Eateries that make you forget you’re in Utah (or celebrate that you are)
It’s not easy to succeed in the restaurant business. Those who do have got a few things figured out. Yes, serving good food is essential and so is offering great service. But another factor often downplayed or overlooked by owners is ambiance.
The right atmosphere appeals to a patron’s senses. The sights, sounds, smells and even the tactile feel of napkins, glasses and china often determine if a diner will return. From color schemes, seating arrangements, lighting, signs and décor to the right kind of music and “ambient” sounds, aromas wafting from the kitchen, the comfort level of the table chairs, cleanliness—all contribute to the overall impression of an eating establishment.
Utah restaurateurs have proven time and again they can be masters of ambiance. There are now far more eateries that knock your socks off than we could include in one issue. So, for this issue, we’re saluting a small number that excel in setting the mood. In one of our magazine meetings, we called these places “cathedrals of dining” as there is almost a sense of reverence felt upon entering.
If your favorite place isn’t mentioned, please give them a shout-out in our social media and let us know what they are doing right.
Nature. Nurture. Nourish.
Those are the trio of intentions behind Log Haven, the fine-dining destination housed in a log mansion in Millcreek Canyon.
They’re expressed in small to grand gestures—wood-burning fireplaces, needlepoint interpretations of the creek in wintertime, views of the Wasatch National Forest from the windows and patio, weddings at the base of a waterfall near a cobblestone creek lined with summertime wildflowers.
When she bought what was once a steel baron’s summer hideaway and later a restaurant slated to be torn down, owner Margo Provost sought to create a natural oasis that would reenergize guests—the same kind of experience found while vacationing from a fast-paced corporate job.
Log Haven’s walkway is lined with aspens and pines and shade-loving foliage. The walls are log-paneled and the rooms are lit with sparkling garlands. The servers pamper. The restored pond across the road beckons.
Nourishment comes in the form of excellent food prepared under the supervision of co-owner and chef Dave Jones. The ever-evolving menu emphasizes flavor—including herbs from his on-property garden—instead of fat. Think Alpine Nachos with house chips and forest mushrooms or elk striploin served with polenta and candied walnuts.
Log Haven’s credo is also found in co-owner Faith Scheffler’s commitment to creating the perfect event in its many natural spaces—like a former marsh turned into a hillside amphitheater. And in co-owner Ian Campbell’s attention to the wine list, meeting with vintners to create Log Haven’s own blends.
“We can get so hooked to our technology, we lose touch with humanity and lose touch with nature,” Provost says. “The property gets to do its magic on the people who come here.” (Heather May)
6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, SLC
50 Shades of Green
It’s simple yet sophisticated, layered with texture and luxury, but it’s also playful. That describes the food at HSL, and its atmosphere, too.
Which makes sense since the menu at this downtown Salt Lake City spot, which emphasizes vegetables and combines flavors and textures in novel ways, was the inspiration for the interior design.
“I wanted it to represent the way [chef] Briar [Handly] cooks,” says Melissa Gray, HSL’s creative director and Handly’s wife. She designed the space with Cody Derrick of CityHomeCollective. Handly incorporates “some of the same ingredients in a dish but prepared different ways,” Gray says.
For example: carrots—roasted, pickled and glazed.
Thus the palette is monochromatic green, but in different shades. Sage floods the walls while hues of green color the light fixtures, stemware, pillows and fabrics for the leather banquettes, velvet dining chairs and a couch in the lounge. Tile lines the bottom of the bar in diamond patterns. Marble and wood finishes add variety.
The green leaves of dozens of plants on ledges, in corners and on the wall evoke a lush, tropical getaway.
So does the unexpected wallpaper that covers the back wall. Layers of palm leaves interrupted by pops of pink flowers beckon diners to celebrate at the banquettes lit by brass lotus pendants. Its brightness mirrors Handly’s finishing touches on his dishes—olive oil, lemon zest and fleur de sel.
But anywhere is a perfect spot to eat the restaurant’s beloved fried chicken, General Tso-style cauliflower or Alaskan halibut served with hummus made of, well, carrots.
“We want people to come in and relax and feel that feeling of ‘let us take care of you,’” Gray says. (Heather May)
418 E. 200 South, SLC
Vineyards and Peacocks
La Caille offers an escape into pastoral French countryside just 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. Entering beautiful European wrought-iron gates and driving down a cobblestone brick road surrounded by trees and green foliage, you can hear the sounds of water and possibly catch glimpses of peacocks, ducks and rabbits as you enter the picturesque 23-acre getaway.
