Family ties—the Bar X owners from left: Jeff Barnard, Duncan Burrell, Richard Noel and Ty Burrell
Gin and tonic, vodka soda, rum and coke. Sure, the barkeeps at Bar X can easily whip up the tried-and-trues. But why in the world would you ask them to do that with concoctions like the classic Moscow Mule (vodka, muddled lime, ginger beer) and the house-invented Green Jacket (tequila, elderflower liquor, green Chartreuse, orange bitters) on the menu?
Saved last year from shuttering by foursome Jeff Barnard, Richard Noel and brothers Duncan and Ty Burrell—you know, amiable dad Phil Dunphy on Modern Family—one of SLC’s oldest bars has gotten a bit of a makeover since its 1930s beginnings. Emphasis on a bit.
“I have no evidence to back this up, but it feels closer to a post-prohibition bar than when it opened,” says Ty Burrell, who married a Utah native and splits his time between Los Angeles and Salt Lake.
The flashy Vegas-inspired sign out front and wagon-wheel chandeliers keep up the lowbrow ambiance, but new touches like framed mirrors with classic drink recipes painted in a vintage script, $9 cocktails and a swank backlit bar showcasing green and amber bottles elevates Bar X above its previous perch as a downtown dive. “We tweaked things. We got lighting right, put on the right music and cleaned it up. It’s not as divey as before, [but] we love having some authenticity,” says Jeff Barnard. “We’re writing a few chapters of the life of Bar X.”
Now, rather than offering just beer, operating owners Duncan Burrell and Noel have upped the ante with high-end spirits, soda and fresh juices. Well liquors are Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Bombay Gin and High West Double Rye. Even the ice is fancy, meaning it’s thick and melts long after the final sip is taken. “A lot of creative minds are trying new things in this city,” says Noel, who trained alongside Burrell and master mixologists at Seattle bar Rob Roy. “There’s all this young energy.”
Old-timers may pop in to complain about the prices, but they, like the polo shirt–wearing crowd and fashionistas in stilettos who cram in after dark, always end up ordering second and third rounds. “There’s room for what we do,” Burrell says. “And we’re finding people who appreciate it.”