Dining as Entertainment
The restaurant scene of ‘70s America was the gateway to the dining landscape of today. For the first time, people were eating out more than at home. Alice Waters had opened Chez Panisse, and the idea of fine American food replacing continental cuisine was catching on. Welcome The New Yorker—dining in the disco era—a time when, instead of going to dinner and a show, dinner was the beginning and end of the evening, an hours-long party. Tom Guinney, Thomas Sieg and the late John Williams planted this idea in Utah. Housed in the old New York Hotel, built in 1906, The New Yorker had loads of remodeled retro charm (like a real New York restaurant) rare in Salt Lake City, and even the ‘70s décor requisite, stained glass. (Still there, and originally from the Hotel Utah.) Wine was beginning to replace cocktails (your choice of “chablis” or “burgundy”) and The New Yorker pushed for a greater variety to be brought into Utah. The downstairs entrance gave the place a speakeasy glamor. “People lined up outside to get in,” recalls PR man and long-time restaurant observer John Becker. “It was the first place like that in Salt Lake City.” The European style of dining—spending hours of good conversation around the table—combined with a new emphasis on fine American cuisine set the stage for today’s Utah restaurant scene.
Will Pliler, who was on the opening staff of The New Yorker, is still the executive chef.
John Williams & Tom Guinney
See more inside the 2017 May/June Issue.