After 50 years, University of Utah hangout Big Ed’s closes mysteriously

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Flowers, cards and candles are left outside of Big Ed's, 210 University Street, in Salt Lake City Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

Big Ed’s, a hole-in-the-wall breakfast, booze and burger joint beloved by University of Utah students since 1968, suddenly closed last week, apparently for good.

The reason why, however, is something of a mystery.

What’s known is that a sign appeared on the front door of the squat brick building at 210 University St., declaring “Sorry Restaurant Closed,” with no other explanation given. A storefront shrine quickly formed, with sympathy cards, flower bouquets and votive candles covered with Sharpie-scrawled “RIP” and hearts. Even a container of microwavable Hormel chili — a nod to Big Ed’s most famous (or infamous) dish, the Gawd Awful — was dropped off at the door

Joren Peterson of Park City-based Landmark Property and Development has owned the building for about 10 years. He said he hasn’t heard from Big Ed’s owner Linda Lin — affectionally known as “Mom” by the regulars — or her son Stephen, who managed the restaurant.

“I have left messages on their phones and I’ve had no response,” Peterson said. “I got a call from a waitress Thursday and they said the door was locked and that they had been told they left town and were not coming back. This is pretty unusual. They still had a couple more years on their lease, so it didn’t seem like it was too planned.”

The phone number was still connected as of Tuesday afternoon. A Facebook page had apparently been deleted.

Peterson wasn’t sure what will happen to the space, but he said he’ll “pick a good operator for the space,” likely a business that fits in with the college crowd.

“If a restaurant is the best opportunity, then that’s what we’ll pursue,” Peterson said. “I think the market will determine what goes there, that makes sense. You need to appeal to your customer base.”

Whatever takes Big Ed’s place, it seems that the Gawd Awful — a hangover-grub concoction of hash browns, two eggs, chili, cheese, onions and sour cream, served “all day everyday” along with their other breakfast plates — is no more.

Also bound to be missed: the erotically named espresso drinks that students downed before big exams or all-night cram sessions, like the Hummer (a triple shot), the Sex Panther (6 shots), the Shocker (10 shots) or the Double Fist — two Shockers for $20, which came with a free meal.

Sad social media commenters have lamented the loss, reminiscing about drinking beers at Big Ed’s before class, gathering there for Utes football games, having their first legal alcohol there, or how the restaurant got them through grad school.

Even the University of Utah acknowledged Big Ed’s importance, tweeting “Sad day for campus community. RIP Big Ed’s. What you lacked in culinary skills you made up for in character.”