Top 10 Best Restaurants for Large Families or Groups on Utah’s Wasatch Front
By Clark and Leah Burbidge
As parents of a large blended family we rarely are able to gather everyone together in one place. However, we also have frequent opportunities to share our lives with them in smaller or not so small groups. It has been a major goal to find several restaurants that can comfortably cater to a larger crowd. Utah is a reasonably family friendly state so one would expect to find numerous choices. However, it is not as easy as it would seem. To make this list the restaurant needs to have good table service which includes a large enough kitchen and kitchen staff so that they don’t get bogged down with a larger group, table set-ups that allow us to be together or at least next to each other, quality food and menu options that make us want to come back, a fun atmosphere and staff and a price that won’t set you back a month’s pay.
With that said, here is a list of restaurants with some, or all, of those attributes that we have enjoyed and recommend to others through our fourteen years of blended family life. We expect there are others that could have made the list. If some of these make you snicker that is fine. Our perspective when we take members of our family to dinner is probably different than many. We will list them in reverse order with all being recommended but number one fitting the criteria the best.
10. Mikado Teppanyaki (West Bountiful):
This is one of our favorites and fits all the categories but comes in a bit lower because it is pricy. This would be near the top of our date restaurant list. We love the cook-in-front-of-you atmosphere and the staff is fun. The menu is fantastic and includes quality sushi offerings for those who indulge. Personal favorites include teriyaki chicken and the triple seafood dish.
9. Grubsteak (Park City):
This is worth the drive from the city. It is one of the top steak restaurants in Utah. Live music makes the atmosphere especially nice. Service and staff are awesome, and the kitchen can handle anything. They also offer one of the broadest ranges of non-steak options around. It can get crowded so we recommend arriving early. Parking is a little tricky and it also is higher on the price scale. Personal favorites are the steaks with baked potatoes.
8. Cracker Barrel (Layton, West Valley, etc.):
This is the definition of fun, especially if you enjoy shopping for eclectic items in their up-front country store or like a game of checkers in the porch rocking chairs. Service is good and the menu features a lot of down-home style dishes. Prices are quite reasonable, and the atmosphere is a definite step up from Chuck-a-Rama. Breakfast any time of day is a good choice.
7. Spaghetti Factory (Salt Lake City):
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Broad menu with more than just pasta. However, the pasta and sauces are great. Ample seating and great service. Large groups have no problem here although early reservations on a weekend are wise. Personal favorites are the Mizithra cheese and meat sauce on anything.
6. The China Platter (Bountiful):
We know this one is probably controversial. There are a lot of great Chinese restaurants along the Wasatch front. But, in our opinion, it is at the top of the list. They also offer Thai dishes and their service and kitchen are good, if not extraordinary. Pricing is moderate to low and they can accommodate very large parties with their banquet room. There are more famous competitors that have very long waits and are not a stitch better. We think it competes with anywhere we’ve eaten in San Francisco or Los Angeles, including in their respective Chinatowns. Personal Favorites: Sesame Beef, Lemon Chicken, Moo Goo Gai Pan.
5. The Original House of Pancakes (Sugarhouse and Sandy):
These locations have back rooms for larger groups. Simply the best breakfast menu in the entire USA in our opinion. And the food exceeds the hype. Personal favorites: Do-it-yourself scrambles/baked omelets and multi-grain pancakes.
4. Tucano’s/Rodizio Grill (Various locations on Wasatch Front):
Both are Brazilian Grill Restaurants and can accommodate very large groups. One of our children had a wedding dinner here and it was a blast. The biggest secret of these restaurants are not the various rotisserie meats and veggies that are brought around until you can’t eat any more. The real secret here is that they have by far the best salad bars we have ever enjoyed anywhere. That includes fancy restaurants, cruise ships and resorts. We also love the black bean mix and fried bananas. This can be on the higher priced side but as an all-you-can-eat with a bunch of hungry teens and young adults it is not too bad. Kids are lower priced also. Personal favorites besides the salad bar: Garlic beef and the hand rubbed chicken.
3. El Matador/Javier’s (Bountiful, Farmington, Ogden):
Great service and Mexican fare with large enough spaces to accommodate large parties. Prices are very reasonable. Family owned businesses who really care and have a long history. There are other more famous Mexican Restaurants that we love but the crowds and space cannot easily accommodate a party of more than six. We believe a great Mexican restaurant is all about their sauces, particularly their enchilada sauce options. Both these have great options. Order an extra cup. Personal favorites: Chili Verde Burrito and Huevos Rancheros.
2. Maddox Ranch House (Brigham City):
Broad menu with high quality steak and sides. They have been around for decades and are famous for their farm-based dishes including Bison New York or Ribeye options. Large groups/families are welcome and will be filled at lunch or dinner. Prices are very reasonable, and the staff is efficient. Personal favorites: Any grilled items including steaks, chicken, etc.
1. Timbermine Steakhouse (Ogden):
Walk into an underground mine, log cabin atmosphere in the old west. Lose yourself in the memorabilia and funny items as you wait to be seated including a train set that runs through a bathtub. Yep…not kidding. Great food and service with killer appetizers. The deep-fried mushrooms are huge and delicious. Steaks range from 8 to 32 ounces. Potatoes are double the size of whatever you have seen in the past. We usually order one to split. Oh, and the dessert menu is so good you will want to order everything and share. The restaurant is moderately priced. This is a very popular restaurant on almost any night. It opens at 5:00 pm and there is usually a wait for dinner by 5:30 pm. Does not take reservations although it is very large including a banquet room for special events. Personal Favorites: The combinations of steak and shrimp or lobster and the shish kabob with pineapple, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions as well as generous chunks of steak.
Bonus Suggestion: Chuck-a-Rama (The larger locations):
Okay this may sound cheesy but when you have a group of twenty something a buffet works well, and this is the best. The salad bar is fresh and diverse, the staff is friendly and attentive, and the food is solidly good with a changing menu. Surprisingly, it is not noisy, so talking in a normal voice works. In addition, the price is on the lower end of the scale. It’s not on our most romantic restaurants list but with twenty other people that really isn’t to be expected. Be aware that the smaller footprint versions of this restaurant feature much more crowded buffet areas.
When you are in Utah it is not necessary to sacrifice quality, even elite, dining experiences either as a couple or with a large family/group. We have dined in some of the best restaurants all over the USA, Hawaii, the Pacific and Europe and conclude that the quality of the restaurants in Utah from top to bottom compete quite well with anywhere else we have experienced. We hope you try some on our list and let us know your thoughts.
About the Authors: Clark and Leah Burbidge are 14 years into their blended family experience and loving life more than ever with ten children with their eight spouses, eight grandchildren and counting. Their practical ‘autobiographical/how to’ guide is contained in a new Gold Medal award winning book, Living in the Family Blender: 10 Principles of a Successful Blended Family, July 2019 – Deep River Books.