Downtown Provo: The growing shift to local eats

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Signs on several Provo restaurants show their distinct styles By eating local, patrons get a unique experience and support area businesses. (Photo by Brock Talbot.)
Signs on several Provo restaurants show their distinct styles By eating local, patrons get a unique experience and support area businesses. (Photo by Brock Talbot.)

Downtown Provo is packed with interesting, diverse restaurants offering unique tastes. It is becoming a growing, thriving business community as many people begin to make a shift from chain restaurants to local eateries. Here are some reasons why many people are making the change:

A one-of-a-kind experience

When arriving at a Denny’s or Chili’s, certain things can be expected: plastic menus and friendly service with everything from the uniforms to the meal names covered in branding and logos. Some like this consistency and become regulars at such places.

Local restaurants, however, offer a unique experience with original decor and foods many have never heard of or tried. That’s why eateries like Black Sheep Cafe and Communal are bringing customers and critics from Salt Lake City and other places; they showcase tastes and ingredients that can’t be found anywhere else.

“I prefer local places because they have the ability to craft their restaurants the way they want,” said Chandler Parkinson, a psychology major from Sandy. “At a corporate place the atmosphere is always defined and sometimes boring, and although there may be cheaper prices, you also get a cheaper experience.”

Local food is fresh

Sometimes when imagining people who “only buy local,” some people might picture a free-spirit group of hippies. But buying locally grown produce is increasing in popularity because food does not have to travel thousands of miles from the truck to the dinner table. It tastes fresh and supports local economies, allowing everyone to enjoy. When a restaurant supports locally grown foods, it also changes its menu constantly to adapt to different growing seasons. This gives customers a variety of different options every time they visit.

The chefs know their stuff

At a nearby corporate restaurant, one may find BYU students being hired to cook “authentic Italian cuisine,” or Orem natives working as servers at sushi restaurants. On the other hand, local restaurants usually have owners, chefs and servers who either invented the dishes themselves or brought the recipes from their home countries. Se Llama Peru is one of these restaurants, with a Peruvian staff, is thoroughly familiar with the different tastes and food of the region.

“The drinks and food here are completely authentic, and some things on the menu only Peruvian natives recognize,” said Claudia Torres, server at Se Llama Peru. “We have drinks like Chicha Morada and Maracuya that can be very hard to come by anywhere else.”

Local restaurants are a part of the community

Smaller, locally owned businesses have more connections to the local community and support things like businesses, soccer teams and schools. It is difficult for such places to survive if they don’t establish themselves as fixtures in their neighborhoods. Some corporate restaurants such as Applebee’s have tried to do this as well by making their decor more relatable and warm, even though their names are nationally recognizable.

Center Street will continue to grow as people look for something different in how and what they eat.

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