This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
ERDA - The signs near the cash register at Virg's offer a warning to those who dine at this little restaurant in the heart of this Tooele County burg.
"Watch for falling waitresses," reads one.
"Watch out for waitresses with hangovers," reads another.
Waitress Jamie Thomas seems quite pleasant after surviving the morning breakfast rush.
Asked about the hangover sign as she serves up a chile verde-covered breakfast burrito the size of a large hoagie, she smiles and says: "I plead the Fifth."
Like Erda itself, Virg's is just a bit odd in a good, unexpected sort of way. This town of 2,473 residents boasts one of the last outdoor movie theaters in Utah. And don't be surprised to see skydivers with colorful parachutes overhead.
Marilyn Shields, a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers who works at the nearby Benson Grist Mill, said there are two stories about how Erda, settled in 1851 and originally called Batesville and Rose Springs, earned its official name.
In one version, Shields says, a wheat and alfalfa farmer named Piere Appollinaire DeRoubaix who moved to the area in 1870 called it Erda after a town in France where he once lived.
"The other more well-known story is that the San Pedro-Salt Lake Railroad that ran along the Oquirrh Mountains named the town Erda after a German word that means good earth," says Shields.
However it got its name, Erda might not be a place most Utah tourists think of visiting. Here are a few reasons that might change your mind:
A star meal and more: There are assorted clocks, signs and pieces of artwork scattered throughout Virg's, with its green leather booths and tables with blue chairs.
The waitresses seem to know most of their customers by name.
And, for what looks like a typical greasy spoon, the café serves a great breakfast, so good in fact that Thomas said it isn't unusual for Salt Lake Valley residents to make the short drive for a meal.
After their meal, many walk across the street to Thompson's Smokehouse. More than a few aficionados say this small combination butcher shop-convenience store produces the best jerky they have ever tasted.
The smokehouse opened in Stockton, another Tooele County town, but moved to Erda in 1985 to a spot where Virg's Restaurant is now. It moved to its current location next to a martial-arts studio in 1992.
Jerky is made from chicken, turkey and, of course beef, as well as the deer and elk that hunters bring in to have processed. Flavors include barbecue, teriyaki and Cajun. And, though some may view "fresh jerky" as an oxymoron, it typically takes only six to eight hours to create the delicacy in a smokehouse in a back room.
Movies under the stars: The venerable Motor Vu is across the highway from Virg's and remains a rare Utah outdoor theater still showing double bills, which begin at 9:30 p.m.
Founded in 1948, the Motor Vu has a capacity of 600 cars and hosts a swap meet each Saturday. It has staying power. A tornado knocked down the original screen in 1999. The owners quickly replaced the screen.
Expect traditional double bill features and earlier starting times as the summer days get shorter. Still, the late starting times will keep movie fans up late.
Falling from the stars: Sky Dive Utah, the state's largest sky-diving center, makes its home in Erda. It isn't unusual to see skydivers with colorful parachutes floating over the little town.
Jumpers start in tandem with an instructor at a cost of $175 (add $2 a pound extra for every pound above 200). Jumpers must be at least 18 years or older.
Why go? Erda makes for a quick morning destination for Salt Lake City residents. Virg's is a great local dining spot, Thompson's Smokehouse offers some of Utah's best jerky and you can make your first parachute jump at Sky Dive Utah. This is a particularly good stop for Wasatch Front residents who are driving to Wendover.
How to get there: To reach Erda from Salt Lake City, drive west on either the 2100 South Freeway (Utah 201) or Interstate 80. Take exit 99 from I-80 and drive south toward Tooele on Highway 36.
What it will cost: Unless you decide to sky dive - first timers cost $175 - this should be an inexpensive trip with food at Virg's Restaurant reasonable and good prices on jerky at Thompson's Smokehouse. The closest motels are in Tooele or near Salt Lake City International Airport.
Not to miss: Don't miss Thompson's Smokehouse, which offers all sorts of types and flavors of jerky and sausages.
Where to eat: You only have one choice: Virg's Restaurant, a funky little place that offers a fun atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices.
Weather: Expect to find the same weather in Erda as you would in Salt Lake City, something that keeps the Motor Vu Drive-In closed during the winter months.
For info: Visit http://www.tooelechamber.com or call the Tooele Chamber of Commerce and Tourism at 435-882-0692. For information on Sky Dive Utah, log onto http://www. skydiveutah.com/.