Provo’s independent restaurants provide unique cuisines

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Cory Hruska, left, picks fresh kolaches from the display case for customers at his Center Street bakery, Hruska’s Kolaches. (Sam Williams)

Downtown Provo has over 50 independently-owned restaurants, according to a Provo Insider.

Each of these restaurants creates menu items unique to their cuisine and style. Among those cuisines are American style food at Station 22, Czech pastries at Hruska’s Kolaches, El Salvadorian dishes at El Mexsal and Peruvian dishes at Se Llama Peru.

Station 22 is one of Provo’s Center Street restaurants. Station 22 is known for its diverse spread of American food, usually with a bit of a twist according to its menu.

One of Station 22’s most unique dishes is the “Pig n’ cheese” sandwich, a pulled pork and green apple sandwich with cheese curds on cheese-crusted Texas Toast.

The pig n’ cheese sandwich was introduced to Station 22 in 2012 and continues to be a popular menu item. (Station 22)

This pork sandwich made a lasting impact on BYU business management student Clark Gardner.

“Station 22 is a fun place to go when you want good, high-quality food in the heart of Provo,” Gardner said. “Even though I haven’t eaten the pulled pork sandwich recently, I can still remember that when I did have it, it was unlike anything I have had before.”

Another unique food option in Provo is Hruska’s Kolaches. Kolaches are pastries native to the Czech Republic but have since begun to make an appearance in Texas’ Czech communities and now Utah.

Siblings Ross, Cory and Devin Hruska, are natives from Texas and brought Hruska’s Kolaches to Provo out of a desire to bring good food to Utah.

“Traditionally (kolaches) are a sweet breakfast treat or a party treat,” Cory Hruska said. “It’s used in the Czech Republic like we use donuts here. We are unique. Good food doesn’t have to be expensive.”

The kolache dough is usually topped with fruit, but at Hruska’s Kolaches, it is also stuffed with a wide variety of ingredients, including chorizo, sausage, bacon, gravy and jalapenos. Cory Hruska said the bread is the perfect balance between sweet and savory, which is why it’s used for both meat and sweet kolaches.

Cory and Ross Hruska stand in front of their family-owned bakery, Hruska’s Kolaches. (Sam Williams)

El Mexsal, an El Salvadorian restaurant, satisfies cravings for homemade pupusas. Pupusas are a traditional El Salvadorian cuisine made of corn tortillas usually stuffed with a filling of cheese, pork and refried beans.

“The pupusas at El Mexsal are one of Provo’s gems,” said BYU math education student Jessy Lee. “Those pupusas are super cheap, and they are so filling. They are definitely a must-eat in Provo.”

The El Mexsal pupusas are served with a homemade slaw and salsa. The combination of these three ingredients makes the best quick and easy meal, according to Lee.

Se Llama Peru, another restaurant located on Center Street, is home to authentic Peruvian cuisine. This restaurant was opened by Peruvian natives and is a favorite of BYU student Heather Vernon, who served a mission in Peru.

Vernon reunites with mission friends once a year at this local Peruvian restaurant to catch up and eat food they love from their mission.

She said they talk to the owner almost every time they are there, and he usually talks to them in Spanish, so they can practice the language. The restaurant always has Peruvian music on and the TV showing a soccer match, Vernon said.

El Mexsal is a family-owned business, blending Salvadorian and Mexican food. (Photo by Ari Davis.)

“I think the food is unique to Provo because there isn’t a lot like it here,” Vernon said. “The Peruvians are very proud of their cuisine, and it’s a big deal for them to share their food with other people. I think it’s awesome to have this food here in Provo so other people can taste what they make because it is unique. The feeling makes us feel like we are back in the culture.”

Vernon said one of the most popular dishes there is the ceviche dish, which is fish cooked in lemon juice and served with sweet potato and onion. Another popular dish is lomo saltaldo, which is rice served with thick french fries, steak and mixed vegetables.

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