Utah Bites

Locally Owned Restaurants that Need Your Help while a Posh New Chain Restaurant Opens in City Creek, Salt Lake City

Help Save Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder via GoFundMe. Les Madeleines is closing. AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi opened at City Creek Center


Help Save Hell’s Backbone Grill

For those who might not be aware, Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder is struggling to stay afloat. A couple of days ago, HBG owners Blake, Jen, and “the Hellions” send out a newsletter asking for help via GoFundMe

Here is part of what they had to say. “Throughout our 23 years as restaurateurs, we’ve always identified as deeply self-reliant. Even during three difficult and stressful pandemic years — and even when we received threats for advocating for the monuments — we declined offers from friends to help us fundraise for our survival. We were determined to work things out on our own. We had, after all, opened a restaurant in the most remote town in the lower 48 states. We had confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles.” 

“But we’ve finally accepted that we need help. Spiraling costs and a shockingly reduced summer visitation to the whole southern Utah region have turned things upside down, and we now recognize that we can’t move forward alone. So, with the support and guidance of our community, and with the continued aspirations to make people happy with our food and to be of benefit … we have started GoFundMe.”

“We’ll continue to be in touch over the course of this fundraiser, but all we can say for now is thank you. Thank you for reminding us once again that we can ask for help, that we can continue, and that we can dream.”

Les Madeleines to Close

And, more sad news on the restaurant front as we learned last week that Romina Rasmussen has decided to close Les Madeleines

Here is what she said on Facebook. “Where to begin this post? I have so much to say, after all, it’s been nearly 19 years since we opened our doors. It’s been a great adventure that has brought much joy and many amazing people into my life, and that has always outweighed the challenges and lessons.”

“That said, the past few years have been beyond difficult. Difficult to procure ingredients. Difficult to staff the front and, especially, the back. Difficult to explain to guests in a way that makes sense just how difficult it has been. I have always worked a lot, and worked hard, but nothing like these past few years. I’ve had to make so many changes, but none have led to a gentler path for me. I’ve always looked out for my team (and still do), but it’s time to look out for my own well-being.”

“I’m incredibly grateful for all the support over the years from guests, vendors, friends, and family, but it’s time to change directions for me personally. I’ve decided to close Les Madeleines on December 30.”

“We will still celebrate our 19th anniversary on December 15, because I think that’s worth celebrating. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished at Les Madeleines. Perhaps I’m biased but we make the best pastries in town, and that wasn’t an accident. It’s a result of going out of my way to source the best butters, flours, chocolate, and more, and applying love, care, and attention to technique. I’ve never stopped learning.”

“We look forward to one more holiday season of kouign amann, Bûche de Noël, panettone, and so much more. All will be made with the same love and care that we’ve put into it for the past 19 years. I have loved being part of your celebrations over the years and thank those who have shared stories with me of how what I’ve done has impacted your lives all this time. Those stories have kept me going, and I will remember them fondly.”

“Although this chapter is closing, my time in the world of food and sweet treats isn’t completely over and I will announce plans for my future soon. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

For now I thank you for your support and hope you’ll make us part of your holidays and visit us one more time before the end of the year.”

I’m saddened to see Les Madeleines go. But remember you can still enjoy Romina’s award-winning pastries through the end of December. 

Aqua Terra Now Open

This Thursday, a posh new restaurant called AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi opened at City Creek Center. The striking 11,000-square-foot space opened its doors Dec. 1. AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi is an original culinary concept created and operated by Ascend Hospitality Group (AHG), a Black-and-female-led restaurant group with locations in Utah, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona.

“At AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi, we offer crafted dining experiences that pay homage to regional proteins, honor our past, innovate our present, and inspire the future of curated dining,” said AHG CEO and President Elaina Morris. “We cannot wait to dig our roots deeper into the culinary arts scene here and bring what we believe is a new standard of cuisine to Salt Lake City.”

According to the folks at AHG, “The AQUA TERRA team is proudly led by two Salt Lake City-area hospitality veterans, general manager Jorge Coelho and executive chef Daniel Lindner, who are eager to offer a unique culinary concept in this burgeoning food scene.”

 “For us, every single guest touchpoint matters—from the custom-made lights over the sushi bar to the precise plating of our dishes and our dedicated and knowledgeable team,” Coelho says. “We have been working hard to create a memorable experience for our guests unlike any other.”

Stay tuned to Utah Bites for a full review of AQUA TERRA coming soon. 



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Food writer Ted SchefflerOriginally 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.

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