Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Spirit of Community at Twin Rocks Café

 Twin Rocks Café

913 East Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341

Twin Rocks Trading Post
The Navajo Twins
The Simpson Family of Bluff, Utah, has been an integral part of the community for several generations. Duke Simpson purchased land overseen by two sandstone pillars, The Navajo Twins.  He established a trading post in 1988, bartering with local Native Americans, and other residential artisans.  Six years later, with the idea of opening up a small deli to provide sandwiches to travelers, could Duke have foreseen the iconic business he was creating?

Before Twin Rocks Trading Post and Café were even a thought in Duke’s mind, he ran a gas station at the corner of Highways 191 and 162.  He helped Rusty and Lily Musselman build a small trading post of their own right next door; The Cow Canyon Trading Post.  Duke was teaching and establishing values in his children that would benefit the community as well as the family.

As Barry Simpson states, “Twin Rocks has the community in mind; it is about local community and it is about the community of travelers coming through Bluff.”  The Simpsons care about their employees, they are not simply workers, but part of the Twin Rocks family.  “We are living wage employers; we provide opportunity via our own incubator program.  After coming to work for us, one of our employees was finally able to get electricity into her home.  Many are able to go off to college, graduate and then come back to their community of Bluff.”

After purchasing the Trading Post and Café from their father, and there by keeping it within the family, the Simpson sons experienced their own knowledge building and growing processes with the businesses.  Attracting only locals would not be sustainable, it had to attract the interests of travelers as well.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner were made available; many items given that Southwestern flare visitors were looking to experience.  A huge change came about on July 4, 2017 with the addition of new General/Restaurant Manager, Frances Vander Stappen.
Executive Chef, Frances Vander Stappen and Owner, Barry Simpson
Frances hails from northern Utah, did a lot of traveling in her day, and it is no wonder why she fell in love with Bluff.  She is a certified executive chef and very in tune with the restaurant world, as Barry states, “She has taught us a lot!”.  Revamping the menu did not mean losing the Southwestern flare that locals and visitors enjoy, but amping it up!  Green chiles are a staple in many dishes, or can easily be added; Navajo Fry Bread is made with the best flour, Blue Bird; hot sauces and beans from Adobe Milling.  Local sourcing is done as much as possible as dictated by supply and demand.  Sauces and dressings, except for Caesar, are house made and the tastes are fresh.  That is another facet that is important to the Twin Rocks Café menu - fresh, and the addition of healthier, vegetarian and gluten free options offers something for everyone.  If you walk into the Café and cannot find anything on the menu to your liking, that is due to not being hungry in the first place.  

Along with Barry and Frances, their “right hand in general” employee is Nizhoni; a lovely Navajo woman with a beautiful personality and fun spirit.  All the employees are friendly, helpful and make the dining experience at the Café enjoyable.  As a complete family, the Cokenour and Watkins clans always have the best time at Twin Rocks Café.  The atmosphere is welcoming, the employees laugh along with our antics, and the food is always, always the best.

…and there is my lead in to the food.  We all had not been to Twin Rocks Café, since their renovation (life does interfere with life sometimes).  The additional seating area has windows that open up wide to let in those soft breezes; or there is patio seating outside on the veranda.
There are two Tesla units attached to the building, so a vehicle can feed as well as the owners.

New appetizer on the menu, Bluff-alo Chicken Bites; hand-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a fabulous crunch (balance of the sugar mixture is key) and Adobe Milling hot sauce.  Instead of celery sticks, we received cucumber spears along with the sweetest carrot sticks; both a refreshing treat between mouthfuls of delicious heat.

Many of the meals come with a choice of salad, fries or coleslaw; lucky me chose a house salad with the most outstanding dressing, maple-agave-balsamic vinaigrette.  Almost had to stick a fork in my hubby’s hand as he kept stealing my salad; that is how good that dressing is!

My meatloaf dinner is a mixture of pork, beef, bread crumbs, freshly diced celery, onions, herbs, spices….hey there Frances, were you trying to copy my meatball recipe!?! Ah, but here comes the bite upon the cheek, green chile added to the mix and a nice surprise too.  The red-skinned mashed potatoes are house made, and choice of gravy is brown or white.  I picked the brown gravy which was thick and so lip smacking tasty; I even dipped my hubby’s fries in the gravy.  If he can steal my salad, I can steal his fries!

He had the Classic 7-oz. Burger on, what else, Navajo Fry Bread which makes the best Navajo Taco or Pizza as well.  The meat is a ground mixture of Choice round, brisket and short rib grilled to your liking, but an addition of sautéed onions and roasted green chiles makes it A++. The fries are lightly dipped in a beer batter mixture which makes them crunchy good on the outside while fluffy tender on the inside.

Navajo Taco

That beer batter mixture is used more thickly for the hand-cut Alaskan Cod featured in Beer Battered Fish n’ Chips which is eye-popping amazing!  We enjoyed a sample, and were craving it the next day; dad (Bishop Richard Watkins) was still talking about it the next week! Anyone who is a fish eating lover will enjoy this meal, and still be craving it again days later; it is that great! Wow, wonder if I’ll have to put in an order in advance, to make sure they have not run out?  

I know they make sweet tooth indulging desserts, like Peaches de Chelly; but holy moly, we had eaten so much food, they needed to push us out in wheel barrows.  Alright, not really, but we just could not eat another bite without exploding; oh but we so wanted to…eat that is, not explode.

There are a few other new options at Twin Rocks Café, such as breakfast offered all day! Navajo Blue Corn Pancakes, Omelets, Breakfast Burrito, Pancakes and more!  Need a picnic lunch for that hiking, climbing or river rafting adventure, and I always recommend that; Twin Rocks can fix it up fresh for you.  Meat and veggie packed sandwich with all the fixings, dessert, chips and drink for only $13.50.  

When you walk into the front door of Twin Rocks Café, you will notice the newest addition to their delicious offerings; an ice cream counter that also features espresso, espresso beans, quiche, house baked desserts and more!   Oh, but look to the left and see the gift shop featuring crafts and wares from artisans of the Four Corners; plus, books, maps and other must-haves.

Kachina Dolls
While I have only mentioned a few of the menu items, I need to tell you that each experience at Twin Rocks Café has been great…great atmosphere, great staff, great food.  The spirit of community is strong with the Simpson family, with new executive chef, Frances, and with all the staff.  We sat speaking with Barry and Frances for over an hour; the pride and passion was over flowing; their eyes shining with excitement as they watched us taste the food, “ah” over it, and dive in again for another bite.  Go, visit, have a great time, and enjoy being part of the Twin Rocks community; it is a great, not just San Juan County, but Four Corners experience.

Mary Cokenour

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