501 E. 900 South Salt Lake City, UT 84105 || (385) 202-7167
Mon–Thurs: 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Fri: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m.–3 p.m, 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m.–3 p.m, 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
I live just a few blocks from Liberty Park, so it was with some interest that I noticed the construction starting on a corner lot across the street in late 2016. The spot had been vacant for over three decades. I surmised perhaps the dilapidated, boarded-up former service station building was finally going to be torn down wholesale. To my surprise and pleasure, instead of scraping the property and starting from scratch, they stripped the building down and used the solid bones that remained. What emerged over the next few months was a clean-lined and simple restaurant building with a modest patio and fresh landscaping.
Tradition opened its doors in April of 2017, having been created by Ashton Aragon and Max Shrives to share their personal-experience-inspired version of comfort food within the SLC dining scene. The menu rotates seasonly but features pleasantly familiar dishes with a somewhat Southern feel, as well as a full cocktail program and a well-curated alcohol list. The complete remodeling job, done with the help of MJSA Architecture, complements this concept as the building is welcoming, calming and homey. If you go for brunch, don’t be upset if the patio is full—the dining room is open and airy, with natural light streaming through numerous windows and a good view of the mostly open kitchen.
There’s an “App” for That
For dinner, try the 21+ bar area, a concession to our state’s archaic licensing laws that houses the beer taps and liquor. This cozy section features the original brick from 1932, now left exposed and matched with smooth wood and black-and-white photographs. Edison bulbs over the eight-seat bar keep the light dim but relaxing, and the room is tight quartered enough to be intimate without feeling cramped. Ask the bartender about selections from the current cocktail list, including the Back to Basics ($10), a take on a moscow mule with apple instead of lime, which is perfect for fall weather.
To start, a trio of appetizers shows off exactly what Tradition is all about: executing classic home-cooking with the flair and balance of New American cuisine. The Brussels Sprouts ($7) are halved and flash-fried, leaving them with enough texture to be perfectly chewy. The nuttiness that comes from being cooked this way is both accented and cut by a pistachio vinaigrette, with the acidity providing a necessary balance. The Pigs in a Blanket ($7) wasn’t some ironic deconstruction but a loving homage to the classic dish featuring two nicely seasoned pork sausages from Beltex Meats right next door, wrapped in house-made pastry dough and served with dipping sauces. The Funeral Potatoes ($8) are impossible to resist ordering and feel pleasingly honest and authentic. An individual ramekin of rich and cheddary potato casserole is topped with a corn-flake crust and broiled crispy to order, then topped with just enough sweet-and-smokey bacon jam. These would be the envy of any potluck.
This Must Be Where Pies (And Fritters) Go When They Die
The entrée selections are similarly hearty, and the two substantial portions are substantial. The Fried Chicken ($22) is confited before being breaded and, as a result is perfectly cooked with a hint of sweetness. It sits on a bed of some of the richest grits you can get, with a healthy portion of meaty, peppery collard greens and a drizzle of nourishing potlikker. Pair it with the Fire and Ice ($11), an interesting mix of botanicals from gin and sage, tart blackberry and a creamy heat from serrano-pepper-infused honey. The Gnocchi ($18) preparation rotates, and the current offering is an exceptionally well-balanced and layered dish. The tender pasta dumplings are sautéed with mushrooms and served over tender cauliflower on top of an acorn-squash purée. The key here is the fried fennel fronds and earthy herbs that permeate the dish, making the different flavors and textures meld together and feel substantial and filling. The aroma alone brings to mind a home kitchen.
Despite being stuffed after dinner, don’t neglect the ever-changing dessert options, which feature a rotating selection of fresh pies baked daily among other options. While I do love pie, I’m a sucker for donuts, and Tradition’s take on Apple Fritters were more one of my favorite one-night specials to date. Thin rings of apple are battered whole and deep-fried, then coated in cinnamon sugar and served with a frosting drizzle and house-made vanilla ice cream. The result was the perfect mouthful that avoids being overly sweet like some interpretations—this small pile of the tempting pastries is the ideal size for sharing. This is just one example of what their rotating dessert menu can offer.
Make a Tradition Out of Tradition
Aragon and Shrives have successfully made a modern restaurant that feels like a personal dinner table. Now in its third year, Tradition has earned a loyal following who enjoys the casual feel and the high quality of the food. I’ve had the pleasure of eating there several times (both for brunch and dinner), and the service and food have been consistently excellent. The menu rotates enough that I never have seen it get boring, and there’s always a few things on the menu I think about having missed after the meal. Check it out the next time you need some comfort food to soothe your soul or warm you as the weather gets colder. And next time, I’m getting the pie. Make a reservation beforehand at traditionslc.com!