by Joshua Jones and Steven Finau
Opening a restaurant in Utah is hard. Opening a restaurant on Regent Street, with just occasional bumps in traffic during shows at Eccles is probably terrifying.
Last fall, Steve and I were making dinner plans while enjoying after-work cocktails at Murphy’s when Michael Richey sat near us. I recognized him, but didn’t remember him from his time cooking in the postage stamp-sized kitchen at Pago.
We started talking about food and then about his restaurant to-be on Regent Street. Showing us some interior drawings and menu ideas, the conversation soon turned dark. On top of the normal horrors of opening a restaurant, the shell on the backside of the new Eccles Theatre was not built to restaurant standards, both plumbing and HVAC systems would need to be upgraded. He even took a phone call during the chat and threatened to pull out all together.
Though a dozen shops are planned for Regent, which recently had a 12-million-dollar makeover, currently Richey’s Fireside is the only light on the street.
That light, however, is bright, and it glows from an Italian-made wood-fired pizza oven that sits behind a beautiful long white-marble bar. The narrow space feels intimate while also exuding a big-city ambiance. It is both beautiful and cosmopolitan, but not at all stuffy. That relaxed feeling is complimented by the staff who seem to love working there and extend warm, gracious service. It all feels very adult, without any hipstery-vibe that has accompanied other recent openings.
The menu changes quickly, but one consistent item was the Evergreen pizza ($17) that includes mushrooms, fontina, house-made ricotta, briny-salty alfonzo olives, with garlic oil, and thyme. This is not to be missed, and an example that simplicity with attention to fresh ingredients can escalate a pizza to something unforgettable. It was one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had. That is honesty—no hyperbole!
From the entrees, standouts included a ravioli stuffed with braised rabbit and that delicious house made ricotta, bathing in a consommé garnished with slivered radishes, herbs, and lemon zest ($16). It was light but filling; gamey but bright. Another favorite was a perfectly seared trio of scallops on an island of silky whipped potatoes, imbedded by a mote of beurre fondue — a fancy way to melt butter in water to make it less greasy ($17). Both dishes were decadent.
Fireside is a delight: a wonderful place for those dining alone, quick lunches, or sophisticated group dinners before a show. It is another gem that adds to Salt Lake’s cachet in the country’s culinary community.
126 S Regent Street
Mon–Fri 11am to close
Sun 11am to close