A Tale of Two Crispies

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Prettybird sandwiches with crinkle fries
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Nomad chicken sandwich with fries

I’m a simple man that enjoys simple pleasures. Near the top of that list is a fried chicken sandwich. Confession time: I enjoy chicken sandwiches in all of their forms. Elementary school mystery patty smashed between two slices of Wonder Bread? Sign me up. Spicy Chicken from Wendy’s? I’m already there. The classic chicken sandwich from Chick fil-A? They’ve had to serve me eviction notices before.

There’s been somewhat of a resurgence of fried chicken and its many variations recently in SLC. Viet Pham opened Prettybird, an homage of the various Nashville hot chicken shops. Justin Soelberg, formerly of Avenues Proper, opened Nomad Eatery in an off-the-beaten path location near the Salt Lake airport. And Scott Evans, of Pago, Finca, and Hub and Spoke, is opening a new restaurant in the 9th and 9th neighborhood named The Birdhouse, serving (you guessed it): prime rib. Just kidding. Chicken.

So chicken’s the new hotness in town. And while Prettybird does nothing but chicken, the fried chicken at Nomad is just one of various menu items. So, loyal readers, as your humble servant I took it upon myself to visit both locations and try their respective versions of the fried chicken sandwich, and I’d like to report back on how it went.

Short version: it went very, very well.

Long version: keep reading.

The Location

Let’s start with Prettybird. Prettybird benefits from being founded by local celebrity chef (and Iron Chef winner) Viet Pham, formerly of Forage. This guy knows food. It is fun seeing Chef Pham transition from “fine dining” at Forage to the somewhat lowbrow concept of a fried chicken shop. But there’s nothing lowbrow about Prettybird. The tiny shop on Regent Street is clad in all-white, lending an aura of cleanliness and levity. What the place lacks in interior seating it makes up for an even greater lack of exterior seating: the patio had two small tables that fit 4-6 people total. Everything you’ve heard about the long lines and depressing lack of seating is true. A victim of their own success I guess. Get there early and plan to take your food to-go.

Nomad is such a bizarre location, located near the Jet-N-Go or whatever the name of the airport parking lot is. But you know what? It works. There’s certainly an underserved market of workers near the airport, and it’s a close enough drive from downtown that makes it worth the journey. And what it lacks in a convenient location to downtown, it makes up for in a trendy, upbeat interior. And did I mention it’s big enough that paying customers can sit down and enjoy their food? What a concept.

So Prettybird wins in the “walking distance in downtown” category, and Nomad wins in the “you pay $11 for a sandwich, you should be able to sit down and enjoy it” category. I give the nod to Nomad because of all of the pleasures available in life, sitting is right up near the top.

The Chicken

On to the most important part: the chicken. Both locations offer super tender, moist chicken thighs as their base. Both versions are brined and breaded in their own spice blend, then fried. I don’t know if this is going to make any sense, but it does in my head, so here goes: Prettybird’s chicken is more crunchy, and Nomad’s is more shatteringly crispy. I really liked both, but preferred the crispyness of Nomad’s version. But you can’t go wrong with either, as they are both mind-numbingly excellent.

Prettybird’s version is topped with house-made pickles, cider slaw, and their Prettybird sauce. You can get it seasoned with your heat preference: everything from mild all of the way up to a version that will make you regret it the next day. Nomad’s sandwich is topped with mayo, shredded lettuce and zucchini pickles, and comes with a hot buffalo sauce, either smothered on the chicken or on the side. For those of you who prefer your food more on the mild side, like myself, I highly recommend getting it on the side.

Chicken winner: Nomad

The Buns

There’s really not too much to this one. Nomad’s is a bit crustier and drier, while Prettybird’s is fluffier. Both have great chew and are strong enough to stand up to the massive chicken and toppings inside. But I like fluffy.

Hot Buns Contest winner: Prettybird

The Sides

Sides are offered a la carte at both locations. At Prettybird you have a choice of cider slaw, a seasonal offering, and crinkle cut fries. I went with the fries, since the sandwich already comes with the slaw as a topping. Crinkle cut fries never cease to disappoint, no matter where I try them. I’m sure Prettybird puts a lot of effort into their fries, but whenever I have crinkle cuts I can never quite get over the bad nostalgia associated with sad, soggy elementary school crinkle cuts. Just say no to crinkle cuts. They just aren’t good.

