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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Brunch at Fireside on Regent Begins June 3rd

Fireside on Regent is off to a solid start, and now that they have their feet under them, Chef Richey is opening for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30-2pm beginning June 3rd. Richey is no brunch novice, having previously expanded Pago’s menu to include brunch as well. Expect to see French toast, croque madam, burgers, hash, salads, and special brunch-only pizzas on the menu.

Fireside on Regent
126 South Regent Street, Salt Lake City

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“Slice of Ice” Iceberg lettuce, sundered tomato aioli, “landshark” ham, poached egg, chives

 

Preview: Alamexo Cantina

During his travels throughout Mexico, Chef Matt Lake, owner of Alamexo, most enjoyed eating at the vibrant local cantinas. These open-air restaurants, some more boisterous than others, emphasize community and togetherness as friends and families gather around tables to share in various freshly-prepared dishes.

These memories have informed Matt’s latest culinary project: Alamexo Cantina, opening in May in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. The cantina will be the lower-key little brother to Alamexo, keeping the same attention to ingredients and the cooking process, but trading white tablecloths for bottles of cerveza and a six-foot comal.

I stopped by to taste some of Matt’s planned dishes for the cantina. I would expect nothing less than exceptional from Matt, and judging by these test plates, he’s well on his way towards that goal.

Alamexo Cantina, opening mid-May

1059 East, 900 South, Salt Lake City.

Johnny Slice on Broadway


Throw a rock in any direction from Main Street in Salt Lake City and you’re bound to hit a pizza shop. Actually, you’re bound to hit many pizza shops. Off the top of my head, I can think of Este, Eva Bakery, Pizza Studio, From Scratch, Settebello, Oak Wood Fire, Pier 49, Pie Hole, Sicilia, and Maxwell’s. No, Sbarro doesn’t count. And I’m sure I missed a couple.

Needless to say, downtown pizza choices abound, and while each shop offers very different styles of pizza, from thin crust at Pie Hole and Este to thick slices at Pier 49, I was a bit surprised to hear that a new pizza place, Johnny Slice, opened right across the street from Sicilia and down the street from Oak, Pier 49, and Maxwell’s. That said, Johnny Slice isn’t looking to be pigeonholed as just a pizza joint, as they seek to differentiate themselves with broad menu offerings. Breakfast sandwiches, coffee, pasta, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and desserts are all served in this light and open space dominated by striking black and white tiles. The owner of Johnny Slice is also the owner of Michelangelo Ristorante on Highland Drive (but not the restaurant of the same name just up Main Street), so the breadth of Johnny Slice’s menu is not uncharted territory for these restauranteurs.

Their kitchen serves up breakfast sandwiches like a sausage and egg, bacon and egg, veggie, and ham & cheese. Breakfast is served all day, and you can wash it all down with a hot coffee or a freshly pulled espresso. At $5.75 for a sandwich, it seems a bit on the steep side for an early morning bite on the way in to the office, but the sandwiches aren’t tiny, either.

The French toast is made with house-baked focaccia, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and real maple syrup ($6.75). Add a side of warm berry sauce for another 75 cents. A dining companion reported that the French toast was tasty and was cooked well, and just what you would expect from French toast: soft on the inside and with a nicely griddled crust.

Pizza can be ordered by the slice, or whole pies can also be ordered. By the slice pizzas are waiting and ready to be warmed upon order. I think the pizzas are good. Not great, but good. Pizzas range from your standard cheese, pepperoni, and Hawaiian, and branch out into more creative territory with their Mediterranean (white sauce, bacon, garlic, spinach, feta, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and roasted red peppers) and PP&J (pepperoni, pineapple, and jalapeño). I tried a variety of slices and found the sauce to be a bit one-dimensional and too acidic for my tastes, while the pizza crust was decent, but a bit too reminiscent of a bagel in the chewiness department. At the end of two pieces my jaw feels like it just completed a set of bench presses. A little crunchier and a little less chewy would work wonders.


Their version of the roast beef sandwich was a real standout. Thin-sliced deli roast beef is heaped onto a fresh hoagie roll, topped with a generous portion of roasted peppers, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and parmesan cheese, and placed into the oven to get all melty and crispy. The sandwich ($8.50) is served alongside a pickle and a delicious cup of au jus that is a perfectly salty, beefy accompaniment to the rich and hearty sandwich. You can also jazz the sandwich up further by topping it with an assortment of peppers and giardiniera from their condiment bar. A combo option for $2.50 adds a bag of chips and a soda, but unless you just returned from a Strongman competition you’re not going to have room. This sandwich is hearty, and packs a deliciously agonizing gut-punch that will have you questioning your life decisions for a few hours after. I recommend it 100%.


