Utah James Beard 2023 Semifinalists

Big kudos to the following restaurant chefs and owners for making the semi finalist list for 2023!

  • Outstanding Restaurant: Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm
  • Outstanding Bakery: Normal Ice Cream
  • Outstanding Hospitality: Manoli’s
  • Outstanding Bar: Post Office Place
  • Best Chef Mountain Region: Paul Chamberlain and Logan Crew, SLC Eatery; Andrew Fuller, Oquirrh; Briar Handly, Handle Park City, Ali Sabbah, Mazza.

Sometimes restaurant awards miss the mark, but in this case, each one of these nominations is so very well deserved. Each of these restaurants has had an outsized influence on the Salt Lake dining scene in their own unique ways.

Congratulations to each of the nominees! The full list of nominees can be found here.

High West Commits $1 Million to Protect the West

I’m way late on getting this one out, but felt it was important to share due to the sheer size of the commitment and the impact to our community. See below.

High West, the Park City-based distillery known for its meticulously sourced and innovatively blended whiskeys, announces today its Protect the West initiative, a $1 million commitment over the next three years to protect the land and its inhabitants. The announcement coincides with the national release of High West’s seasonal bottle Campfire, one of the brand’s most unique and iconic expressions. In honor of Campfire, the first donation will benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the brave few who run towards the fire, including the wildfires increasingly plaguing the West. 

Since opening its doors in 2007, High West has witnessed firsthand how the West has been impacted by a rapidly changing climate, resulting in higher temperatures, severe droughts, drier forests and reduced snowpack. Immediately taking note, the brand has donated more than $1M to nonprofits to date, with the majority of those funds going toward organizations protecting the West and its inhabitants. Now, High West is reaffirming and strengthening this commitment to its own backyard. As part of the Protect the West initiative, High West will partner with organizations that share High West’s passion for the West and whose conservation efforts fall into three focus areas: the fight against wildfires, protecting winters and wildland preservation. 

“Now is not the time for us to sit on the sidelines. Our home in the West and everything we love about it is in more and more danger every year,” said Daniel Schear, General Manager of High West. “We’re building on our past work with this $1 million commitment to protect the West, and we are excited to work with those who are also passionate about saving this beautiful part of the world we call home.”

The $150,000 inaugural donation will be split between three organizations to support them in their crucial missions. Future donations will be announced over the course of the next three years as High West continues to identify and support organizations striving to Protect the West. 

●      Wildland Firefighter Foundation, dedicated to helping the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assisting injured firefighters and their families. 

●      Protect Our Winters, a community of athletes, scientists, creatives, and business leaders advancing non-partisan policies to protect our outdoor playgrounds from climate change.

●      American Prairie, creating the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States by purchasing critical habitat that connects a vast network of existing public lands for wildlife conservation and public access. 

In recognition of the Campfire release and to continue supporting the brave protectors who defend us from fires each and every day, High West is donating $50,000 to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and matching consumer donations up to an additional $50,000. The American West is burning more quickly than it has in a decade, and over three million acres of U.S. land – almost the size of  Connecticut – have burned so far this year. The donation to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation will directly benefit the families of fallen and injured firefighters, honoring those who tirelessly work to protect our lands. 

Pizza Volta Now Open in Sugarhouse

The good news/bad news world of SLC dining continues. Right on the heels of the news of the closure of two Sugarhouse restaurants, Flatbread Pizza and Habit Burger, a new pizza place opens around the corner.

Pizza Volta, created by Martin Brass and Paul Cucchiarelli of Hand Fire Pizza in Jackson, recently opened on McClelland Street. The restaurant is making community involvement a pillar of their operations, by offering non-profits one night per week to fundraise based on a portion of that night’s sales. More info on the “Pizza With A Purpose” nights can be found here.

The menu appears to have some interesting options. I’m particularly intrigued by their take on a “funeral potatoes” pizza, which features cheddar cream sauce, mozzarella, roasted potato, prosciutto, red onion, and yes, corn flakes. I’m not sure how any true Utahn could resist that!

Full press release below

Pizza Volta announced today the opening of their newest location in Sugar House with a menu featuring a variety of artisan pizzas made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. From classic cheese to more creative options like beet, goat cheese and dill or the bacon and caramelized onion combo, there’s something for every pizza lover at Pizza Volta. 

Pizza Volta offers an extensive beer selection and specialty cocktail menu to compliment every aroma and flavor. For kombucha lovers, try the Bad and Boochie or celebrate a special occasion with a glittery swig of Strawberry Fields. The current cocktail menu features local favorites Jack Rabbit Gin and Five Wives Vodka arranged with convivial mixers of mint, lavender and more.