Nomad offers a variety of sides, including wings, falafel croquettes, pickled and roasted beets, house-made salt and vinegar chips, and fries. I opted for the fries, which were well cooked and cut and fried fresh. I think next time I’ll check out the salt and vinegar chips.

Fry winner: Nomad.

Conclusion

In my not-so-scientific analysis, Nomad wins three of the four categories (although location could go either way depending on your dining preferences).

But look, you can’t go wrong with either of these spots, and they have quickly risen to two of my favorite spots to grab a bite in the city. I will happily recommend each, with a couple caveats. Prettybird: get ready for a line, sometimes they run out, and you have a 50% chance of getting a seat. If you’re with a group of 4 or more, forget about it. Nomad: it’s just a bizarre location, that’s all. But it works. If you’re looking for some super spicy, delicious chicken and aren’t with a larger group, I’d say go with Prettybird. If you’re with a group that may prefer a bit more menu options, go with Nomad. But like I said above, go to both. Make a day of it. Because they’re both fantastic and I’m so glad to see them doing well.

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Alamexo Cantina: Bye Bye Lunch, Hello Happy Hour Snacks

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.

Stoneground Bakery, The Bakery Behind the Curtains

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Chances are, if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in Utah, you’ve eaten bread from Stoneground Bakery. Even Stevens, Market Street, Montage Deer Valley, Robin’s Nest, Grove Market, and Oh Mai are just a few examples of hundreds of local dining spots that rely on daily delivieries of freshly-baked goods from this wholesale baker. If you’ve ever had a hot dog, hamburger, or sandwich at the Vivint Arena or a Real Salt Lake game, you’ve had Stoneground bread. Temple Square? Yep, you guessed it.

 

“Under the radar” is an apt phrase to describe Stoneground. It seems to me that nine time out of ten, when I’m eating out and think to myself “this is really good bread,” I would find out it came from Stoneground. Their ability to consistently crank out some of the best-tasting bread around intrigued me, so I thought I’d give them a visit to speak with Linda Hines, their business manager, and to take a tour of their facility.

 

Stoneground got its start as a tiny bakery on Main Street in Heber City. German-born Hans Schmerse fled East Germany and opened a small European-style bakery in 1979, and the growth of Stoneground since then has been more than Hans could have ever imagined. Stoneground has over 180 employees, serves over 770 different wholesale customers, and ships their products as far as Ohio.

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Market Street sourdough loaves rest for over 24 hours to allow the loaves to fully develop their characteristic flavor

Stoneground makes all sorts of baked breads steeped in old-school European baking tradition, including dinner rolls, ciabatta, pretzel buns, brioche hamburger buns, giant sandwich loaves, bagels, rye, pumpernickel, and hot dog buns, to name a few. Their sourdough starter dates back to before 1979.

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Brioche hamburger buns destined for greatness

The bakery seeks to set itself apart by truly being a custom shop for their customers. Stoneground meets with potential customers to formulate the perfect bread for their needs. They will make a test batch, meet and taste, and repeat this process until it meets the customer’s requirements perfectly. This specialization has resulted in a recipe catalog of more than 650 items. But you’d be mistaken to think that they just focus on the big customers. In fact, the opposite is the case. Their minimum order is $25 and they encourage frequent deliveries (their delivery charge is $0.75/order, no matter the size) to make sure that their bread is as fresh as possible, and to make sure that their breads are accessible to all customers, big and small.

 

Don’t expect to be able to buy Stoneground bread at a retail location, at least under their own name. One large grocery chain is finalizing a deal to private-label Stoneground’s bread in their stores. But historically the baker has specialized in wholesaling baked goods to local food establishments.

Hans has retired, and his children Derrick and Tammy run the day-to-day operations, with Derrick over the baking operations and Tammy over everything else. The company continues to grow and just last month moved in to a second large production facility across the street from their existing bakery in order to accommodate their growth.