I have only visited during lunch hours, but they seem to understand the importance of quick turnarounds during the crazy downtown lunch rush. Every time I have stopped by, the kitchen has been staffed with no less than 5-7 employees, a kitchen manager expediting, and an extremely friendly and helpful restaurant manager running food and bussing tables. Pizza slices and sandwiches show up within five minutes. Prior restaurant experience shines through in their service during the lunch rush. Unfortunately, dining buddies have reported this same prompt service to not quite be the case on nights and weekends, where an order of French toast and an egg sandwich took about 30 minutes to arrive, and an order of spaghetti and meatballs on another night took about the same amount of time.

Johnny Slice is serious about being open when it counts, opening at 7:30 during the week, closing at 11pm and remaining open until 2am on the weekends. Capturing the after-bar crowd will allow them to shine long after other pizza joints have closed up shop for the night.

Some serious money seems to be invested into the remodel of the old Pepper’s sandwich shop, showcasing a brand new kitchen, a large, open, bright dining room, and beautiful hand-lettered signage on the windows. I really love the black and while tiles throughout, as it makes me feel like I’m in an old-school pizza parlor. The dining area is spacious, and could easily accommodate a band for some extra weekend fun. Additionally, you can reserve a private dining room for parties, which seats 12. It’s obvious through the quality and details in the remodel that the owners care about the space, care about downtown and intend to be here for a long time.

With pizza and dining choices abounding in downtown Salt Lake City, Johnny Slice is a delicious and worthy addition.

Johnny Slice
12 W Broadway, Salt Lake City

(385) 415-2924

johnnyslice.com

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Valentine’s Day Dining

Ah, love is in the air. Along with the inversion.

Check out some dining and celebration options for V day. Call soon–restaurants book up early.

Oasis Cafe: $40 per person, four course fixed menu featuring ahi tartare, fennel salad or shrimp bisque, halibut, beef tenderloin, or roasted chicken, and dessert. Call (801) 322-0404 for reservations.

Current Fish and Oyster: four course menu, $70 per person (drinks, tax, gratuity extra). Additionally, if you’re looking to celebrate, but don’t like the crowds on the 14th, Chef Gardner is offering dinner specials the 10th through the 13th as well. New offerings this year for the 14th include roast duck breast and a turbot and crab roulade. This is in addition to other menu options such as oysters, calamari, beef short ribs, organic cauliflower, braised salmon, and more. (801) 326-3474

Alamexo: the Mexican restaurant is celebrating el dia del amor. Valentine’s specials will be served from the 14th through the 18th, and include filet mignon with chile paste, tamale, jalapeño relleno, and salsa mocajete ($27), mahi mahi in a salsa veracruzana ($24), as well as some specialty desserts and beverages. (801) 779-4747.

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Photo courtesy Alamexo

Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar: Stanza is offering a $65 per person six course dinner on the 14th. The Valentine’s menu includes buttermilk panna cotta, Alaskan king crab, black truffle spaghettini, blood orange with black olive and candied walnut, a porcini-dusted New York strip loan, and a special dessert. (801) 746-4441

Laziz Kitchen: four-course prix fixe menu. You must reserve/pay in advance. Price is $140 per couple. The menu includes stuffed roasted onions, salads, salmon, organic chicken, and chocolate cardamom ice cream. (801) 441-1228.

RYE Diner and Drinks: RYE is open for Valentine’s Day. No information on their offerings, but each entree includes a guaranteed free ticket to the Urban Lounge next door for their Valentine’s Day party. Email janavanbrocklin@gmail.com

PAGO: offering a five-course tasting menu + wine pairings. Saturday, February 11th and Tuesday, February 14th. $75 per person tasting menu, $42 wine pairings. Dinner will feature choices of chocolate-dipped strawberries, pork belly, oysters, steak tartare, braised short ribs, duck breast, curried cauliflower, triple chocolate mousse hearts, and a house ice cream tasting. (801) 532-0777.

Stoneground Italian Kitchen: offering both a three-course ($35) and five-course ($50) dining option. (801) 364-1368.

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La Caille: five-course dinner, $95 adults, $55 children. See their menu on Facebook. (801) 942-1751

Log Haven: Log Haven is completely booked on 2/14, but still has some room on 2/13 and 2/15. You can see their special menu on their site. (801) 272-8255.

Park City/Deer Valley

Stein Eriksen Lodge: the lodge is featuring special Valentine’s Day options such as a rose petal turndown service, house-made chocolates, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and flower bouquets. Call the lodge at (435) 604-2793.

