I first wrote about Park City’s tupelo restaurant when it opened back in the winter of 2015. And by the way, the owners – Matthew Harris and Maggie Alvarez – prefer not to capitalize the name of their restaurant, perhaps so as not to confuse it with Elvis Presley’s birthplace, Tupelo, Mississippi. I believe they chose the name tupelo for the tupelo tree that is home to the bees that produce famous tupelo honey. Anyway, the original tupelo on Main Street closed in 2020 but has been reborn in the space on Kearns Blvd. that was previously home to Adolph’s. I’m just one among very many food lovers who is thrilled to have tupelo back in business.
I love what they’ve done with the place. The bones of Adolph’s are still there, but otherwise you’d never recognize the new tupelo as the former Adolph’s. Matt, Maggie and their team opened up the partitioned spaces that previously existed, making the restaurant look larger and more airy than it was. That and everything else, is new, from comfy leather seating and banquettes to the large chandelier that hangs from the newly raised ceiling. Lots of light and dark brown color tones make tupelo very inviting and warm – easy on the eye.
Traveling the world with his wife and partner Maggie Alvarez and having worked with the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and in a slew of high-end, award-winning restaurants, Executive Chef Matt Harris – who hails originally from Atlanta – brings a global approach to his cooking, while simultaneously honoring the local products available here locally with his farm-to-table culinary philosophy. He and his Chef de Cuisine, Josephine Hansen, produce elevated versions of common comfort foods, such as tupelo’s justifiably famous pickle-brined fried chicken, deviled eggs with creme fraiche and country fried ham, and of course the buttermilk biscuits with honey butter that are, quite simply, the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted.
A good example of how Chef Harris melds his love of Southern cooking with global flavors and ingredients is his deliciously tender barbecued Spanish octopus, which is accompanied by slightly sweet passion fruit baked beans and dollops of tangy Georgia mustard sauce, garnished with microgreens. The unique flavor of those perfectly cooked baked beans demonstrates the attention to detail that is given even a simple “side” dish in Chef Harris’ kitchen. And by the way, there is counter seating at tupelo which allows guests to view the kitchen action firsthand – dinner and a show, of sorts.
Likewise, Harris’ very French-style duck confit is given a decidedly American spin with the accompanying sweet potato puree, spiced honey and winter greens. It’s one of the best versions of duck confit I’ve ever enjoyed, made even better with that perfect potato puree.
One of my wife’s favorite dishes at tupelo was a fun take on the common hushpuppy: wonderfully crispy cornbread crab fritters with a zippy lemon remoulade that really helped bring those fab fritters to life. We could’ve eaten a dozen.
The new tupelo is a busy and bustling spot that Park City locals, in particular, love and support. It doesn’t hurt that there is ample and easy free parking, and being located off of Main Street means not having to fight or pay for parking spots. It also doesn’t hurt that the service at tupelo is second to none. Outstanding longtime staffers like Natalie and others ensure top-notch service and a thorough knowledge of not just tupelo’s cuisine, but also the beverage list. The latter features a nice array of wines by the glass and a bigger, well-selected list of wines by the bottle, as well as signature cocktails like Naked in the Street – a luscious Margarita-style blend of reposado tequila with spicy honey-chili syrup, blood orange and lime juice.
Judging from the number of plates of tupelo’s fried chicken I saw go by our table, I’d venture that it’s the restaurant’s best selling entree. Other excellent entree options include “Beef & Barley”, which is Niman Ranch sirloin with barley risotto, winter vegetables, sauteed greens and garlic puree. Fish and seafood lovers should enjoy the pan-seared striped bass with citrus gremolata and the roasted Idaho trout with confited duck fat potatoes, Brussels sprouts, smoked bacon and apple glaze. I loved Chef Harris’ latest play on traditional shrimp & grits, which was plump, tender shrimp in a piquillo pepper sauce with scrumptious heirloom blue corn grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina.
We didn’t order it, but there is a very tempting vegetarian cauliflower “steak” on the tupelo menu with herb-chili pesto, pistachio, winter greens, fried chickpeas and mint that we hope to taste on our next visit. Not so vegetarian is the impossibly tender (insert the cliche “melt-in-the-mouth” descriptor) slow-braised beef short rib with root veggies and pear butter. Our spot-on server brought us steak knives for the short rib, but we could have eaten it with a soup spoon, it was so soft and succulent.
There were three desserts on the tupelo menu when we visited, and we enjoyed two of them. Next time we’ll order the spiced pineapple Pavlova. But on our visit earlier this week my wife swooned over the s’mores ice cream sundae with whiskey caramel, popcorn and peanuts. I loved that dessert too, but even better in my opinion were the crispy sugar dusted donut holes with chocolate sauce. So good!
One of my favorite dishes at the original tupelo restaurant was delicious homemade pappardelle with braised rabbit morsels. I’m hoping that one day it will find its way onto the tupelo 2.0 menu. Whether that happens or not, in a town where there is no shortage of top quality restaurants, tupelo checks all the right boxes. The cuisine is outstanding but also fun – complex, not convoluted. The ambiance is beautiful as well as comforting and inviting, and the service is uber friendly but also thoroughly professional. In a nutshell, tupelo is back, baby, and it’s better than ever.
Culinary quote of the week: “I’m always sketchy of people who don’t like grits.” – Jaycee Ford
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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.