Salt Lake City continues to broaden its culinary chops, offering a wide variety of cuisines from around the globe. However, we still have a ways to go. Often we only have one or two restaurants offering a particular cuisine, and to use baseball parlance, I’d love to see us have a deeper bench. In no particular order, here’s my list of cuisines I would like to see in the city.
We desperately need a solid Cuban food restaurant. And I’m not just talking about the sandwich. We need a place that offers ceviche, plantains, yucca fries, empanadas, vaca frita, and roasted pork. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a solid Cuban sandwich, head over to Beltex Meats early on Saturday mornings to pick up one of their Cubans. They only make a small amount of these sandwiches on Saturdays, and always sell out. And it’s no wonder they are so popular, since the sandwich features their in-house smoked ham, roast mojo pork loin, house-brined pickles, Weber’s mustard, Swiss cheese, fennel marmalade, and Red Bicycle bread. It’s the best Cuban I’ve tasted anywhere.
Alamexo Cantina in the iconic 9th and 9th district will now be open seven days a week and is adding a new “Cantina Happy Hour” menu of $4 Botanas that will be served from 3 until 6 p.m. throughout the restaurant. Each week will feature a rotating selection of small bites available a la carte in addition to the regular dinner menu. “I’m going to serve some additional treats in the afternoon – things you’d usually find in at a bar in Mexico,” said Matt Lake, owner and executive chef.
New Operating Hours are Monday – Saturday from 3 until 10 p.m. and Sundays from 3 – 9 p.m. with the Cantina Happy Hour menu served daily from 3 – 6 p.m. “It’s a new neighborhood to us, and we listened carefully to our customers since opening,” said Susan Bouldin, operations manager. “Everyone has really embraced the Cantina and our gorgeous patio in the afternoon and evening and that’s clearly the time of day they want to enjoy the restaurant.”
The Cantina Happy Hour Menu, available from 3 – 6 p.m. in addition to the dinner menu (highlights below), will change weekly to take advantage of the freshest ingredients from local farms and ranches. Drink specials will be offered with selections changing weekly. Sample $4 Botanas offerings include:
Huarache Plantanos: corn and ripe plantain masa topped with refried black beans, lettuce, cabbage and cashew salsa
Quesadilla con Queso y Hongos: two white corn quesadillas filled with mushrooms, jalapeño & Oaxaca cheese served with salsa verde cruda
Jalapeño Rellenos: pickled jalapeño filled with beef barbacoa, topped with queso fresco & crema
Taquitos de Pollo: crispy rolled tacos filled with adobo chicken
While the Cantina will not open until 3 p.m., Lake and his crew are happy to open for groups mid-day. “It’s actually the perfect answer for us because we can’t accommodate private groups in our downtown location and have a huge call for mid-day lunch meetings and events,” said Bouldin. “We can host any type of private party during the day now and offer a truly private space.”
In keeping with the traditional Mexican values and roots, Alamexo’s culinary teams source only the finest organic and natural produces for their menu. They feature Niman Ranch and Snake River Farms meats, responsible seafood and buy from local farmers in season. All their suppliers are locally owned and operated.
At both Alamexo Mexican Kitchen downtown and Alamexo Cantina in the 9th and 9th district, they offer a wide, hand-curated selection tequilas: blancos, reposados and anejos; as well as an all-new cocktail menu, mezcals, cervezas and licor.
The dinner menu will be served from 3 p.m. until closing. The Para la Masa offerings include popular selections of their classic Guacamole and Guacamole Verde con Carnitas, Queso Fundido, Cantina Nachos or Quesadilla Grande, both of the latter having options to add shredded short rib barbacoa or chicken tinga.
The Platos Principales are served with rice and beans and include the Enchiladas Suizas with roasted pulled chicken in a tomatillo cream sauce; Enchiladas Mole Poblano with pulled chicken adobo with traditional mole poblano; Carnitas con Salsa Verde with tender pork carnitas, the Jaiba y Camarones with lump crab and Gulf shrimp, Hongos y Queso with wild mushrooms and Oaxaca cheese, and the Con Queso y Aguacate with mashed avocado and melted Chihuahua cheese.
Tacos include the Pollo y Adobo with chicken in chipotle adobo, Pescado Mixtos with wild mahi mahi filet and Gulf shrimp, Barbarcoa with tres chile beef barbacoa, Al Pastor de Alamexo with braised and pulled pork, Vegetales with roasted cauliflower and seasonal vegetables and Carne Asada with adobo marinated steak.
