Once upon a time, being basic wasn’t bad. But language changes. Words that were once commonly used fall into disfavor. Or change their meaning. Now, basic isn’t bad exactly. But the Urban Dictionary defines its current meaning as “devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.” The word describes a lot of Utah food.

I recently went to New York City and Los Angeles with a group of Utah chefs and bartenders who are living proof that not all Utah fare is basic. They cooked for food writers and publicists who are looking for anything but the basic and this group impressed them. But the baseline here is still basic.

Chef James Dumas and Kris Dumas

The place formerly known as Sea Salt is now One-O-Eight. The space is as cool as ever—colorless but full of light from two walls of windows looking out and on one side opening onto a flagged patio, the interior holds a mix of booths and tables, hi-tops and barstools. This is definitely one of the best patios in town—a wonderful place to linger, sip, nibble and watch the fortunate neighborhood denizens walk their dogs or stroll to Emigration Market with their kids. It’s all enough to make you believe America is the peaceful place you grew up believing in.

IF YOU GO
Address: 1709 E. 1300 South, SLC
Phone: 801-906-8101

And some of the food here demands a visit: the Frog Bench salad, a simple toss of greens from the urban farm a few miles away. Surely these greens were picked only hours before being tossed in a light vinaigrette—you could taste the individual flavor of each leaf. Rarely does a salad leave this strong a taste memory. But the Baby Wedge did, too: the heart of a head of infant Iceberg lettuce, scattered with crispy pancetta and crumbles of blue cheese, garnished with a few olives and a ripe tomato half slipping from its skin. The pizza’s crisp bubbled crust wasn’t over-weighed with toppings.

But other dishes were bland—chicken schnitzel, a a stiffly breaded pounded breast, needed more than a drizzle to offset the dry fry. Cacio y pepe had no taste of pepper. I was confused by the gnocchi, firm and tender, bathed in sage-scented ghee, but surrounded by marinara unmentioned on the menu.

I’ll go back—the place is so pleasant But I wish Chef Dumas had brought a little more panache to his own place—I miss the fearless flavors he put on the plate at High West. Given his talent, One-O-Eight could be a bit less basic.

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