July 26, 2013
Wrenches, hammers and jacks line Billy Blanco’s walls. Servers rush through packed tables. The hardware and staff proclaim one quality: industry. Tables burst with afternoon customers and rock music blasts from robust speakers.
"We opened about two weeks weeks ago," said Head Chef Ben Fillmore, under a lamp that bristled with screwdrivers. "Since then it’s been just busy, busy. There are always tickets hanging on the board."
Quarry Village, a burgeoning shopping center bordering Pinebrook, unlocks an escape from urban mania, though. "I don’t want to deal with the busy town traffic," Fillmore said. "This area—it’s just less of a headache out here. It’s like Kimball Junction five years ago."
The Bill White restaurant group engineered its latest invention, Fillmore said, around two gleaming Dodge Challengers. Bill White cooked up a fantasy about eating beneath them. "The automotive theme was always there," Fillmore said. They worried about the food later.
The muscle cars propped above cushioned booths might seem overbearing, but they complement motorcycles, antique gas pumps and pulleys. Oversized garage doors open onto the balcony. An overstated name, "Billy Blanco’s Motor City Mexican Burger and Taco Garage," hangs above them.
"I was kind of made fun of for it at first," Fillmore said about the name. "I said, ‘since you’re Bill White, just throw Blanco in there."
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Most Park City diners know the dishes at Ghidotti’s, Windy Ridge, Wahso, Sushi Blue, Grappa and Chimayo well enough, but not the man behind them. The Burger and Taco Garage unfolds like a blueprint for White’s brain.
As he designed the restaurants mentioned above, "Bill did food he knew Park City needed. This was more for him," Fillmore said. "It’s a glimpse into his hobbies and personal life."
The mind that forged so many of Park City’s culinary hot spots erupts in neon lighting, colorful portraits of Detroit’s notable figures and music from Michigan artists.
Bill White and his team of chefs manufactured the atmosphere. The chefs’ motorcycling passion influenced the restaurant’s design, Fillmore said, though he doesn’t ride himself. Back when Fillmore worked at Ghidotti’s, chefs grilled the best-selling dishes of the future at backyard barbeques, "while we were just drinking beer."
One of those meals, classic southern-style ribs, became Fillmore’s favorite and Billy Blanco’s feature.
"A lot of times your most popular dishes are the ones you don’t really dig," he said. "The ribs are my baby."
Fillmore wanted to do more traditional, down-south barbeque. "Most places slather it up with sauce," he said. Fillmore’s recipe aims to bring out more nuanced flavor.
"It’s risky to go against what people are used to," he said. A place where cars threaten to crush booths and the chef sports a backwards baseball cap seems like a good place to start experimenting, though. "There were some twists we wanted to include," Fillmore added.
A more conservative restaurant might shun pork cheeks, for example. At Billy Blanco’s, they fill the most popular taco.
A glowing garage feels spontaneous, almost out of place, next to the quiet Pinebrook community, but at Windy Ridge, The Bill White Restaurant Group’s corporate headquarters, Fillmore and chefs from Chimayo tweaked the menu for a whole week.
They lined up their blend of Mexican and classic-American dishes for White, a tough critic with a taste for perfection. After thorough inspections, he almost always sends food back for adjustments.
"This time, he stopped us halfway through," Fillmore said. A stunned White didn’t need another bite. "He said, basically, ‘Just go with it. Open your damn restaurant.’"
Billy Blanco’s Motor City Mexican Burger and Taco Garage