At the crossroads in the old cowboy town of Salina, Mom’s Café isn’t really all that motherly, but it’s been a great Roadfood stop since long before we hit the road many years ago. In fact, this square brick edifice has been a gathering place for travelers and ranchers for more than seventy years now, and it bears the well-weathered look and seeming permanence of the rock mesas that surround the town.
Now run by Fred Pannunzio, a retired game warden who took over from the late Carolyn Jensen, Mom's longtime Mom, the cafe continues to offer its familiar cafe menu, including excellent liver and onions at supper, but we like breakfast best. That is when the scones are fresh and hot. The scone is a Utah specialty, and always on the menu in this true Utah café. It is similar to New Mexican sopaipillas and to the Indian fry breads served at roadside stands throughout the southwest, but generally big enough and weighty enough to be a nice little meal all by itself.
As the sun rises, Mom’s fills up with breakfasters for whom the close quarters are an invitation to socialize with one another. Our dining companions one morning include ranch hands with rodeo-trophy belt buckles, Piute Indians wearing spectacular porcupine-quill hatbands, and a pair of German-speaking tourists with backpacks on their way to hike around Bryce Canyon. The waitress uses hand gestures to explain to the foreigners the difference between “over easy” and “sunnyside-up”; the cowboys show the newcomers how do dip their biscuits in the thick, white gravy; and a Native-American coffee-hound demonstrates that a squeeze bottle of honey-butter on the table was put there so they could frost their scone.
The German couple takes all the good advice looking a little confused. But finally they beam with joy when their chicken-fried steak arrives. This is food they recognize! – the ranch kitchen cook’s version of a wiener schnitzel – made perfectly at Mom’s, the pounded-tender slab of meat encased in a luscious meltaway crust. At eight in the morning, the two well-fed travelers finally top things off with wide slices of blueberry sour cream pie, then head out the door for a day of hiking.
"Scones automatically come with your meal at Mom's and are served piping hot. With a little honey butter drizzled on top, these breads are delicious and addictive! "
"Mom's has several different homemade pies to choose from, but the most unusual and delicious is the blueberry sour cream. My waitress mentioned that they sometimes have cherry sour cream pie, too."
"The breakfast special: chicken-fry with poached eggs and potatoes. Scone in foreground."
"A nice afternoon snack before getting back on the road."
"Mom's is a classic three-meal-a-day small-town restaurant."
"This Mom is distinctly Southwestern, with a unique Utah twist."