Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Kathie Chadbourne lives big. A big smile that lights up any room. Big dreams for her neighborhood café. A big laugh that accompanies every story, whether humorous or poignant. A freakin’ huge heart that embraces everyone around her. And luckily for we denizens of the Salt City, a big appetite for supporting all things delicious, lovely, and local.
Voted recently “Best Neighborhood Restaurant” by Salt Lake Magazine, Avenues Bistro on Third as presented by Kathie Chadbourne is truly a neighborhood joint. Housed in a converted pharmacy at the corner of 3rd Avenue and H Street, this eponymous eatery is more than just a place to get a terrific meal. Though a terrific meal you’ll have, as we COLLECTIVELY agree. Think brandy-candied bacon on a burger that our goodly Cody Derrick says he’d eat “every freaking day.” Duck confit-smothered savory French toast. Warm roasted beet salad bleeding into a delicious puddle of brown butter and local goat cheese with house-pickled red onions. A bed of shaved asparagus and greens cradling griddled duck breast with blueberry reduction and [come to mama] duck skin cracklins. Utah trout with roasted fennel salad, crispy latkes and an insane burnt lemon sauce. You’ll want more o’ that edible love on a regular basis, as the stream of regular neighborhood patrons we met during our visit attest. But the truly fantastic thing about Avenues Bistro is that it’s kind of magical: much like that tent in Harry Potter that looks tiny on the outside but when entered is a 10-room furnished flat, Avenues Bistro is at the same time intimate in scale but huge in community impact.
You’ll see it as soon as you walk in the door. A huge chalk board proudly proclaims where your meal was sourced today: Melelo Farms, Charming Beard Coffee, Tifie Farms, New Roots, Laziz Spreads, Caputo's, Bug Farms, Second Artist, Fog River, Great Harvest, Canyon Meadows Ranch, Wasatch Meats, Ballard Farms, Carpenter Paper. All of the art on the walls, pickles lined up in glistening quart jars, and pottery on the shelves comes from Utah artists, producers, potters [and yes, it’s all for sale]. And it doesn’t get much more “farm to table” than at Avenues Bistro, where the cooks literally walk out the back door of the restaurant to gather fixins’ for your meal from the intensively farmed three contiguous “back yard” lots behind the café. The raised beds made from recycled materials, ancient fruit trees, and a charming chicken coop are as productive as they are practical. We shared some fab food from Kathie’s spring menu and poured a glass [okay, several glasses] of wine to talk with her about her passion for food, community, and the little bistro that could...
So, what’s the status on the patio? The mayor’s office said, basically, it’s a zoning violation to have the patio. So, we have to apply for zoning and go to public meetings to get it approved. Our wonderful neighbors are calling the mayor’s office. They’re writing letters, signing petitions. We had over 3,000 signatures from the neighborhood supporting us, saying ‘we want the Bistro to have a patio.’ Three positive write-ups were published on the Opinion Page, all about this little place.*
We hear a lot about family, here. Talk on it. Farming and gardening is in our blood. Restaurants and feeding people is in our blood. My daughter Kelly is our pastry chef and does all our baking [Authors note: The Monkey Bread. Get it in your face. You’re welcome]. She does a beautiful job. My daughter Aimee is our wonderful front-end manager. It’s very cool to be with them every day.
You’re not from here, but you are clearly so passionate about Utah. What makes it so special to you? I lived in thirty states growing up in foster care as a kid through the 1950s. And it took a while to put down roots as an adult. I used to have Avenues Bakery [where Wild Grape is now], but moved away from Utah for a few years to work in Oregon. I missed Utah so much, so when the opportunity came to move again, we chose Salt Lake. I have four grown daughters, so being in an international airport city where I can get to them anywhere at any time is important. And I truly love it here; I don’t ever want to move away. I am totally emotionally invested in being here in Salt Lake, living in the Avenues.
“Sustainability” has quite the buzz, but what does it really mean to you? When it really comes down to it, if I want the Bistro to be sustainable, we do everything. We’re a LEED business; we make sure everything is energy efficient. Our restaurant supports local jobs right here in our community. I’m trying to get and keep jobs for people right here in the Avenues. To be really sustainable, we shouldn’t rely on trucking or long-distance transportation to get the food that we serve, or to feed our community. It all comes down to food, and to farmers, and the relationship we have with those farmers who we know by name. There are farmers right here in Utah who have figured out how to grow amazing food year ‘round, all of it is from right here, even through the winter.
You thoroughly research where every product you serve comes from. Wow. We use Ballard Farms for our pork, Canyon Meadows down in Provo for beef. There are, like, five dairies in Utah, but I wouldn’t trust how their milk is sourced or how their cows are treated unless I can see it myself. It makes me so mad to see huge corporations buying small businesses and masquerading as locals when they’re not. I went out to see where one dairy claimed they had their cows, and when I got there nobody could tell me anything about where the cows grazed or how they were treated. I switched my dairy supplier immediately.
Utah chefs have a very close-knit community, and you are clearly a crowd favorite. Talk about backstory. When one of my chefs walked out a while back, I was screwed. I called Tony [Caputo, from Caputo’s Deli], Scott [Evans, from Pago], Ryan [Lowder, Copper Onion], and they helped me out immediately. They brought in their whole staff, and volunteered their help. There are so many of those amazing beautiful stories. I love this town.
Avenues Bistro on Third | 564 E Third Ave, SLC | 801.831.5409
*We want the Avenues Bistro patio open! Write City Council rep, Stan Penfold [district 3], regarding patio zoning approval!