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Utah Eats: How a bartender views mocktails, and ACME Bar closes for remodeling

Also, WB’s Eatery closes its brick-and-mortar restaurant in Ogden.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Eric Lewis pours a craft mocktail drink at Bar X in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.

This article is reprinted from the Utah Eats newsletter, compiled by Kolbie Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune’s food and drink reporter. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Wednesday, become a subscriber by going to sltrib.com/newsletters.

Hello, Eaters!

Eric Lewis, a bartender at Salt Lake City’s Bar X, says he’s seen a lot more people ordering mocktails lately — and not just because of Dry January.

Lewis says many of those ordering nonalcoholic drinks are millennials or in Gen Z, aiming to “refurbish” their relationship with alcohol after overindulging at home during COVID-19.

Lewis, who also has worked as a bartender in his home state of Indiana, said that “Utah, and Salt Lake in particular, has a pretty rich history of soda fountains, soda shops and ‘dirty sodas.’ … So there’s already a big nondrinking contingent in Salt Lake that is pretty prevalent, and has been around for a long time.”

That influence, he said, is “something that, being in this city in particular, has kind of impacted the amount of people that come in and ask for nonalcoholic drinks, but are still going to a bar.”

Lewis said there aren’t any mocktails on Bar X’s menu per se. Instead, the bartenders like to “have a conversation with the guest about what they’re kind of looking for, and specialize it for them,” he said. “… Because we really try to cater to people as much as we possibly can,” whether they’re pregnant, or a designated driver, or have another reason for not drinking.

There’s serious skill that goes into making these drinks, Lewis said. “I think people are realizing that the high water mark of knowledge and technique and craft that’s around in bartenders now is much higher than it used to be 20 years ago, 30 years ago,” Lewis said, “And so people are realizing that they can still get a really, really delicious cocktail and drink three or four of them without feeling any side effects.”

I met Lewis while researching my recent story about a sober bar crawl — I’m calling it a “sober strut” — in downtown Salt Lake City. I visited four cocktail bars, all within about a block of each other, that also make some mean craft mocktails.

If you don’t drink, or are going alcohol-free only during Dry January, the “sober strut” will offer lots of delicious and adventurous sober drinking options.

Live deliciously,

Kolbie

Food News

• Ever since Andy Larsen started writing data columns for The Tribune in 2020, he’s had the idea to get into the nitty-gritty and examine exactly why the restaurant industry is so tough. What are the biggest expenses? How do restaurants get customers in the door? How do they set menu prices? Jason Sanders, the owner of Annie’s Diner in Kaysville, agreed to open the entire establishment’s books to Andy, and here’s what he found.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) WB's Eatery in Ogden on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

WB’s Eatery announced last week on Instagram that it would be closing its brick & mortar located in The Monarch in Ogden (pictured above), and will be instead focusing on WB’s Coffee and Cocktail Kart, which serves coffee and nonalcoholic cocktails. Co-owner Vivi Wanderley-Britt told me, “We have an opportunity to grow our brand quicker through the truck, because it’s been hard to build consistent volume at the Ogden location in [a] new neighborhood.”

“We’ve done our best, had a great time, and are proud of the memories we created around our tables and with our amazing staff and new friends,” she continued.

Wanderley-Britt and her wife, Amy, will continue to run the Pig & a Jelly Jar restaurants in Salt Lake City and Ogden, as well as the new Pig & a Jelly Jar food truck. WB’s Eatery last day in operation will be Sunday, Feb. 4.

Booze (and Drink!) News

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sam Miller mixes a mai tai at ACME Bar Company, also known as Suckerfish, in Sugar House, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.

ACME Bar Company, at 837 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, is closing its doors this week for a remodel. The owners are hosting a going-away party called “The Death of ACME” on Saturday, which will also be their last day of normal service. The event includes a diverse menu of cocktail options, like the Flaming Zombie and Navy Grog, as well as such nonalcoholic options as Father Time and Brigham’s Downfall.

Sean Neves — co-owner and founder of ACME, Bar Nohm and Water Witch — told me they will be doing construction at ACME during February, but will be open for “various special events.” From March through May, the bar will be fully shut down as it transforms into a new tiki concept called Remora, Neves said.

• If you want to learn more about hard cider, Scion Cider Bar is hosting a series of classes about cider in partnership with the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning programming, taught by Utah’s only certified pommelier, or cider expert.

While the first class has already happened, you can sign up now for the remaining three Ciders of the World classes, including French Cidre on Monday, Feb. 12 (fun Valentine’s Day date night idea!); English Ciders on Monday, March 18; and Spanish Sidra on Monday, April 22. Sign up online at continue.utah.edu.

High West is collaborating with Lingua Franca wines for two nights of food and libations at the distillery’s Nelson Cottage, at 651 Park Ave., Park City. The event, happening Thursday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 3, will feature dishes paired with Lingua Franca wines. Acting as tour guides through the courses will be master sommelier Larry Stone, Lingua Franca winemaker Thomas Savre, and High West culinary director Michael Showers. Tickets are $400 per person. Reservations, available via Tock, are limited.

The Leonardo (209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City) is holding its Leo Libations series, and for February the theme is Sweetheart Wines. Guided by Wine Academy of Utah sommelier Jim Santangelo, attendees of the Feb. 22 event will enjoy a flight of sweet wines paired with a three-course meal. The menu will include an appetizer of pan-seared scallops in white wine reduction, followed by cacio e pepe pasta and a light salad, and ending with white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. The event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and tickets are $70 per person. Purchase tickets at TheLeonardo.org.

Dish of the Week

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The shish kafta plate at Beirut Cafe in Murray.

I went to Beirut Cafe, at 1326 E. 5600 South, Murray, recently with some of my family members, and I want to tell you Eaters about this restaurant’s delicious shish kafta plate (pictured above). I’m new to kafta, which is made with ground beef, parsley, onions and Middle Eastern spices, and, depending on where you get it, is kind of like Lebanese meatloaf or meatballs.

The kafta at Beirut Cafe was mildly spiced and delicious, the meat juicy and tender inside. It paired perfectly with the rice, tinged yellow thanks to the curry spices added to it. On the side were pickles, tomatoes and onions, as well as a delicious dollop of hummus, which I devoured with toasted pita bread (not pictured).

I was stuffed afterward, but Beirut Cafe also sells  Farr Better Ice Cream, in case you want dessert after the meal.