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Burger Bar in Roy still cookin’ up 60-year-old favorites

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 31, 2024
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The Burger Bar has been a Roy institution since 1956.
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Joe Fowler of Burger Bar with a Double Cheese Ben burger.
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The Double Cheese Ben, a variation on the Burger Bar’s signature Big Ben.

Times have changed since Ben and Rita Fowler charged 25 cents for a burger. But the Burger Bar that they created in 1956 is still Roy landmark, surviving over 60 years of up-and-down economies, and food trends such as low-fat, vegan, fusion, organic, keto, pasta, wraps or sushi.

“Delicious food is always in style,” said Joe Fowler, grandson of founder Ben Fowler, who now runs the walk-up eatery with his sister, Jessica Fowler. “If you stay in your lane and do your area of expertise well, you’re better off.”

Sure, they’ve added a veggie burger to the menu, but it’s not a big seller. Most people come for the burgers, fries and shakes that they have been ordering for years from the walk-up window.

It’s even gained national attention from two Food Network series, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Triple D Nation.”

Ben Fowler, a Navy fighter pilot during World War II, owned a ranch in Wyoming and laundromats in Southern California. Then he and wife Rita decided to start a drive-in burger restaurant similar to what they had visited in California.

The concept of “fast food” was still pretty new.

“There was an Arctic Circle in Sunset, but that was about it,” said Joe Fowler.

Their idea paid off, and Ben and Rita ran their Burger Bar for about 25 years, when their son David took over. David met his wife, Connie, while she was an employee. Since about 2009, their children, Joe and Jessica, run it together.

Nowadays, the Burger Bar has plenty of competition from big national chains. But in addition to nostalgia, what sets it apart, Joe Fowler said, is that “Our food is cooked fresh, and we try to use local ingredients whenever we can. We use local beef, delivered fresh every day.”

The buns come from the Ogden-based Topper Bakery. Although a fire destroyed Topper’s building on Monroe Boulevard in 2021, the company has been baking the buns in a different space while rebuilding, Fowler said.

The onions, breaded and deep-fried in-house into crunchy onion rings, usually come from Utah or Idaho. In summer, the tomatoes come from local farmers.

All this costs a little more, “but people love the fresh taste,” said Joe Fowler.

The Big Ben is the signature item, named for Burger Bar’s founder. It’s a thin, wide patty dressed with fry sauce, shredded lettuce and pickles on a toasted bun.

“At the time, there weren’t any burgers built that big,” Joe Fowler said. “It’s a different style, so people who like it can’t get it anywhere else.”

For bigger (and really bigger) appetites, there’s the Double Cheese Ben, the Triple Ben, and the Quad Ben. More variations include the Steak Ben, the Sea Ben and the BBQ Ben.

The “exotic meat of the month” is a more recent addition. Joe Fowler started it about 10 years ago, when the Riverdale Road interchange was under construction.

“It hurt us really bad,” Fowler said. “I got the idea of starting something different to put more eyeballs on us. We started with a wild boar burger. People would stop just to ask about it.”

Over the years, the Burger Bar has served 20-plus types of exotic burgers, including alligator, llama, crawdads, kangaroo, camel, and January’s special, crawfish.

“Alligator and kangaroo have been our top sellers,” Fowler said.

Buffalo and elk burgers are on the regular menu.

All the exotic meats come from suppliers that are regulated and inspected, Fowler said.

Exotic burgers only make up a small portion of the business, “but it’s something so people will remember us,” he said. “We have some loyal customers who will drive from Provo to get an exotic burger every month.”

His personal go-to favorite is a Double Cheese Ben, with extra cheese. “I’ve been eating it since I was a teenager,” he said. His sister, Jessica, prefers the smaller version of the Big Ben, he said.

He said typically he and his sister split shifts throughout the week, “to make sure one of us is here most days. And we have excellent managers who have been here for years, even for decades. We divide the work and play to our strengths.”

Joe Fowler didn’t grow up thinking the Burger Bar was his destiny; he initially wanted to go into law enforcement. But he eventually realized it was an easier career for family life.

His aunt and uncle, Debbie and Greg Haws, had a similar Burger Bar in Layton but sold the site about 20 years ago.

“Running a restaurant is not easy,” he said. “We have thought about expanding many times, but I am not looking to take on a second full-time job. This one would suffer if we tried to expand. We are pleased to be able to have a comfortable life as we are.”

As Jessica Fowler was quoted on the Burger Bar website, “It’s not the most glamorous job. It can be greasy, hot, chaotic and crazy. But there is a sense of pride to have it be like a long family-held tradition and be an institution in the community.”


Burger Bar

Location: 5291 S. 1900 West, Roy

Contact: https://burgerbarutah.com or 801-825-8961

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sundays

Prices: $13-$14 (average combo meal)


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