Tin Angel Cafe | Buzz Blog

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tin Angel Cafe

Posted By on February 20, 2009, 11:42 AM

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Its not unheard of for barristas to take in some entertainment here and again. But one local diner is not only serving up good eats, they got some fine artists coming in as well.

--- Tin Angel Café has been serving some fine meals on the west end of 4th South for about two years now. Giving the area around Pioneer Park another all-local restaurant while giving the music scene another place to bring in music. I got a chance to chat with owners Robin Fairchild and Kestrel Liedtke about the history of the place, the chef and food, thoughts on local business and music, and a few other topics I could squeeze in, along with some pictures of the place. The two owners decided to answer as a duo for this one.

Kestrel Liedtke & Robin Fairchild


Gavin: Hey guys. First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

R&K: We are Robin Fairchild, and Kestrel & Jerry Liedtke. Robin and Kestrel have been best friends for fifteen years - Kestrel and Jerry have been together for twelve.

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is the Tin Angel Café?

R&K: We are a small café with a seasonal, locally driven menu. We try to source as many ingredients as possible from as close as possible. Our primary function is as a restaurant, but we are also giving a voice to local artists and musicians.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start the place up?

R&K: We had all worked in restaurants for many years and had opened them for other people. We knew that Jerry had considerable skills as a chef and we knew we could all work well together. When we found a location across from the Farmer's Market and so near the center of the art scene, we let the pieces fall into place. Look on our website under History for a great story about the Tin Angel name.

Gavin: How did you meet up with your chef Jerry Liedtke?

R&K: Jerry and Kestrel met when she was a bartender at Burt's Tiki Lounge in the mid 90's. He was a regular and they just liked each other... a lot. He was a chef at Brewvies at the time.

Gavin: What drew you to the 4th South location?

R&K: It was kind of a gut instinct. We just thought the old house on the wrong side of the tracks suited us somehow. This area is developing but we love the fact that it feels so urban.

Gavin: Was it difficult getting everything set up or were things pretty smooth?

R&K: Both. Some things went great, others... not so much. We did almost all the work ourselves. The place was trashed when we got it so it was huge undertaking. We all learned how to be electricians, plumbers, and drywallers in a short amount of time. We found everything from dishes and furniture to the oven and an espresso machine in thrift stores or used equipment warehouses. (Our slicer came from Thrifttown!) We raided all of our aunt's and grandmother's attics for tea cups and china plates. It all kind of fell together magically. Licensing was the challenge. Especially the liquor license. We got denied at first and they only meet once a month so we had to open without wine or beer.

Gavin: How was it that first month being open?

R&K: The first month we just did lunch because we couldn't imagine offering our dinner menu without wine. Most of our customers in the very beginning were friends and family - we would get so excited when a stranger walked in!

Gavin: For those who might be curious, what are some of the more favorite items on the menu?

R&K: Lunch: Turkey and Brie Panini, House Roasted Lamb on Ciabatta, Organic Chicken and Cambozola on Baguette and Sage Roast Chicken Pasta. Dinner: Chicken Picatta, Beef Tenderloin, Butternut Squash Risotto, or Moroccon Rack of Lamb. Of course, our new Tapa menu has been a big hit as well featuring such items as: Espresso Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Chorizo Shrimp Skewer, Spiced Almonds and Bleu Cheese or Fried Risotto Cake.

Gavin: Was bringing in local musicians part of the original plan, or was that something that came along down the road?

R&K: We always wanted live music but weren't really sure how to pull it off until we saw the building. We wrote our business plan to fit the space and it became one of the main priorities.

Gavin: How do you go about deciding who plays, and who are some of the more frequent guests?

R&K: Many are old friends but most just brought in a CD or contacted us on MySpace. Some of them just showed up with a guitar and would audition right on the spot. After making sure the music fit our vibe, we would book the shows. Bronwen Beecher the Fiddle Preacher is a popular musician with our crowd. She is a singer/songwriter and also plays some Celtic tunes. Shannon Smith plays Jazz and loops her vocals - it's very fun. Kestrel has known her almost as long as she's known Robin. Derrick Wright from Lion Fish Trio plays good old fashion Rock n Roll - Jerry and Kestrel know him from his Purdy Mouth days and from Burt's Tiki Lounge. Gaylen Young just showed up one night and we plugged him in and let him roll. He does 70's covers and has the voice of an angel. Paul Boruff brought in a CD and we booked him based on his talent and history. He's been playing music (sometimes with big names like Charlie Daniels Band) since the 60's. He likes to wander around the restaurant and give individual attention to the guests.

Gavin: Along the same lines, how did you decide to start showcasing artwork from local artists?

R&K: Again, it seemed to fit the location but we had decided even before we found the place. We have all worked in small, locally owned places and pushed for local art and music in each of them. Wanting to see that vision come to fruition was part of our drive to find the perfect location and open our own restaurant.

Gavin: Does it feel strange knowing your revered more than some art galleries for the work you do?

R&K: We are primarily a restaurant so there really isn't a comparison. The art on our plates is our real focus. The art on the walls and coming from speakers is an extension of this central goal.

Gavin: You've gotten a lot of praise and awards for several different aspects of the place, mainly from City Weekly and Salt Lake Magazine. How does it feel getting that recognition from local press?

R&K: This place is so close to all of our hearts and it has been great to be able to express ourselves in this way. The awards and press are nice, but it is not our goal or focus. Receiving praise from people who have just had the best meal of their lives and who understand and appreciate what we are doing is much more meaningful to us than any award or article.

Gavin: Being a local restaurant, do you ever feel like you're in competition with other local places, or does it feel more like comrades all trying to achieve the same goal?

R&K: We feel that the more places out there who go for it and serve good food, have good service and don't fall into the cookie cutter corporate restaurant design, the better. It makes Salt Lake a more wonderful place to live and increases the number of people here who appreciate good food, wine, music and art which ultimately increases our customer base.

Gavin: As a business owner, how is it operating in downtown right now, and how are things for you guys in this current economy?

R&K: We are happy to contribute to a thriving downtown if we can. We feel a bit more "Pioneer Park" than we do "Downtown" and we've seen a change in the area since we've moved in two years ago. The original Tin Angel was on State St. between 2nd and 3rd East right downtown at a time when it mattered it's only apt that we carry on that energy. It will definitely be interesting to see how this urban sprawl will play out.

Gavin: Going a little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

R&K: There is quite a large, diverse community with huge talent. It's a shame that only a select few artists get all of the attention.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

R&K: Community involvement. See shows, get to know the artists, buy art, support galleries and make gallery stroll part of your monthly routine.

Gavin: How about your thoughts on Gallery Stroll and how its evolved over the years?

R&K: We remember when it first started and it was a great forum and networking tool. It has retained that element and now we see more people from outlying communities taking part which is great for all businesses. It gets people excited to be in the city and helps them to explore the community.

Gavin: What can we expect from you guys and the Café the rest of the year?

R&K: Tapas... patio... expanded wine list... seasonal menu changes... Farmer's Market brunch. Keep checking our website or MySpace page to keep track of musicians and artists and any surprises we may have up our sleeves.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

R&K: We have a new Tapa menu that is a fun way to start your meal or enjoy with an after work cocktail. We will be taking part in "Art & Soup" at the Sheraton City Centre on March 11th and 12th. Please come see us, but remember to make a reservation first as we are small and fill up fast - especially on the weekends. (801)-328-4155.

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