Wildwood

Wildwood Restaurant sits nestled amongst historic homes on 3rd Avenue in the city’s Avenues neighborhood, and is located in the former Avenues Bistro location.

“American Comfort Food” is the name of the game here. Their website describes themselves as a “product driven restaurant which features an evolving and continuously changing menu with craft cocktails, beer, and wine.”

It’s no surprise the menu is approachable yet innovative, given that Wildwood is owned by Chef Michael Richey. Richey is a mainstay of the Salt Lake culinary scene, having opened Pago and working previously as the chef at Solitude as well as Grand Targhee Resort. Those familiar with Pago’s culinary approach will feel right at home at Wildwood.

The menu is innovative yet not intimidating. Diners will spot recognizable offerings such as shishitos, salmon pillows, croquettes, chicken wings, fish and chips, and fried chicken. But each of these dishes buck tradition in their own unique (and good) way.

For example, the chicken wings were cooked to a perfect crisp. That much is to be expected from any competent kitchen. But the spicy sambal sauce that the wings were doused in added a unique, spicy tangent that presented wings in an entirely different light and paired with the blue cheese dip made an irresistible combination. I couldn’t stop eating them. I will admit that I wasn’t sure at the time (and I’m still not sure now) if the bright orange oil that covered the plate was a feature or a bug of the dish. But that question certainly didn’t slow me down.

The braised pork dish had some familiar aspects, featuring crispy pork belly and tender short ribs, accompanied by shishitos, some greens, and a deliciously light and tart cara cara orange and pear gastrique. The citrus was a perfect foil for the rich and fatty pork.

The “Desert Mountain Burger” features caramelized onions, Beehive Cheese cheddar, bourbon bacon, and an aioli. The burger was really nice, and pretty much what you’d expect from a restaurant of this caliber. Although I must admit I continue to hold out hope that the fancy burger trend will shift away from these giant, gloppy, unmanageable creations, and shift back to something that I’m able to eat at my leisure without having to wolf it down before either a) the bun disintegrates and it turns into a big, sloppy mess or b) everything slides off the burger because there’s simply too much “stuff” on it. I’m of the opinion that burgers shouldn’t be taller than what I can fit in my mouth. Make Burgers Approachable Again.

Other items such as the mushroom risotto, cast iron bavette, and roasted steelhead trout left me anxious to stop by again to try them out. With their quickly-rotating menu, I hope that I’ll be able to catch them before they’re gone, although I’m sure that when they are replaced, they’ll be replaced with items that are equally delicious.

The layout of the restaurant is, shall we say, unique. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the eclectic architectural designs of Avenues residences and businesses. Our reservation was at 6, and so the dinner service was just getting into full swing, with the main-level dining room completely packed.

The hostess beckoned us to follow her, and indeed we did, past all of the diners, past the galley-style kitchen, being careful to avoid the dish rinsing station, kitchen racks, and other various “back of the house” objects. We made it past the kitchen, to the back of the building, and then down a narrow staircase into what can best be described as a downstairs bar/speakeasy. The speakeasy was plenty dark, and we were the only ones down there. The tables were rounded glass perched atop High West whiskey barrels, so leg-stretching was not an option. The chairs were backless mid-height barstools.

On one hand, it was a cool, unique experience. On the other had, it was somewhat uncomfortable, and lacked the typical conviviality that is usually experienced in a busy, bustling restaurant. I felt like we were sitting at the otherwise empty kids’ table at Aunt Mildred’s house.

But the awkwardness abated after a half hour or so, as other diners found themselves seated in our intimate dining dungeon. It was actually sort of fun as we laughed about the situation and found some humor in all of it.

The separation also made me wonder if the attentiveness of service would suffer as a result of our being cast into outer darkness. But those concerns were unfounded as our server was extremely attentive and did everything he could to make sure we had a special experience at Wildwood.

My advice is as follows: if you want a busy, loud dining experience with a bunch of hub-bub, ask to be seated in the main dining room. If you’re looking for something more intimate and secluded, and are fine sitting on stools and dining on whiskey barrels, then by all means ask for downstairs. It was a fun experience. My suggestion to WildWood would be that if you’re going to seat someone down there, make sure you ask them ahead of time when they make the reservation, if it’s ok. Explain the situation. Don’t put your diners in the uncomfortable situation of either requesting a seating change and disrupting the dining plans for the evening, or just dealing with the surprise of the seating situation.