A Cantina Salad with Romaine hearts, baby spinach, tomato, avocado and jĭcama can be made into a meal by adding adobo chicken or beef barbacoa. Lados (or sides) include Cantina favorites of Papas y Chile Molido, smashed russet potatoes, Platanos con Crema, fried ripe sweet plantains; Elotes de la Calle, Mexican street corn off the cob with lime aioli, queso fresco and chile molido or Coliflor, roasted cauliflower with chile recado.
WHAT: The Park City Area Restaurant Association (PCARA) welcomes foodies to its fifth annual “Dine About” this fall. The two-week restaurant event features savory two-course lunches and three-course dinners at more than two dozen area dining establishments, all at an incredible value.
PCARA partnered with Stay Park City to offer exclusive lodging packages for guests during Dine About. Thanks to their unique local perspective, Stay Park City provides hand-picked accommodations situated in the heart of historic Park City, tucked in surrounding neighborhoods, and nestled in the mountains at the guaranteed lowest prices. Dine About lodging offers can be booked here.
WHERE: Foodies can enjoy Dine About atmore than 30 participating restaurants:
Ahhh, shoulder season, or mud season, or “locals come out of hiding” season is upon us in Park City. The snow is melting, tourists are gone, and Park City returns back to its more normal, quiet state of being.
Accordingly, some restaurants adjust hours, close down for time off after a busy ski season, or do a bit of spring cleaning. Here is a list of shoulder season hours for members of the Park City Area Restaurant Association.
Baja Cantina: Closing between lunch and dinner in May from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
Billy Blanco’s: No closure.
Bistro 412: Closed April 17-May 25.
Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive: Closed May 22-24.
The Brass Tag at Deer Valley Resort: No closure.
Butcher’s Chop House: Closed May 22-24.
Canyons Village Restaurants:
Closed April 17. The Farm, Red Tail and Umbrella expected to reopen in June.
Cena: Serving breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. from May 5-Oct. 29; Après Bike from 3 to 5 p.m. from June 2-Sept. 10; and dinner Wednesday-Sunday from May 5-Oct. 29. No lunch service until December.
Chimayo: Closed Sundays and Mondays from April 16-June 24. Open for dinner service; open all seven days starting June 25.
Deer Valley Grocery Café: No closure.
Empire Canyon Grill at Deer Valley Resort: Closing April 16. Fireside Dining closes April 8.
Firewood: Closed April 15-May 25. Open Thursday-Monday from May 26-June 16.
Fletcher’s: Closed April 9 – May 18.
Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge: Watch for 2-for-1 coupons being offered for April through May.
Goldener Hirsch Inn: Closed April 8-second week of June.
Ghidotti’s: No closure. $5 Thursday begins May 4.
Grappa: Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays from April 18-June 26. Locals’ Night begins May 8.
Grub Steak: Closed April 17-18.
High West: The saloon will be closed April 16-May 7. It will host a ticketed event to celebrate Derby Day on May 6, and reopen to the public for dinner May 8 and lunch May 9. Nelson Cottage will be closed through summer and open only for private events. The Refectory will close April 17-May 2, and reopen for lunch and tours May 3.
No Name Saloon: No closure.
Riverhorse: Closed for brunch and dinner April 23 and April 30. Bar sales available during “Chef Wars” on May 7. Reopening for brunch on Mother’s Day, May 14.
Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley Resort: The Mariposa and Royal Street Café stop serving dinner April 8, and Bald Mountain Pho also closes April 8. Royal Street Café and Silver Lake Restaurant will continue serving lunch until April 16. Royal Street Café’s summer lunch service resumes June 16.
Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley Resort: Seafood Buffet closes April 8, and Snow Park Restaurant closes April 16.
Squatters Pub Brewery: No closure.
Sushi Blue: No closure.
Tupelo: Closed April 24-May 11. Reopening for dinner May 12.
Wahso: Closed Mondays and Tuesdays starting April 2, closed all week April 26-June 8. Reopening for dinner June 9, and for Sunday starting June 11.
Wasatch Brew Pub: No closure.
Windy Ridge Bakery and Café: No closure. Taco Tuesday at the café begins May 2.
Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar continues its “Flight & Bite” Wine Wednesdays weekly in Stanza’s lounge into March. This month Wine educator and sommelier Jimmy Santangelo is offering two flights; one of rosés for $15, and one featuring “big reds” for $16. Both include creative and well-paired bites from Stanza’s kitchen.
Santangelo hand selects wines and educates diners about the nuances of each. “Now that the days are longer, it’s a better excuse to stay downtown after work and join me in the bar as we explore some new wine regions and varietals,” says Santangelo. “While we bring in most of these selections by special order and we’ll sell them in flights in the restaurant during the entire month.”
Jimmy’s focus in March revolves around rosé and big red selections. Each includes two 2-1/2 oz. splashes of wine and two “bites” of Stanza’s Italian Bistro cuisine. Space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. These selections are served during regular business hours each Wednesday.
Salt Lake City’s restaurant scene has never been brighter or more vibrant. And not only are our lovely local restauranteurs taking their food seriously, but many restaurant owners understand the importance that design plays in their guests’ overall dining experience. A restaurant’s design begins to mold a guest’s experience and perceptions long before a plate of food even hits the table. Design is a visual appetizer.
Heirloom, fresh, clean, organic, simple, local. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that these words are used to describe food. You’re not wrong. But these are the same words being used in the context of restaurant design throughout Salt Lake.
I remember the first time I walked into Bambara restaurant: striking black and white was balanced by warm browns. Contrasting tiles and stonework, textured houndstooth seats, and beautiful fixtures evoke a sense of class, and hearkens back to the “good old days” of downtown metropolitan business and banking. The restaurant’s design pays homage to the building’s heritage as the Continental Bank, before it was converted to the Hotel Monaco. Staff circulate efficiently through and around the large, open kitchen (before open kitchens were really even a thing). Bambara’s design is contemporary, classy, and all business. Just like its food. This restaurant has been around for a while, but they knocked it out of the park with the design, and it is just as fresh as day one, in my opinion.
A restaurant’s design, when done right, complements the food. Andrea Beecher of M3LD designed the striking new Table X restaurant, which used to be a cheese factory in Brickyard. Beecher and the Table X owners were able to preserve much of the original elements of the building in order to preserve character and pay homage to the building’s history. When asked about her design inspiration for this unique space, she said:
After having eaten the chef’s food and being inspired by how bright, fresh and vibrant it was, how much of a piece of art every dish was, I thought about a trip to Iceland that I took a couple years ago. I was there in summer where layered on top of what is typically a barren landscape of black, grays and browns, there are colorful wild flowers of all kind and the greens of grasses and moss. The monochromatic landscape allowed these seasonal touches to pop in a huge way. I thought of their food as that foliage and wanted the restaurant to mimic Iceland’s landscape so their food would pop just the same. So their food could be the art in the space. Be the highlight it should be.
I.e. restrained design focuses attention where it should be: on the food. Design sometimes needs to know when to get out of the way.
Photo Courtesy Table X
Photo Courtesy Table X
One common denominator amongst restaurants leading down the design path is a focus on textures, and the impact that different materials have. A reinvigorated design focus around various textures complements many chefs’ approaches to a multi-faceted dining experience.
Even hot dog places understand the interplay of restaurant design and the overall guest experience. For those unfamiliar, J Dawgs is a hot dog shop that started as a tiny little shack on the south end of the BYU campus. It has since grown to five locations (four in Utah County, one in downtown SLC).
Immediately upon entering the space, one recognizes the thoughtful approach that the owners took in designing the space. In fact, J Dawgs hired Rapt Studio, a design firm that has worked on projects for Adobe, Google, Apple Youtube, and HBO. Rapt worked with J Dawgs to redesign their brand, and to design their Salt Lake City location with the goal of creating a space that was reminiscent of the original hot dog shack in Provo, but with a more grown-up angle.
Communal tables are intermixed with single seats, counter seating, and a lounge-type area with a TV towards the back of the shop. A giant wall installation utilizing bottles of their signature sauce form a giant American flag. Corrugated steel is tastefully installed to hearken back to the original shack. And the centerpiece of it all is an open kitchen, where guests are afforded a 360 degree view of the entire cooking and dog-building process.
