Moab: The Hip Bit
The words ‘Utah’ and ‘hipster’ aren’t the most obvious pairing but, in Moab’s case, it is accurate. Toss in descriptors like ‘outdoorsy’ and ‘independent’ and you start to understand the town’s vibe. There is also an unofficial uniform: REI gear and hiking boots. It’s unclear if this represents the locals’ style or if this is what visitors believe they should wear in Moab. Either way, I’ve never seen so much fleece per capita.
You don’t hear a lot about Utah’s dining scene. The official state snack food is Jell-O, which is a) not a promising start and b) the meal of choice for post-surgical patients. That said, Moab is a foodie oasis in a desert of funeral potatoes (one of the state’s ten signature foods according to The Salt Lake Tribune).
Start your day at the Love Muffin Café. In design terms, the interior seems urban industrial – the café’s name is spray-painted on one wall and seating options include electric green, geometric-shaped chairs. You can also pick up stickers and T-shirts featuring a biker dude and the motto ‘not too tuff for the muff.’
The Love Muffin Café serves breakfast and lunch, but I stopped in for the muffins, which are rumored to sell out fast. The White Rim, named after a section of Canyonlands National Park contained coconut and white chocolate. If a muffin had an affair with donut, this would be the result, and I mean that in the best sugar stuck to my fingers, moist crumbs melting on my tongue kind of way.
For a town with a little over five thousand people there are a surprising number of funky stores and galleries along Moab’s Main Street and its tributaries.
Moab Rock Shop
Get your geodes, crystals and fossils here. Prices start at $1, although I’m sure that wouldn’t buy you the store’s ship, which is made from Chinese jade (the like of which I’ve previously only seen in Beijing). There are also beads, semi-precious stones and salt lamps.
600 N. Main Street
This health food store stocks natural health books; essential oils; both medicinal and culinary herbs; and teas by the jar. I scooped up some chai. I’ve been hunting for loose chai that could compare to a bag I found in a Flagstaff shop (the name of which I’ve long forgotten) over a decade ago. Back at home, with tea ball in hand, I tested Moonflower’s version – a strong second.
39 East 100 North
Desert Thread sells a solid selection of high end silk, wool, and hemp yarns. Books, patterns, and tools are also available. As I have yet to successfully complete a project that involves switching back and forth between knit and purl, the cheap, mass-produced crap is fine for me. However, I have observed that more talented knitters prefer the type of yarn that is not shaped into a simple oval, but is instead twisted into a squashed pretzel shape. Although the atmosphere in the store is welcoming, I was out of my league. If you can craft a hat that doesn’t descend over your face like a visor, you belong at Desert Thread.
The store sells barrels of candy and chunks of fudge, but you’re here for the photo packages. There aren’t a lot of places where you can dress up as cowboy or bargirl and pose with the weapon of your choice, against the backdrop of an Old West saloon. Even if this is too kitsch for your taste, the sample photos are fun to check out.
78 N. Main Street
My religion is reading and my preferred place of worship is an indie bookstore. There are two in Moab. Back of Beyond Books sells new books and is heavy on travel, nature, the outdoors, and archeology, topics that neatly tie in with the surrounding attractions.
For second hand offerings, or to trade in your current books for store credit, head to ABC & Beyond, where shelves stretch above you like the rock formations that line Moab’s horizon. The mysteries section, in particular, is huge.
59 S. Main Street, Suite 6
The bookstore can be found in Eddie McStiff’s Plaza, which is also an ideal spot to grab lunch. You don’t even have to venture outside, as the Wake and Bake Café is attached to ABC & Beyond. We kept it basic with one regular burger and one turkey burger, served on cornmeal-crusted buns. The meals came with either fries (crisped to perfection) or a side salad (get the miso dressing), and you can add burger toppings, such as blue cheese. The Wake and Bake includes the Moab Creamery – the chocolate ice cream packs as much punch as the café’s coffee. Bear in mind that service can be a little slow.
For dinner, try The Blu Pig, a self-described BBQ and blues joint. There is a small stage for live performances, and portraits of blues musicians hang alongside tin signs advertising alcohol. The Blu Pig has a lengthy beer menu, featuring products from the Uinta Brewing Co. out of Salt Lake City. Lane asked for the bestselling brew, which turned out to be the Bristlecone – a dark beer with a nutty flavor. Meanwhile, I suctioned down the pulled pork salad with such enthusiasm that the server raised an eyebrow (I have a mild addiction to pulled pork). You can choose between three BBQ sauces: the slightly sweet and tangy KC; the Texas, which tasted strongly of cracked black pepper; and the brown mustard Carolina sauce.
There are two main grocery stores in Moab and, while both are fairly standard, we thought City Market was the better bet. As the parks around town seem to have a higher population of chipmunks than people, it’s smart to pack a lunch and load bottled water into your car before venturing out.
425 S. Main Street
Have you run into an unexpected hipster place?
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.