Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Home Eat & Drink Size Matters in the Restaurant Biz: Why Fresco and Forage are Closing.

Size Matters in the Restaurant Biz: Why Fresco and Forage are Closing.


The dining news was harsh: Two of Salt Lake City’s restaurant stars announced their imminent closure this week.

In different scenarios, the reason for both closures was the same. It’s not because their names both start with “F.”

It’s a matter of size.

Both Forage and Fresco are very small and small restaurants have to make money by doing a high-volume business or serving higher-priced, chef-driven food. The balance is precarious, the margins are slim and the amount of money to be made is limited.

Fresco is and has been the most charming restaurant in the city because of its eccentric location behind a bookstore. But it didn’t get by on its good looks alone. Surprisingly, the restaurant has had a roster of stellar chefs who have made the name of other restaurants—Billy Sotelo, Logen Crews, etc.—starting of course, with chef-owner Mikel Trapp, who bought Fresco from David Harries.

“I thought I wanted to have my own little restaurant where I would be chef and have my hands in everything,” said Trapp in a recent phone conversation. “Ha! That lasted about seven months.”

Trapp, who also started both Cafe Trios and Luna Blanca Taqueria, is now partners with Joel LaSalle in Main Course Management which owns the spectacularly successful Current and the soon-to-open Stanza, considered a bankable proposition.

Letting go of Fresco wasn’t a sudden decision: Trapp has had the restaurant up for sale for the past six months or so, even though, he says, the restaurant is still successful and has a lot of regular patrons.

But “Current makes more money than all my other restaurants combined,” said Trapp, and Stanza is likely to be a repeat performance.

Main Course Management is growing a chef-ownership model for its future restaurants; seeking chefs who want to partner with them in chef’s food-driven places. Fresco’s size may be too small for this model to work. If by “work” you mean make money that’s worth the time.

A small restaurant requires as much oversight as a large one.

We’ll see. Trapp says a sale of Fresco is imminent. What the new owner will decide to do with Salt Lake’s most charming restaurant space remains to be seen. It may even be a new version of Fresco.

A few blocks away, Forage, the best restaurant in Salt Lake City, is also closing.

It too, is still successful, but its seven year lease is almost up and chef-owner Bowman Brown is feeling cramped.

At Forage, he’s still in a moribund partnership with Viet Pham who left the kitchen years ago to pursue culinary stardom. And the kitchen at Forage is almost unbelievably tiny for the kind of complicated, highbrow food Brown has become famous for.

In spite of its size, award-winning Forage is one of the most famous restaurants in Utah—its extraordinary brand of madly inventive, neo-molecular cuisine has been recognized by national magazines as well as by the James Beard Foundation.

But Brown can’t wait to stretch a little on his own. “I’ll be doing food much like I do here, only in a larger space. Mainly, a larger kitchen.” He has a vision of a small lounge area, besides the dining room, where he can offer some a la carte options and a shorter tasting menu on week nights.

So Fresco and Forage are closing. But Salt Lake diners don’t really have to say good-bye. Just au revoir.

Happy Friday! We all know the best way to celebrate the end of the week is with a cocktail 😉! ⁠

🍸 And our next highlighted cocktail is the perfect way to start your weekend. @alibislc's 'Far From The Tree' by Clif Reagle:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. Utah Honey and Akane Apple Shrub⁠
.25+ oz. @waterpocketdistillery Snow Angel .25 oz. lemon juice⁠
Barspoon of simple syrup⁠
2 dashes Regans Orange Bitters⁠
Combine in shaker over ice, shake and strain into a footed glass. Serve with dried apple garnish.⁠

“My goal for this drink was to make it with as many local ingredients as possible,” says Reagle, “and seeing as the farm scene is pretty quiet in November I decided to go with a classic method of fruit preservation: the shrub.⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Clif Reagle!

Yes. Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. So instead of stressing out to prepare a meal, help support local restaurants who need our love this Thanksgiving. 🦃⁠

Restaurants are doing what they can to make this Thanksgiving seamless for us. With offerings of curbside pick up, meal kits, and even delivery, ordering out this Thanksgiving seems like a no-brainer.⁠

Oh and did we mention no family-sized mess to clean up afterward? That’s a win-win in our book. 😉 Check the link in bio for full list of restaurants. 🍽️

Don't forget to vote in our 2020 Cocktail Contest!! 🍸🍹🥂⁠

Our next highlighted coktail is @thecopperonion's “Not Today Satan” by Frank Mealy:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. pear shrub (Champagne Vinegar/Earl Grey simple 2:1)⁠
.75 oz. lemon juice⁠
Preheat glass with hot water. Mix ingredients, pour into the hot glass, top with hot water and garnish with cinnamon stick, star anise and dried pear.⁠

Mealy is a full-time bartender for the Copper Group. “Inspiration for this drink came from the expectation that we’re going to be running our outdoor patio season longer because of Covid.” People are more comfortable sitting outside, Mealy says, “So I wanted to make a hot drink for the colder months.”⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Frank Mealy!

Our 2020 Cocktail Contest is live!! 🍸🍹🥂

We’ll be highlighting our cocktail contest contestants throughout the next few weeks. Starting with @takashi_slc’s “Red Dirt Garden” by Crystal Daniels:

- 1.5 oz. Amaro Bilaro
- .5 oz. @shdistillery Barrel-strength Rye
- .75 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 oz. Red rice orgeat made with @redbuttegarden botanicals
- Pinch of Jacobsen Salt from @caputosmarket

Daniels garnished her cocktail with banana leaves and an edible begonia- if you can’t get the begonia, another colorful edible bloom will do. 🌺

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂

Link in bio to vote!

Did you know that the first woman to cast a ballot in the United States voted right here in Salt Lake City?

In 1870, on her way to work as a schoolteacher, Seraph Young stopped by SLC’s old City Hall—right across from the Capitol—and made history as the first woman to vote under a women's equal suffrage law.

Like many of us, Young voted early in that election simply because she had to get to work on time. Her story reminds us of the power ordinary people have to make history. Now, get out and vote!

Photo: Ron Fox

Our November-December issue is on stands now!!⁠

And our annual cocktail contest is open for voting! Take all precautions, support our hardworking hospitality community and remember to smile. 🍹🍸🧉⁠

Pick up a magazine, grab a cocktail and vote! Happy November, everyone! ⁠

Check the link in bio to vote.

Trick or treat? COVID cases are getting scary.

111K confirmed cases and 601 deaths in Utah.

Link in bio for a little op-ed on face masks. 😷

Here in Utah, we live on the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute Tribes. Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured and recognize the fight for justice and autonomy that Indigenous Peoples still face. ⁠

Go to the link in bio to give to Diné Bikéyah and support Bears Ears. 🏜️

Last night’s vigil for Breonna Taylor. ...