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The family ties in management also trickles down to the employees. Second generation employees are now working at the bakery. One administrative assistant’s parents worked at the bakery, and she remembers roaming the bakery halls as a small child.

“You’ll find that a lot of whole families work here. My assistant’s mom, dad, aunts, uncles all worked at the bakery. Her mom was pregnant with her while working at the bakery. She grew up in the bakery and started in packing, production, and has now moved up to work in the office.” Linda Hines

Employees are happy and fulfilled, with master mixer Octavio Flores having 20 years under his belt, and Jesse Farlanio in packaging at 14 years, for example.

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Master Mixer Octavio Flores
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Jesse Farlanio

The company values the community, and aims to give back by developing a refugee employee development program. Stoneground works with various refugee integration centers and gives many refugees their first job in the U.S. They teach them the job skills and language skills that are so important in order to integrate into the American culture. They additionally seek to give back to the community by supporting local flour mills and other ingredient providers, with locally-milled grains coming from Utah, Idaho, and Montana, with the majority coming from Big J Mills in Brigham City.

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While you can’t find their bread for sale in stores, you can go directly to the source. Their front office shares space with a small retail store, which sells a selection of their baked goods. The selection varies, as the store is stocked based on baking overruns, but the mainstays such as ciabatta and sandwich loaves are usually easy to find. Every now and then you can find some sweet treats like cinnamon rolls as well. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 2pm, located at 1025 South 700 West in Salt Lake City.

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Linda Hines and Tammy Hines

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Alamexo Cantina

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During his travels throughout Mexico, Matt Lake, chef/owner of Alamexo Kitchen downtown, was always struck by a certain type of restaurant. The cantinas he encountered are vibrant, lively, and most importantly, promote a sense of community and togetherness. Families, friends, strangers gather around tables sharing various dishes and libations, telling stories and laughing together.

These memories drove Matt’s vision as he put together his newest project: Alamexo Cantina, which opened this week in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. The style of service is different than at Alamexo downtown. The cantina cuisine is reminiscent of a street market in Mexico, but in a sit-down situation.

“Everything will come family style, everyone orders and you have it all at once, mixing and matching. I don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. But I do want it to be fun. It needs to be super easy and fun,” says Lake. “The best way to get at this concept is that I wish I could pick what people eat but I can’t. I felt this was the closest way to get to that experience of just letting the chef guide your dining experience. Whatever time [of the day] you come it’s the same [price]. One menu, all day long, with a wide array of shared dishes.”

The space itself is striking, with bright, vibrant colors contrasting with the dark tables and ceiling. A large glossy Adam Finkle photograph adorns the back wall, showcasing the multitude of ingredients involved in making a molé. The centerpiece of the bar area is a large mural by local artist Harry Baldwin, and depicts the iconic Espolón Blanco label. There is a gorgeous candle wall that is interesting during the bright daytime hours, but turns into something living, breathing, and very special at night. My favorite part is that most of the front wall separating the dining room from the patio breaks down, opening up completely and blurring the line between inside and out. This will be the spot to be on a warm evening. The kitchen itself is small, and is limited to a long comal (flat top griddle) and two fryers for chips. That’s it.

“We’re limited in the kitchen. But with that limitation comes clarity,” says Lake.

For those of you who haven’t been to Alamexo downtown, or his previous project, ZY, I highly suggest you try Chef Lake’s creations out. He is, in my opinion, one of the most talented chefs in the city. He won Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award in 1996 and worked at New Heights in Washington D.C. and Rosa Mexicano in New York City, one of the city’s first and foremost upscale Mexican restaurants. He graduated at the top of the class while attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He, along with his team, make everything from scratch, from roasting whole chickens to making the various molé sauces.

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Chef Lake
So be sure to stop by, grab some guacamole and a drink at the bar, or dive right in to some dishes to share with some friends.

Alamexo Cantina
1059 East 900 S
Salt Lake City
(801) 658-5859

Reservations not accepted

http://www.alamexo.com/cantina

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Addendum: Johnny Slice

I’m going to keep this one brief, but I felt it merited a follow-up.

