Food & Drink

A Wild Ride: Dinner at Michael Richey’s Wildwood Restaurant

Wildwood provides an appealing and charming dining experience thanks to owner/chef Michael Richey. From the decor to the excellent menu Wildwood hits all the right notes.


I have been crossing paths in the restaurant world with Chef/Restaurateur Michael Richey for longer than either of us care to remember. It’s been quite a ride. Richey began his culinary career, if I remember correctly, in San Francisco before coming to Utah to help launch Pago with Scott Evans. He would move from there to St. Bernard’s restaurant at Solitude Mountain Resort before opening his own eatery, Fireside on Regent. The latter suffered the bad timing that many new (and old) restaurants experienced as COVID 19 reigned havoc on businesses large and small, but especially those in the hospitality industry. 

I have enjoyed Michael’s cuisine at all of the aforementioned restaurants and have had many memorable meals at them. But none has been any better than a recent Saturday night dinner with my wife, Faith, at Wildwood, where Richey is Chef/Owner, having taken over the space that was formerly Avenues Bistro in 2020 and, with a light and deft touch, turned it into the very appealing Wildwood. I say that Michael treated the space with a light touch because although he has made improvements – especially in the kitchen – most of the neighborhood charm and cozy comfort that owner Kathie Chadbourne had created at Avenues Bistro remains totally intact today. It is truly a neighborhood gem. And, judging by the full patio and early dinner crowd at 6:00 pm on a recent Saturday, I’m not alone in thinking Wildwood is a special place. Did I mention that Salt Lake Magazine recently named it the Best Restaurant of 2024? 

Wildwood reminds me of many of the cozy French bistros I’ve been in from Paris to Avignon, with it’s zinc tabletops, walnut benches and banquettes, hanging plants, French wallpaper, and très accueillant staff, of which Lou – our outstanding server – is an excellent example. With so many multi-million dollar hotel restaurants and HUGE profile eateries opening in our town, Wildwood is refreshingly down to earth and real

Frog Legs

But don’t let the friendly, laid back vibe fool you; Michael Richey and his uber talented team – which includes former Metropolitan chef Kurtis Krausse – is plating up some of the best food I’ve eaten in Utah. One such example – reminding me very much of France – are the Frog Legs ($19). This was five or six incredibly tender and moist frog legs, deep-fried to a beautiful golden brown in a light, crispy batter and served with apple, fennel, and celery root remoulade, all topped with minced chive slivers. It’s a cliche to say that frog legs taste like chicken, and it’s not entirely accurate. These frog legs were so much better than chicken! If you’d prefer chicken, try the Wings ($16) with sambal butter sauce and roasted sesame dressing. Or, go lux with the Caviar Pillows ($26), which I believe date back to Richey’s time at Pago. It’s an awesome appetizer of Yukon gold potato pillows with Baika malossol caviar, sour cream and chives. 

Burrata Salad

Serving portions are quite generous at Wildwood and that is certainly true of the Burrata Salad ($17), which was far too large for just the two of us to finish. It’s a sizable burrata ball served with greens, English cucumber, fresh basil, avocado, ripe tomato, and deliciously sweet honey-tangerine vinaigrette. There are a number of tempting veggie dishes on the appetizer menu, including Shishitos ($11) with citrus oil and Maldon sea salt; Moroccan Carrots ($15) with charmoula sauce, cashews, wildflower honey, pickled onion, crema and citrus; Roasted Beets ($15) with curry aioli and chorizo; Little Gem Lettuce ($15), and French Onion Soup ($14). 

Mussels & Frites

Entrees at Wildwood include some bistro-inspired dishes like Steak & Frites ($45); cheesy Risotto ($26) with asparagus; Caputo’s Cave-Aged Double Skull Taleggio and Grana Padano; Beef Stroganoff ($33) made with Wagyu short ribs; and perhaps the ultimate bistro dish: Mussels & Frites ($21). This was an abundance of steamed mussels piled high with skin-on French fries and served with a simple roasted garlic aioli. Perfect. 


Additional enticing entrees at Wildwood include Fried Chicken ($28) with whipped potatoes, braised greens and kishmish; Fish & Chips ($24) with tarragon tartar; Pork Belly ($29) with shishitos and pomegranate gastrique; and Chicken Hash ($31) with goat cheese, onion, corn, cherry tomatoes, and vodka Mascarpone cream sauce. A dish not to be overlooked on the menu is simply called “Scallops” ($36). That is sort of underselling what my wife proclaimed as “the best scallops I’ve ever had.” I wouldn’t disagree, and I’ve enjoyed superb scallops from Le Bernardin and Lutece, to Hokkaido scallops at Morimoto, Nobu, and beyond. These perfect seared scallops were second to none, served in a buttery curry “fondue” with hothouse cherry tomatoes and roasted eggplant. Chef Richey was pretty secretive about the particular curry he uses in his fondue, but I would pour that fondue over just about anything, it’s so delicious. 


For dessert, I highly recommend the Beignets ($10) with chocolate and cream, which I believe Wildwood Chef de Cuisine Kurtis Krausse is responsible for. These aren’t Cafe du Monde beignets, but rather French-style beignets which are larger, round, more airy, and more cake-like than most of the square beignets we’re used to in the U.S. Just delicious. 

With too much tweezer food in the air these days, it’s so refreshing to find a restaurant and a culinary team that puts out dish after dish of straightforward cuisine that is complex but not necessarily complicated or convoluted. At Wildwood, it begins with fresh, wholesome, often local ingredients which are treated with talent and loving care by a superb kitchen staff. Add to that a wonderful ambiance and a friendly, top-notch team of servers and I can see why some folks are calling Wildwood Utah’s best restaurant. That’s not a stretch. 

Photos by Ted Scheffler

Culinary quote of the week: “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.” A. Whitney Brown

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