Riverhorse Rising | Dining | Salt Lake City Weekly

Riverhorse Rising 

An inviting mix of old and new at Riverhorse, Provisions and Imperial House.

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One of my more hyperbolic food writer colleagues recently proclaimed, concerning Park City's Riverhorse on Main, that "nothing has changed there in decades"—and he didn't say it meaning that consistency or classicism could be good things. It's true that the restaurant opened in 1987, but it's outrageous to claim that nothing has changed there in the ensuing 30 years. For starters, Executive Chef Seth Adams and business partner Dave Spence purchased the restaurant in 2011 and did a complete overhaul—with particular attention to décor and ambiance, as well as the menu. Sure, Riverhorse isn't a cutting-edge eatery, which Adams freely admits; longtime customers would mutiny if the macadamia nut-crusted halibut were ever removed from the menu. But something keeps folks coming back to this iconic Main Street eatery. So far, according to Adams, business has been better than ever this year.

I got to see Riverhorse up close and personal a couple of weeks ago when I was there to help judge Chef Wars, a charity event to benefit the Park City-based pet adoption and rescue organization, Nuzzles & Co.

During that time, I dined at both the flagship restaurant and their new café and general store called Provisions, and also got a good look at Spence's and Adams' new Imperial House Hotel. To think this crew has been resting in its laurels is ludicrous.

Despite the density of restaurants per square-foot in Park City, it's surprisingly difficult to find places—especially on Main Street—to enjoy breakfast, brunch or a simple lunch. Stocking your fridge or pantry is even harder. The recently opened Riverhorse Provisions provides quick bites, beverages, grocery items, picnic lunches and even in-home chef services.

During a morning visit to Provisions to pick up a Mountain English muffin ($7), I ran into Chef Jerry Garcia. You might remember him as co-owner and chef of Park City's beloved (and dearly missed) Chez Betty restaurant, but he's now part of the Riverhorse team. Oh, and that sandwich? It's not your daddy's egg McMuffin. It's high-quality, freshly baked and stuffed sky-high with soft, fluffy scrambled eggs with a layer of smoky artisan bacon on the bottom, topped with gooey Beehive Promontory cheddar. It's one of the best breakfast sandwiches I've ever gotten my lips around. Other breakfast menu items include quiche of the day ($8), polenta French toast sticks ($6), fresh buttermilk biscuits and gravy ($8), strawberry fritters ($6) and steel-cut oats ($6).

There's a downstairs café at Provisions, as well as some patio seating overlooking Main Street, where customers can enjoy their food and drink—including wine and beer—or take it to-go. The lunch menu includes an array of sandwiches, wraps and burgers, as well as salads, soups and the house specialty: poutine. There are three versions: classic ($12), veggie ($13) and the Wild One ($14), which includes elk and buffalo, scallions, sweet peppers, sour cream, cheese curds and brown gravy. For dessert, don't miss the churro bowl ($6) with vanilla ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. They also sell a wide range of items such as artisan cheeses and meats, breads from Red Bicycle, deli items, imported pastas and sauces, olive oils and vinegars, even high-end shampoo at not very high-end prices.

As for Riverhorse on Main, anyone who thinks the menu is outdated ought to consider appetizers like the ahi tuna tartare trio ($19). The raw ahi tuna is prepared three ways: tossed with jalapeño and passion fruit (my favorite); poke-style with a light soy-ginger treatment; or with blood orange and fennel. The plate comes with accoutrements like crispy wontons, rice crackers, lotus root and pickled papaya.

Another stunning starter was a new spring/summer menu addition: shrimp and lobster scampi ($21). Butter is the magical ingredient in this dish, as tender morsels of lobster tail and shrimp are bathed in a lovely, light, buttery sauce with limoncello, fresh fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms and aioli. It's served with toasted baguette slices for sopping up all that savory sauce. The hand-cut buffalo tartare ($16) with egg yolk, dijonnaise, fresh horseradish and capers also is outstanding.

From longtime managers and servers, to newer staffers, service here is way above par. While it might seem old-fashioned to some, I also enjoy the live music during dinner hours, which seems especially appropriate in a ski town, no matter the time of year. As I enjoyed a ridiculously tender braised buffalo shank, a piano-singer duo performed a soft rendition of The Beatles' "Come Together," something I'd have to say I've never heard during suppertime before, but it was quite entertaining. The braised buffalo short rib with gremolata was stupendous itself, but the entire dish was made even more delectable with grilled asparagus, cheddar grits and wild mushroom cream sauce.

Should you be enticed by the above into considering a Park City getaway, I'd point you in the direction of the Riverhorse's Imperial House, where guest accommodations are, as the kids say, sick. These aren't typical guest rooms, but rather a sprawling guest residence that includes four or five (I lost count) bathrooms, four bedrooms, a kitchen that's larger than my living room, reading nooks, a terrace and much more, all spread out over multiple floors. The eye-popping design—mostly created by Adams' wife, Casey—is modern, but comfortable and inviting; paintings on the walls are original works of art, some for sale. So, if you're in the market for a little Park City luxury, Riverhorse is a great place to start.

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