La Caille’s unique ambiance is enhanced by sweeping sylvan views, sculptured gardens, restful ponds and streams, verdant vineyards and peaceful walking paths, all bordering a turreted French-country chateau filled with European elegance. La Caille’s decor was inspired by original owner Lester Johnson’s love for all things European. The fireplaces are replicas of ones in French chateaus, and the handpainted glass ceilings are repurposed windows from an old bakery in France.
Many aspects of the outdoor garden ambiance are incorporated as ingredients in the menu items. Herbs and micro greens for salads and vegetables such as yellow squash, tomatoes, heirloom carrots and beets are grown in La Caille’s own greenhouse and gardens, restaurant general manager Layne Dansie explains. He brings eggs from his family’s farm to enhance many dishes. La Caille’s vineyard is expected to produce 2,000 bottles of seyval blanc wine this year.
Lamb for the signature rack of lamb is purchased locally from Morgan Valley and provides “a phenomenal entrée that is prepared as herb-crusted lamb with wild mushrooms,” Dansie says. The French onion soup has been on the menu since La Caille’s opening. It’s capped with layers of French cheeses and accompanied by a toasted baguette with garlic spread. Pan-seared scallops are topped with lobster tail and caviar, and served over a bed of pauve potatoes. Bananas foster, with flaming caramel-rum sauce and vanilla ice cream, is a traditional dessert favorite. Items are available a la carte, which includes first and second courses, entrées and desserts. (Carolyn Campbell)
9565 S. Wasatch Blvd., Sandy
The Five Alls
Since 1969, Richard Halliday has transported the ambiance of old England to Utah in the form of The Five Alls Restaurant. Diners grasp a metal ring to open the heavy wooden front door and enter the wood-paneled restaurant featuring subdued lighting and a warm, comforting atmosphere. “In these days, when everyone is rushing around, people can come here, slow down and enjoy a five-course dinner,” says Halliday’s daughter, Anne Lentz, current co-owner and manager. Cast-iron lighting, period chairs and pewter dishes further reflect the old English theme.
For a single entrée price, diners enjoy five-course meals beginning with poppyseed and onion breadsticks, accompanied by clam dip and a refreshing appetizer drink made from bananas, pineapple and Sprite. All breads and the signature sour cream cheesecake are baked fresh daily in their in-house bakery. All sauces, including the béarnaise sauce topping the signature Filet Oscar and Halibut Oscar are also housemade. “We start with the basic ingredients and home make everything. We don’t even have a microwave,” Lentz says.
Housemade hollandaise sauce adorns the signature chicken Kiev, which is seared in a deep-fryer and then baked to maintain moistness. The Filet Roquefort is filet mignon topped with bacon strips, sautéed mushrooms and burgundy sauce, accompanied by a toasted English muffin with melted blue cheese crumbles. Halliday’s idea “was to serve the freshest, finest meals he could—we have customers that come in every week,” night manager Paul Latteier says. “They will tell you this restaurant is the biggest hidden secret in the valley.”
The establishment’s unusual name harks back to the old English tradition of hanging cast-iron signs to depict the nature of a business—such as a pig for a butcher shop. The five lighted stained-glass pictures in the restaurant depict the king that rules all, the parson that prays for all, the soldier that fights for all, the lawyer that pleads for all and the taxpayer that pays for all—hence, the Five Alls. (Carolyn Campbell)
1458 S. Foothill Drive, SLC
Fairytale Hunting Lodge
Surrounded by towering evergreen and cottonwood trees, colorful flowers and lush greenery, Tuscany’s ambiance feels like a fairytale hunting lodge in the middle of a forest. From the warm, welcoming front entrance, grand Thomas Holdman chandelier and custom iron work, to the six dining rooms decorated with original murals, and vineyard-inspired decor, Tuscany offers patrons a restorative getaway. The three patios serve as an outdoor oasis for diners and a picturesque backdrop for weddings. “The patios are definitely among the best patios is Salt Lake City,” General Manager Shawn Boyle says.
Tuscany has a long, rich history of serving mouthwatering meals. Rudolph Knudsen established the restaurant as Knudsen’s Grove in 1912. When it became memorable Scottish restaurant The Heather, owner Frank Eatchel expanded to a second floor and grew the former inn to a dining destination. Eventually, NBA All Star Mark Eaton and restaurateur Aaron Ferer purchased the site and spent 18 months transforming it into the cozy and elegant space known as Tuscany.