Pizza Volta’s Paul Cucchiarelli and Martin Brass said, “We are thrilled to open the doors in Salt Lake City and look forward to sharing their passion for great pizza with the community.  We are also excited to give back to the community through our weekly fundraisers with local nonprofits. It’s important for us to be able to make a positive and lasting impact in our new neighborhood. Supporting the community that supports us has always been one of our fundamental principles.”
Pizza Volta believes in serving more than just delicious pizza to the Salt Lake City community. On Tuesday nights proceeds from local nonprofits are given a platform at Pizza Volta to promote their cause. Portions of every pizza sold in-house or for take out go directly to that participating organization. Nonprofit organizers interested in being featured can check out the Pizza Volta ‘Pizza With a Purpose’ page for application information.

Cucchiarelli and Brass are no strangers to creating successful pizza restaurants in beautiful locales. They launched Hand Fire Pizza in Jackson, Wyoming in 2017 in a landmark, historical theater building.
Pizza Volta is now open 11:30 am – 10 pm and offers dine-in and takeout options. Parking is available along McClelland Street, in addition to street parking all around Sugar House and in the parking garage below the Pizza Volta building.
For promotions, menu changes and other delectable news, follow the Pizza Volta blog or follow Pizza Volta on Instagram and Facebook

Flanker Kitchen + Sporting Club Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Tons of action happening over the next few weeks at Flanker. Check out the info below.

Flanker Kitchen + Sporting Club is celebrating its first anniversary with a new high-energy concert series, delicious brunch, and a Super Bowl watch-party for the ages. Reservations for the Super Bowl Watch Party and Anniversary Brunch are highly recommended and can be made at www.flankerslc.com

Grammy Award-Winning Artist Anderson Paak who is DJing under his alter ego DJ PeeWee, said, “I’m super excited and honored to be spinning at Flanker for their 1 year anniversary! It’s gonna be the best way to start the year off right! Can’t wait to get the people moving and grooving! Salt Lake, here Wee come, baby! ” 

“It’s been an exciting first year and we look forward to building on our success,” said
Bryan Bass, Chief Marketing Officer of Carver Road Hospitality. “In addition to our anniversary festivities, Super Bowl Sunday was our most popular event last year and we’re going to make this year even bigger and better. As the best place in town to watch the big game, we expect this party will sell-out so sports fans should secure their reservations right away.”

While no excuse is needed to come enjoy the food, drinks and atmosphere, the Flanker Anniversary event line up is not to be missed: 

Friday, January 27 – ‘PARTY GOERS’ CONCERT

In the first installment of the new Salt Sessions concert series, the Party Goers will deliver an electric performance. Salt Sessions are modeled after the popular NPR Tiny Desk series where artists play original work made for the big stage but performed in an intimate setting. New artists will be announced each month. 

PARTY GOERS is known for high energy live performances and their swaggerous investigation of hip hop, house and electronic music. The three members reside in various locations strewn through the Rocky Mountain West, and in many ways their music reflects this geographic. Sampled sounds from the forest creating tech-house soundscapes, high-elevation hip hop beats, side-chained kicks gasping for oxygen, gritty MPC laden tracks scratched by countless turntables…a sonic collage that strikes original. It’s a party.

The pre-show entertainment will be DJ Gabba from 6:30PM to 8:30PM and DJ Karma will close out the evening. 

Saturday, January 28 – DJ SOXXI and DJ PEE WEE aka ANDERSON PAAK  

DJ Soxxi hails from Las Vegas and mixes buoyant sounds with screaming dance music. She illustrates a raw, unrestrained style of hard house while maintaining an approachable opening to club-goers. She symbolizes in life and music that anything is possible and there are no boundaries. 

Anderson Paak is fresh off a New Year’s Eve collaboration with Bruno Mars and ready to party in Salt Lake City! At the 64th Grammy Awards he won Song of the Year for Leave the Door Open. In addition to his solo career, Anderson Paak formed the duo NxWorries, regularly plays with the band Free Nationals, and collaborates with Bruno Mars in Silk Sonic. This Grammy award winning rapper not only dazzles with his high-energy sets, he also gives back to under-served communities through his Paak House initiative.

Sunday, January 29 – ANNIVERSARY BRUNCH WITH MYSTIC MUSE

Help celebrate 365 days of food, cocktails, sports, karaoke, concerts, dance parties, and so much more at Flanker + Kitchen and Sporting Club. Toast with a spicy mimosa, chai mule, a bloody maria, any artisan cocktail you crave or sip from the well-rounded beer selection. Enjoy eggs benedict four ways, steak and eggs, shrimp and grits, and the famous hot fried chicken sandwich. 

Eat, drink and converse while Sea Jay, known as DJ Mystic Muse, spins intoxicating tunes. Mystic Muse is a multidisciplinary artist who creates meditative and striking environments for people to dance and live in the present moment. She often paints live during her sets adding an ethereal nature to her work. The more the merrier at the Anniversary Brunch so book your group reservation now

Sunday, February 12 – SUPER BOWL AT FLANKER KITCHEN + SPORTING CLUB

No matter who is playing, the Super Bowl is always one of the most watched events around the world. Come for the atmosphere, more than 60 TV, large LED screens and stay for the unbeatable food and drink offerings. Sports fans wanting the best seats at Utah’s premier Sporting Club & Kitchen should book your reservation now, before Flanker is sold out for the biggest game of the season.

