How ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ lifts up local restaurants

These spots may not be the stars of the show, but they definitely are part of the supporting cast.

(Bravo) Jen Shah, Heather Gay, Lisa Barlow, Mary Cosby, Meredith Marks and Whitney Rose pictured at Valter's Osteria in episode 5 of the first season of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.”

Some viewers may be watching “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” for the drama.

Is Jen Shah still arguing with Mary Cosby? How is Heather Gay moving on after divorce? And what does it mean when Lisa Barlow says she’s Mormon 2.0?

Others, though, tune into the reality show for something more filling — the food and drink.

In every episode, Utah restaurants, bars, bakeries and even fast-food spots set the scene for the on-screen spectacles that take place among the cast.

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“There’s some buzz about the restaurants, especially with locals,” said Meagan Nash, co-owner of Handle. The Park City restaurant played prominently in Episode 2 when Meredith Marks and husband, Seth, come for dinner.

While the couple discuss their recent separation, viewers drool over chef Briar Handly’s raw hamachi appetizer and wonder what makes Meredith’s Impossible Dream cocktail so special.

While some viewers may wonder what’s real and what’s scripted on the show, Nash said filming at Handle was authentic. Meredith and Seth, she noted, “are definitely regulars and friends” who have frequented the restaurant since it opened.

Vida Tequila owners Lisa and John Barlow are also regulars.

The Impossible Dream cocktail, is no longer on the menu, Nash said, but staffers keep all the ingredients, including Vida, on hand so they can make it whenever Meredith comes in.

Nash said she encouraged the women to sign up for the show because it would be a good exposure for their businesses. “I warned them, though, that it could be a real disaster.”

HSL — Handle’s sister restaurant in Salt Lake City — was also where the Barlows had their date night in Episode 5.

Nash said she and her partners appreciate the media exposure at both restaurants, especially as they try to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“A ton of people have said they’ve seen us on the show,” she said. That has translated into reservations and diners. A few customers, added Nash, have even requested Kaylie — the server featured in the Handle episode.

The national television exposure also has helped Prohibition, said Kelly Howard, who co-owns the Murray bar with his wife, Camille. “People are finding their way here or recognizing it from the show.”

The speak-easy-themed bar — and its lollipop chicken drumsticks — were the stars during Whitney’s 1920s party in Episode 4.

One can’t talk about the food and drink on “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” without mentioning the juxtaposition between Lisa Barlow’s glamorous persona and her less-than-healthy food choices. The owner of Vida, a high-end tequila brand, is passionate about Diet Coke and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell.

In a single episode, Barlow’s fast-food tour also includes stops at Wendy’s, Sonic and Crumbl cookie bakery.

Other restaurants and bars in and around downtown Salt Lake have made cameo appearances as well, including:

Lake Effect • Whitney Rose and Mary Cosby meet up at this downtown bar and — over avocado tacos and crab cake appetizers — talk about renewing wedding vows and unconventional marriage.

SeventyOne • After a day on the ski slopes, the women miss their dinner reservation by three hours at this Snowbird ski resort restaurant. The food was cut from the episode, but the table shared the ahi tuna nacho appetizer and a few of the women ordered the salt and pepper salmon, said General Manager Jason Nardone.

Table X • Mary reveals to Meredith more about her arranged marriage over the elegantly prepared cod.

Valter’s Osteria • This high-end Italian restaurant was a natural setting for Mary’s “Met Gala” luncheon — complete with a red carpet, gifts of Louis Vuitton AirPods and betta fish swimming in the glass centerpieces. We don’t see much of the food, but, as accusations fly and tempers flare, we do see owner Valter Nassi alarmed at the women behaving badly.

Is it any surprise that the entertainment website Vulture deemed Utah restaurant workers the “true heroes” of the franchise.

“These folks are putting in serious work, likely without benefits, to make sure the ladies are kept fed and quenched to deliver the kinds of tantrums that set Andy Cohen’s heart ablaze,” reporter Olivia Crandall wrote in the Dec. 2 article. “Could you imagine what any ‘Real Housewives’ franchise would look like without restaurants?”

We can’t.

Tribune engagement manager Sara Weber contributed to this story.