Deep-fried chef brindled with salt. That’s how Bill Espinoza, buyer of the Navajo Hogan restaurant in South Alkali Lake, ate fry aliment as a child. And that’s how the New Mexico built-in prefers it today.
Most of his barter would never anticipate of bistro it so plain. They adjustment the hot, aureate discs slathered with honey and butter; or as a Navajo taco — topped with meat and beans, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa.
Espinoza and his wife Marcie accept been active the “Home of the Navajo Taco,” back 1989 from a plain, cinder block architecture at 447 E. 3300 South. Back it opened, it was one of the few restaurants in the country that served Built-in American fare.
“It was a gamble,” Bill Espinoza said about aperture the restaurant with such a specific comestible focus.
Utahns usually can acquisition fry aliment and Navajo tacos during summer fairs and festivals — like the one-day Built-in American celebrations demography abode on July 24 in Alkali Lake City and South Jordan (see box).
But added times of the year, the Navajo Hogan has generally been the alone source.
Within the aftermost year, however, two added eateries with a Built-in American focus accept opened in Alkali Lake City, including Black Sheep at Epic Brewing, 1048 E. 2100 South, and The Dejected Bird Stand, a adaptable aliment bell-ringer that parks on the weekends at the Built-in American Trading Post, 3971 S. Redwood Rd.
Deep-fried history • Pioneer Day is an adapted time to pay admiration to fry bread. After all, American Indians are an important — but generally disregarded — allotment of July 24 celebrations. From the Shoshone and Goshutes to Utes, Paiutes and Navajo, some 20,000 are said to accept lived in the breadth that now encompasses Utah in 1847, back the Mormon antecedents arrived.
Fry aliment is a contempo accession to American Indian cuisine, basic in 1860 back about 8,000 Navajos were apprenticed from their acreage by U.S. troops and beatific to a catch in Fort Sumner, N.M. The government provided the association with alone bound aliment staples, including white abrade and lard. The Navajo fabricated the best of what they had been given, axis the abrade into collapsed discs of chef and affable them in hot grease.
Through the years, the aliment became the foundation for the Navajo or Indian tacos, advised the accompaniment bowl of Arizona.
While some may say the absurd chef is a attribute of oppression, that’s not how Bleu Adams, buyer of Black Sheep at Epic Brewing (where fry aliment and a beef brisket Navajo taco are served), looks at it. “For me, it speaks to the backbone and adeptness of built-in peoples, fusing aliment cultures abundant like the beignets of the South (French/Creole) or alike shina soba (ramen, China/Japan),” she told The Tribune.
There are added names for absurd aliment dough. Western antecedents — including the Mormons who came to Utah — alleged these creations “dough gods.”
In New Mexico and added genitalia of the southwest, they are referred to as sopaipillas. And, weirdly, in modern-day Utah, they accept been dubbed scones — which causes some abashing with the small, triangular shaped scone served with aerial tea in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Adams said the leavening abettor is what distinguishes acceptable fry aliment — fabricated with flour, baptize and baking powder— from scones, which are fabricated with yeast.
Road aliment admired • Navajo Hogan got its big breach back authors Jane and Michael Stern included it in their accepted “Road Food” bistro guides. After that, bodies from all over the country and the apple would stop in for a aftertaste of the southwest.
Through the years, the restaurant has had its allotment of celebrity visitors, said Espinoza, who has an autographed photo of above “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. The casting from “Touched by an Angel,” which was filmed a few blocks east at Granite Hight School, were accepted to bead by.
A alum of the University of New Mexico, Espinoza is part-Latino but identifies added with the Navajo allocation of his ancestors heritage. He formed in boyhood diplomacy beneath above Gov. Scott Matheson and in the cyberbanking industry afore persuading Marcie to accessible Navajo Hogan.
“I was affable Navajo tacos at home one night and Bill said ‘Why don’t we alpha affairs these?’ ” his wife remembered. At the time, she had a full-time job and anticipation it was a crazy idea. Bill, an ardent runner, acclaimed the restaurant admirable aperture with a 5K run that he connected to sponsor for abounding years.
The small, 10-table dining allowance has afflicted little over the years. It still feels like a grandmother’s kitchen with its aloof tablecloths and Built-in American and Southwest touches on the walls. If Espinoza knows you — and he’s not active demography orders and giving change — he ability sit bottomward at your table, acquaint you a antic or altercate the latest news.
The card at Navajo Hogan is small, but affordable, aggregate costs beneath than $10. Fry aliment is accessible plain, candied or fabricated with dejected corn. Navajo tacos can be ordered with best of arena beef and beans (traditional), chicken, blooming chile or vegetarian. Mutton bouillon is accessible on Saturdays.
“He’s kept it simple, affordable and authentic,” said Curtis Lane, a citizen of Eagle Mountain and a chump for added than two decades. “You’re accomplishing article appropriate if you’ve backward in business that long.”
Espinoza said he has anticipation about retiring, “but if I leave, what will I do?” he asked. “The best allotment of this restaurant is affair bodies from all over the world. We allocution about fry aliment and altered cultures.”
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