Squatters’ owners share plans for former cafe
Now a month into its metamorphosis, the Mt. Air Café sign remains, but the insides the old counter, the stools, the booths have been torn out. By fall, Salt Lake Brewing Co. founder Jeff Polychronis plans to turn the café his father, George, and his uncle Charlie, operated for 30 years, into a Squatters Roadhouse Grill.
"We had discussed opening up a Squatters in Park City on more than one occasion, but we couldn’t find the right location," Jeff says, speaking also on behalf of Salt Lake Brewing Co.’s co-founder Peter Cole. "Peter and I are pretty cautious and deliberate with what we do We believe there is a niche underserved in Park City for what we do which is casual and affordable dining."
Both owners found the location near the corner of Kearns Boulevard and S.R. 224 well worth the wait.
"It’s the best location in Park City," Cole confirms. "At least that’s what George told us before we signed the lease."
Salt Lake Brewing Co., established in 1989, will spend the summer renovating before opening in September.
Cole says changes to the exterior of the building will be minimal, however. Recent renderings of the Roadhouse Grill feature modifications to the roof, the addition of a tall clock tower and a new east-facing entrance, but leave the windows and general body of the café intact.
"What we’re trying to do is honor the original structure that is the Mt. Air Café — though we’re changing materials and finishes much like we did when we renovated Squatter’s building in Salt Lake," he explained. "We named it ‘Roadhouse’ to reflect that ranch and roadhouse style."
The interior is where most of the changes will occur.
The latest floor plans for the 3,859-square-foot building call for an expanded seating area that exposes the kitchen and includes two bars. Squatters Roadhouse will add 59 seats to Mt. Air’s original 115, and during the summer months, the 1,030 square-foot patio will seat an additional 48.
The basement, which until now was used as storage only, will include a prep kitchen.
In keeping with the Brewing Co.’s environmental philosophy, the urinals in the bathroom will be water-free in-order to conserve as much as 800,000 gallons of water a year, they explain. As with their other restaurant locations, the two will continue to use recycled paper cartons for takeout, and use biodiesel made from their kitchen’s used canola oil to fuel their trucks.
The Roadhouse menu will be similar to the menu available at Squatter’s two other locations in downtown Salt Lake and at Salt Lake City International Airport: dishes made with wild salmon, free range buffalo, organic brown eggs, organic flour, and organic spring greens.
Unique to the location, however, the Roadhouse plans serve breakfast beginning at 6 a.m. Those familiar with Mt. Air’s old menu will recognize some dishes, according to Polychronis, but many of the breakfast items will draw from Squatter’s current weekend brunch menu that features eggs Florentine, huevos rancheros and buckwheat pancakes.
Unlike Old Town’s Wasatch Brew Pub, and Squatter’s Salt Lake location, the owners will not brew beers at their Park City Roadhouse. Instead, they will ship their beers to Park City. The bar will feature 13 to 14 beers on tap, wines and cocktails, says Cole.
Despite the fact that they will be competitors, Greg Schirf, owner of Park City’s Brew Pub, was the first to learn of their plans to open a Squatters restaurant in town, according to Cole. The three owners in fact brew their beers at the same microbrewery in the heart of Salt Lake and have known each other since the late 1970s, when they all worked in real estate together, Cole says.
"I’d say [Schirf] has been very supportive of us coming to town," Polychronis confirms.
As Polychronis and Cole hammer out the details of their Park City location, they admit Mt. Air will be a tough act to follow.
The Polychronis family has a legacy of owning businesses in Park City. Jeff’s grandfather opened Palace Meat and Grocery on Main Street in 1916, he says, and after working for his grandfather, his father owned and operated several businesses under the Mt. Air name.
"My father is 78 years old and he’s basically worked his entire life," Jeff explained. "[Retiring] a significant transition for him and not an easy decision to make."
In October, the brothers announced to Jeff that they would be retiring and in January the Salt Lake Brewing Co. presented a proposal to open a new Squatters location in its stead, he says. After the café officially closed its doors, April 1, the new owners invited all Mt. Air employees to fill out applications for their new business, though they say they will wait until a month prior to opening the Roadhouse to hire anyone for their staff.
Polychronis describes the feeling of taking over the Mt. Air location as "a mixture of fear and excitement."
Cole, who is originally from a town south of London, estimates he has known the Polychronis family for 26 years, and like Polychronis, recognizes that a solid reputation like Mt Air had is hard-won.
"As we were telling Jeff’s parents it’s the end of an era and they really deserve their retirement," Cole said. "We would be extremely pleased if over the years [Squatters Roadhouse Grill] would become a Park City institution, but we realize that you have earn that status."
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