Taqueria 27 Has New Owners

Congrats to the Todd and Kristin Gardner, who recently sold Taqueria 27 to restauranteur Laxman Paudyal.

From the press release:

Taqueria 27, a local favorite, is delighted to announce new ownership. The restaurant will continue to serve up its unique signature tacos and delicious margaritas under the direction of the new owners, who are committed to preserving the quality and character of the restaurant.

Miles Clark, the new operations manager for Taqueria 27, is a Salt Lake City local through and through. He loves the food culture of the city and surrounding areas. He has also been in the restaurant business since he was 15 years old, holding jobs from dishwasher to manager to everything in between.

“I am looking forward to taking such an amazing company to new heights,” said Miles. “We plan to expand Taqueria 27 with the same high standards that have already been in place. We are very proud of the previous owners’ dedication to very fresh food and cocktails! We would like to continue with their high dedication to our food and drink menus. We are bringing in new liquor options for our guests.” 

Laxman Paudyal, Taqueria 27’s new president, is a successful businessman that has grown from the ground up. He is a military vet that worked with the US military in several countries as a translator. He was born and raised in Nepal. He has been in the United States since 2002, where he put himself through college at BYU. He has successfully run multiple restaurants, including Big Daddy’s Pizza and Carlos And Harleys.

“Our goals are to continue high-quality service and food standards,” Miles continued. “Our mission is to take care of our guests as though they were at our own dinner tables. Our drive is to provide guests with timely service, great food, and a high-quality work environment for our staff. Our key to success will be our fresh-to-order food and drinks and our knowledge of the restaurant industry.”

Urban Hill at Post District

I think it’s safe to say that the Kirchheimer family is all-in on Salt Lake City. Brooks Kirchheimer has been saying for years that they would love to one day open a restaurant in SLC after two successful ventures in Park City, Heath & Hill and Hill’s Kitchen.

And now they’re putting their money where their mouths are, opening the gorgeous new Urban Hill restaurant in the exciting new Post District. Brooks’ dad, the other co-founder of their restaurant group, said “we’re all betting on SLC’s future.” And this restaurant proves that statement completely.

I will disclose that I am an unabashed fanboy of what the developers of Post District are doing. They are taking old buildings on the block (between 5th South and 6th South and 3rd West and 5th West) and are not only preserving the character of the area, but are amplifying it.

So naturally I was ecstatic to hear that Urban Hill was going to be Post District’s first commercial tenant, anchoring the rest of the retail development and setting a very high bar for future retail neighbors.

No expense was spared with the restaurant design. The Hill group hired Denver-based restaurant design firm Semple Brown Design. The best way I can describe the design is modern, elegant, and warm. Fireplaces, warm tones, and elegant woodwork abound.

The Hill restaurant group is officially named Leave Room For Dessert Eateries, but I’m way too lazy to type all of that out. So it’s called Hill restaurant group around these parts. The Kirchheimers take a unique and refreshing approach to staffing their restaurants. They are big believers in community, and believe that community starts with their employees, whom they call “associates.”

Hill associates are given health insurance benefits on day one of employment. They participate in profit-sharing and other benefits that you typically don’t associate with restaurant staff benefits. Brooks believes that if they have inspired associates, then they will create inspired experiences for their guests. Given their prior successes, it seems like they’re proving that the model works.

I wasn’t able to try too much of the menu at the grand opening event, but I think it’s safe to say that their high standards regarding staffing and restaurant design also transfer over to the food. To start, they hired Executive Chef Nick Zocco, formerly of Mesa Grill, SW Steakhouse, and most recently at Tupelo in Park City.

The menu is robust but not overwhelming. The same can’t be said of the alcohol menu, which I believe has more pages than the Bible. While we were there, they were putting the final bottles of wine in their wine cellar, which is smack dab in the middle of the dining area, and very impressive.

The food menu features oysters, mussels, the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen, striped bass, black angus filet, and bison ribeye. The prices reflect the quality of the ingredients, with entrees ranging from $29 to $110. Urban Hill seems to be the Hill group’s final leg of their three-legged stool of affordability, with Hill’s Kitchen at the lower price range, Hearth & Hill in the middle, and Urban Hill at the top. Seems like a smart strategy to me.

I wish them the very best. They’ll have a feather in their cap as the first business to take a risk at Post District, anchoring the future development of the area. And if this is the level of quality that will fill out the rest of Post, then SLC is in for a treat.

Urban Hill
550 South 300 West, Salt Lake City
(385) 295-4200
urban-hill.com
Open daily from 4pm to 9:30pm

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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