In the beginning, there was Squatters. Salt Lake City’s first brewpub opened in 1989 in the Boston Hotel building on West Broadway, by co-owners and friends Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis, refugees from the real-estate biz. Polychronis grew up with one foot in the restaurant business as well, but more about that later.nn
I shudder to think how many brews have been served at Squatters since its opening. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them myself. Since 1997, when they began competing in the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, Squatters beers have won 21 bronze, silver and gold medals'10 in the past three years alone. We’ve lost count here at City Weekly of Squatters’ numerous “Best of Utah” honors.nn
Not that it’s all been gravy. There have been misfires, notably Fuggles restaurant, which became Salt Lake Brewing Co. before its ultimate demise. Then, just a couple of months ago, Cole and Polychronis had to pull the plug on Zola, a “small plates” restaurant above Squatters that I, for one, loved. The space has since become an expansion of the Squatters Pub Brewery.
I ponder the question, “Did the Squatters gang spread themselves a little too thin by opening both Zola and the Squatters Roadside Grill in Park City in the same month?” Maybe. But to whatever extent Zola was an unsuccessful venture, the new Roadhouse Grill seems to be paying off in spades. I remember saying to Cole a year or so ago, “If you build it, they will come.” I also speculated that opening a Squatters brewpub in Park City, if done right, would be a license to print money. So far, I think I was right.nn
The parking lot'and there’s plenty of free parking at Squatters Roadside Grill'seems to be jammed day and night. The Grill is open early for breakfast and features a “Late Night” menu from 9:30 p.m. till 11 p.m.. Of course, Squatters had to be open in Park City for breakfast or there’d have been a locals’ uprising. You see, Squatters Roadhouse Grill is located in the space that used to be the Mt. Air CafÃ©, a restaurant owned and operated for 31 years by Jeff Polychronis’ father and uncle, George and Charlie Polychronis. To turn the Mt. Air CafÃ© into another Gap or Starbucks would have been unthinkable, and I’m happy to report that the Roadhouse Grill features breakfast every day from 7 a.m., including shredded hash browns ($3) and Mt. Air sausage ($4). But since this is Squatters, there’s also a vegan breakfast ($9) on the menu, along with Grand Marnier french toast ($8) and yummy apple empanadas ($5), just to recall a few breakfast offerings.nn
In addition to longstanding Squatters pub favorites like its jambalaya ($13), fish & chips ($12), burgers, sandwiches and pizza, chef Carl Fiessinger'formerly of the Boulevard and Juhl Haus in Salt Lake City, and, more recently, Zola'has, in the past month, been introducing some of the popular Zola dishes at the Roadhouse Grill. I wrote before about the scrumptious “sliders” at Zola, and now they’re available in Park City: mini burgers made from 100 percent hormone-, steroid- and antibiotic-free grass-fed beef (three for $11). For a full-size burger, I highly recommend Squatters’ Morgan Valley lamb burger ($11), served with caramelized onion and mint marmalade on ciabatta bread and a choice of fries or salad.nn
The young (and ripped) Fiessinger, in addition to being a certified chef de cuisine, is also an ultimate fighter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship'so think twice before you send back your pan-roasted pork tenderloin. In a written bio, he sums up the Squatters food philosophy better than I can: “Cooking is not about fads. I’m more interested in executing the classics correctly and with integrity than doing something trendy and for the moment.” What a breath of fresh air. And it’s evident in simple but sensational dishes like steamed mussels and andouille sausage ($12) in a pilsner broth, or his sesame-crusted seared yellowfin ahi tuna ($9), served with a spicy coconut-wasabi sauce and five-spice dusted “forbidden” rice.nn
The Park City Squatters, designed by architect Kin Ng, is a bit sleeker than the downtown Salt Lake City location. It sports a huge deck for warm-weather dining, great views of the Payday ski run at Park City Mountain Resort and a cool 10-seat private booth dubbed the “Brewers Tasting Room,” situated in a newly constructed tower built of reclaimed wood from a World War II airplane hangar in Calgary. Still, the Squatters Roadhouse Grill offers all the warmth and friendly service of the original Squatters, not to mention the same fine beers (see Grapevine, p. 40). And, as with Squatters v1.0, the folks at the Roadhouse Grill are committed to environmentally friendly values which include the use of waterless urinals, high-temp dishwashers, water-wise gardening, energy efficient lighting and recycling of paper products and beer bottles. Why, used brewer’s grains show up in the freshly baked breads at Squatters, and recycled kitchen oils provide bio diesel to run the Squatters delivery truck.nn
As Fiessinger implies, Squatters Roadhouse Grill might not be the trendiest new kid on the restaurant block. But I’ll put my money on the time-tested products and values that have led to Squatters’ success since 1989.nn
n1900 Park Ave.