Local restaurants gobble up dining awards
Shabu General Manager Kevin Valaika and his brother, chef Robert Valaika picked up their second dining award in this month’s edition of Salt Lake magazine’s 2006 Dining Awards: Best Restaurant in Park City.
The self-described "freestyle" Asian cuisine won the brothers "Best Undiscovered" last year, and the mention is still paying dividends, according to Kevin Valaika. Want to eat at Shabu? Valaika recommends making a reservation at least three days in advance. Every night is sold out, he says, and the success, in part, is due to awards such as these.
Valaika admits the award for best out of 130 Park City area restaurants is quite an accomplishment. Though his restaurant has garnered international honors, he says it means a lot to be recognized locally.
"We’re on the top 12 new restaurants list in Conde Nast and this is just maybe more important because it’s local. Someone may read Conde Nast in Europe, but not be able to jump into their car and come to dinner," Valaika explained. "Salt Lake magazine sits on coffee tables in Salt Lake and has a lot of local power."
Several other Park City restaurants have managed to winover the panel of five judges for the 9th annual Salt Lake Dining awards, including Bill White, who picked up the "Lifetime Achievement Award," at the age of 42.
White’s company, Bill White Enterprises, owns Grappa, which opened in 1991, and has grown to include several other restaurants in the Park City area like Chimayo, Wahso and Windy Ridge. At the end of last year, White added Windy Ridge Bakery and Ghidotti’s to his company.
Salt Lake magazine Assistant Editor Vanessa Chang says of White, "I know that just in terms of per-square-foot presence, of course, he’s definitely a major figure in the restaurant scene" in Park City. "He’s very savvy that way and he’s good at listening to his customers."
This year, the magazine also awarded Mike Brown, Bill White Enterprises’ wine director, "Best Wine Program" in 2006, for managing wine lists for all five restaurants.
Other individual awards for Park City included Deer Valley Resort Executive Pastry Chef Letty Halloran Flatt for "Best Pastry Chef," and Snow Park Lodge Manager Kris Anderson for the "Golden Spoon Award for Hospitality."
A few establishments outside of Park City were also recognized. Heber City’s Snake Creek Grill won for "Best Restaurant for Wasatch Back/Summit County" and "Best American Regional" along the Wasatch Back and the Blue Boar Inn won for "Best Brunch Outside Salt Lake City."
Chang says that diners typically don’t stray from their local neighborhoods, but she finds that is beginning to change a little. People are becoming more adventurous, and more willing to make the effort to come to Park City.
"I’m sort of enthralled with the concept of Main Street having so many restaurants per square foot," she said. "It’s a really competitive market There are so many restaurant options — I’m really pleasantly surprised that the town is able to house them all. It’s good for variety and choice.
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Backcountry opened its first retail store Tuesday in Kimball Junction, directly below the company’s headquarters.