Back a few years ago (ok, maybe quite a few more than that), I was a mediocre little league basketball player. The only hot streak I ever had was the record number of consecutive games in which I would warm the bench. Of course, at the end of season awards ceremony, I was always the proud recipient of the “most improved player” award, even though technically I probably didn’t improve and even more technically it was a stretch to even classify me as a player. But they needed to award me something, and most improved was all they had left at the bottom of the trophy pile.

Anywho.

I wanted to post an addendum to my previous review of Johnny Slice and award their pizza the SLCeats Most Improved Player award. Except unlike my little league awards, this one is actually merited. It pained me in my initial review to praise the pizza place for everything except, well, the pizza. Truth be told, it wasn’t that great and I wasn’t a very big fan. But to their credit, it appears that ownership listened and made the necessary course corrections, because in the numerous times I’ve been since, their pizza has improved remarkably and is now among my favorite slices in SLC. The buffalo chicken pizza, laced with bleu cheese, is my new favorite.

Anyways, that’s it. Credit where credit is due. Johnny Slice is making some mean pizza now. Go and enjoy.

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Howdy Homemade Ice Cream

 

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Photo courtesy Howdy Homemade Ice Cream

“Come for the ice cream, but stay for the people” is a common saying of Tom Landis, founder of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream. This Dallas-based ice cream concept touts ice cream made in-house using high quality ingredients that yield unique results, such as the Dr. Pepper chocolate chip ice cream, a favorite in Dr. Pepper-obsessed Texas.

Oh, and the other unique aspect of Howdy? The majority of their employees have special needs related to Down Syndrome or autism.

“Our main goal and hope is that people recognize exactly what our employees can do instead of what they can’t do,” Will Nielson, son of the Howdy Salt Lake store said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. “I think when a disability or a special need comes up, often our mind starts running on to what are the limitations or the disabilities instead of thinking about (how) someone with autism, they have great retention skills, and someone with Down syndrome, they’re just naturally the most happy and loving people that you come across.”

Howdy Salt Lake is located at 2670 South 2000 East, across the street from Feldman’s Deli.  Local contractor Chris Nielson, who has a son with special needs, fell in love with the Howdy concept and brought it to Utah. The store features some local flair, offering sorbettos made by Amour Cafe, as well as a Publik coffee chocolate chip. All of the other ice creams are made in-house and feature everything from your basic cookies and cream all the way to a Dr. Pepper chocolate chip.

I particularly enjoyed the cheesecake ice cream, which is everything you’d hope it would be: rich and creamy. If you’re a fan of Coldstone’s sweet cream ice cream, this is the one for you. The Dr. Pepper ice cream was unique, but I was left wishing that a bit more of the soda flavor would have shone through. But it is a fun idea, and definitely worth at least sampling. Other favorites were the cinnamon brown sugar and the orange dream.

I love everything about the concept, from the location, the smart design, the delicious ice cream, the prices, and most of all, the wonderful smiles from everybody behind the counter. It is heartwarming to see the community coming out to support the shop, as evidenced by lines out the door when we stopped by.

Howdy Salt Lake
2670 S 2000 East, Salt Lake City

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Regent Street Beat

Regent Street continues to slowly build out as broadway shows fill the Eccles Theater. Two items to mention: Pretty Bird, Viet Pham’s new spot which will serve Nashville Hot Chicken, is scheduled to open in October, according to Pham. Although I would serve that hot chicken with a side of healthy skepticism, since a recent snoop inside indicates little to no construction activity inside.

Second shop is the Last Course ice cream dessert studio. Construction has started, and I was unable to sleuth out any additional information online regarding this spot, so keep your eyes peeled for additional information later on.

Eat Local Week 9/9-9/16

From September 9th through 16th Eat Local Week Utah, a community-wide celebration of the harvest and those who labor to produce it, is scheduled. Eat Local Week promotes local agriculture and the preservation of Utah’s agricultural heritage, and brings people together around the food they eat. Through a series of activities and events around the state, Eat Local Week seeks to educate people about resources for eating locally, and increase awareness about food production, transportation and access to healthy food for all Utahns.

