Accolades, Awards & Reviews

  • Dorado

    Heaven Can Wait

    Jen Murphy

    "In remote southern Utah, Jen Murphy find Hell's Backbone Grill & Farm is creating culinary experiences more than worth the drive"

  • Salt Lake Magazine

    HBG is Top 25 in Utah!

    And we are Reader's Choice for Best Restaurant in Red Rock Country!

    Mary Brown Malouf

    Why: Gourmets on the coasts don’t believe fine dining is possible in Utah, much less in the outermost Middle of Nowhere, Utah. But contrarians Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, owners of Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, love proving the know-it-alls wrong, and they do it in spades (and with spades, growing a big percentage of the food they serve on their own organic farm). They tell their tale in two beautiful cookbooks and sell from-the-farm pickles and jams at the Salt Lake Farmers Market.

    Stellar Dish: Steelhead Trout

    Boulder Mountain Lodge, 20 Hwy. 12, Boulder, 435-355-7464

  • Salt Lake City Weekly

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    Restaurant Of The Year

    Seasonal Boulder Spot Offers Utah's Best Dining

    Ted Scheffler

    "like an antique that’s been lovingly cared for, this is a restaurant that, over the years, has accumulated layer upon layer of love, compassion and care. It’s my favorite restaurant of 2013—and one that’s well worth an excursion to Boulder."

  • The Wall Street Journal

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    Off-the-Beaten-Path Restaurants

    It's the food that keeps people coming to cult restaurants in remote locations

    "Every so often, an unassuming restaurant achieves cult status for serving grub so good folks travel miles upon miles to get their hands on it."

  • Sunset Magazine

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    Top 100 culinary voyages in the West

    "The locally sourced menu and sophisticated wine list have been hailed by critics as far as New York and London, and by just about every traveler who comes through Boulder."

  • Salt Lake City Magazine

    Voted Best Restaurant, Moab & Southeast Utah (2007—>2013)

    Are they headed for Salt Lake magazine's Hall of Fame? You bet. The babes in Boulder have won in this category ever since they founded their restaurant, and nothing has ever challenged their Buddhist-style domination. Surprise, surprise. Still, lack of competition has not stuck them in a rut. They have expanded the farm, refined the menu, started raising chickens and still save time for the town's annual ice cream social. Indeed, every season there's something new in the little Eden on Highway 12. You go, girls.

  • Zagat's

    America’s Top Restaurants (2011 & 2012)

    The "chef-owner's passion elevates" this "special" new Utah-American destination "beyond the spectacular surroundings” of Boulder Mountain, swoon surveyors who claim there's "love in the food"; an ever-changing menu, organic produce straight from the restaurant’s garden and local farms, plus homemade jams and divine desserts all conspire to bring a slice of heaven to Hell’s Backbone.

    [ F 26 | D 28 | S 26 | C $26 ]

  • Salt Lake City Magazine

    Salt Lake Dining Awards

    Green Fork Sustainability Award

    Jen Castle and Blake Spalding started with a vision of sustainability and organically grown food, of a restaurant with a conscience and a business that was also a community. They have succeeded eminently. They started with a garden patch and now farm three acres; they started by buying cage-free eggs and now raise their own chickens. They have become an integral part of their adopted home town, Boulder, and spread the gospel of Utah's good food to the rest of the country, an example for all food-lovers.

  • New York Times Travel Magazine

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    Utopia on the Range

    by Alexandra Fuller

    "I rejoiced, and not only because once I was lost and now I was found, but also because Highway 12 is one of the nation’s most scenic roads and, being surrounded by such buoyant loveliness — sagebrush rolling into canyons, clusters of aspens, pine forests — it made me remember lost innocence, mine and the world’s."

  • Shambala Sun

    Hell’s Backbone Grill brings Buddhists and Mormons together

    Buddhists Jennifer Castle and Blake Spalding are celebrating 10 years of running Hell’s Backbone Grill, an all-organics restaurant in the midst of Morman country, in Utah. “Liberal, unconventional, non-Mormon — yet in conservative, rural Utah they’ve managed to build community on what they see as obvious parallels between their beliefs and those of their neighbors,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

  • Salt Lake Tribune

    Building bridges in Boulder

    Hell's Backbone Grill celebrates 10 years of fine dining in remote Utah town

    "We think we're doing our part from our little corner of the Earth"

  • Salt Lake City Weekly

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    Heavenly Hell

    How to write about Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder without turning it into a love letter? I won’t even try. If you’ve ever been to the little oasis on the edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you know why. Equally humble and refined, grounded and ethereal, it’s one-of-a-kind.

