Restaurant Reveal: Handle’s dishes create a shared community
The Park Record
For executive chef and owner of Handle restaurant, Briar Handly, and his co-owners Melissa Gray (who is also his wife,) and Meagan Nash, dinner is more than just eating food; it’s a bonding, tasting, and sharing experience.
“We wanted to have a restaurant where people could eat the way we like to eat. So Handle is really meant to be somewhere people can share, and sit down, and break bread together. Shared plates was the way that we thought we could get that across,” Handly said.
Even the “Hearty” plates, listed on the menu where other restaurants would list entrees, and featuring dishes such as a 22-ounce pork chop or a 25-ounce ribeye, are meant to be shared. Although, Handly admits he has seen guests who have enjoyed the entire portion themselves.
The menu holds familiar sounding dishes, such as short rib, pork chops, and fried chicken, infused with Handly values. The short ribs, for example, are made from bison and served with spicy greens; the pork chops come from humanely raised pigs served with a side of truffle tater tots, and the fried chicken is breast-only meat, served with seasonal winter squash and maple butter.
Those dishes, of course, are subject to changes as seasonal ingredients change. But basing a dish on familiar favorites has a benefit for both chef and patron.
“I think people can relate to things that are familiar to them, and they have a hard time getting out of their comfort zone,” Handly said. “When they get a plate a food and maybe there’s a turnip that’s been charred on the grill that they enjoy, but they might not have tried it because they don’t like turnips.
“It’s those little pops on the plate that I think open people’s eyes sometimes and take them out of their comfort zone.”
The umbrella of serving “American” cuisine also allows for lots of creativity.
“Labeling ourselves as American cuisine allows us to dip into other ethnicities and cultures and allows us to put an Indian-inspired lamb dish on the menu and people will trust us that it’s going to be wonderful,” he said.
Handly originally hails from Vermont and studied at the New England Culinary Institute. Before opening Handle in 2014, he was the executive chef at Talisker on Main, and joined Gray and Nash’s catering and event production company, BASH Event Solutions, since 2008.
Opening his own restaurant was always a dream, Handly said, and while the partners’ combined experience gave them the skills to open one, the beginnings were modest.
“We did it on nickels and dimes,” Handly said. “We came in and ripped up three layers of floors just to get down to the concrete… As far as design goes, it’s all really Melissa. She really has the eye for design.”
Handly admits he still does many of the repairs himself, even though he has more fun working in the kitchen.
“We really just wanted a neighborhood spot where locals felt welcome enough to come during the offseason, and tourists to come during the ski season and have a great place to come and get a good bite of food. We wanted an energetic feel in a creative way and I think the food mimics the design in that aspect,” he added.
“It’s up to us make everyone feel welcome and warm. The number one reason why people come out to eat is so they don’t have to cook at home. It’s up to us to deliver each and every night,” he said.
After all, they can handle it.
Handle is located at 136 Heber Ave., in the Gateway Center building. The restaurant is open for dinner at 5:00 p.m. every night.
For more information, call 435-602-1155 or log on to handleparkcity.com.
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