When Lychelle Day and her husband, Aaron, opened a gourmet eatery in Highland three years ago, people tended to pepper the couple with the same question.
The owners of Blue Lemon Bistro had designed their restaurant to offer “pure, clean food with a twist” in an urban-chic environment. With its modern light fixtures and bright decor, Blue Lemon’s concept seemed more fitting for a posh chain from California or New York, customers believed.
But Blue Lemon — set to open its third location in Cottonwood Heights in early February — is homegrown in Utah.
“When we first opened, I would get, “OK, where are you from?” recalled Lychelle Day. “I’d say I’m from Orem. I’ve lived here all my life. People are surprised that it’s a local, new concept. It’s very flattering to be something different.”
The Days fell into the restaurant business by accident. The couple are self-proclaimed foodies, said Lychelle Day, who became increasingly interested in reading about the health benefits of food after Lychelle’s father died of leukemia.
Aaron Day was working as a computer technician when the couple decided to see if their hobby and interest in vegan and raw foods could be parlayed into a full-time business.
The couple didn’t anticipate the immediate success of the business, which opened a second location in Salt Lake City’s City Creek Center in May 2010.
Cottonwood Heights is now home to the third Blue Lemon, a franchise that sees itself expanding outside of Utah, possibly into Denver and southern California in the near future, said Michael McHenry, the company’s director of operations.
“Business has been phenomenal for us. It’s nice after the first 2½ years that we are starting to get fans. Our first year, in 2009, was figuring out the concept and what our platform was going to be. Once we aligned that, Blue Lemon has literally taken off,” McHenry said.
McHenry, who previously worked in the fast-casual restaurant industry while employed at DSI Companies, the founding partner of Costa Vida, said Blue Lemon differentiates itself from other options in the market.
He said Blue Lemon takes fine-dining elements — food, presentation and atmosphere — and mixes it with the fast-casual concept. The result are menu items like Iron Seared Salmon ($14), served with sauce verte, sautéed seasonal vegetables, grilled lemon, roasted fingerling potatoes and frisée. Other options include Pear and Gorgonzola Spinach Salad ($8.50), Artichoke and Tomato Chicken ($11.50) and several other recipes that the cooks promise will be delivered to the table in six minutes or less.
The Days, parents of four children, made sure the restaurant’s youngest customers weren’t overlooked by creating a $5 children’s menu that features Grilled Chicken Skewers and Mac and Cheese with fresh fruit and yogurt sauce.
The restaurant is north of the Whole Foods Market on 2000 East and 7000 South and sports a glass-enclosed kitchen so guests can see chefs in action.
Blue Lemon also has a growing catering business that delivers anywhere between Spanish Fork and Ogden, McHenry said. The 4,400-square-foot Cottonwood Heights location, with room to seat 140 people, will help bolster the restaurant’s catering component, he said.
Building on the success Blue Lemon has experienced so far is all the Days say they can hope for as the restaurant opens in Cottonwood Heights.
“It would be wonderful to see how big we could get,” Lychelle Day said. “We’re happy with where we are going.”
Cottonwood Heights location • 6910 S. Highland Drive
Menu prices • $8-$13
Monday-Thursday • 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday • 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For menu and more information • www.bluelemon.com