If you are a stranger to these parts, you will know Marysvale Canyon for its tourist trap: Big Rock Candy Mountain.

But if you are a native, you will sail past the garish mountain, drive around the bend and pull into Hoover's Cafe. You'll open the screen door, stride in and slide into a booth.If you arrive in the morning, you'll wait for Ada Hoover - the 70-year-old owner of the cafe - to bring you a menu that has been painstakingly typed.

If you are there in the afternoon, Katie Petersen will bring it to you. Ask for Ada in the early afternoon and Katie will tell you, "She's down taking her nap."

Then comes the native test. If you are really a native - not just an alleged one - you will decline the menu either Ada or Katie offers you. You already know what you want. You're here for the chicken-fried steak.

On Sundays, as many as 200 people drive as far as 150 miles for Ada's chicken-fried steak.

Of course, if for some compelling reason - like a family history of agonizing deaths following steak dinners - you opt to order something else, Ada and Katie will still be nice to you.

Hoover's Cafe is the place to go when you are in need of "nice." It's homey in the complacent, unpretentious way of old businesses.

There's no worry about decor. If the place's looks were good enough for the Eisenhower era, they are good enough for the yuppie years. Elegant old wood coexists with scratched chrome and a floor of aged linoleum squares.

The patrons reflect the timelessness of the cafe. Old farmers on a lunch break, Marysvale women on their way to Richfield to get their hair done, or youngsters with a week's allowance in their pockets find their way to Hoover's.

The cafe is also a gas station and a tiny general store. It's home to Ada.

She and her husband, Ken, came to the canyon during the Depression, when she was just 18, and opened a dance hall, "Ken's Cabaret."

"I was young then. I had lots of fun and lots of friends," Ada said. The cabaret operated during the Depression when cars were scarce. Entire neighborhoods would pile into one car and motor into the canyon for a night of dancing.

Joel Johnson, a local farmer, remembers driving to the cabaret as a child. The car he came in was usually bulging with knees and elbows, so he rode on the hood, hanging on to the headlights.

"There were a lot of good dances there," he remembers.

World War II stole the dancers and the profits, so the Hoovers closed the cabaret and built the cafe nearby.

Next to the chicken-fried steak, Hoover's pies are the biggest draw. Unless the women are unusually busy, the pies are homemade.

"She makes the crusts and I do the insides," Katie explained. Katie has been coming in at 11:30 a.m. for five years to help Ada handle the lunch crowd.

Katie lives in Marysvale, a small town at the mouth of the canyon. Like Ada, Hoover's Cafe is her career.

The days follow a peaceful routine. There's the breakfast bustle, the mid-morning lull and the noon rush.

"Generally in the afternoon we do our cleaning, make our pies and do our roasts," Katie said. On this afternoon, she was mopping the dining room floor while Ada caught her quick nap.

In the winter, when business is slow, the women put a quilting frame up in the massive kitchen, watch soap operas and quilt.

"One winter, we did seven quilts," Katie said. "I'd rather be here than any place else. It's nice and quiet. There's a pretty view when the trucks aren't there." Two semitrailer-trucks were refueling at the pumps, blocking out some of the canyon's green.

Beauty is indigenous to Marysvale Canyon. Enveloped by towering cottonwoods, the cafe looks out on craggy red and yellow peaks dotted with scrub oak.

Ada's husband died 16 years ago. She decided to keep the cafe open, a decision she's pleased with.

"I love the people. I love the canyon. I don't know. I guess I'm just happy. I don't know what else."

She's also camera shy. Pleased by a story about her cafe, she was adamant that the story not include her picture.

"I just don't think my pictures are very pretty. I guess they look just like me. That's what makes me feel so bad. I'm just kind of a little, short fat lady."

If you stop in at Hoover's and chat with Ada, you'll find she is much more than that.

She's a storehouse of anecdotes gathered during her half-century along one of Utah's most interesting highways: stories of the old days, the canyon, the little towns and the thousands of strangers who came to have a meal and sit a spell.

And she works wonders with pie crust.