Former Utah Restaurants
In the quarter-century that I’ve been writing about Utah’s food and drink scene, I’ve seen far too many restaurants come and go. And there are plenty I miss. A jaunt down memory lane conjures up a multitude of meals and people I wish I could break bread with one more time.
Salt Lake City
I miss the late John Williams and Tom Sieg, and I miss Gastronomy Inc., the founders’ flagship restaurant, The New Yorker. Although the cuisine wasn’t always cutting edge, we could always count on The New Yorker for its consistent high quality, and for its luxurious art deco ambiance. It always felt to me like an escape to more refined times, when people still dressed up to go out for a fine dining experience.
There were always fresh flowers adorning the posh dining room, a natty crew of top-notch servers, and of course, Tom Sieg seemingly permanently ensconced at the bar where he would meet and greet guests like they were family. When we lost The New Yorker, we lost a true Salt Lake City treasure.
Another lost treasure—one that endured for 30 years—was Max Mercier’s Le Parisien restaurant, where longtime server Flo Blank was part of the heart and soul of that eatery. With a classic menu featuring continental cuisine such as Chateaubriand, quiche Lorraine, and escargots de Bourgogne, maybe it’s not surprising that Le Parisien didn’t last far into the new millennium. It closed in 2000, but I’ll remember it for being a Utah culinary cornerstone of the last millennium.
9th & 9th
Flo worked for many years at another great French restaurant, The Paris, which closed at the end of last year. Chef/owner Eric DeBonis and chef Emmanuel Levarek brought the flavors of France to the 9th & 9th brasserie with delicious dishes such as moules mariniére, sweetbreads, duck confit, steak au poivre, and so much more. Sitting at the zinc bar made one feel as though they’d just hopped a plane to Paris. Au revoir mon vieil ami.
Downtown SLC lost an inordinate number of really good restaurants in years past; among them were Capitol Cafe, Globe by Moonlight, Mr Z’s, Baci Trattoria, Zola, Tavola, Cafe dell’ Arte, Mikado, Firenze, Cafe Pierpont, Au Bon Appetit Absolute!, The Barking Frog, Brumby’s, D.B. Cooper’s, Tipica, Dijon, Ikigai; and in my opinion, the best restaurant to ever grace Utah’s dining scene: The Metropolitan.
Many of these restaurants were simply ahead of their time and would probably be doing great today serving from the same menus as when they were in business.
In The Mountains
For many years, one of my very favorite restaurants was the original Il Giardino, located on Main Street in Heber City. The food was authentically Italian; I still recall enjoying the most ethereal gnocchi I’ve ever eaten in the small stone house in which the restaurant was situated. Thankfully, chef Paulo Celeste – the backbone of Il Giardino – returned to Utah after time away in Italy and opened his namesake restaurant, Celeste Ristorante, in Murray a couple of years ago.
If you were lucky enough to dine at David Berkowitz’ and Scott Albert’s Campagne in Park City, I’m sure you wish it was still around as much as I do. Ditto Valhalla in Deer Valley at Stein Eriksen Lodge, Bistro Toujours in The Chateaux, Thea’s in the Treasure Mountain Inn, Jean Louis at the Gateway, and one of the finest restaurants to ever open (and close) in Park City: Joe Jafarian’s Chenez restaurant, where I proposed to my wife. Smartest reservation I ever made!
I keep hoping that someone will open a new restaurant in the beautiful Emigration Canyon location that was home to Santa Fe Restaurant and Cactus Club, which sported one of the most gorgeous decks on which to dine in warm weather, surrounded by stunning views and home to terrific dishes like PEI mussels in ancho chile and roasted garlic broth.
Long before it was trendy to do so, chef Don McCradic utilized locally-grown produce and other ingredients, some from Santa Fe’s own garden. C’mon, there must be one restaurateur out there who can bring this delightful dining spot back to life.
And let’s not forget Bowman Brown and Viet Pham’s phenomenal farm-to-table restaurant, Forage. These chefs created some of the most delicious and mind-bending dishes I’ve ever encountered. Gone. Too. Soon.
Not all of the restaurants I long for were fancy. Bill & Nada’s comes to mind, as does Cafe Creole which was located in the ZCMI food court. Marco Schlenz’ Bubba’s restaurant gave us stick to the ribs barbecue and other good things like homemade meatloaf; I still miss the fiery kick of the chili con carne at Elvis Nixon’s Chili Palace in Sandy.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a larger-than-life chef we all miss: Garry Maxwell, who left us way too soon. He cooked at downtown eateries like Fuggles and Panache before opening up his own place: Cafe Bacchus. I give almost anything to be able to enjoy a cocktail and a nosh with Garry again.