Road Journals Blog—It was a late lunch, and the Maddox Ranch House restaurant was not crowded. Nearby us sat men in stitched denim and cowboy boots.
The place had a sprawling Sizzler feel, only without the mammoth salad bar. One section was the original, trolley car-size eatery from the 1940s.
Maddox has been a landmark in Brigham City since that time, its retro spiked sign attracting not just locals but ranchers and other meat-lovers who might be passing through.
At the table next to us sat two ranchers from Idaho and Wyoming, who stop in whenever they’re in the area. “You can get a fine cut of meat here,” one of them told me. “The steaks are quality.”
I took their word for it, as I’m a vegetarian (let alone a vegetarian named Peta, as in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is mere coincidence).
Perusing a menu that espouses the “World’s Finest Beef,” I read about the proud history of this establishment and its connection to local farms. “Each week a truck backs up to ‘the rail’ of our meat shop here at the Ranch House and unloads sides of ‘homegrown’ beef from the Selman Ranch in nearby Tremonton, Utah . . .” it reads.
I was hungry, but I wasn’t worried. I’ve always managed to cobble together meals at even the most meaty restaurants. Vegetarianism has become a mainstream concept, and most chefs can tweak a menu item to accommodate veggie taste buds.
Apparently, though, I may have been the first vegetarian ever to enter Maddox—or at least to admit it.
When I casually mentioned to the waiter—a young, well-fed farm-boy type—that I was a vegetarian he was dumbfounded. The silence between us went on long enough that I thought he might have heard, “sectarian” or “septuagenarian” instead of “vegetarian.” After a few more beats my friend clarified: “She doesn’t eat meat.”
The waiter kept staring, and gradually nodded. I swear I saw his thoughts expressed in cartoon bubbles above his head: “Wait until my family hears about this. I saw a real, live vegetarian today—not on TV. I wonder if I can get close enough to take a picture.”
I still have no idea whether his befuddlement was his alone or if “vegetarianism” may be a foreign concept to most people in town. I’m betting, though, that waiting on one at Maddox is about as common as snow in July.
When the waiter returned with our drinks, notepad and pen in hand, his gaze dwelled on me again like I was some exotic animal. My friend ordered the fried chicken for which Maddox is famous. The only vegetarian item on the menu was pasta primavera, but I asked for the waiter’s suggestion, hoping that maybe the chef had something up his sleeve for just these situations.
“The steak is good,” our farm boy said. My friend: “She’s a vegetarian though. Remember, she doesn’t eat meat.”
The long stare resumed.
Me: “Okay, how’s the pasta primavera?”
Waiter: “Oh, that’s, that’s bad. I wouldn’t order that.”
My friend: “But that’s the only non-meat item on the menu.”
Waiter: “Oh, well, yeah. Maybe get that.”
The pasta primavera actually wasn’t bad, and I’m sure our waiter walked away with a good story to tell his future children and grandchildren.
This blog post was first published in February 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.