confession?) It’s a blend of ground beef and pork, along with sautéed onions and mushrooms, with a little onion soup mix tossed into the sauté. There’s also a bit of ketchup blended in, and Dan says the important thing is not to over-handle the meat mixture. The meatloaf—which is simple, straightforward and scrumptious—is served with a side salad and fries or homemade mashed potatoes, the latter of which is topped with a velvety, light-brown gravy. The mashers are made with real spuds; you know because there are chunks of potato lurking here and there. This is a good thing. “I have to keep the cooks from over-processing the potatoes,” Knopp says. The gravy, too, tastes made-from-scratch.
A small, but very appealing wine list gives diners intelligent options for pairing with dinner dishes, such as pan-seared duck breast with blackberry-Cabernet reduction ($28) or the divine lamb loin chops ($27) with rosemary-mint pesto. And, perhaps the best way to experience the friendly vibe and terrific food and wine at Silver Fork Lodge is to attend one of its inexpensive (usually $50 or $60 per person) wine dinners, which are served family-style.
During winter, with fireplaces ablaze, this is a wonderful place to visit. But in the summer time, engulfed by cool mountain air and surrounded by gorgeous views and songbirds, Silver Fork Lodge becomes a magical place. It’s not hip. It’s not glitzy. It’s not cutting-edge. It’s just one of the best dining destinations in the state of Utah.
SILVER FORK LODGE
11332 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon