Pat’s BBQ

I’m not usually one to rag on local restaurants. I like to think of myself as more of a hype man regarding SLC’s dining scene than anything else. I truly feel that anyone that’s willing to stick their neck out and run a restaurant deserves our applause and support. Generally speaking, if a restaurant is out there trying their best, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt when things fall short.

However, there’s a point in which certain restaurants don’t even try anymore, and when they get to that point, they deserve to be called out. I feel it’s disrespectful to customers when the service and the food is so egregiously bad that it’s obvious the restaurant has given up on having any sort of standards.

Sadly, such is the case with Pat’s BBQ. I don’t know what happened to Pat’s over the past little while, but whatever it is, it hasn’t been for the better. I will say I noticed a similar pattern with another once-great BBQ restaurant: R&R BBQ. Both have seemed to followed the same path: original owner/pitmaster sells out, transitions away from the business, and the quality control falls apart.

At the Commonwealth location off 21st South, it’s a full-service restaurant, unlike their State St location, which is quick-serve style. I feel the quick-serve setup is better for most BBQ restaurants, and given that 90% of the BBQ restaurants I’ve been to over the years is the “order at the counter and sit down” style, I think it’s evident that that’s the way to go.

Walking into Pat’s was a sleepy affair, with us waiting several minutes be be acknowledged by the lone server working that day. The first red flag was that the place smelled absolutely nothing like a BBQ place. I want to walk in and smell like there’s a raging campfire in the room next door (or at least somewhere in the vicinity.) Staged or not, I want some smell of burning wood to tell me there’s some serious smoking work going on behind the scenes. Pat’s smelled more like a Costco or a library than a BBQ restaurant.

Once seated, no drink order was taken, and what seemed like ten minutes passed before our food order was taken. It was not busy.

And then the food arrived. First, the positives: the french fries were very good. Breaded, crispy, and warm. Same goes for the baked beans, which were rich and flavorful. And then there was the brisket, which was a room-temperature nightmare, and the slices had some obvious oxidation that told me these slices had been sitting out for a while. The room-temperature meat made me nervous. A comment was made to the server about this, and the reply was “I’ll let her know” (assuming the “her” was the cook). No efforts were made to rectify the situation by either replacing the meat with another option, or taking it off the bill. If I’m running a restaurant and a customer tells me something’s not up to snuff, they’re going to get more than just an “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry” doesn’t fix the problem. It just makes the server feel better while leaving the diner with a bad experience.

For the cornbread, I might as well have eaten drywall spackle. It would have been more moist and would have had more flavor than what we were given. And maybe the drywall would have come with a side of butter, which is more than the cornbread came with.

My kid had the mac and cheese, which looked sadder than the empty band stage behind us. He didn’t even touch it. It was barely warm, with terrible presentation, and lacking in flavor. For my four-year-old to not completely house a cup of mac-and-cheese told me everything I needed to know about it.

If a shoulder shrug and an eye roll could be personified in food and service format, it was perfected in this meal at Pat’s.

Enjoy the $25, Pat’s. It’s going to be the last money you ever see from me.

Fenice Mediterranean Bistro

Right before the pandemic began, Jeff and Lisa Ward (owners of Silverstar Café in Park City signed a lease on the small restaurant space formerly occupied by Fireside on Regent, just next to the Eccles Theater and a stone’s throw from Prettybird Salt Lake.

To be honest, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to even think about opening a restaurant right as talk of remote work and quarantining started to infiltrate our daily conversations. But for the Wards, it gave them a bit of a breather; a chance to reset and really think things through and consider how (and what) they wanted their first venture into Salt Lake dining to be.

Ant their thoughtful approach shows in every detail at Fenice Mediterranean Bistro (126 S Regent Street). The layout and design of the space keeps things intimate and warm (no doubt helped by the piping hot pizza oven located in the corner of the open kitchen). I was invited by the restaurant to stop by and check out some dishes.

The menu reflect the Mediterranean vibes well, with various small plates such as roasted olives with burrata, polenta with balsamic-roasted potatoes (really tasty), and patatas bravos.

For pasta, I tried the bolognese bianca, which was absolutely rich, creamy, and delicious. Exactly what you would expect from a well-executed bolognese. Other dishes that caught my eye that I didn’t get a chance to try were the mushroom risotto, the osso bucco, whole roasted branzino, and a New York steak au poivre. Inquiries to other diners who had those dishes were met with strong, favorable reviews. The pizzas also looked delicious.

Prices are reasonable considering the level of execution of the dishes as well as the downtown location, with the mains ranging from around $25-$30, pizzas $18, and pasta dishes $17-$22.

For the adult beverage side of things, I will as always graciously bow out of offering any opinions other than saying that the restaurant features a full cocktail menu and what appears to me to be a quite substantial selection of wines and beers. I will note that due to their current liquor license, you must be 21 or older to dine at Fenice.

The restaurant is currently open for dinnerTuesday through Saturday from 5pm-9:30pm, and their websites states they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. No mention of Sundays so be sure to check with them prior to hoofing it down there. Dinner only for now, but they anticipate they will expand into brunch and lunch soon.

Patatas Bravas
Bolognese

Santo Tacos

Santo Tacos sits in a nondescript building with strip-mall vibes. It’s in an odd part of town: north of the fair park, and right off the 1000 North exit of I-15. If you’re not looking for it, you’d likely miss it, camouflaged in with the barber shop, smoke shop, and quick stop convenience store.

The interior is light and bright, and is set up quick-service style. Signs point diners to the various locations along the line to order (“tacos order here,” “nachos order here,” etc.). The staff is busy, grilling various meats and building orders. Their menu states “tortillas recien hechas” (fresh-made tortillas), and that isn’t just lip-service: one employee stays busy full-time making the masa, putting it into the tortilla press, and bagging up for service.

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Seabird Bar Now Open In Draper

Bartender mixing a cocktail at a bar with vinyl records on the shelf
Image courtesy Seabird

“Bar” and “Draper” aren’t two words you’ll usually hear in the same sentence. But Josh Rosenthal, founder of La Barba Coffee, has made it a bit more common now.

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Hearth and Hill Restaurant

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Tucked away towards the back of a Kimball Junction shopping area, between the Best Buy and Jupiter Lanes bowling alley, you will find the newly-opened Hearth and Hill restaurant. This smartly-designed restaurant seeks to be a local-centric, community-focused restaurant. A place where you would be comfortable hanging with your friends, go on a first date, or hang out with your grandparents. A lot of time, attention, and money was spent on the interior of the restaurant, which I would call industrial-chic. Large-pane windows showcase the bright white kitchen—kind of a different take on the open kitchen concept—and I like it. Make sure you spend some time at the gorgeous bar, and enjoy a cocktail or mocktail as you pre-game dinner. During the warmer months, live music will be featured on their large patio. 

The bar at Hearth and Hill restaurant in Park City, Utah

Brooks Kirchheimer, proprietor of Hearth and Hill, has restaurants in his blood. As a child his very first Christmas present he recalls asking Santa for was a cash register, and he would routinely drive his sisters crazy asking them to “play restaurant” with him (his restaurant’s name was Sharky’s). 

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Park City Culinary Institute Tasting Dinners

Park City Culinary Institute’s Salt Lake location is hosting seasonal chef demonstrations and tasting dinners throughout the summer. Chef Jordan Miller, recently invited to cook at the James Beard Foundation, developed a tasting menu that showcased some of the very best that Utah has to offer: raw milk butter from West Jordan, local trout, pine nuts, pepperweed, dandelion, and Morgan Valley lamb. 

One tasting dinner remains on July 20th. Price is $45 per person. Go to parkcityculinaryinstitute.com for more info.

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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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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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.