I walk briskly down Main Street with food and liquor on my mind. I’m headed to a joint called The Rest. The speakeasy-type restaurant is hidden deep below the streets of downtown Salt Lake City underneath a joint called Bodega, a popular place for cheap beer, tacos and other late-night snacks. You’ve heard of The Rest before—they have superlative cocktails and an intriguing menu. But getting there is a bit tricky. Reservations are a must, and can be made by clicking a link on Bodega’s website. Enter through Bodega, unlock a door and take a few steps down, turn a corner or two and you’re there.
I was there to mingle with members of Slow Food Utah, a non-profit with a foodie agenda. The Utah chapter is part of a global grassroots movement to counteract vulgar fast food and the fast-paced life it represents. Slow Food Utah wants you to slow down, take pleasure in your meals and appreciate local and sustainable food. "The Ark of Taste" is sort of their bible—it’s a list of treasured and rare foods. No harm may come to the environment by cultivating the items, and a fair wage must be paid in exchange. “The Ark of Taste is just one of the programs that Slow Food has created in order to preserve traditions and culture throughout the world,” says Chantelle Bourdeoux, Slow Food Board Member. “It’s simple—if people don’t learn to cook, we risk losing some of the great food pleasures of the world.”
I opened the door to The Rest, and it looked like a scene from a movie—the lights were low, taxidermied animals and other curiosities occupied the walls. The Rest has a mellow, decadent, laid-back vibe. This is where you go to indulge. Artistic concepts of the seven deadly sins occupy each booth. I felt right at home with the intimate booths and friendly service.
The star of the night was the “Rest Easy,” Mixologist Caleb Cannon’s entry to the Slow Food Speakeasy, a contest where the Ark of Taste takes the form of cocktails. Using local favorite High West’s Double Rye, St. Germaine, a liquor with the essence of elderberry blossoms, tart Meyer lemon, Tupelo honey and a few precise drops of lavender bitters. With the familiarity of a hot toddy, sweet lemony whiskey mingles with sublime hints of lavender and flowery St. Germain. Shaken with ice, it becomes an unusual and delicious cocktail. The Ark of Taste component, the Tupelo honey, is notoriously difficult and dangerous to gather, but it’s also the gold standard by which all others are measured. It also represents Utah in the contest quite nicely with a nod to the moniker “The Beehive State.”
The Rest has developed an entire menu dedicated to the Ark of Taste. These are the sort of dishes I would expect from an underground secret restaurant—hedonistic small plates, taking pleasure in decadent ingredients.
The first dish I tried was remarkable. Rabbit Confit ($11) was tender and flavorful, served over mellow polenta. Sautéed wild mushrooms added an earthy, savory depth which played against the tart smoked tomato chutney.
My favorite from the menu was the Bay Scallop Ceviche ($9). Tiny bites of avocado, orange segments and fresh Bay Scallop sprinkled with cilantro were refreshing and light. The scallop was oh so tender and the flavors were ideal for the beginning of summer. I’ll be back for this dish.
The next was a treat. The cliché “melt in your mouth” has always irked me. Maybe I never experienced anything quite so luscious. Rye Glazed Pork Belly ($8) melted in my damn mouth. High West’s Double Rye, used to glaze the pork, made it syrupy sweet. Accompanied by a few bites of potato hash and topped with a poached quail egg, it was perfect mini-breakfast!
For dessert, I had a root beer float made with locally brewed Brigham’s Brew, vanilla bean ice cream and house-made Chantilly cream. Local honey is used to sweeten the root beer. It was a wonderful note to end on, just sweet and indulgent enough.
Take advantage of the superb menu items and explore the Ark of Taste. Modestly priced dishes encourage you to order a few more of Cannon’s specialty cocktail, the Rest Easy. Or maybe order one of each dish! It’s a perfect excuse to experience one of Salt Lake City’s most interesting dining destinations. The Ark of Taste menu will be available until June 15.
Slow Food Utah offers many fun events, both educational and delicious! Book clubs, movie screenings, dining events—you can even get your hands dirty by joining a farm mob, where the group helps out a local farm and then sits down to enjoy a hearty (and well-deserved!) meal together. “Slow Food connects our community,” says Bourdeaux, “We welcome anyone and everyone to join us and help us spread the love. We partner with other like-minded organizations and encourage everyone to find something that they can get behind.”
To learn more, check out their website. The group is member-driven, and they’re always looking for like-minded folks to break bread with. If you enjoy food and are interested in food-related issues, these are your people. And they throw one hell of a party.
See more photos from the event here.