    Owners Blake Spalding and Jen Castle—both former river cooks—are celebrating the Grill’s 10th anniversary this year. Though they’ve been lauded by diners from all over the world and featured in “O” and Gourmet, it hasn’t been easy.

    Championing (and then growing) organic food and serving perfectly matched wines in a remote county that’s not exactly keen on “Wild Utah” bumper stickers or demon alcohol was an act of faith. But through a combination of good will and working with local ranchers and farmers, they not only made it, they’re thriving and beloved in the community. Their gorgeous cookbook, With a Measure of Grace, tells the whole story, complete with coveted recipes.

    As for the actual dining experience? Heavenly, of course. A few weeks ago, we sat at a sun-dappled table on the wooden deck. A cat named Jezebel perched on the railing, gave our table a nod, then vanished as our attention turned to a basket of feather-light biscuits with sage butter. A salad of organic greens with jicama and roasted corn in a chili-honey dressing hit all the right notes of freshness, texture and honest flavors. We sampled a gently seasoned bowl of lamb and green chile posole and practically impaled one another as our forks vied for bites of a delicate cheese enchilada spiked with tender baby tumbleweed greens. Skillet-fried trout encrusted with blue corn and molasses vanished as quickly as Jezebel. Ditto for the chocolate-chile cream pot.

  • Bon Appetit

    The United Plates of America

    A guide to the best things to eat, drink, and buy in all 50 states

    "WHAT TO EAT: A bowl of green chile and juniper lamb posole with a blue cornmeal and brown sugar muffin at Hell's Backbone Grill"

  • Sunset Magazine

    Follow the Red Rock Road

    "Between Escalante and Boulder, State 12 climbs onto a ridge that gives sweeping views of half of southern Utah; it's one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Amid the wilderness, your destination, Boulder Mountain Lodge, comes as a surprise: sophisticated, with one of the best eateries in the Southwest, Hell's Backbone Grill. It's a great way to end your weekend - or contemplate adding one more day."

  • National Geographic Adventure

    Adventure Travel in Utah

    "Boulder itself is a blip of a town, but it hosts the unmissable Zagat-rated Hell’s Backbone Grill, an organic, Buddhist enclave that dishes up regional foods like duck breast with wild rose hip–sage cream sauce"

  • Conde Nast Traveler

    December 2008
  • National Geographic Explorer

    December 2008
  • New York Times

    31 Places to Go This Summer

    "Hell’s Backbone Grill, on the edge of Escalante’s enormous slick-rock chasm, serves food that’s strikingly good"

  • Los Angeles Times

  • London Financial Times

  • Yoga Journal

    September 2007
  • Gourmet Magazine

    America’s Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants

    "In this warmly rustic place, these women cook and bake food people long to eat, from pecan-crusted trout to steaks of grass-fed Boulder beef; from 'blue ribbon' buttermilk biscuits and lemon chiffon cake to cobblers of heirloom apples. If this is hell, who needs heaven?"

  • Sunset Magazine

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    Sundae Social

    How two newcomers charmed a small Utah town with ice cream, sauce, and sprinkles

    by Lavina Spalding

    "Jen and Blake hung posters inviting everyone. Then they set up tables outside, waited nervously with gallons of ice cream, and watched in shock as carloads of families arrived. The mayor later told them he'd never seen so many townspeople gathered in one place."

  • Financial Times

    America, But Not As We Know It

    "Innovative Southwest-Pueblo Indian cuisine"

  • More Magazine

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    True West

    "The food is as fresh and exhilirating as the mountain air"

  • Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.

    Utah Governor’s Mansion Award for Culinary Artistry

    presented by Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.

  • Fodor's

    Fodor’s Choice Award

    One of the best restaurants in Southern Utah, this remote spot is worth the drive from any distance. Chef-owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding use only fresh, organic foods that have a historical connection to the area. Their cookbook is a gem worth owning, too.