Today, diners can pick up one of the unique backlit menus to choose from signature dishes such as the double-cut pork chops in a maple molasses brine—a Tuscany feature since its creation.
There’s also the pasta alla puttanesca, featuring all of Tuscany’s fresh seafood—muscles, clams and shrimp—tossed in a spicy tomato sauce and accompanied by housemade spaghetti noodles. The banana cream pie with a housemade tart shell, delicious pastry cream, whipped cream and bruléed bananas has been a signature dessert choice for many years. (Carolyn Campbell)
2832 E. 6200 South, SLC
Old World Meets New
In 2010, when chef Ryan Lowder opened the Copper Onion on 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City, he not only invigorated the city’s dining scene with his locally sourced, updated traditional American menu, but breathed new life into a space that had hosted a revolving door of other operations. Created by local interior designer Rachel Hodson, the relatively low-key, comfortable décor was intended to reflect the kitchen’s modern takes on traditional foods. So, in 2014, when Lowder set his sights on expanding his family of restaurants (known as The Daily Green) with Copper Kitchen in the heart of Holladay, he again called on Hodson to create something unique—but familiar.
“The restaurants are related to each other in that they are a blending of old and new—Old World traditions but new techniques in the kitchen. The food can be traditional or borrowed from other cultures but presented in a modern way and we want the décor to reflect that,”Hodson says.
Hodson’s design elements from the 1880s, 1930s and 1970s reflect key periods in the development of Salt Lake City and Holladay.
“What is unique about Copper Kitchen is so much of the décor is recycled material,” Hodson says. “The marble is from the renovation of the Boston Building in Salt Lake. The bullseye glass was made in the 1930s and had been in a warehouse in Philadelphia, and we had frames built for it. To me, it feels like the glass partitions you found in homes in the 1930s and again in the 1970s. But, overall, we wanted the space to feel open and welcoming.”
She notes all the restaurant operations—from the kitchen to the service areas—are exposed to create “a strong dynamic” between the customers, servers and cooks.
The Aspen wall is finished with Venetian plaster and is adorned with photos Hodson took of Aspen trees in the fall. “The first time I went to the site of the restaurant was in the fall, and the colors of the trees and the sky around Holladay was something I knew I wanted to incorporate in the space,” she says.
Hodson says some elements have changed since opening—the removal of the despised Zion curtain among the most significant. Design components, she says, will continue to be updated as Copper Kitchen evolves into a community gathering place.
“Places take on a life of their own. Holladay is a little more relaxed,” she says. “There is a spaciousness and elements in the restaurant I think appeal to the people that choose to live in that area.” (Brian Fryer)
4640 S. 2300 East, No. 102, Holladay
Few restaurants around Salt Lake City can claim the beloved, iconic status Ruth’s Diner at the mouth of Emigration Canyon has. Since 1949, when Ruth Evans—the famously chain smoking, Chihuahua-loving, curmudgeonly owner—moved a decommissioned trolley car to the canyon location, the diner and its authentically kitschy atmosphere has welcomed everyone from the city’s elite to rowdy fraternity boys (In the ’50s and ’60s, the younger crowd enjoyed Ruth’s “relaxed” attitude toward checking IDs).
With such a storied history, owners Tracy and Erik Nelson, who purchased the restaurant in 2001, knew they had to proceed with caution when they decided to undertake a renovation in 2009. The design firm 3D Hospitality that guided the remodel is no longer in business, but Patrick McIver, who has worked at the restaurant since 2002 and is now the general manager, was there for the planning and work.
“The Nelsons spent a little over a $1 million on the remodel. It was really driven by the need to expand the kitchen, which was doubled in size,” he says. “In the dining room, we added some upholstered booths and new chairs and tables to replace the original Formica tables.”
Keeping Ruth’s original and now-antique jukebox was a given, but the designers sorted through other memorabilia that were longtime features. “We found that some of the framed pictures on the walls were actually pages from magazines Ruth had cut out, so some of those went,” McIver says. “We replaced them with pictures of Ruth and historic pictures of the diner.”
The wall covering on a section of the trolley car was removed to expose the metal and rivets, and new pavers were added to the patio. The phone booth was retained and McIver says a vintage phone was installed not long ago.
Unfazed by the changes, new and well-seasoned customers continue to line up for the diner’s food and atmosphere, which has retained the unique charm and character of its namesake owner. (Brian Fryer)
4160 Emigration Canyon Road, SLC
Chic Spanish Charm
When Finca moved from Sugar House to downtown Salt Lake City, it’s unlikely many diners expected the popular restaurant’s transformation into a one-of-a-kind destination for food, beverage and design.
