Sunday, August 7, 2011

Maddox

PERRY, Utah -- It’s not even 4 p.m. on a Saturday in August when we pull into Maddox, but the parking lot is full. 

Waiting for a table at Maddox is pretty typical, but 4 p.m.? Sure enough, there are people in the waiting area and Kathleen puts our name on the list while I park the car. The wait is a short 15 minutes, but it’s still remarkable for a restaurant in a tiny town an hour north of Salt Lake City.

Or is it? Maddox has been around since 1949 and is considered by many Utahns as the No. 1 restaurant in the Beehive State. The menu is filled with comfort food, particularly fried chicken and chicken fried steak, which happens to be what Kathleen and I ordered (my chicken fried steak came from bison, a tiny nod to healthy eating).

Do not even think about asking for an adult beverage. Maddox has never served anything containing alcohol and certainly never will. You can, however, get an iced tea or homemade root beer, but the drink of choice is ice water from Maddox’s very own deep well. Besides being good for the traveler who will leave the restaurant and hop back into a car, the liquor-free menu helps keeps the cost down. Our bill came to $26 (including tax, not including tip), and we brought an entire chicken breast home for the next day.

Maddox is one of those places where you can fill up on the homemade rolls and cornbread long before your food arrives. In contrast to Col. Sanders and his 11 herbs and spices, Maddox's fried chicken is skinless and very lightly breaded. All the breading at Maddox is done with a light touch. The Maddox difference is that they grow their own beef (some on the other side of the restaurant's parking lot), and simply take great care to make consistent, delicious food and provide quick, friendly service. Honest, that's it.

There have been a few concessions and changes over the years. The shrimp cocktail has morphed into a "seafood salad," for example, no doubt a decision to keep prices low. The restaurant has expanded from a log cabin on skids (so they could move the building if the restaurant didn't work out, so the legend goes) to a huge building, a drive-in section, and a big reception center.

For consistently tasty comfort food served efficiently by nice people, Maddox gets Roger and Kathleen's four and half stars in the winter, five stars in the summer. The extra half-star is for its location on the north end of the Perry "fruit way," where fresh fruit and vegetable stands abound in July through September.

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