In 2003 I wrote an article called The Kitchen is Closed. I called it that because my father had suddenly passed away and I wasn’t up to writing a restaurant review that week. The kitchen, in my mind and in my heart – as they say on Broadway – was dark. Closed. Shuttered.
That was the only week, in more than a quarter-century of food writing, that I didn’t write a restaurant review for one publication or another. As difficult as that piece was to write – reminiscing about the way my dad used to burn pizzas and try to get us to like his fried bologna sandwiches – it wasn’t as challenging as this article is to compose.
This is the toughest bit of food writing I’ve ever had to do. But it’s not about me. Time flies, as they say. It’s hard to believe that just last week I wrote in my Food & Drink 411 column telling Utah Bites readers of Log Haven restaurant’s upcoming 100th Anniversary. That is, 100 years since Log Haven was created; 26 years, now, since it’s been a beloved, much-lauded local restaurant. And now, it’s closed, temporarily. There will be no 100th Anniversary celebration at Log Haven, thanks to Coronavirus. Or at least, not in the foreseeable future.
It breaks my heart.
It breaks my heart not only because my wife, Faith, works at Log Haven. Or because I’ve known Log Haven owner Margo Provost and chef Dave Jones pretty much since Log Haven opened – back when I had fewer pounds and more hair. But my heart is sad for ALL of the people I know and love who work in and around Utah’s restaurants and bars. It is a family – a family of misfits, egomaniacs, geniuses, pests and perfectionists, to be sure – but it is a family. And the Utah restaurant community is MY family and has been for a crazy proportion of my life.
So it feels like many members of my family have been hurt. Christ, it’s hard enough to operate a profitable restaurant under the best of circumstances. So, I cry at the drop of a hat these days just thinking of all the restaurant and bar industry workers who will be struggling to make car and rent payments in the weeks, and probably, months to come. With very little notice, most of them have been put out on the street through no fault of their own.
It’s certainly not the choice of the restaurateurs. Every one of them that I know are struggling to try to find ways to keep paying their employees while the owners themselves are destined to be losing money for who knows how long. Temporary restaurant closures in Utah will last a minimum of two weeks, we’re told. But most people in the hospitality business think it will go longer than that. And there will be businesses, I’m sad to say, that probably won’t be able to withstand long-term closure and will have to close permanently. All because of that damned virus.
What can we do to help?
You’re probably already aware of some strategies to try to keep restaurants in Utah afloat. Some – those who can – are offering takeout meals and/or food via delivery services or curbside pickup. PLEASE DO THIS: Order food from your favorite eatery – Feldman’s Deli, Red Iguana, Caffe Molise, Nikko Sushi & Ramen, Laziz, MidiCi, Squatters, Cucina, Sicilia Mia, Pago, Stoneground, Cannella’s – whomever. Purchase food to go from these and many other restaurants and enjoy eating it at home where, hey, there are no wine corkage fees and, presumably, free parking. A group called Support Utah Dining has a web page up with a list and links to some of the restaurants that are offering takeout and delivery meals. Click here to view it.
For some restaurants – such as aforementioned Log Haven, which is situated in Millcreek Canyon – making takeout meals available to customers just isn’t feasible. For restaurants like those – who are really shuttered for the time being – and there are lots of them, consider purchasing restaurant gift cards or certificates for future use. That’s one way of helping employees to keep having a paycheck, however slim and diminished it may be, during this extremely difficult time. It really will make a difference.
We’ll get through this. We will. And when all those restaurants and bars that we love – and probably take for granted – reopen, let’s show them how much we love them and how indispensable they are to the quality of our lives. We’ll go out to eat; we’ll spare no expense; we’ll tip generously. You know, like we used to.
Culinary quote of the week:
“I think everybody at some point in time has thought to themselves, ‘I have a really great idea for a restaurant’.” — Bobby Flay
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.