Finca owner Scott Evans attributes the drastically different look to the current location’s original design—and the talents of Cody Derrick and his team at CityHomeCollective. “When we moved into the new space, we thought many elements were perfect for our vision of combining Old World Spanish charm with modern design touches,” Evans says. “We kept original wood posts and wood panel walls throughout the space, the gorgeous multi-paned panel patio doors, and the intimate private dining rooms.”
With such a large space, the team also worked to carve out more intimate areas with lush velvet curtains and custom metal and glass ceiling panels created by Clint Knecht of Blackridge Metal. Derrick’s choice of floral wallpaper and wood herringbone floors, as well as the chandelier over the vintage teal tufted chairs, have become “a big part of what people visualize when they think of Finca,” Evans says.
The new location also came with the ability to incorporate more seasonal produce and local items—right down to the cocktail menu. “We expanded the food and beverage menu significantly, and we think that pairs with the Old World, glam, sophisticated space,” Evans says. Yet many diners’ favorites are still available such as the croquettes, octopus, patatas bravas and house sangria and Spanish wines.
In the coming months, look for a completely separate bar—Bar George—to replace the current Finca bar due to the new changes to Utah’s liquor licenses. “Bar George will be a classic bar and gastropub, with a curated selection of wine, cider, craft beer and cocktails, plus from-scratch updated pub fare,” Evans says. (Heather L. King)
327 W. 200 South, SLC
With an expansion wrapping up at Stein Eriksen Lodge, the Forbes four-star Glitretind Restaurant recently underwent an interior remodel and gained a significantly expanded outdoor deck. Overseen by Zane Holmquist, vice president of food & beverage operations and corporate chef, the team wanted to maintain the historical feel and classic mountain luxury that’s always been the defining element of Stein Eriksen, while adding in modern and contemporary touches.
“We had a guest from Norway who said they felt like they were at home, and that’s exactly the feel we were looking for,” Holmquist says.
Custom carpet was ordered from England and the new game room has a Scandinavian flair, but there’s plenty of local and regional elements, as well. The rock was quarried from Browns Canyon in Summit County, and the chairs and chandeliers were all crafted by local artists.
“I like those relationships with vendors and craftsmen that are small, family-owned,” Holmquist continues. “They are so passionate about what they do.”
There’s a similar influence on the food Holmquist and his team serve during breakfast, dinner and Sunday brunch with as much in-house, made-from-scratch fare as possible. Local ingredients are sourced from every manner of vendor, and a vast wine cellar houses 1,200 selections from around the world. While the menu changes each season, there’s always a dish featuring Utah lamb and the Stein burger. “It isn’t one big thing that makes Stein special,” Holmquist says. “It’s the excellence in service, warmth of the room and depth of the wine list working in harmony to create a sense of luxury and comfort. All the elements come together to make it amazing.” (Heather L. King)
7700 Stein Way, Park City
Farm Grown With a Twist
Just like the buttermilk biscuits and honey butter that Tupelo has become known for on Main Street in Park City, the design of the restaurant is comforting and inviting—yet surprising. “We wanted a design that reflected our food philosophy: farm-grown, specially curated, with a modern twist,” Tupelo partner Maggie Alvarez explains. “We filled it with lots of warm mustards, rich leathers and earthy colors. We wanted to keep a bit of edge, so we contrasted that with cool gunmetal grays and bare bulbs cased in glass.”
With the help of Kate Norris of Kate Norris Design, Alvarez and her husband and chef Matt Harris built a cohesive expression of their vision with “lots of surprising contrasts in colors and textures—just like the food,” Alvarez says. “We often play with traditional dishes or ingredients, but always add a unique perspective or ingredient like the braised rabbit and dumplings, which takes a classic Southern dish and elevates it with an unusual protein.”
And that unusual mix of classic with unexpected elements is on display elsewhere in the restaurant, too. “One of the major design elements of Silver [the previous restaurant in the space] was a large wall of blue velvet squares,” Alvarez recalls. “We originally intended to remove the entire wall, but when we removed the upholstered squares, we took a step back and realized we really loved the steel framework that was left. From there, we added our own personal touch by installing live edge black walnut and a spectacular chandelier. It was a completely unexpected design element that is now my favorite.” (Heather L. King)
508 Main, Park City
At Handle in Park City, it’s a family affair. Husband-and-wife team Briar Handly and Melissa Gray went about building Handle based on Handly’s style of cooking and a beautiful moody marsh in Savannah, Ga.
