Provo’s restaurant scene is changing rapidly as an influx of investments pour into the development of downtown. Here are some restaurants that have started as restauranteurs make Provo their new food scene.
Old Towne Grill
Victor Sandoval, exeutive chef at Old Towne Grill, said he, along with the staff, wants to be a part of the community, and he loves the weather here. More than that, though, Sandoval says he wants to be able to contribute to the food culture in the area. When he first arrived in Provo, he went around with his associates for three days straight, eating at all the restaurants in the area.
“We did nothing but eat every two hours,” Sandoval said. “We were not hungry anymore. We tried every single thing, and Old Towne Grill developed from there to bring some nice, different, fresh American grub to downtown Provo. We looked at the location, thought it was great, and that’s how we began.”
Old Towne Grill makes everything in-house, from its ranch dressings to its various sauces.
“For us to develop a concept we developed it around something that everybody’s familiar with but with a fresh twist to it,” Sandoval said. “We buy nothing outside, so everything is not frozen, everything is developed for this place. We want to make sure that everybody knows what fresh food is supposed to taste like, and we want to make sure that they get it for a decent price.”
With the quality of food the restaurant is providing, it won the “Taste of the Valley” award just months after opening.
“People press their burgers; we do not,” Sandoval said. “You’re never gonna have a patty that’s going to be tight; it’s never gonna be a hockey puck unless you decide that you want it extremely extra well (done), then there’s nothing I can do for you.”
Restaurants like Old Towne Grill have lunch and dinner deals to draw college students. Old Towne Grill offers 10 percent discounts with your student ID, and every Thursday they have date night specials.
Opened in 2009, Communal was one of the first restaurants in Provo to start changing the look and feel of the downtown area. Chris Neidiger, manager of the restaurant, said restaurant owners Colton Soelberg and Joseph McRae worked for years as chefs in Sundance and at kitchens in other big cities. When they decided to open their own restaurant, they agreed that they should bring it back to the community in Provo.
“They felt not only was it their responsibility to their neighbors, family, friends who they had grown up with, but also that they had an opportunity to help develop the community,” Neidiger said.
He said that kind of attitude from those who feel they have a responsibility to the Provo community helps to build the city into a destination spot. Developing a food culture, Neidiger said, is also a sign that Provo is coming into its own, with its citizens getting used to a higher standard of living.
“When it comes to dining in particular, once people try a certain standard and then they realize, ‘Oh wait, I can have this standard at essentially the same price, and well, maybe I can get better, and the price is ok, because I’m getting a better quality ingredient,’” Neidiger said. “Once you get a taste of that, it’s either comparable or competitive in price, people only continue to want that more and more.”
Black Sheep Cafe
With a resident silversmith, Black Sheep Cafe isn’t your typical restaurant. Themed around the Native American roots of the owners and a Western influence, the restaurant serves food unlike any other.
Kat Mason, co-owner of the restaurant, said they opened the restaurant in Provo because of their roots in the town, but also because there is nothing like the cuisine they offer that can be found in Provo. Kat shares ownership with her sister, Bleu Adams, while brother Mark heads up the kitchen. Their mother, Alberta, heads up the baking with their silversmith father, Winston, working away at his space.
The idea evolved over a period of five to six years, Mason said. The sisters grew up selling the food at various pow wows and fairs before the idea cropped up that they might perhaps settle down and open the restaurant.
“We had to wait for the perfect place,” she said. “We had plenty of opportunity to open all over. We just really saw the potential for growth in Provo, how they are bringing in the TRAX, and how Provo doesn’t have anything like this here. We wanted to bring that here because really this is our home.”
Locals are very positive and have been supporting the restaurant, Mason said. There’s a man who comes in almost every day to get a Navajo Taco to go, and will bring friends along too.
“The man has his own special dish that we developed for him,” she said. “It’s great having that support and those people, and it’s fun just seeing them. They are like family now. We have a lot of people like that.”
As Provo continues to mature, it remains to be seen just how the dining scene will continue to develop.