This year, Eat Local Week has expanded to include opportunities across the state. For example, over 10 restaurants in Moab are offering menu items with at least three local items. A documentary film, Food Chains, which tells the story of farm labor in the United States and advocated for the dignified life for farm workers and creating a more humane, transparent food system, will be screened in English and Spanish in Salt Lake. In Kaysville, farm-to-table dinners provide a unique option to experience food at the height of the harvest season.

The Liberty Park Farmers Market will launch their Double Up Food Bucks, a three-year old nutrition incentive program that helps low-income families take home affordable fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers, joining the Downtown Farmers Market and farm stands across the state who have participated for three years. Both the Downtown Farmers Market and Liberty Park Farmers Market will feature events and promotions surrounding local food. Events are listed below and at:

http://www.eatlocalweek.org

https://www.facebook.com/eatlocalweekutah

“Eat Local Week” is my favorite week of the year, because it really does challenge us to learn more about where our food comes from, and how much we grow and produce right here in our own state,” says Alison Einerson, Downtown Farmers Market manager.  “From local meats to produce to dairy and cheeses, you can find virtually everything you want to eat made right here in Utah. Food is truly a resource that binds us all, and connects our state rural and urban communities.”

A cornerstone of Eat Local Week is the “Eat Local Challenge,” which challenges people to eat and drink food that is grown or produced within a 250 mile radius of their home for one week. Now in its 10th year, the Eat Local Challenge is an opportunity for Utahns to garner a closer connection to food sources. eatlocalweek.org contains several resources to where to shop for local food, as well as recipe ideas.

Utahns are encouraged to craft the challenge level of their choice: a strict option—no coffee, no chocolate, no olive oil, is one example. Alternatively, participants can choose specific food groups that are easy to obtain locally (produce, meats, dairy) and stay truly local to them for a week. Spice Kitchen will offer locally sourced pre-made meals during Eat Local Week. Spice Kitchen Incubator is a project of the International Rescue Committee IRC) in partnership with Salt Lake County.

The goal of the challenge is to engage people to discover how much food we grow and produce in our region, and to show how changing small daily habits can have a profound effect on our health, our economy, and our diet. The Eat Local Challenge is a unique opportunity to learn more about local food and to foster creativity around what and how we feed ourselves, at the height of the harvest season.

Eat Local Week events include the following:

Saturday, September 9th

Taste of the Market & Perfectly Wild Produce Contest

Downtown Farmers Market, 8 am-2 pm

Saturday, September 9th

Wasatch Community Gardens Annual Tomato Sandwich Party

Grateful Tomato Garden, 11 am-2 pm

Saturday, September 9th

Taste of Harmons Rooftop Party

Harmons City Creek, 6-10 pm

Monday, September 11th

Free “Food Chains” Film Screening. Proceeds benefit Comunidades Unidas.

Pre-Party at 6 pm (Pago), Screening at 7 pm (Tower Theater)

Tuesday, September 12th

Quickle (Quick Pickle) at the Tuesday Farmers Market

Pioneer Park, 4 pm

Tuesday, September 12th

Starting and Maintaining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Enterprise

Youth Garden Project, Moab, 1-5 pm

Wednesday, September 13th

Free “Food Chains” Film Screening in Spanish, followed by panel discussion with Jorge Fierro of Rico Brand

Sorenson Unity Center, 855 W California Ave, 7-9 pm

Wednesday, September 13th

Taste of the Sugar House Farmers Market

Fairmont Park, 5 pm

Thursday, September 14th

Farm to Table Dinner

USU Botanical Center, Kaysville, 6-7 pm

Friday, September 15th

Taste of the Liberty Park Farmers Market

Liberty Park, 4 pm

Saturday, September 16th

Fermentation Festival at the Downtown Farmers Market sponsored by Catalyst Magazine

Pioneer Park, 9 am-1pm

2017 Downtown Dine O’Round

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The 2017 edition of the Downtown Dine O’Round kicks off September 15th and runs through October 1st. During the Dine O’Round, over 45 downtown restaurants offer various dining specials. Participating restaurants will offer either a $5 or $10 fixed price lunch, and $15, $25, and $35 three-course dinners.

