If you have a craving for a big, greasy burger and fries – well, Moab’s Desert Bistro is not your place. But if you are looking for a fine-dining experience with a Southwest flair and an artful ambiance, make a reservation at Desert Bistro (36 S. 100 West, Moab), open from 5 to 10 p.m. daily.
You may wish to commence with an appetizer like the baked bacon-wrapped dates – stuffed with chèvre and drizzled with pomegranate molasses – or gyozas filled with smoked tofu, Anasazi bean hummus and roasted garlic, and served with chipotle pepper, soy and maple sauce.
There is also a selection of salads, such as the butterleaf salad that includes fresh red pears, jicama and candied walnuts and is served with pomegranate-raspberry dressing.
When it’s time for the main course, your server can tell you about the evening’s selection of fish flown in fresh or other entrees, such as the Colorado lamb loin chops – crusted in rosemary, pistachio and arugula and served over a stone ground mustard cream sauce. This dish comes with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes sautéed with red onions, apple-wood smoked bacon and asparagus. Or you may be more inclined toward a dish such as the Vegan Tower: organic quinoa mixed with sun-dried yellow tomato pesto, garlic, spinach, Anasazi beans, black beans, roasted red and yellow bell peppers topped with julienne of yellow squash, zucchini and carrots, plus avocado salsa, and served with roasted tomatillo-basil sauce.
There is also an extensive drinks list with wines, spirits, cocktails and beers.
Dylan and Leslie Warren are the husband-and-wife duo behind Desert Bistro.
Dylan had worked as a sous chef when Desert Bistro was first starting up on Center Street in Moab nearly 20 years ago, and came back as a kitchen manager in 2015. When the original owners decided to sell the restaurant, they approached the Warrens.
“We were a big ‘heck yeah,’” said Leslie. “And here we are.”
Dylan is still in the kitchen as executive chef – though he readily shares credit with the experienced chefs on staff for the quality and uniqueness of the dishes served. His mother, Nancy Mecham, also contributes her talents as a baker, making the fresh bread served with each meal.
The Warrens took ownership of Desert Bistro in January this year; they opened the doors on March 3 – only to have to close just weeks later due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They say they attempted to offer to-go meals, but found fine dining incompatible with take-out. It was, to say the least, a hard situation for the new business owners to be in.
Then a family member bought what Leslie described as “a very large gift card,” and the Warrens decided to share this gift with the community via “Community Meals,” a limited to-go menu that was available for free on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Leslie recalls the Community Meals-era fondly, getting to meet new community members and, in some cases, giving them their first taste of fine dining. Some of the people they served had recently been laid off or were experiencing hard times because of the pandemic. Leslie said she hoped to impart the message that no matter someone’s life circumstances, “everyone deserves fancy.”
The Warrens began receiving donations and more gift card purchases, extending the time they were able to offer Community Meals.
“It really meant a lot to have that community support and be able to give some back,” Leslie said. “That was a very cool thing that happened during that time.”
Today, Desert Bistro is doing a bustling business, though the restaurant’s capacity is reduced due to pandemic safety measures. The Warrens said they often fill up in advance, especially on weekends, and frequently only have room for those with reservations. They praised their staff for the professional service they give that keeps patrons coming back.
For more information, including a full menu, go to www.desertbistro.com. The restaurant may also be reached by calling 435-259-0756.
Fine dining at Desert Bistro
When: 5 to 10 p.m. nightly
Where: 36 S. 100 West, Moab
Contact: 435-259-0756; www.desertbistro.com