Either way, no matter what you decide, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the food, or the experience. As an Avenues resident, I’m glad that we have these small neighborhood spots to enjoy, and hope that Wildwood will be around for many years to come.

Wildwood is currently open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner service only, from 5pm to close.

WildWood
564 E 3rd Ave
Salt Lake City
(801) 831-5409

We Olive Salt Lake City

IMG_8749

Step into We Olive in Trolley Square, and be prepared for an education. On a recent visit, franchise owner Stephanie Ennis and her son, co-owner Josh Garcia, took time to walk me through various olive oils, allowing me to taste and pick up on the various nuances of each one. Stop by, and they will be glad to do the same with you.

Just like cheese, wine, and chocolate, tasting olive oils properly involves a few steps. Pour a small amount into a cup. Step 1: Swirl. Cover the top to trap the aromas, and rub the cup against the palm of your other had to gradually warm the oil and release the flavors and aromas. Step 2: smell the oil. Step 3: Slurp it into your mouth, incorporate oxygen to further enhance the taste. Step 4: Swallow.

According to Josh, the three things you want to taste for with olive oil is the bitterness, the fruitiness, and the robustness (high-quality olive oils contain high levels of oleocanthals, which tend to create an urge to cough. The more “robust” the oil, the more likely you are to cough after tasting). I tasted a few different types of arbequina oils, and could instantly pick out tropical notes such as banana in one, while the other arbequina was much more mellow and one-dimensional. Thus, tasting is key.

All of We Olive’s oils are sourced from family farms in California, as opposed to other olive oil companies in Utah who source theirs from Tunisia. We Olive knows their farmers, and understand the provenance of their products.

One of the struggles of the olive oil industry is the lack of consistent regulation and certification of what makes olive oil “olive oil” and what makes extra virgin “extra virgin.” While there are rules in place, there is no international enforcement body to ensure the rules are followed. Josh and Stephanie pointed out that olive oils need to be consumed within 18 months of pressing the olives in order to preserve the taste and health benefits before the oil turns rancid. But large conglomerates of olive oil producers (those kinds that you will likely find in grocery stores) frequently hold olive oils for much longer, and have been known to blend in other types of non-olive oils into their olive oils in order to increase the shelf life. All of this done, of course, without disclosing anything to the consumer.

We Olive also has a wide selection of various balsamic vinegars; some produced in California and some in Modena, Italy. They have the straightforward balsamics, and also have some more outside the box varieties, like mission fig, peach, pear, and blackberry. No artificial flavors are used in these vinegars, rather, fresh purees are blended in. My personal favorite combination was their pineapple balsamic paired with their jalapeño olive oil. It would go perfectly on a fruit salad or as a unique vinaigrette for a salad. They sent me home with a bottle of their mission fig balsamic vinegar, which I used to make balsamic-glazed pork chops over polenta with wilted spinach.

IMG_8723

Venture towards the back of the store and you will find the We Olive wine bar, where you can sit at the bar or a table and taste various wines alongside some delicious food. I was able to taste their cheese and charcuterie plate, featuring Creminelli salumi and prosciutto, a dish of stuffed African peppadews, prosciutto-wrapped dates (my favorite), an orchard salad, as well as a cheese and garlic flatbread. Josh is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, and has worked in various chef roles at the New Yorker and other Gastronomy restaurants, so attention to detail with food at We Olive is a high priority. Various reds, whites, rosés, mimosas, and beers are available, including local producers Ruth Lewandowski, Proper Brewing, Mountain West Cider, and Talisman Brewing in Ogden. They plan to open their patio as soon as things warm up this summer, allowing diners to sip and dine while people-watching Trolley Square shoppers.

Josh and Stephanie are also building out a strong selection of local food producers for their grocery section, and currently carry Slide Ridge Honey, Four Sisters sauces, as well as various local pastas.

The next time you’re at Trolley Square, stop by, say hi, and ask them to take you on a tasting tour. You’ll learn more about olive oils and vinegars than you thought possible. And stay for a sip or two. And be sure to check out their events page which features various cooking demos, tastings, and other events.

