A few weeks ago I asked readers to tell me about their favorite moderately priced restaurants (where you can eat dinner for around $10). Responses are still trickling in. And those who want to be included can still write, fax or e-mail me with their opinion in the next few days. (If you live outside Salt Lake City, how about letting us in on the hometown favorites? Surely there are some good spots in Heber, Tooele, Layton and so on.)
Here's an update on some local restaurants:
— MATILDA'S. The Australian restaurant at Jordan Commons is closed. A Ruby River Steakhouse will soon open in its space. Last fall, we reported that Matilda's was the brainchild of general-manager Peter Osuchowski, whose spinal cord was injured in a motorcycle accident that occurred while the restaurant was being built. The dream of opening the restaurant kept him motivated during his hospitalization. He was working from a wheelchair when Matilda's opened. Since then, he's had two surgeries and can now walk during therapy sessions. But he couldn't do the cooking in Matilda's kitchen as he'd envisioned.
"It was not the dream I had planned," Osuchowski said. "Matilda's was going to be the quality and consistency you would find in New York, with a real flair for the food. I went through two chefs, and I was unable to get it where I wanted it. It was taxing me to a point where I was physically spent. It was a bit much for me in my condition, and we decided to close down."
He was able to stay on with the Larry Miller organization as the food-and-beverage director for the Jordan Commons complex. "It's a 9-to-5 job, which will help me to get physically stronger so that I might be able to walk on a regular basis," Osuchowski said.
Those who have griped about The Mayan's food will be glad to know that Osuchowski is currently involved in analyzing the restaurant's cuisine and tweaking its recipes.
"We are very well aware that there's a perception out there about the food," Osuchowski said. "We are coming out with fresher menu items and doing a lot more fresh grilling to try to give the food there a boost and change the perception."
— THE OLIVE GARDEN. Chris Nugent, culinary manager at the downtown restaurant, was one of about 100 culinary managers in the chain who traveled to Italy to learn more about Italian cuisine at the Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany. He visited restaurants throughout Italy and met with local chefs to learn traditional cooking methods.
"Working side-by-side with master Italian chefs was an amazing experience," Nugent said. "It really reinforced Italian cooking techniques, like the importance of al dente pasta and how the freshest ingredients can make the most flavorful sauces."
— GUADALAHONKY'S. The Mexican restaurant apparently knows beans about successful names. It won second place in the second annual "What's in a Name?" contest sponsored by the Rocky Mountain States' Hospitality News, a newspaper for restaurants, lodging, health care and catering businesses. Judges picked catchy names that contributed to the success of a business.
When customers ask about the name, "we tell them it's two gringos serving Mexican food," said Travis Bonino, Guadalahonky's general manager.
The restaurant was also cited for its creative billboards, such as, "I Get Gas at Guads," "We know beans about Mexican food" and "We think we're hot stuff."
The top title went to The Naked Moose, of Dolores, Colo. Owner Anna Webster said that name came from a moose that was shaved from the neck down for research done by the Department of Fish and Game. Legend has it the moose's hair never grew back, and it supposedly wanders the area near the restaurant.