Restaurants + Cocktails

Rye | Oh, My!

3/3/2017 | Darby Doyle
Big Bear Photo Co.

Call us smitten, kittens, ‘cause we are COLLECTIVELY gone over Rye. Think a punk-ass urban diner vibe, but with a little less edgy lip snarl and a lot more polish. As if the be-mulletted headbangers of our misspent youth went to rehab, got a better tattoo artist to finish that sleeve, and are now kickass grownups with kids of their own. No need to smash any metaphoric culinary guitars: the folks at Rye just keep pumping out deceptively simple and delectable eats paired with truly superlative cocktails. A recipe for success all ‘round. The term “elevated bar food” gets thrown around a lot in the industry; but at Rye, that’s exactly what they’re doing. And they’re doing it really goddamn well.

No surprise when you have the phenomenal food chops of Chef Tommy Nguyen [formerly at Takashi] running the show from the open galley kitchen. And we are all up in the hell effing yeah praise for bar man extraordinaire, Ryan Manning, shaking things up behind Rye’s frosted glass Zion Curtain [attention, Utah liquor board, we’d really like to be able to see him do his stuff]. Ringers like Rose Estb. pastry chef, Alexa Norlin, and brew provided by our fuzzy friends at Charming Beard Coffee just gild that already glitter-ifically delicious lily on the daily.

‘Cause the suppertime slurps and nosh at Rye are worthy of some revisits, with or without the progeny in tow

The food and bev brainchild of legendary SLC live music venue Urban Lounge owners Chris Wright, Lance Saunders and Will Sartain, Rye is unabashedly all about context and concept. Rather than soundproof the hell out of the shared wall between the concert hall and restaurant space [formerly Al Forno], the three guys at Rye actively celebrate and collaborate with the live shows. At night, the large prints on Rye’s walls flip back to reveal flat screen video monitors streaming feed shot directly from the Urban Lounge stage. They’re piping in continuous audio from the gigs next door during shows. Let’s be honest here: it’s live music at a 21+ venue, and they’re pulling from a wildly diverse talent and genre pool of acts. One person’s yum is another guy’s yuck; chill and appreciate the great diversity of our world, y’all. It makes Rye a huge weekend draw for music fans craving some great food and drink while they’re waiting for their favorite headliner to go onstage [or to see their favorite artists hanging out at Rye pre-show]. And, it’s a boon for music fans that can’t legally groove at the venue next door. As Rye’s stellar manager, Samantha Starr, reminisced, “I would have been that 16 or 17 year old girl who couldn’t get in to the Urban Lounge, totally hugging the wall.” Eyes locked on the video feed, wanting so badly to be next door watching the show live if they could transport there by force of will or osmosis, they would. We get it.

And we absolutely want to be those cool-ass parents who’re blithely enjoying a burger with roasted jalapeños and a kickass cocktail at the next table, toe-tapping through the set while their improbably-coiffed offspring lip-synch and bop along to the show. ‘Cause the suppertime slurps and nosh at Rye are worthy of some revisits, with or without the progeny in tow. Chef Nguyen changes up the menu quarterly, but it looks like some regulars’ favorites are still on rotation this fall, including the Shoyu Fried Chicken, Truffled Mac n’ Cheese, and Pork Belly Lettuce wraps. And those Street Dumplings, riffing on Nguyen’s mother’s recipe? Day-um, yes. Pillowy shrimp and pork bundles of goodness with the perfect Vietnamese-inspired salty-sour-savory-sweet balance. Absolutely fucking sublime, especially when paired up with one of Nguyen’s bright shaved veggie salads.

he’s nailing the shit out of classic cocktails with some serious gumption and spot-on seasonal spin

 Barman Ryan has put together one of our fair city’s most creative drinks menus, which thoughtfully includes interesting booze-free selections like Mexican Coke, Blenheim Ginger Ale, and Coconut water. But he’s nailing the shit out of classic cocktails with some serious gumption and spot-on seasonal spin. There’s damn fine attention to component detail, like house-made stone fruit shrubs and artisanal bitters that make Rye’s drinks something special. Most are gorgeously straightforward; some with an occasional hit of whimsy.  A Wes Anderson homage that any film geek will appreciate, The Life Aquatic-themed gin-based “Jacqueline Deep Search” is garnished with what Manning claims is “the most ridiculous gimmick I’ve ever used;” a gummy shark. And for fuck’s sake, don’t miss his autumnal take on the Old-Fashioned aptly named “Fireside on a Bearskin Rug.” This cocktail captures the unabashed masculine sensuality of fall in a lowball glass. Think hirsute beefcake in the form of Buffalo Trace bourbon. The cheeky grin of allspice. The randy warmth of orange bitters. We COLLECTIVELY dig it, in all its revamped 1970’s iconographic style, and love the hell out of Manning for reigniting that particularly inspiring and evocative pop culture moment. #bearskinBurt Make it a thing.

Serving breakfast, lunch, and a rave-worthy Sunday brunch, you can get your Rye fix as early as eight in the am. The daytime menu sports protein-and-potato forward soft egg scramble variations, as well as sassy versions of carb loading classics like Brioche French Toast and lemon curd or, hello there, Waffles with whiskey syrup. Our fave? The international breakfast of hungover champions: rice bowl with an over-easy egg, house-made kimchi and [fuck yeah!] three generous chunks of gloriously crispy-melty pork belly. Your ridiculously chipper health-conscious friends will love the vegan hash, coconut quinoa, or one of their light and tasty salads [steak or pork belly optional additions]. Wait ‘til 11:30 and you can chase all that stomach-lining fortification with a cocktail off Rye’s “Day Drinks” menu, made with just the right balance of sweet, spice, and savory to get back on track. A recent remodel opened up 28 additional seats in the dining room, including more banquets and seating for larger parties, so you can bring the whole entourage. Hair of the dog never looked—or tasted—so good.

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