IMG_8753

IMG_8722

I was an invited guest of We Olive. Opinions are my own.

Do you enjoy reading SLCeats? Consider supporting the site with a small contribution.

 

 

Table X Opens Today (11/2/16)

Table X, a chef-owned and operated restaurant, opens its doors on Wednesday, November 2nd. Three chefs, Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs, and David Barboza have been working on the concept for two years to build a space they could call their own.

The restaurant, located at 1457 E 3350 S, in the Brickyard neighborhood, is located in a 1930’s brick storehouse and cheese factory. The three chefs aim to offer a menu that is top-shelf, but missing all of the pretense typically associated with “fine dining.”

We want to present the highest caliber of … food, wine, and service in the most casual and least pretentious environment possible. -Nick Fahs

Come as you are, but you will receive something that is totally unexpected; something that may change your philosophy on the food we eat. -Mike Blocher

We’d like it to be warm and inviting. Like you’re coming into our home and we’re inviting you back time and time again. -David Barboza

The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Sundays for dinner only. Reservations can be made at their website. They have documented their journey through a series of videos, which can be viewed here.

Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade

In another SLC Farmers Market success story, Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade has opened their very own shop at 54 W 1700 S. Sweet Lake began as a limeade stand at the Farmers Market a few years ago, and they have seen big demand for their deliciously tart drinks. The popularity has driven the owners to open a new restaurant on 17th South, with biscuits and limeade as the stars of the show.

The restaurant opened this week, and I want to caveat this review with the full knowledge that any new restaurant will invariably have some kinks to work out. So, feel free to grade this on a curve if you would like. As for me, a customer paying full price, I expect full service and great quality food, regardless of how long you’ve been open. The time to work out kinks is during your soft opening and test dinners, before you open to the public. Paying customers should not be your guinea pigs.

The actual space is well designed, with a hip, clean exterior. I was actually surprised upon entering to find that this is a full service sit-down restaurant; for some reason, I was expecting an “order and pay at the counter” arrangement. The interior is bright, simple, and cheery.

Kink #1: the servers are still figuring things out, and must not have assigned tables. This caused us to be welcomed multiple times, asked what we would like to drink multiple times, and attempted to take our order multiple times. Upon completion of our meal we were asked twice how things were and whether we would like our check. The second time, the check was already on the table. Not a big deal, but having your meal interrupted numerous times by varying servers was a bit of a distraction.

Kink #2: they were out of numerous menu items (such as the popular spoon cakes, as well as their pancakes). No problem. They were busy this morning and probably still trying to figure out what menu items are popular and which ones are not.

Kink #3: the food took a while to come out. We were told that they either 1) had a cook quit already or 2) had a cook call in sick (depending on who you talked to), and so the kitchen was in the weeds and trying desperately to dig out. No big deal, as we had nowhere to be this lazy Friday morning.

When the food arrived, there were some good and some bad. The good: the biscuits are really delicious. My wife ordered the Biscuit Bar ($6), which came with three biscuits (two biscuits and gravy, and the third with jam, honey, and butter). With a little added help of some salt and pepper the biscuits and gravy were delicious, with just the right amount of kick. This is an excellent value for the money.

My order of Spoon Bread Benedict were unfortunately less than great. They were out of the southern corn cakes spoon bread, which they substituted with biscuits (with my ok). A room-temperature biscuit topped with cold ham and a cold, tasteless tomato contributed to a dish that was room temperature at best (kink #4). I think their version of hollandaise was trickled on the plate, but was more decoration than anything helpful to the dish. A hollandaise-less Benedict. Hmmmm. Hollandaise should be the Roots to the egg’s Jimmy Fallon. But in this case, it ended up being the Mike Pence to Donald Trump (#topical #hottake #heyooooo). This dish has a ton of potential, and I think it will be amazing once they work the temperature issues out.

Upon paying, I was asked by the owner to give some honest feedback, which I did. I let her know about the cold Benedict and the multiple interruptions during our meal, which I think she took to heart, but didn’t make any effort to make it right with me via a credit on my bill or even an apology. But I was glad to hear she was asking customers for feedback.

Our mint limeade was tasty, and I look forward to trying out their lunch menu, in particular the San Anton, which is a biscuit, fried chicken breast, honey, hot sauce, cheddar, and slaw (what’s not to love about that combo?). And if there’s one thing they’ve nailed, it’s the biscuits. Except I think I’ll give them a few weeks to iron things out before I stop by again.

Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade
54 W 1700 S, Salt Lake City

7am – 3pm 7 days a week

Facebook page

The Haps

image

Photo Courtesy Argentina’s Best Empanadas

The SLC food scene is on FIRE right now with new openings, new menus and other goodness. Here’s a rundown on the latest.

Feldman’s Deli: after a week-long vacation, the always-delicious Jewish deli is now open, and will begin serving breakfast next week from 8-10:30.

Oak Wood Fire is now open in SLC. One of my favorite restaurants in Draper, Oak Wood Fire has moved into the beleaguered space in the Peery Hotel on 300 S West Temple. The interior has been renovated, and if the menu and service is anything like that offered in Draper, this will be a welcome addition to SLC. I’ve never had a meal there short of outstanding. Their pizzas, fries, and pastas are all top-notch. Open for both lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade is open. Sweet Lake is another Farmer’s Market success story, beginning as a small food cart, and now opening their own space at 1700 S 54 W. Their shop is open every day from 7am to 3pm, and offers your basic (but delicious) biscuits and limeade all the way up to The Pokey Joe: a biscuit sandwich featuring pulled pork, coleslaw, mint limeade salsa, and crispy onions.

Argentina’s Best Empanadas. Continuing the Farmer’s Market success theme, Argentina’s Best Empanadas has now opened their own space at 357 S 200 E, open Tuesday through Friday 8am to 2pm. This mother-daughter duo prides themselves on using local, organic ingredients, such as Morgan Valley Lamb. ABE features everything from your very traditional beef-filled empanadas to breakfast empanadas featuring scrambled eggs and bacon. I’m excited to try the Lemon Beef empanadas.

The Big O Donuts is now open at 171 E 300 S. Big O is a vegan donut shop, open from 8am to 2pm or until sold out. The donuts have been featured at Sugarhouse Coffee for a while, but now they are available at their very own storefront. My dreams of having a 24 hour donut shop in SLC are getting closer to fruition, as Big O opens late nights on some weekends for the bar crowd. At $2.95 each, these dough babies aint cheap, but I look forward to trying their Orange Cardamom, Key Lime, and Lemon Basil flavors.

Trestle Tavern, a new project by Scott Evans of the Pago Group, is opening this Monday, July 18th, in the former Fresco spot at 15th and 15th. The menu will be tavern-influenced, with a nod to Eastern Europe/Bohemia. Liberty Tap House, but with pierogies, chicken paprikash, spaetzle, and borscht? Guess we’ll find out next week!

Amour Cafe opened a few weeks ago. You can check out my post on this hot new space here.

Mollie & Ollie has opened downtown in the old Bayleaf Cafe spot on Main Street, and has been beautifully renovated. M&O features salads, noodle bowls, and grain bowls, and focuses on healthy, organic ingredients. 159 South Main Street. Monday through Saturday 10am to 9pm, Sunday (!!!) 10am to 3pm.

Have you checked out the SLCeats hashtag on IG? If not, you need to–it’s blowing up! Clicky here.

Amour Cafe is Open!

Amour Cafe, from our friends John and Casee at Amour Spreads, is open for business! Baker/gelato maker extraordinaire Amber Billingsley is behind the delicious baked goods at the cafe, which features everything from the traditional chocolate chip with Solstice chocolate to a beet root cake with walnuts and bourbon raisins. The baked goods selection varies day to day, as do the gelato flavors. 

Simple, yet beautiful decor throughout, including 120 year old salvaged church pews.

Homemade sodas are flavored using Amour’s very own homemade simple syrup. Full coffee/espresso drinks are offered, as are delicious pieces of toast with eggs, prosciutto, and of course, Amour Spreads.

Check them out at 1329 South 500 East. Open every day from 7am to 7pm. If you’re lucky you will be able to look into their kitchen from the window in the dining room and watch them work their magic in the back.

image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image

HSL

A new restaurant has opened in the old Vinto space on 2nd South in Salt Lake. HSL is endeavor #2 for Chef Briar Handly, with #1 being his wildly successful Handle restaurant in Park City. Handly has brought Chef Craig Gerome as chef de cuisine. I don’t know Handly very well, but anybody smart enough to get someone as talented as Gerome has my respect. I’m a fan of Gerome ever since I met him when he was at the helm of Annex.

