Talented, passionate, smart people win us over every damn time. And Chef Briar Handly consistently nails this tasty triumvirate to success on the daily at his hopping joint, Handle, on lower Heber Ave in Park City. We’ve had the zingy pleasure of seeing Handle packed to the gills with flashy folks sporting fake tans and fur here for Sundance, but we've also enjoyed cozying up to the bar alongside locals lingering over weekly burger specials and Utah brews during shoulder season. And the very high standards for food, drinks, and service that Handle set from the beginning remain steady and true: the “lively neighborhood spot” that chef Briar Handly, his wife and co-owner Melissa Gray, and their managerial partner/co-owner Meagan Nash (“Handlers” in their clever lexicon) envisioned has COLLECTIVELY won over our hearts and our bellies since they opened just over a year ago.
To be sure, a trip to Handle guarantees more than a great meal in a cozy, hip atmosphere served with care and top-notch professionalism (read about our high-fives for Handle’s service, here). It’s a rare pleasure to enter the carefully constructed domain of a top national chef, and Handly brings the subtle and challenging flavors of world-class eats to our increasingly sophisticated corner of the Rockies in comforting and familiar ways. When Briar left the icy slopes of New England to try out Utah’s famous powder years ago, he ended up carving up more than turns: he has worked his ass off to become one of the Wasatch Front’s primo chefs. Formerly the executive chef at Talisker on Main, Handly had very specific ideas about what he wanted to achieve at his own restaurant in Park City, a town he proudly calls home now. He and Melissa have created a space where local sourcing isn’t just a foodie buzzword, it’s part of their mission to the core. From the penny bar made by one of their food runners, to the tables handcrafted by a friend, to the decoupage wallpaper and badass bar custom-designed by Melissa to showcase the old miner’s lockers she scavenged for wine storage, Handle wraps guests up in a metaphorical cashmere sweater of timeless style.
But its Handly’s obsessive attention to manipulating quality ingredients that keeps us coming back for more. Think house-made ricotta, wood-smoked vegetables, grilled breads, and a wide variety of sausages and aged charcuterie crafted year-round by Handly and his crew. If you’re really lucky, you might find some of Briar’s sassy and savory pig’s ear in aspic or “One Year Anniversary” ham on your charcuterie board--the porcine love child of Southern-style country ham flavor and prosciutto de Parma’s silky mouthfeel. (Fair warning; plan for a quiet moment and recovery smoke to follow either of those forkfuls of fabulous). There are some not-to-be-missed regulars on the menu, for sure: cocktails featuring local booze brands VIDA tequila and High West whiskey, oysters in season, cauliflower seared with an addictive “buffalo”-style sauce, and a sharable Fred Flintstone-sized prime bone-in Ribeye steak listed as “The Baller,” served with hell-yes duck fat roasted potatoes. Swoon. Keeping our taste buds and culinary curiosity piqued, Handle’s menu changes not only with the seasons, but with whatever Chef Handly has scored fresh that morning, sometimes from his home garden. And that rainbow of fruit and veggie-packed quart jars ain’t just for decoration flanking the kitchen’s open pass: making the most of the Wasatch Mountain’s brief growing season, Chef Briar and team spend countless harvest-season hours pickling and preserving to add those fresh mountain flavors to their menu all year long.
We’re not alone in singing Briar Handly’s praises far and wide. Check it out: The New York Times, Forbes, Food & Wine, and the James Beard Foundation have all jumped on the Handle respect train. If we weren’t already half in love with Briar Handly just for his superlative nosh, we’re head over heels with the gushing when it comes to his support for Utah products and mentoring local, rising talent. Last summer, Handly was tapped to represent Utah at the prestigious “Great American Seafood Cook-off” in Louisiana, where he prepared locally-sourced trout. And you can watch him on television as a judge and mentor for the latest generation of young chefs on the Utah ProStart Teen Chef Masters competition. You can count us completely excited to see what Handly and crew will be up to next. Like, we can't even Handle it.
Handle | 136 Heber Ave., Park City | 801.602.1155