  • Organic Gardening

    August 2005
  • Restaurant Guys Radio

    Interview with Blake & Jen

    "one of the most unusual and exciting restaurants in the world"

    LISTEN (mp3)
    LISTEN (mp3)

  • Canyon Country

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    Hell’s Backbone Grill Exemplifies Canyon Country Fresh

    A Menu That Tastes of the Land Upon Which It Is Served

    "Hell’s Backbone Grill serves food tasting as fantastic as the landscape in which it is grown"

  • Outside Magazine

    The Perfect 10: Adventure Lodges We Love

    "Mealtimes are savored at the lodge's Zagat-endorsed Hell's Backbone Grill, with clever offerings like Southwestern-French chocolate-chile cream pots for dessert"

  • Outside Traveler

    2004 Annual

  • Museum of Northern Arizona

    A New Plateau

    Celebrating the Lands and People of Canyon Country

    "Adding to their accolades, Castle and Spalding were featured panelists and honored for their work and contribution to sustainability at the MNA and Center for Sustainable Environment"

  • New York Times

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    At the Nation’s Table

    This Cafe's a Far Sight, but Fans Say It's Worth the Hike

    "For the last couple of years, travelers have been following the breathtaking trail to Hell's Backbone Grill in this tiny canyon-land hamlet"

  • Renewing the Countryside

    Food as Meditation

    "In many ways this restaurant is an unusual, and unexpected, surprise in this sparsely settled region."

  • O - The Oprah Magazine

    pdf August 2003

    "One of the zestiest, most innovative—and most tolerant—restaurants in the West. Hell’s Backbone Grill is an anomaly, an unexpected but happy melding of cultures, cuisines, and religions."

  • Travel & Leisure

    April 2003

    "a great restaurant that serves up organic dishes"

  • New York Times

    October 2002
  • Washington Post

    September 2002
  • National Geographic Adventure

    July 2002
  • Men's Journal

    July 2002
  • The Salt Lake Tribune

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    One Kitchen, Two Cultures

    "We try to find what we need right here. We're interested in investing in the community, in supporting the local economy and businesses."

  • Utah Underground: Guide to Real Fun

    Hell's Backbone Grill is run by two women, Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, who were told that their planned venture would never work. Blake, a devoted student of Tibetan Buddhism (Tibetan flags hang over the sun-dappled deck), has tried to mould the business in keeping with the right livelihood tenets of Buddhism's eightfold path. By all accounts, she not only has lived up to her spiritual ambitions but also has created what may be the best menu in the state. Featuring organically grown vegetables from the on-site garden and locally raised natural meats, the Hell's Backbone menu has multiple inspirations – cowboy, Mormon, and Pueblo Indian, among others. If that sounds both wacky and wonderful, it is.

    Although the vegetarian entrées were outstanding, and the red trout was delicious, I had what I believe was the best filet mignon I've ever eaten. Rubbed with Hell's Backbone’s blend of spices, the meat was seared on the outside and perfectly rare on the inside (hard to get in a restaurant these days). After dinner we shook everything loose with the fur-covered hula-hoops that Jen and Blake use to keep everyone smiling. They worked as well as the food. Hell's Backbone Grill now features a well-rounded and lively wine list that includes wines from organic vineyards.

Testimonials

  • "And the restaurant is like some strange kind of cowboy cosmic crazy Buddha vortex -- with great desserts... hhmmmmmm!"
    (Raymond Shurtz - Phoenix, AZ)

  • "What a wonderful surprise to find you at the end of the beautiful Burr Trail. The food was as spectacular as the scenery."
    (The Waterson Family – Hilmar, CA)

  • "By far our best meal in Utah – what a wonderful delightful surprise!"
    (Cathleen & Shirley – CA)

  • "Life is too short to eat boring food! We thoroughly enjoyed everything."
    (Mark & Juanita – Chesapeake, VA)

  • "The best breakfast we have had in 10 days of travel in the USA."
    (Jacques – Paris, France)

  • "A jewel along our path!"
    (Sherri & Drew – Norwalk, CT)

  • "An oasis in the west. The food will always bring me back."
    (Jason – Aspen, CO)

  • "So glad to find you in Utah! The freshness and creativity in your menu is a special treat."
    (Joe & Judy – Newport Beach, CA)

  • "High cuisine in the high country!"
    (Flo & Warren – Flagstaff, AZ)

  • "Best food in the southwest!"
    (Cain Family – Florida)

  • "The meal defined the best of melt-in-your-mouth excellence. Looking forward to more..."
    (Diane, Peter & Emily – New York)