The Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon opened for business in March of 1981. For many years before that, the Bit and Spur served the area well as a Beer Bar and Pool Hall. The inner dining room held two pool tables; the old bar was in the front room, much smaller than now. Fishing licenses and sandwiches were also available. Springdale was awfully slow and quiet then, in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. There were only a couple of restaurants in town, a few hotels, and lots of Peach, Apple, and Pecan orchards, many of them first planted by the Mormon pioneers, the first white settlers in the area from over 100 years ago. Visitors to ZNP, around 2 million people a year in 2010, were measured in the tens of thousands 50 years previous.
In 1981, it was still pretty slow around here, compared to now. The original owners of the Bit and Spur wanted to keep the feel of a gathering place in the bar, for hikers and climbers and boaters, locals and tourists alike, and serve Mexican food in the restaurant. Through the efforts of one incredibly creative and adventurous head chef, Michael Perry of Hurricane Utah, the food, and the restaurant, soon came to be known world-wide as a place to get exceptionally unique and flavorful food, in an unbelievable setting. The bar was a place to shoot a game of pool, see occasional live music, and huddle around the wood-burning stove in the winter.
There have been several chefs since Michael moved on, all of them striving to add to his original legacy. Current chef and partner Brad Tarran worked here on and off for many years before coming back for good in 2003. He brought a love of fresh seafood with him and soon, through the sustainable fishing practices and overnight shipping of the Honolulu Fish Co, the Bit and Spur was offering fresh Hawaiian seafood Thursday through Sunday night. Different types of fish, including Kajiki, Hebi, Ahi, Barramundi, and Escolar are paired with Roasted Pineapple Risotto, or Panko-coated and deep-fried Green Tomatoes, Thai Green Curry and Black rice.
The bar is still a place to grab a local micro-brew and shoot a game of pool, but partner Alex Pelton, here since 1994, has brought a whole new vibe to the live music scene. The Bit and Spur has been the sight of many legendary live shows, from the Mother Hips to Banyan, the Uninvited to Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. Alex has also been instrumental in bringing the Zion Canyon Music Festival to Springdale. The festival, in its third year, is held on the town’s ball field, with two stages, vendors and food stalls, and fifteen or more bands, both local and national touring acts. Along with bar manager and partner Kyle Haines, who started working at the Bit and Spur as a teen, Alex is always looking for new drinks and micro-brews to offer. Prickly Pear Margaritas, made with locally harvested and roasted prickly pears, are a seasonal favorite.
Joe Jennings and his wife, General Manager Trish Jennings, owners since 1992, have dedicated over 25 years of their lives to the Bit and Spur. They have been a part of the huge transformation that southern Utah, and Zion, has undergone in that time. Some of the things they are most proud of, in addition to the award-winning food: The Bit and Spur recycles over 90% of its solid waste, and the frying oil is donated to local vegetable oil car owners; the inner dining room hosts a rotating art show, all proceeds of which go to the artist; local events, such as the big St Patrick’s Day celebration, and the big Earth Day party, are held on the lawn of the Bit. Most important to the owners, many of the employees have spent ten years or more here, and are a big part of our success. Thanks for checking us out, and we hope to see you in Springdale soon!