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Restaurant Review: The Rest in Salt Lake City

Published: 06/10/2014
By Nate Storey, New York Times -- Along a once humdrum stretch of Main Street in Salt Lake City, tucked behind a storefront called Bodega — a half ramshackle corner store, half taco-peddling beer tavern — is this subterranean speakeasy, the Rest.

Inside is a mishmash world of exotic taxidermy (baboon, Corsican ram), unlikely tomes (“Psychology of Sex”) and antique furniture. Welcome to a Pinterest page come to life, courtesy of the owner, Sara Lund.

“I’ve always kept journals and scrapbooks and torn-out magazine pages for ideas. Anytime I find a light fixture or something I love, I catalog it,” said Ms. Lund, a Brooklyn transplant. “The Rest is the last 10 years of my life — thrown into one space.”

In 2013, Ms. Lund turned a dilapidated building into the city’s most fascinating new dining spot. Some vestiges of its past life as the 1950s Potter Investments and Stock Exchange remain — steel bank vault, etched-glass windows — but the majority of the space has undergone a head-to-toe makeover.

After arriving one recent Friday evening, I went through a sort of procession: first, an Asian chicken taco and local Squatters Chasing Tail Golden Ale draft at Bodega. Then I collected a key from the clerk and ambled down to the library bar. The dim, low-ceilinged room provides the surroundings for a creative drink list, including the JPO, a tequila-based creation with mezcal and Aztec chocolate bitters.

Funky sculptures give it a downtown New York-style ambience, an example of Ms. Lund’s vision — she noted that her inspiration was the perpetually popular tacos-and-cocktails spot La Esquina in Manhattan. During my visit, the place was clamoring with young and stylish locals decked out in pressed flannels, skinny jeans and beanies.

The locally sourced, satisfyingly hearty dinner menu from Brandon Cagle can best be described as campfire gourmet: smoked coffee duck jerky; honey-glazed beer-can chicken; fried brioche doughnuts. The chef’s dishes have been a hit, both as an interpretation of comfort food classics and an elevation of basic pantry snacks.

If the vibe doesn’t all quite add up, that’s because it’s not supposed to, Ms. Lund said. “I didn’t hire a designer, there’s not rhyme or reason to it. I just created a space filled with things that I love and prayed to God it would work out.”