The Dine O’Round is an excellent way to try out some restaurants that perhaps aren’t in your normal rotation. New additions this year include HSL, Rib and Chop House, Fat Jack’s, and White Horse. I’m particularly interested in what White Horse’s $10 lunch will include, as I’ve been meaning to try that place.

You can find more information, check out some menus from last year, and make reservations at the Dine O’Round website.

Village Baker Downtown

I was excited when I saw that the Village Baker was moving into the main floor of the new 111 Main building in downtown Salt Lake City. I’ve been a fan of Village Baker since I lived down in Draper and frequented their West Jordan location. The new downtown shop opened a couple months ago, and has had a brisk business ever since, without a doubt helped by the continued growth of the downtown workforce and the accompanying strain this growth has placed on downtown lunch spots. I rarely venture out for lunch past about 11:45 because lines at almost every downtown dining spot will be 10-15 people deep. Maybe I’ll develop a new measure of downtown economic growth and base it on the line length at 12pm at sandwich shops.

Breakfast sandwiches, coffee, soups, salads, pizza, sandwiches, a variety of sweets and pastries–you name it, and this place will likely have it. As opposed to Kneaders, Village Baker’s bread selection is less rustic and artisan and centers more squarely on traditional American bread pan breads: honey wheat, honey white, French, and sourdough, with other specialty breads such as sunflower whole wheat, raisin, multigrains, and cinnaburst loaves produced on a rotating weekly schedule.

One popular sandwich is the turkey cranberry ($3.74 for half, about $7 for whole). The turkey, which was somewhat clumsily and unevenly placed in the sandwich, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce were contained by two thick slices of honey wheat bread. This sandwich is one of their more popular menu items, and I can see why: it’s delicious. I wasn’t initially sold on cranberry on my sandwiches, but once I tried it, there was no going back. For an extra $2.50 you can make your sandwich a combo and get a beverage and your choice of either chips or a large cookie. Sorry Lays, but I’m going for the homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie every time.

On another visit I tried the turkey, provolone, and avocado sandwich ($4.32 for a half sandwich and I think around $7 for the whole). This one came served with thin slices of bread despite my request for the thicker slices, and was, simply put, anemic and a little bit sad. It lacked the filling robustness I’m accustomed to at Village Baker. This sandwich was a boring dud.

The pizza is delicious, and extremely well priced at about $2 per slice. At that price I have to imagine they will give some other downtown pizza places a run for their money. The slices are generous, sauce well balanced, cheese is perfectly stretchy and gooey, and the thicker crust has the perfect chew. I’m a fan.

Their cookies are good, but sadly not as good as those that I remember from the West Jordan location. At West Jordan, the cookies are thick and chewy, whereas at the downtown spot they are much thinner. This results in a crisper, drier cookie that makes me yearn for their more robust southern brethren.

For breakfast, I was impressed by their savory breakfast roll ($3.59), which features hash browns, red and green peppers, mozzarella and bacon. The rolls are packaged for a quick to-go option, but the kitchen is more than happy to warm it up for you, which I would highly recommend if you have the time.

The space itself is bright, cheery, and well decorated. During the warmer months, patio tables are placed outside on the sidewalk, greatly expanding their capacity. During the colder times, diners are restricted to limited seating on the main floor, but Village Baker anticipated this and came up with a brilliant solution: they build a mezzanine floor above the kitchen, where I imagine 30+ hungry diners can fit at any given time.

Service is of the “order at the counter and take a number to your table” variety. I’ve always been helped by cheerful people at the order counter as well as those delivering my food. I’ve had them ask me how things are as they walk by delivering orders to other tables, which is greatly appreciated and shows me they care.

Does downtown seriously need another soup and sandwich place? Yes. While I’d love to see a bit more variety hit downtown dining spots, demand for noontime noshing continues to strain eateries, so it’s nice to have another sandwich spot to help relieve some of the lunch rush pressure. Village Baker is a top-notch addition, and I’m glad they chose to come downtown. Judging by their crowds, I think they’ll do just fine.