In the heart of Farmington’s Station Park, with tall, slim windows and an outdoor patio offering a view of the fountain plaza, sits the new Latin concept restaurant Niño Viejo. The name means “Old Boy,” describing the style of not just the contemporary farmhouse interior but also the food: “old soul, young at heart.” The focus is using old-world methods—like making things from scratch, marinating meat for up to 18 hours and using fresh ingredients—to create a youthful, unique spin on an upscale Latin dining experience.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Gavin Dickson, investor and managing partner with Salt Coast Restaurant Group, started a nonprofit with his two daughters called Utah Pay It Forward, which delivered food from local restaurants to kids who had been dependent on school lunches that were no longer available. While running the nonprofit, he saw many restaurants close, losing prime locations and laying off employees. “One thing I’ve learned over the years of doing business is that you want to get in when it’s low,” Dickson says. In a moment of peril for the industry, he saw an opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of owning a restaurant. “I should probably get into the restaurant business and try to weather this storm,” he inexplicably thought.
Dickson is a risk-taker and was determined to forge ahead in the middle of the pandemic, but the timing wasn’t without its difficulties. Masks, limited seating and staffing shortages made the launch difficult, but Niño Viejo has already gained a following.
“We’ve done really well, to be honest. I think we’ve done really well because of our elevated concept,” Dickson says. “It’s fun to get to the tail end, it looks like, of what’s been happening and to start seeing things increase.”
With Niño Viejo, Dickson wanted to give Utah diners an “elevated experience” inspired by one of his favorite Mexican restaurants, the Southern California eatery Javier’s. The menu features interpretations of shareable items, from tamales to flautas to, of course, a wide selection of tacos served on fresh soft corn tortillas. Tacos are a well-loved staple at most Mexican restaurants, but Chef Derek Brown gives diners options that they may not have seen before, like lobster and Wagyu beef tacos. Birria tacos, filled with crispy shredded beef and melted Chihuahua cheese and served with a deliciously flavorful red chili broth for dipping, are, for good reason, the number one selling item at Niño Viejo. Dickson’s favorite, however, is the Diablo-style shrimp tacos, which are dumbfoundingly delicious. Niño Viejo also boasts ceviche marinated in citrus, chilis and onion. And the table is always set with complimentary fresh tortilla chips and Brown’s flavorful house salsa. (It automatically starts fairly mild, but you can request a cup of his spicier version.)
At Niño Viejo’s long bar, the focus is on pairing quality tequila with great flavors for a fun, upscale cocktail menu featuring amazing margaritas. (Dickson suggests the strawberry margarita and the coconut mojito.)
After taking a pandemic risk that paid off, Dickson’s start in the restaurant industry has been an unqualified success. At Niño Viejo, diners can expect a special experience with high-quality Latin food that they may not have had before, and which will leave them wanting to come back for more.
“We want people to leave here and be like, ‘I have to go back. I’ve got to share this with my family and my friends,’” Dickson says.
If you go:
160 W. Promontory, Farmington