The Brass Tag at the Lodges at Deer Valley: the restaurant’s raved-about dinner menu will be on offer, plus a special of porcini mushroom crusted scallops served with forbidden rice, roasted cauliflower and leek puree ($28).

Deer Valley Grocery Café: for those serving a special private meal at home, add a little something extra with the Fritto Misto for two ($14.75) from Deer Valley Grocery~Café. Enjoy rice flour battered wild sockeye salmon and shrimp, served with fennel, lemon, shiitake mushrooms, fresh sage dipping broth and preserved lemon salt.

Fireside Dining: spend an evening enjoying delectable selections beside a roaring fire. Fireside Dining at Deer Valley resort will be offering a trio of specials: seared duck breast with an elderberry and elderflower lacquer, slow-roasted tomatoes, Cipollini onions and sage polenta; roasted root vegetables with herb honey butter glaze; and a s’mores tart with house-made graham crust, bittersweet ganache and bourbon marshmallow.

Flanagan’s on Main: the Irish pub is serving classic surf-and-turf for Valentine’s Day. The “Lovebirds” special ($98 total) features fresh house salad, a sumptuous grilled 28-ounce ribeye, two 6-ounce lobster tails, mixed vegetables and dessert.

Grub Steak: Park City’s longtime locals-favorite steakhouse will be serving a delicious three-course prix fixe. The Valentine’s Day menu ($59.75 per person) starts with a choice of hearts of romaine Caesar salad, wild rice and mushroom soup, or Grub Steak’s 45-item fresh salad bar. Then enjoy beef wellington, featuring tenderloin of beef and mushroom duxelle baked in puff pastry, served alongside steam asparagus and citrus hollandaise. Chocolate lava cake and fresh raspberries and Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream caps the evening for dessert.

Tupelo: Park City’s home for globally inspired, artisanally sourced and stunningly prepared food is serving an a la carte menu and a five-course tasting menu for Valentine’s Day.

The tasting menu ($95, with an optional $65 wine pairing), starts with barbecue octopus with red bean stew, red pepper vinegar, kale and pickled lemon, followed by whiskey glazed Niman Ranch pork belly with apple butter, pickled beets and smoked maple; pan roasted bass with squash caponata, herb broth, lemon and smoked soy; and sous vide wagyu ribeye with wild mushroom, roasted marrow and truffles. Enjoy a tasting of artisanal chocolates for dessert. The a la carte selections draw from Tupelo’s regular dinner menu, with selections such as buttermilk biscuits, house-made ricotta, and Utah trout.

If you can’t find something in here that you like, then I’m afraid I’m of no use to you!

Christmas and New Year’s Specials

The holidays are well upon us, and many local restaurants are opening up for Christmas and New Years dining.

Cafe Niche

Christmas Eve: Open from 8am to 9pm, and will be serving special dishes including wild mushroom bisque, shrimp cocktail, and Black Forest cake.

New Years: Cafe Niche will offer a special New Years Eve dining special from 5-10pm. Cost is $60 per person. Reservations are a must, and can be made by calling the restaurant (801) 433-3380. The restaurant will also be open on New Years day at 8am.

Kyoto

Kyoto will be serving their regular menu, with adjusted hours. Christmas Eve: 11-2pm and 5-9pm. Christmas Day: closed. December 26: regular hours. New Years Eve: 11am-2pm, 5-9pm. New Years: closed for lunch and open for dinner 5-10pm.

Stanza

Stanza will be open Christmas Eve from 5-9pm, with specials in addition to the regular menu, and will be closed all day on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Specials on Christmas Eve include veal cannelloni, wagyu bavette, and buche de noel for dessert.

The restaurant will also offer a New Year’s Eve special four course menu for $65, featuring oysters, roasted pumpkin soup, lobster farfalle, branzino, Mary’s chicken, and cannoli (among many other options). Call the restaurant for reservations at (801) 746-4441.

Current Fish & Oyster

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Photo courtesy Current

The restaurant will be open for lunch a dinner on Christmas Eve, closing at 8pm. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Chef Phelix Gardner is featuring customer favorites and many holiday specials for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve celebration. The four course menu is available beginning at 4pm on December 31st. Options include oyster brie soup, grilled calamari, banana prawn videos, roasted beef loin, caramelized organic salmon, and a chocolate peanut cremeux, among other options. Guests can also choose to add a seafood tower with mussel shooters, poached lobster, oysters, shrimp, and crab legs.

Call (801) 326-3474 for reservations.

Oasis Cafe

Oasis will be open from 8am until 3pm on Christmas Eve, offering their regular brunch menu. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The restaurant is offering a special four course prix fixe menu beginning at 5pm on New Years Eve. Offerings will include pan seared scallop, shrimp bisque, pan roasted halibut, prime rib, and dark chocolate cheesecake, among other options.

Cost is $45. Reservations are highly suggested. (801) 322-0404.

Finca

Finca has created a six course tasting menu for New Year’s Eve. Per Spaniard tradition, each dish will incorporate grapes in some way. Each course is also paired with an optional wine pairing as well.

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Pago

Pago is offering a New Year’s Eve tasting menu, plus wine pairings, from 5-9pm. Price is $70 for the menu, plus $38 for the optional wine pairings. Some menu items include hamachi crude, sweet potato gnocchi, venison, diver scallops, and bread pudding. Call the restaurant at (801) 532-0777 for reservations.

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HSL

HSL still has availability for their four-course prix fixe meal on Christmas Eve. Price is $65 per person, and features a selection of panna cotta, charred leek soup, ribeye steak, sea bass, chestnut risotto, and bouche de noel, among other choices. Call HSL at (801) 539-9999.

Laziz Kitchen

Laziz is offering a “New Year’s Eve Supper,” with two seating options: one at 7:30pm and one at 8:30pm. The menu is a four course prix fixe menu, including stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fennel salad, fish tajen, Zaatar crusted chicken, baklava bites, and assorted beverages (alcohol extra, but you can bring your own if you wish). Price is $70 per person, and must be paid for in advance by calling the restaurant at (801) 441-1228. More info on Facebook.

Avenues Bistro on Third

Avenues Bistro will host two seatings: one at 5pm and one at 7pm. The bistro will be showcasing the work of the newly-returned chef, Adam Findlay. This is a four-course meal featuring a cream of sunchoke bisque, watercress salad, ricotta gnocchi, wagyu beef, salmon, and dessert. No price was posted, but call (801) 831-5409 to inquire and make reservations.

East Liberty Tap House

East Liberty is still accepting reservations for New Year’s Eve, featuring a “tap takeover” by Red Rock Brewing. There will be other drink and food specials as well. Call them at (801) 441-2845.

Beltex Meats

Beltex Meats in Salt Lake City is a rarity along the Wasatch Front. In a world where the majority of consumers get their meats from grocery stores who focus more on their profit and loss statements than they do on the provenance of their products they sell, Beltex meats stands alone as a diamond in the rough.

Beltex is a whole animal butchery, which means they utilize every part of the animal in order to promote responsible consumption and minimize waste. The owners of Beltex saw that as residents in the area become more interested in purchasing humanely-raised, sustainable products, existing suppliers weren’t necessarily able to accommodate the demand. So Beltex stepped in to fill the gap, first at farmers’ markets, and now at their own shop. What does humanely raised mean? According to Beltex it means that their animals are pasture raised, with lots of room. Their products are never treated with antibiotics or hormones. They know each of their suppliers personally.

Beltex was founded by a chef, Philip Grubisa, which makes sense when you see that their cases not only feature meat, but also meat pies, charcuterie platters, sandwiches (Saturdays only), sauces, ready-to-cook meals, and other items not typically found in a butcher shop. Philip cut his butchery teeth while working at Spruce in the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, then moving on to open Talisker on Main with Briar Handly. Prior to opening Beltex, Philip trained at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat in Denver to certify in professional butchery.

I stopped by on a Saturday morning while the crew was preparing one of their surprising successes: sandwiches. Beltex offered a cuban sandwich one day, and it was so popular, they now offer a rotation of sandwiches on Saturday only. Despite their sandwich success, they limit their production to 50 sandwiches, and once they sell out, they’re out. “We’re not a sandwich shop. We’re a butcher shop that happens to sell a sandwich,” Grubisa says.

Philip has taken care to create a unique space to sell Beltex products. Their shop is located in a renovated house just across the street from Liberty Park on 9th South. Prior to the renovation, this house was a dilapidated mess, and Grubisa hired Brach Design Architecture to update the space to what you see now.

Beltex is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

511 East, 900 South, Salt Lake City. (801) 532-2641. beltexmeats.com

Click on the photos below to open the gallery.

On Restaurant Design

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.

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Photo courtesy Bambara

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Design is expression.

 

Alamexo November Chile Festival

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!)

Saturday, November 19, 11am
Alamexo Mexican Kitchen, 268 S State St, Salt Lake City

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Photo courtesy Alamexo