As the designer, Gray explains, “Much like Briar’s cuisine, I knew the design had to be very thoughtful, yet playful, with unexpected elements. The design had to complement and stand up to his unique talent of layering unexpected flavors and textures. The botanical wallpaper, artist-made host stand, geometric tile, handmade tables built by Ryan Koemans, etc., were all critical to create the cohesion between design and cuisine.”
Alongside architect David Grey, the team left the footprint of the previous tenant while opening up the kitchen and adding in unexpected elements such as the wallpaper—which is actually comprised of pages from a book called Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.
“My friend Jenny Sevy and I pasted page by page for days,” Gray recalls. “The end product provided just the right amount of bizarre pattern and color.” With a limited budget, Gray says she thought outside the box and got creative. For example, “I purchased standard 12×12 ceramic tile and had them cut to create the geometric pattern I wanted.”
In the end, Handle has become a destination restaurant in Park City that features favorites like Handly’s fried chicken, addictive cauliflower dishes and the ever-popular caramel pudding. Look for Handle to undergo a small remodel in late 2018 to further keep up with the latest trends. (Heather L. King)
136 Heber Ave., Park City
Riverhorse on Main
Aspens and Art
Another powerhouse husband-and-wife couple came together to mold Riverhorse on Main into the nationally recognized restaurant it is today.
Riverhorse executive chef and co-owner Seth Adams utilized the talents of his interior designer wife, Casey Adams, the owner of Form Design, when they significantly remodeled in 2010. The result helped update the Park City Main Street restaurant into the perfect palette of food and décor designed around “energetic fine dining.” Seth explains that they wanted to “make it look sleek and modern with the metal and aspens. We were trying to give it a nice balance that was unique to the typical mountain theme.”
The restaurant also partners with Gallery MAR to supply most of the artwork hung on the walls, adding pop and interest to the neutral tones of whites and grays. Art is changed out as frequently as needed—whether a piece is sold or a wedding party requests a certain color scheme. It helps keep the environment fresh and interesting for regular guests while retaining the unique feel patrons have fallen in love with. This same philosophy is reflected in the Riverhorse menu, as well. Diners will find staple favorites like the halibut, buffalo short ribs and trio of wild game, but with unexpected takes on presentation or seasonal expressions. In the end, the Adams hope to “enhance the food with the experience and atmosphere while being creative, but not too strange.” (Heather L. King)
540 Main, Park City
No Name Saloon
New Relics Daily
The historic building that houses this eclectic bar was built in 1903. Inside, the original barreled rolled brick ceiling remains with steel beams still visible, maintaining a historic feel even though the space was gutted over 18 years ago.
There is so much to see inside: old antiques and treasures that owner Jesse Shetler finds in his travels, and barn wood that he purchased from Georgia. The flooring is unique, comprised of wood from a trestle that once spanned the Great Salt Lake.
Dozens of antiques hang from the ceiling, from stained glass to toy airplanes. An original city license for a prostitute provides a fun talking point and a 1942 Harley Davidson EA, donated by Caesar Boswell, is a favorite of patrons.
According to the staff, new relics pop up almost daily. Cool beer cans, long boards, antique toys and whatever else catches their eye or has an interesting story.
One of the most recent additions is the backlit cross that hangs on the wall at the end of the bar in memory of beloved bartender Jose Fernandez, who died in 2016.
General Manager Matt “Sully” Sullivan says the décor is Shetler’s vision as he likes to keep things as authentic. In fact, he has three storage units full of “stuff” that he’s collected that will eventually find a home at No Name Saloon.
“There is still that core group of locals that hang out here, and Jesse tries to understand the locals’ needs,” Sully says. “Times are changing, and Park City is growing, but he wants to maintain the uniqueness and that small-town feel while still keeping up with the times. It is challenging, but whatever we are doing is working.”
Best known for their “world-famous” Buffalo Burger, No Name Saloon has garnered quite the name for itself on the Park City food-and-drink scene. (Aimee L. Cook)
447 Main, Park City
The Prairie Schooner
The Praire Schooner in Ogden gives city slickers a taste of the Old West. Covered wagons circle around an “open range” scene—starry sky, campfire, sagebrush, cactus, along with heart-stopping life-sized taxidermy mounts of a bear, wolf and other wild animals.
