Editor’s note: 5 Food Thoughts is a new recurring series highlighting notable people in Salt Lake City’s food scene.
SALT LAKE CITY — In a given week, Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade uses 1,800-3,600 limes.
They use nearly that many limes during a single busy summer day at the Downtown Farmer’s Market, where Sweet Lake got its start more than a decade ago.
Summer feels far, far away during a recent visit to Sweet Lake’s brick-and-mortar restaurant in south Salt Lake. Snowfall from the previous night covered the streets. It didn’t seem to affect business, though — most of the seats in Sweet Lake’s main dining area are filled that afternoon. Around back, in a new overflow seating space the restaurant recently added, husband-and-wife owners Hasen “Hoss” Cone and Teri Rosquist told us about how their business has become one of Salt Lake City’s most mouthwatering locales.
1. Why people love limeade
“For one, it’s hot, it’s summer, (it's) on a Saturday. So any cold drink sounds refreshing,” Cone said, recalling Sweet Lake’s farmers market beginnings. “And it’s a unique combo, the mint and the lime, but it’s not so bizarre that it scares people off.”
While attending college in Logan, Cone often visited a lemonade stand at the city’s farmers market. They’d add a mint leaf to every glass, just for decoration, but Cone placed the leaf on his tongue while drinking the lemonade. He moved to Salt Lake for a copywriting job, and eventually started selling limeade at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. His business quickly took off.
“And I think there’s a psychological connection to childhood memories — like putting a little lemonade stand in your backyard,” Rosquist added. “It’s just fun. It’s a drink that resonates with your childhood memories.”
Sweet Lake’s drink menu includes their standard limeade, as well as a habanero limeade, honeydew cucumber limeade, raspberry limeade and a few lemonade flavors (orange raspberry, ginger).
2. How they built Sweet Lake’s eclectic menu
“It’s things you’re familiar with, with a twist that you haven’t tried before,” Cone explained. “We just took the limeade idea, and applied it to the food.”
Examples: Sweet Lake’s potato hash browns, which have red quinoa mixed in; the Pokey Joe sandwich with slow-roasted pulled pork, limeade salsa, slaw, cheddar and crispy onions atop a fresh-made biscuit; and the Conspiracy Cakes pancakes, which have a home-ground wheat base.
Much of the menu, Rosquist said, draws from she and Cone’s respective upbringings. Cone grew up in San Antonio, where biscuits, gravy and fried chicken reigned supreme. Rosquist was raised in a partly Hispanic household where nutritious eating was emphasized, and that background is sprinkled throughout the menu’s offerings.
The duo has traveled all over the world, often in search of good food. Those travels are evidenced on the menu, too, with references to Cuban and Vietnamese cuisine.
“(The menu) really is just a journal of our life,” Cone said.
3. Where to find the world’s best food
Cone and Rosquist are partial to Japan and Mexico — two countries with very different culinary approaches.
In Japan, Rosquist said, “You taste every flavor, and it’s very simple though. They don’t overcomplicate things. Mexico is quite the opposite. It’s very heavy sauce and salsas.
“And I’m obsessed with (Japanese) culture now, because they do everything perfect,” she added. “And I feel like that resonates with us, because we didn’t want to just open something that was mediocre. You want to do something that’s good. And when you go to Japan … the only way they do it is their best.”
Cone remembers a visit to Mexico City, where they got lunch at Pujol, a world-renowned restaurant that’s been featured on Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” and in numerous publications. They had to make their reservations months in advance, and the meal was well over $100 a plate. Later that night, they filled up on dollar street tacos, “And we were all like, ‘This is the best food I’ve ever had,’” Cone said. “We just sat there all night eating taco after taco.
“Mexican food does stand out among all Latin American food, because it has such complexity,” he continued. “Central and South America don’t use spice or even salt a lot of the time. In Mexico, it has so much flavor.”
4. Where to find Salt Lake’s best food
5. How they make such incredible fried chicken
If you visit Sweet Lake, you’ll quickly see plates of fried chicken-topped biscuits being delivered to hungry patrons. One of Sweet Lake’s most popular items is the Hoss, a biscuit sandwich with fried chicken breast, egg, bacon, cheddar, sausage gravy and green onions. That fried chicken is truly exquisite. And it’s getting major attention: Southern Living Magazine named Sweet Lake’s fried chicken the best fried chicken in Utah.
Before Sweet Lake’s chicken ever hits the deep fryer, it’s soaked overnight (or longer) in a bath of buttermilk, habanero hot sauce and various seasonings. The result is a fried chicken that’s rich in both moisture and flavor. The chicken comes from Red Bird Farms in Colorado, a supplier that prides itself in healthy, ethical chicken raising.
“Which means it’s never frozen, it has no hormones, it’s cage-free, it’s vegetarian-fed,” Cone said. “I mean, it’s everything that you could want in a chicken.”