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.

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This is the Sloppy Joe sandwich from Feldman’s Deli in Millcreek. When you think “sloppy joe,” get the hamburger concoction on a bun out of your head. This sandwich is the real deal and unlike anything else you’ll find in Utah.

At $14, it ain’t cheap, but this sandwich could easily feed two moderately hungry human beings. Or, take half home for dinner. Either way, if you polish this whole thing off in one sitting, I’ll be impressed. It’s $14, but it is worth every penny.

Slices of rye struggle to contain the mounds of pastrami, corned beef, cole slaw, and thousand island dressing. They mostly fail at their task (please refer to name of sandwich–you knew full well and good what you were getting yourself into), but they put forth a valiant effort to contain the heaping hordes of flavor.

Everything at Feldman’s is excellent. They make their own bagels, import their meat from one of the top delis in NYC (think Katz or Carnegie deli), and make everything fresh in house. I particularly love their fries, which are cut and prepped in-house. Try the matzo soup, make sure you get some potato pancakes along with a knish, and if you’re on the braver side of things go ahead and try the gefilte fish. Certainly not my cup of tea, but they say it sells well.

You won’t have room, but get a cheesecake to go. This is the richest cheesecake I’ve had–much denser that what you will find elsewhere. So rich that, again, you’ll want to split it or save some for later.

I have a running “last meal” list, and I’m confident saying that the sloppy joe would certainly be on it. I’m not kidding. Go try it.

Feldmans Deli
2005 E 2700 S
Salt Lake City

(801) 906-0369

The Holy Cow banh mi from Mai Bun Mee, located at 850 South State Street.

Mai Bun Mee is owned by the same people behind the very successful Oh Mai in South Salt Lake and Cottonwood Heights. I was expecting to walk in and see the familiar array of menu items offered at Oh Mai, like the ever-popular S8 (garlic ribeye) or my personal favorite, the S12 (pho brisket), but between the different name and varied menu, it’s obvious that the owners are trying out a different concept at this location.

Rather than being a centerpiece of the menu, Pho is relegated to being listed as a “special,” and is not even printed on their regular menu. But not to worry–the pho is just as tasty as it is at Oh Mai, however at a slightly smaller portion size (no small size option, either, just the regular large size).

The banh mi also have a bit of a twist. Similar prices to Oh Mai, higher quality meat, but don’t expect to walk in and order the S12, for example, because they don’t have it here. The sandwiches here don’t translate directly from the other locations. Anna, the owner of Bun Mee and Oh Mai, explained that their sandwiches are a bit more substantial than those found at Oh Mai, with the sandwiches at Bun Mee featuring heavier sauces and ingredients, and higher quality meat. The S8 at Oh Mai roughly translates to the “Holy Cow,” and features different ingredients (seared tenderloin, romaine lettuce, chili aioli, sautéed mushrooms, cilantro, jalapeño, and house dressing). The next time I swing by, I have my sights set on The Sinner, which features pork belly, pickled carrots, and a garlic fish lime vinaigrette. Or perhaps the the Fisherman, featuring seared tilapia, mango slaw, and garlic aioli.

I guess what I’m getting at is don’t go into Mai Bun Mee and expect it to be an Oh Mai clone. But that’s certainly not a bad thing. For some reason, prior to stopping by, I had wrongly assumed it was the same stuff, different name. While not earth-shatteringly different, it is different. Anna, the owner, said they could change the name to Oh Mai and there would immediately be a crowd, but they want to try something a bit different and see how it works. Hopefully they don’t flip the switch on a concept change, though, because I’d like to see these creative sandwiches continue to have a home.

Mai Bun Mee Sandwich Shop
850 S. State Street, Salt Lake City
(801) 575-8888

maibunmee.com
Monday – Saturday 11am – 8:30pm

Bistro 222 has changed things up, hiring a new chef and redoing the entire menu. Chef Brady Gray, formerly of Ruth’s Chris and Baci Trattoria prior to that, has taken the helm and rewrote the entire lunch and dinner menus. “Casual but elegant” is a proper description of both the bistro’s décor as well as its food. The restaurant is surrounded by towering windows looking out to downtown.

We tried various courses at a recent press tasting. Some of the dishes were an elk tenderloin carpaccio with Peri Peri sauce, a rich lobster bisque with sherry and cream, beef short ribs with a cauliflower potato mash, Chilean seabass and oxtail, King salmon, and a ribeye filet.

Bistro 222 is open for lunch and dinner on the weekdays, dinner on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. Parking is validated at the 222 parking garage (enter near the Hotel Monaco).

www.bistro-222.com

Disclosure: I was an invited guest of the restaurant to meet the chef and try the new menu

For some reason, RYE has been on my “must try” list for a while now, but it seems like every time we tried to swing by and grab a bite, we hit the few hours of the day they are actually closed: between 2 and 6 pm. But the stars aligned a few weeks ago, and we checked out RYE for the first time. 

RYE is in a unique setting: it shares a building with the Urban Lounge, and in fact the restaurant is owned by the same owners as UL. The owners had always wanted a place where they could grab early morning bites and late night food, so when the space next to UL opened up, they snatched it up and opened their own restaurant. Another unique feature is that when you’re enjoying a concert at Urban Lounge and go next door for a drink or some grub, they have TV’s streaming the concert next door so you don’t miss a beat. Pretty great idea.