Each party has a private wagon, with rough-cut log seats and red-checked tablecloths. By lantern light, patrons nosh on house specialties such as the 20-ounce Porterhouse steak, aka The Wagonmaster, or The Cowgirl—a bacon-wrapped filet mignon—and other hand-cut USDA Choice steaks. Country tunes such as Waylon Jennings’ “Lukenbach, Texas” play in the background.
“There’s something to be said about sitting in a wagon-style booth next to a campfire with a delicious steak,” manager Michelle Llewellyn says. “People come from all over the world and say this is what they imagined Utah would be.”
The Wild West ambiance was the brainchild of the restaurant’s original owner and avid hunter, Neal Rasmussen. He opened the Prairie Schooner in 1976 in downtown Ogden; then moved it in 1978 to its present location near the Ogden River. Ownership changed hands a few times after Rasmussen’s death from ALS in 1982, and the current owners are Norm George and Julie Johnson.
Lewellyn says there’s no overhead lighting, which would make cleaning and maintenance easier. Nevertheless, “Once a week we dust off all the animals. It’s weird to wipe down sagebrush, but we do it.” (Valerie Phillips)
445 Park Blvd., Ogden
Treasures of the Orient
For the past 40 years, the Gregory Skedros family has been serving some of the best Chinese food around. Skedros (who turns 90 this year) previously owned the Mountain View Pharmacy in Bountiful right around the corner from the restaurant. Recognizing that pharmacies were making their way into local grocery stores and the fact that Bountiful had no Chinese eateries, Skedros purchased the restaurant building (originally a pizzeria), renovated it, and—with the help of Skedros’ late wife, Jenny, and their children—opened Mandarin in 1978.
Now co-owned and operated by daughter, Angel, and her husband, Paul, Mandarin has become an award-winning restaurant and a destination for both locals and visitors.
The interiors are fashioned after a restaurant the family frequented in California over the years. A remodel last October replaced the carpeting—most notably the dragon carpeting—and added new wall coverings, tables, booths, chairs and front desk. All the wood was stripped and refinished.
The ornate décor on the ceiling was hand milled by a friend and German artist. Skedros, himself, did all the finish work.
As he puts it, “You don’t see many restaurants like this anymore. It takes too much time and is very expensive.”
The attention to detail is seen in the hand-crafted ceilings and railings, the rich red fabrics covering the booths and the light fixtures hanging throughout. Every seat in the restaurant, now at a 200-person capacity, is in eyeshot of some relic, statue or treasure of the Orient, adding an authentic atmosphere to the cuisine that has been perfected over the years. Chinese chefs from both China and San Francisco have done stints in the Mandarin kitchen over the years, perfecting an array of 35 sauces. Skedros continues to make sauces and greets guests nightly.
“I have always felt you need to be hands-on in this business,” Skedros says. “I went from serving people who were generally sick to customers who are enjoying the food and are very pleasant and happy. It has been great.” (Aimee L. Cook)
348 E. 900 North, Bountiful
Black Sheep Café
Provo has long been overlooked by the foodie communities farther north, but is steadily transforming into a culinary destination worth the 50-minute drive from SLC. Black Sheep Cafe is just one of the acclaimed restaurants shaping the Utah County dining scene as a staple on University Avenue. Originally started by siblings Bleu Adams and chef Mark Mason, the restaurant’s goal is to create a fusion between the founders’ Diné (Navajo) heritage and Southwestern influences. The eatery was bought by restaurateur and owner of Greenlight Hospitality Kevin Santiago at the beginning of 2018, but chef Mason is still on staff, helping create and tweak new recipes to maintain Black Sheep’s ideals.
Both the food and design at Black Sheep blend traditional Diné influences with a contemporary feeling, as seen in the large modern paintings by Phoenix-based Diné artist Jeff Slim and the Chihuly-inspired glass chandelier by Lehi glassblower Tom Holdman. “We’re trying to go with a simple and authentic ambiance,” Head Server Shelby Deason says. “It’s more about the experience of the food. That’s why you don’t see a lot of overdone art.”
Signature dishes such as the award-winning hog jowl tacos are a perfect example of what Black Sheep is trying to accomplish. Representative of the space itself, they are served simple yet sleek, plated on a long white dish alongside cilantro-lime rice and pinto beans. The very popular cactus pear margarita is another balanced example, showcasing Black Sheep’s house blend juice paired with Milagro Silver tequila and lime salt. And though the space has transformed since it first opened several years ago, there are no plans to change the good things going on at Black Sheep, according to Deason. “The new owners aren’t coming in and trying to change it,” she says.
“They realize the beauty of it.” (Sarah Arnoff)
19 N. University Ave., Provo