I moved to Utah about three months ago -- and I have to say it's been the best personal move of my life.
I've never lived in a place where I'm literally a stone's throw from a mountain and all of the outdoor fun a growing boy could want. I've never lived in a place where I can go fishing as often as I want on the endless number of rivers, lakes and creeks. It's beautiful here, and I love it.
But I've also never lived in a place where everything seems to shut down on Sunday.
Contrary to what my family and friends think back home, I can always get a good cup of coffee and strong alcoholic drink here in Ogden; however, it's hard to explain how empty towns across the Top of Utah seem on Sundays.
Driving by closed storefronts and restaurants quickly turned into the only real culture shock I've experienced so far.
That being said, these last few weekends have been spent finding the best eateries to go to on Sundays. Why? Because I don't like cooking on my days off.
* TAGGART'S GRILL, 1105 Taggart Lane, Morgan
Open Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
You're wondering why my first Sunday restaurant offering is in Morgan. "Why would I drive all the way out there for lunch?" you ask. Because it's good, and sometimes it takes a quarter-tank of gas to get something good. Besides, you can never go wrong with a place that has its own exit sign on Interstate 84.
Locals who swear by the food will usually point you toward the chicken enchiladas ($12.99) or the homemade burgers with bacon and fries ($9.49). Although both are good, I suggest you go for the prime rib special. The meat is cooked perfectly and comes with fresh veggies and potatoes au gratin. At $25.99, it's not the cheapest meal, but it might very well be the best you'll have that week.
BONUS: The food is great, but the desserts have their own cult following. You can get a peanut butter cookie with a piece of Snickers melted right in the middle or the most decadent chocolate cheesecake you've ever had. Sure, you'll be too full for dessert ... so get it to go.
* TACO TACO, 2931 Washington Blvd., Ogden
Open Sundays 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
You could walk right up to the bar at Taco Taco and be perfectly happy with the fried-to-order tortilla chips and homemade salsa. You could turn right around and go home content ... but you would miss out on the best part of the menu.
Taco Taco serves a lot of your basic Mexican-American food staples like chimichangas, enchiladas and, of course, tacos. And although this place makes great versions of those dishes, it's important to explore the menu a bit to strike food gold. Take the chili rellenos (stuffed peppers), with two kinds of melted cheese and covered in red sauce, for example. Very few places can make a real chili relleno with the right kind of pepper and fried perfectly. Taco Taco delivers, for sure.
The main reason, however, to walk into this Mexican restaurant on Sunday is simply to try the pozole ($7.50). The pork and hominy seed soup is famous around town, and you will notice people sipping on and dipping their corn tortillas into the red broth as soon as you walk in the door.
BONUS: If you're feeling adventurous, try the menudo ($7.50). Tripe soup may not sound appetizing at first, but believe me, there is no better hangover cure on this green earth than menudo.
* TWO-BIT STREET CAFE, 126 25th St., Ogden
Open Sundays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Railroad workers used to cash their checks here -- and one even shot up a clock that sits above the main dining room. The back office was known as the Capone Room because that's where the notorious gangster gambled when he stopped in town. These are all stories that come free with a purchase of a meal at the Two-Bit Street Cafe.
Though its historical and aesthetic value shouldn't be lost on anyone who walks through the doors, it's the food that puts the eatery on the map. Owner James Dayley can blow your mind with his brand of magic -- seriously, ask him to show you the $2-bill trick -- but he's proudest of the magic in his kitchen.
The $5.95 breakfast special with two eggs, thick-cut bacon and toast will definitely hit the spot. Add a big cup of coffee, and you'll feel like a Sunday morning Mr. Hyde. There are other items of note on the menu, like the top-rated burger and Eggs Benedict, but my new favorite dish has to be the Tampa Bay Cuban. Dayley said it took a year to find the perfect bread for this pork-tastic sandwich, and you can tell he took this journey seriously. Between two perfectly crisp pieces of bread is a healthy amount of ham, pork loin, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and a dill pickle. Perfecto!
BONUS: The Two-Bit Street Cafe makes desserts, too, and while their baked goods are nothing to ignore, you should try their sorbets. You'll walk in an ice cream fan and walk out a sorbet aficionado.
* THE OAKS: 750 Ogden Canyon Drive, Ogden
Open Sundays 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
It's the longest-running business in Ogden Canyon for a reason. The food is good and the location is beautiful. Dealing with the construction on the canyon road takes some patience, but after sitting right next to the Ogden River and trying the food, you'll forget you idled 20 minutes to get there.
The burgers are a big draw for The Oaks, but I wanted to try something different when I ate there. When I ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($12), I did so expecting to be disappointed. I figured if they dared to put a Southern classic on the menu, then I should hold them accountable. Why? Because every attempt at barbecue in Ogden had failed until then.
But when my waiter slid a plate overflowing with sweet potato fries and a sandwich that actually looked like it had real pork in it, I almost yelled "Yee-haw." The cup of chili I ordered wasn't bad, either. True story.
* ANDY'S LOUNGE, 501 N. Washington Blvd., Ogden
Open Sundays 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Andy's is a dive; don't let the posters of Greek statues and landmarks fool you. But the fact that it's a dive makes it even more endearing to me. There's a bar and pool table right in the middle of all of the Aegean references, and you can calculate your blood-alcohol levels with a handy-dandy Breathalizer machine before you walk out of the building. With all of its quirks, and waitresses who call you "Hon" without a hint of irony, it can be hard to take Andy's seriously in the food department. That is, until you try the food.
I like to order the Andy's Combo because it showcases everything that is amazing on its menu. For $16.99, you get a 6-ounce steak, a chicken souvlaki (kebab), a meatball, a stuffed grape leaf, the most amazing lemon rice, Greek flat bread and a salad. You could order all of these separately, but that wouldn't make any sense.
Sundays also give you the choice of ordering breakfast at Andy's, and the regulars love it ... despite the posters.
BONUS: If you had a rough Saturday, or you just want to kick off your week the right way, order the scratch Bloody Mary. You'll thank me on Monday.