Ruth’s Diner: Her Dogs Are Gone, but the Legacy Remains

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Ruth’s Diner: Her Dogs Are Gone, but the Legacy Remains

Photos Courtesy of Ruth's Diner

Photos Courtesy of Ruth's Diner

Photos Courtesy of Ruth's Diner

Photos Courtesy of Ruth's Diner

Nathan Caines, Staff Writer

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Ruth’s Diner is a legendary Salt Lake restaurant and my favorite poorly-kept secret in Emigration canyon. Ruth’s has been around for close to a century now and has collected a list of awards that speak for itself. The larger than life character of Ruth herself has passed on over twenty years ago, but her legacy survives up in the hills.

Ruth Evans is well-known in local history as the cabaret singer turned restaurant owner. In her days as an entertainer before 1920, she took as little nonsense as she would the rest of her life. The original location was at 120 East 200 South, at one point had a brothel across the street. The girls of which came to her for safety, food and gossip about politicians. Ruth has since been immortalized in many hearts for her unfiltered cigarettes, dogs and cursing.
Ruth moved up Emigration in the late 40’s with a single Salt Lake City trolley car. The trolley is still a part of the restaurant, though it’s changed hands several times. In the 1950’s Ruth’s Diner became a go-to spot for University of Utah frat boys ⁠— favored for its all-American cuisine and lax drinking enforcement at the time. Ruth only ever respected her own law. The food is still there, though they’ve gone above the board in most respects. You can no longer smoke inside, a rule I’m sure has Ruth turning in her grave.

Ruth’s is now owned by Tracy and Erik Nelson. The Nelsons have maintained what can only be described as the traditional American menu. Meals begin with their fabled biscuits and then you can expect to get your money’s worth of whatever you order. My personal favorite is the pot roast with a High West whiskey smash.
Be careful what time you come in, because you won’t be the only one. Ruth’s is on many peoples list and they don’t take reservations. Whether for locals or townies, Ruth’s is a must for a hoard of reasons which you’ll quickly come to appreciate. Nothing is better than sitting on the patio in warm weather and basking in the smell of fresh biscuits and mountains. Not a bad place to stop on a bike ride or to-and-from the crags.