I was invited to a press preview event, and the photos that follow come from said event. “New American” seems like such an overused term, however, I love the breadth in food and presentation styles that such a category provides.

The restaurant was designed in partnership with Cody Derrick at CityHome Collective, so naturally expect your dining environment to be a bit darker and cozy, with plenty of floral print wallpaper to go around. Upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful, bright bar, lounge area, and communal table, with regular seating throughout the remainder of the restaurant.

Mark my words: get in there now, because it’s going to get harder and harder to get a table at this place as word spreads. I’m especially thrilled as it’s only a five minute walk from my house. which is both exciting and terrifying all at once.

Expect to pay $20-$30 for an entree and $10-$20 for an appetizer. 

HSL
418 E 200 S, Salt Lake City
(801) 539-9999
website

Some activity has been spotted at the old Bayleaf Cafe spot at 159 S Main St, next to Eva Boulangerie. Mollie&Ollie is slated to open Spring 2016, and judging by the extensive construction work, they are completely gutting the place and starting from scratch.

Julie Payne is the manager of the spot, and she gave me the low-down: ordering will take place at the counter either in-person, via tablets, or through apps on your phone. The menu is being developed by Chef Ryan Lappe (formerly of Cafe Niche), and will focus on fresh and healthy (e.g. wraps, bowls, scrambles, stir fries, salads, smoothies, etc). 

Mollie&Ollie will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, adding some evening dining options to downtown, which will seemingly work well with the new performing arts center right next door. The space will flow through all of the way back onto Regent Street, which is currently undergoing revitalization along with the 111 building and the performing arts center construction.

This is not a franchise (yet). This is the first location for this concept, and if they are successful, they plan on expanding along the Wasatch Front.

More to come as they get closer to opening! You can sign up for their mailing list by going to their site here.

50 West Café opened its doors last week for the lunch crowd. The café is part of the new Wiseguys comedy club located at–you guessed it–50 West 300 South. The menu offers plenty of choices without being overly complicated.

Service was confused. They give each customer a number to take to their tables, and it seemed that the little number tents were pretty useless since each server came out, wandering aimlessly around the café with plates of food, not sure who they actually belonged to.

Execution was less than perfect with a really tasty chicken club and chipotle chicken salad being balanced out by undercooked fries and a medium rare steak that came out basically blue on the inside. I think with a bit more time they will be cranking out consistently great food and the kinks in the service will be ironed out.

At $12 for a sandwich, fries, and drink, I won’t be eating there too frequently, but I’m sure it will make its way into my lunch rotation from time to time.

Open 11-3pm Monday through Saturday. More info at www.50westslc.com

Spitz, a new restaurant specializing in the Döner Kebab, opened this week in the former Lenny’s Sub Shop space at 35 East Broadway.

The interior is everything you’d expect from their interior designer, CityHome Collective. Clean, welcoming, warm, and funky.

Döner meat is roasted on a spit similar to tacos al pastor, or the pastrami at Crown Burger. Surprisingly, Spitz doesn’t have their centerpiece attraction on display, instead relegated to hiding behind closed doors in the back.

Admittedly, I am a neophyte in all things Döner, so I naturally associate the Döner Kebab to something of a mishmash between a wrap and a Greek gyro. I tried the Street Cart Döner, which is a traditional sandwich or wrap with a zesty garlic aioli and fried lavash chips added. It had the right amount of meat, sauce, and lettuce, and is a generous portion. I quite liked it.

Sweet potato fries are good, but are like every other sweet potato fry you’ve had elsewhere. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, although the aioli the fries were served with was especially delicious. The fried pita strips served with hummus are great, and I’m curious to try the crispy garbanzo beans with olives on my next visit.

Service is a bit unusual for the downtown lunch crowd. You order up front, they bring out your food and bus tables, but drink refills are also handled by the staff, which seems to be a bit clunky when they get overwhelmed with the lunch rush. But I’m sure they’ll work these glitches out over time.

Spitz adds some lunchtime diversity to a city brimming with traditional sandwich shops. And judging by the big crowd they had on day one, I think a lot of people are excited to see this new place open up.