It's true: Provo is the hippest place in Salt Lake City.
Provo's historic center, where Station 22, Communal and Spark are located, has been preserved–not razed or invaded by ugly modernism (excepting the horrific NuSkin building)–so it has the charm of an antique American town, a roots vibe. Think O Brother Where Art Thou. Think Dust Bowl ballads. Think, as owner Richard Gregory suggests, Tom Waits. This is what he intended Station 22 to evoke.
And it is one of the coolest-looking places in the valley. Don't think Provo.
One wall is exposed brick, ornamented with unfurled player piano music. Another is a patchwork of faded colors of wallboard and recycled boards. In the back room, there's a huge selection of craft sodas–try the Bundaberg ginger beer or Boylan's Original Birch Beer.
And you can pick up pre-packed lunch to go from the back counter.
But I suggest you stay. The sound track is Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen and other roots-reaching music. And the food tastes just like the place sounds.
The core of the menu is hearty, with a hint of Southern twang: for lunch, a fried chicken sandwich topped with tangy red cabbage on ciabatta. Pulled pork layered with grilled green apple slices and cheddar cheese on asiago-crusted Texas toast.
At dinner, this dish grows up to become hunks of braised pork shoulder, sided with caramel apples. The fried chicken is served with cremini mushrooms and whiskey gravy with bacon cheddar grits. The brown paper napkins are seriously inadequate with this kind of food.
But this isn't totally old-fashioned blue plate cuisine. There's an ironic sense of re-creating something old and making it better than it actually was, of making flavors match our memories. Small-town cafes don't taste like this anymore–now the pies come from Sysco and the burgers are pre-formed. Not at Station 22. Here, even the corny dogs are handmade. Although the three "minis", listed as an appetizer, were bigger than the original Fletchers dogs at the State Fair of Texas.
Sad to say, the service is thoroughly modern. Lunch took an hour and a half, because of mouth-breathing, slow walking hipster servers. They could have used a bit of old-fashioned advice, "When you're at work, always walk fast and keep a rag in your pocket." 22 W. Center Street, Provo, 801-607-1803