In case you haven't heard, there's a snazzy new performing arts venue in town: the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater. If you've been to other venues and arts events in the state, you've probably heard those names before. I was recently given a preview of the venue, and to say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. It's astonishing in its beauty, functionality, design, architecture and cutting-edge technology, such as the baffling sound system, über-modern lighting and sightlines.
I'll get back to the theater in a bit. But the reason I was there in the first place was to check out its all-new Encore Bistro dining spot. Following a national search, Salt Lake City's own Cuisine Unlimited Catering & Special Events (CuisineUnlimited.com) was selected to be the exclusive providers for all food and beverage services at the new venue. That runs the gamut from providing concessions and catering for every event, group meeting and social gathering in the multiple venues within the theaters, to operation and management of the bistro. "You can imagine how thrilled we were to learn that we'd been chosen to provide food and beverage for the Eccles Theater," Cuisine Unlimited's Vicki Dunnington says as she shows me around the venue. Dunnington is the executive director of their operations at the Eccles—a big job, to say the least.
It's no small thing to provide food and drink to guests of the 2,500-seat Delta Performance Hall, which is just one of many performance and party spaces within the building. It also boasts a six-story grand lobby open to the public, an outdoor plaza and a galleria. The three separate state-of-the-art kitchens would be the envy of most restaurant chefs I know. Private event spaces are licensed to serve beer, wine and alcohol. But alas, the public places—such as the aforementioned hall—will be limited to concessions including 3.2-percent beer, with no wine or cocktails. Not very classy for such a classy place. Folks will be able to purchase cocktails, beer and wine at the bistro, however. That's the good news. The bad news is that it must be consumed there; no sneaking your vino into the venues.
Maybe you have no plans to attend an event at the Eccles Theater, per se. That doesn't mean you can't still enjoy a meal, snack or libation at Encore, because it's one of the "public" spaces in the building, and it's open to all for breakfast and lunch, plus dinners on performance evenings.
Having tasted an array of foods prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Rosati, I predict that the bistro is going to attract a lot of downtown customers, and not just theater-goers. Her food is fresh, clean and creative, and I especially think that this is going to be a hot spot at lunchtime.
But if you're downtown in the morning and looking for a fast, economical and delicious breakfast, I highly recommend dropping by, as they serve breakfast from 7-11 a.m. I love Rosati's unique take on the now-ubiquitous chicken and waffles. At the core of her waffle sandwich ($6) is scrumptious housemade chicken sausage, soft and airy scrambled eggs and Utah cheddar cheese, all encased in a maple-flavored waffle.
Not interested in meat for breakfast? Rosati has you covered with her vegetarian breakfast wrap ($5) featuring roasted red peppers, green chiles, hash browns, caramelized onions, eggs and cheese in a spinach wrap. Daily quiche ($5), fresh fruit ($4) and Greek yogurt parfaits ($4.25) are served all day.
Lunchtime offerings lean heavily toward salads, sandwiches and wraps. There's an excellent "Power Salad" with kale, watercress, arugula and roasted beets tossed with grapefruit, blueberries, goat cheese, pistachios and balsamic vinaigrette ($11.50). I thought the most interesting salad, however, was the "Covent Garden" ($7): fresh mixed greens, radish, roasted baby carrots and cucumber sprinkled with spicy seed brittle and maple-raspberry vinaigrette. Guests can add grilled chicken to a salad for $4, or grilled salmon for $6.
Encore has an eclectic array of sandwiches, sliders, paninis and wraps during lunch service. They range from a delightful Thai chicken wrap ($10) and slow-braised beef rib "Stage Left Sliders" ($10.50), to the "Understudy Panini" ($9.25) with house-roasted turkey, fontina cheese and cranberry relish on pumpernickel. I really enjoyed the "Grown-Up Grilled Cheese" ($9) with gooey boursin, Muenster and fontina cheeses plus bacon and tomato on toasted country-style white bread. Vegetable lovers will appreciate the "Diva Panini" ($9.50) with roasted red pepper, caramelized onions, portobello mushroom, spinach, grilled zucchini, havarti cheese and pesto on a ciabatta bun. Sandwiches, sliders, wraps and paninis all come with a choice of fresh greens or chips. Lunch is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
During performance evenings at the theater, dinner will be served with a menu that Dunningham said will be "cleverly tuned" to the theme of each performance. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it will be interesting to find out. Will there be dark, sardonic food for the Morrissey concert? Funeral potatoes for The Book of Mormon? I did get a peek at the menu for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and it includes salmon and corn chowder, a winter roasted butternut squash salad, "kitchen clam bake," and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. What those dishes have to do with Carol King, I couldn't tell you. But I bet they'll make your taste buds do a standing O.