As you might expect based on the current dining trends in SLC, upon entering RYE you will be greeted by Edison bulbs and plentiful beards–during our visit, I counted 11 dudes and 10 beards. I’ll let you guess which diner can’t grow one didn’t have one. So, while the atmosphere is plentiful in hipsterness, the restaurant is also plentiful in delicious food.

A friend recommended the pickled quail eggs to start, and they were indeed unique. At $3, it’s definitely worth giving them a shot. I love pickled anything, and these were right up my alley, although my wife was not interested in them at all.

For our entrees I went with the shoyu fried chicken with fresh corn grits and pickled peaches. My wife had the RYE burger with roasted jalapeños, caramelized onions, and avocado creme, all sandwiched between a lovely Eva Bakery bun.

Flying in the face of most new restaurants, the serving sizes at RYE are plentiful. The ½ chicken meal was easily enough for two meals. And while I was a bit disappointed in the toughness of the chicken, the breading was deliciously crisp, and the fresh corn grits were perfect. And let’s not talk about the pickled peaches, because they were so good, so in-season, so perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, that I am salivating right now and may need to run down there and get an order if I keep writing about them. So let’s just move on.

The burger was also fantastic. Well cooked, with buns that are hearty enough to withstand the juicy drippings of this fabulous burger. And I loved the fries. Get the burger and you won’t be disappointed. 

Service was really good. Attentive, responsive, but not too intrusive. Exactly how it should be.

So there you have it. The kitchen is currently being run by Erik Daniels (formerly of Avenues Bistro and Copper Onion. Erik has gradually added some more American flare to the menu to complement former chef Tommy Nguyen’s emphasis on Asian flavors.

I’d also be remiss to not mention that RYE offers a very solid breakfast/brunch menu as well. I have not had the chance to try it, but look forward to being able to in the near future.

That’s it. I’d give RYE 8 pickled quail eggs out of 10, with a half egg deduction for chicken that was a bit too chewy. Definitely go check it out, and stick around for a show next door as well.

RYE Diner and Drinks
239 S 500 E, Salt Lake City
(801) 364-4655

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

Penny Ann’s Opens Second Location in Draper

Penny Ann’s is now open in Draper! This family-owned and operated shop has been cranking out the best breakfast on Main Street in Salt Lake for a few years now, and have now expanded to a second location at the south end of the valley.

Their food is incredible (make sure you get their “heavenly hotcakes” and try the Reuben for lunch). But what really makes this place special is that everyone there makes you feel like you’re home when you’re there. They are always so welcoming and happy to see you. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a slice of their famous pie while you’re there.

This location is much bigger and spacious than their original location, but it still has the homey feel to it.

If you want the best breakfast in the valley, stop by Penny Ann’s. Open from 7-3 during the week, serving breakfast and lunch, and 7-2 on weekends, serving breakfast only.

The new pie kitchen! (still getting set up)

The Habit Opens 6th Utah Location

The Habit Burger Grill, one of my favorite quick-service restaurants, has opened its 6th location in Utah. This new location opened in November, and is located at 508 West Antelope Drive, in Layton.

If you haven’t stopped by to check out a Habit yet, you should definitely stop by and try it out. Everything they make is outstanding, and their prices are very reasonable, with burgers starting at around $3. On a recent tour of the kitchen, franchise owner Tom Hartman made sure to point out the lack of freezers in the restaurant. Nothing is brought in frozen. Everything from their tri-tip steak to their sushi-grade albacore tuna is brought in fresh.

For a location near you, check out Habit’s website.

The Annex by Epic Brewing

Truth be told, I never managed to make my way into The Annex, Epic Brewing’s take on a gastropub, when they initially opened a year or so ago. I never heard reviews compelling enough to sway my meal choice in their direction.

However, Annex shifted gears this Fall, bringing in chef Craig Gerome, who cut his teeth cooking at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia and Spruce in San Francisco. Chef Gerome completely revamped the menu, basically stripping everything from the old menu and starting fresh with his take. 

I was invited as a guest of Annex to try out the new menu and to meet Craig, and all I can say is that he is doing amazing things. You can tell this guy cares about his food, crowing about the fact that his mussels are FedEx’d daily from a lady named Jan in Maine, and she only sends him her very best, biggest mussels.

We tried the grilled octopus with salsa verde, lime bean and kale brodo, Bouchot mussels with Berliner weiss, poutine with braised cheek, and deviled eggs as starters. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but I’d especially steer you to the mussels. 

For the mains, we tried the herb fried chicken with fried green tomatoes and buttermilk risotto, and the stout braised pork shank. Of the two, I would definitely recommend getting the fried chicken, which was perfectly crispy, moist, and seasoned well. But other items on the menu such as the buffalo short rib pie and steak frites certainly caught my eye.

Dessert was a nice take on the traditional s’more, using house-made marshmallows and Amano chocolate, giving it extra depth and richness.

Sugarhouse continues to evolve, and the recent development occurring on and near the sugarhole continues to impress with new fantastic eateries popping up. There is a fun, electric vibe happening in this area that has been missing for quite some time.

I’m glad that Annex chose to locate here, and can’t wait to come back.

Disclaimer: I was an invited guest for dinner at The Annex by Epic Brewing.

Kale Brodo. Yes, I ate kale. And it was amazing.

Grilled octopus with salsa verde

Steamed Bouchot mussels

Poutine with braised cheek

Herb fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, buttermilk risotto

Stout braised pork shank

S’mores with Amano

Chef Craig Gerome