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Mollie & Ollie‘s clean design, while it may be viewed as overly sterile or antiseptic by some, also reinforces their focus on “clean” foods–those that are simple, organic, and responsibly sourced. M&O owners invested a small fortune to completely renovate the very long but skinny footprint that stores on SLC Main Street are famous for. I personally enjoy the clean, simple nature of the space that allows diners to focus on what really matters: the food, and the people you are enjoying the food with. I also applaud Mollie & Ollie for realizing that it’s ok to be brave with design (and yes–white is brave). It’s refreshing to walk into a space and not be bombarded with Edison bulbs as far as the eye can see. But I wouldn’t blame you if you felt like you were in an operating room.
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
The LaSalle Group took things down to very core (literally) with their renovation of the old Baker Motors building on 3rd South in Salt Lake in order to house the new Current Fish & Oyster. The old car dealership building was in serious need of updating, so the owners went in, gutted the place, and started with a clean slate, while preserving the exterior of the building. LaSalle did a similar gut-job renovation on the old Faustina place in order to create the deliciously clean Stanza Italian Bistro.
Current’s interior. Photo courtesy Current.
Stanza’s interior. Photo courtesy Stanza.
Rich, vibrant greens cast a striking, yet comfortable contrast with the grays and whites in the newly-opened HSL. HSL, the second restaurant venture of Chef/co-owner Briar Handly, partnered with real estate and design heavyweight cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, who were involved in designing numerous striking restaurants in the city, including Pallet and Finca. When you enter HSL, you are immediately hit with the impression of life, warmth, and vibrance.
“Melissa (HSL co-owner of HSL) and I talked for a long time about what we wanted HSL to feel like. Where would the magic be? We knew that we wanted patrons to walk into a space that felt alive and conscious…like it had a soul of its own.” -Cody Derrick, cityhomeCOLLECTIVE
So much of Handly’s expertise lies in his ability to raise vegetables to be on par (or many times, exceed) that of the protein, typically the star of the show. HSL’s design, centered around vibrant green plants, complements his approach.
“We tried to create a space that feels the way Briar’s food tastes. We wanted the design to be interesting, calming and comfortable. To evoke a sense of nature. Design is a critical component to the guest experience. We believe that for us to be successful we need to have a equal balance of food, service and ambiance. That being said, it doesn’t matter how good your design is if your service and food aren’t exceptional as well.” -Melissa Gray, co-owner
Design is a seemingly endless proposition, framed by finite resources. Budgets limit choices, restaurant layouts limit designs, and city codes can restrict design freedoms. But that challenge brings opportunities.
“There is something I’ve learned to be true in all aspects of design: convenience kills creativity. When you’re given the world–too many choices, an endless budget, no timeline–some key part of the process inevitably gets lost. Perhaps it’s our innate desire to be problem solvers, or our constant inability to be satisfied, but designers and artists in most any capacity seem to thrive in an environment laden with obstacles.” -Lauren Bald, cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, regarding the challenging FINCA design project
Cody Derrick continues:
“We’ve gotten to create a space where we’re inspired to be. It’s something that’s never been done before; something that’s inspired by the space itself. It’s inspired by the food and the chef, the owner, the locals. It’s inspired by all of that, but it’s still here. It’s in Utah. Which is why we have mountains on the walls, and locals in the photos. It’s not trying to be anything other than what it is. Finca is a Spanish restaurant in Salt Lake City, so let’s just celebrate that.”
Indeed, that’s what proper design should be about. It should be inspired by (and should celebrate) the surroundings. Reflect the nuances, talents, and quirks of the chef as well as the food itself. A properly designed restaurant should not distract guests from the meal, and should in fact be the platform upon which the food is allowed to truly shine. Design should be a quiet element of the dining experience, shaping, but not intruding on a guest’s experience. Design should celebrate the personalities of the staff and guests, and make all feel welcome and free to enjoy themselves.
Usually about this time of the year, Utahns are seeking shelter and warmth. With this year’s unseasonably warm November, we may not exactly be feeling that way, but things are about to change.
In anticipation of the imminent colder weather, Alamexo is holding the November Chile Festival from Thursday November 17th through Saturday November 19th. Chef Matt Lake wants to share his love of piquant peppers with inhabitants of SLC by offering numerous dinner and drink specials.
The main event of the festival will be a cooking class and three course lunch. The class is titled “Cooking with the Chiles of Mexico” and Chef Lake plans to show attendees just how versatile chiles can be.
Call to reserve a seat in the class: (801) 779-4747. Cost is $35 (including lunch!)
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 Limeadeis 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.