Eats with Elle: Ruth's Diner offers 80 years of great recipes

By Natalie Barrett

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 4 2013 3:59 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: Natalie Barrett experiences what it's like to dine out with her 3-year-old daughter, Elle.

Family recipes perfected over 80 years is what you will find at Ruth’s Diner. Upon entering, it is small and cozy, likely similar to what it would have been in the ’40s and ’50s.

Even with spring snow falling in the mountains at 4160 Emigration Canyon Rd. in Salt Lake City, the smell of the diner's homemade rolls penetrated the air as soon as we stepped into the parking lot. Elle smelled it and started running. “Slow down! You’re going to slip!” I yelled at her.

When she smells homemade bread, it’s over. One of my cookbooks reads, “She who bakes bread has warm hands and a warm heart.” To me, when you bake bread, it’s much more than a treat. If I really want to give my family a treat, I can go to the grocery store and buy cookies or a pound cake for $3 or $4. The availability of fresh foods is easy. Baking homemade bread is rare and a true act of love that you don’t see as much of these days.

Ruth’s Diner takes its homemade rolls to a whole new level. Its mile-high biscuits are crumbly, moist and “ginormous,” as Elle called them (used in one of her favorite movies, "Elf").

Next time, I’m going to know better than to let Elle eat the whole roll because it was probably enough for her whole meal. When her home-style macaroni and cheese came out with fresh fruit, her little belly was almost full. She is too much like her mom, though. When good food is placed in front of you, it’s almost impossible to say no.

I dined on Crab Cakes Benedict with the most perfect poached eggs I have had in Utah.

As we ate, Tracy Nelson (the current co-owner with her husband, Eric) welcomed us.

Tracy worked at the restaurant as a young adult and now is proud to be the owner of such a landmark restaurant.

“We want it to stay true to what it is,” Nelson said. “We’ve got great people working with us. Our baker has been with us for 17 years. It’s such a great feeling to be here because we have families that come in now with generations of them.”

Those families that have been coming back for generations are now part of the Ruth’s Diner tradition.

“We know their names and what they eat. We even have a couple customers that came in Ruth’s time.”

The reason? Nelson explained it simply.

“It feels homey and people like that comfort food," she said. "They like to be taken care of.”

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