A former CIA analyst and his wife have returned to his Utah roots to open a restaurant in a renovated building downtown that was one of the first in Salt Lake City to feature indoor plumbing.
CO2 Cafe, offering contemporary American cuisine at 323 S. Main Street, is in a building that “had been abandoned for five years, so it was just a shell,” said co-owner Mike Wirthlin, 33, who grew up in the Avenues neighborhood. “Remodeling took eight months to complete and cost $250,000.”
Wirthlin and wife Niki Nichols had been living and working in Washington D.C., where she was a graphics designer.
“I wanted a new career path,” said Wirthlin. “I had seen the difference restaurants and hangouts can make in people’s lives, so I wanted to start something in my own hometown.”
During renovations, the couple discovered antique bottles and crates, as well as chicken coops in the basement. The structure, with portions constructed in the 1890s, has been transformed from a dilapidated roost for pigeons to a building featuring 16-foot ceilings, large skylights, covered outdoor seating and front and back facades that open to the street.
The eatery offers Utah classic foods with original twists such as frybread tacos. Other menu items include caught-in-the-wild coho salmon baked in a flaky phyllo crust, seafood tacos with jicama slaw, a filet mignon sandwich served on house-baked rolls, and Pat LaFrieda ground beef on a cremini mushroom burger.
The cafe, named after the carbonating bubbles of carbon dioxide (and not the greenhouse gas), also serves house-made beverages mixed at an old-fashioned soda fountain.
CO2 Cafe is open 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday.
Cuisine • Contemporary American
Where • 323 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Hours • 11: 30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 p.m. to midnight. Thursday through Saturday
CO2 part of Downtown Dine O’ Round
More than 40 restaurants will be participating in the annual event, which runs Friday through Sept. 30 and is designed to expose diners to the distinctive flavors of Salt Lake City at different price ranges. A three-item dinner goes for $15 or $30, while a two-item lunch goes for $5 or $10. For details go to www.dininginutah.com/salt-lake-city-dine-o-round.htm