Category Archives: Food

A Few Food Things

This week saw a few noteworthy pieces published about to Provo’s burgeoning food scene. My favorite is this City Weekly interview with the owners of Station 22. In that article Richard Gregory and Jason Talcott discuss their vision for the restaurant (and parent company) and provide a lot of other interesting details about one of Provo’s culinary gems.

Station 22 was recently featured in City Weekly and is helping put the Wasatch Front on the nation’s food map.

Relatedly, Zagat also published a list of “7 Up-and-Coming Food Cities Around the U.S.” Salt Lake City was the second city on the list. That’s good for the whole state, but it’s also good specifically for Provo which, according to Salt Lake Magazine, is the hippest place in Salt Lake City. Slug Magazine has also singled out Provo for it’s culinary wonders.

In other words, the region is becoming known for food and Provo is earning a reputation locally as a destination. That’s good for all of us who like to eat out, but as I’ve argued before, restaurants are an important part of a vital city. They’re also key for creating non-boring places and for enhancing quality of life.

It’s also worth mentioning that the more time I spend in Salt Lake the more I am in awe of Provo’s restaurants; up in SLC few things are within walking distance of each other, quality is often sacrificed for ambiance or “hipness” and I’m surprised less often. I haven’t eat at every buzz-worth restaurant in Salt Lake, of course, but that’s considerably harder to do there than in Provo.

All of which is to say that Provo’s restaurant scene is really quite a treasure.

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Filed under Food, restaurant

Provo Has the Best Food and Therefore the Best Places

In a testament to Provo’s burgeoning food scene, Black Sheep Cafe was recently included in Urban Spoon’s list of most popular new restaurants.

Black Sheep Cafe is truly excellent.

Black Sheep Cafe is truly excellent.

Bigger and generally more self-important Salt Lake City — where I’ve recently had a bunch of conversations with people who talk smack about Provo and think mediocre hipster corrals are great places to eat — had the only other Utah restaurant on the list. Oh, and that restaurant wasn’t actually in Salt Lake, it was in the separate city of South Salt Lake.

As I’ve said before — here, here, and here — Provo is really the best place to eat in Utah. Downtown in particular combines quality and quantity in a very small area, with literally dozens of independent restaurants within blocks of each other. There are few other places like that. And Black Sheep Cafe exemplifies the great things going on in the city.

But this is bigger than just getting a great bite to eat in downtown. In a recent Q&A with Sustainable Cities Collective, Sarah Ordover explains how food can help create a unique sense of place. Ordover has worked in Cedar Rapids and is talking more specifically about food markets, but I think the underlying point is that food and food-related settings are fundamentally tied to what make a place special. In that context Provo’s restaurants are turning it into a more generally great place.

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Taxes on Food or Gas?

Locally produced food in a grocery store.

Locally produced food in a grocery store.

With tight budgets abounding, Utah lawmakers are considering increasing taxes on food. That article doesn’t go into great detail about what the increased revenue would be used for, but it does quote state senator John Valentine as saying that it’s needed to provide services for low income individuals.

Those individuals would also get a tax credit to avoid suffering from the tax hike:

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is proposing targeted relief for low-income Utahns through a refundable credit to help defray the cost of groceries for the state’s poor and a refundable income tax credit for its low-income workers.

The article has more information on the credit, though it sounds sufficiently convoluted from the quote that a lot of people probably wouldn’t take advantage of it.

But in any case, it’s a curious situation because food is far from the only thing that could be subjected to higher taxes. For example, this Atlantic Cities article explores the possibility of increasing fuel taxes.

Rather than raise taxes on food, why not raise them on gas?

Rather than raise taxes on food, why not raise them on gas?

The article notes that increasing fuel taxes can be “political poison.” It also argues that rather than framing the issue as a tax increase, it should be framed as an end of the gas sale:

[…] instead of framing the gas tax discussion as a sudden “increase,” it seems just as accurate to say that the big sale on gasoline that’s been going on for years is finally ending. For sure, lawmakers must address the regressive impact of new fuel charges; the I.T.E.P. recommends low-income tax credits as one mitigating tool. They might also do well to address the view that what they’re asking for isn’t to raise taxes on transportation at all — it’s to finally collect them.

The interesting thing here is that these articles offer two possibilities for raising revenues. One option would raise money while de-incentivizing driving — an environmentally destructive activity for which there are alternatives — while the other would simply make food more expensive. The situation in Utah isn’t an “either-or” right now, but the point is just that it’d be better to raise taxes on harmful activities like driving than directly on food.

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Filed under economics, Food

Best October Posts

Perhaps fittingly for the last month of this blog’s first year, October saw more traffic than any previous month. It also had some of my very favorite posts, a few of which I’ve included below.

1. Would Building Homes in the Streets Really Work?: The culmination of a multi-week series, this post shows how Provo could convert unnecessarily wide streets into housing. The idea is that implementing this concept on a gradual, limited basis would increase safety in neighborhoods, earn the city more tax revenue, and increase the owner-occupancy rate. This post includes wonderful images created by a friend. I originally proposed the idea in this post, and wrote several follow-ups, including this one.

This house is a hypothetical addition that could be built in the streets.

2. What Houses Close Together Look Like: Putting houses close together can be a disaster, or as these photos from Denver’s Capital Hill neighborhood show it can be beautiful. The point is that we can build wonderful neighborhoods where people live in close proximity to one another as long as those neighborhoods are well-designed.

3. Provo Restaurants Dominate Utah: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Provo’s restaurants are among its greatest assets. This post mentions very positive coverage from SLUG magazine, which traditionally has had hit and miss coverage about Provo.

4. Why Density Matters: Density is kind of a wonkish, experts-only idea that has to do with the number of people in a given space. And when people do know what it means, they often hate higher density. However, this is part of an ongoing effort to explain why increasing density is good for cities like Provo and why sprawl is destructive. Later in October, I also wrote about how density can make for better trick-or-treating.

5. Get Off Parking Welfare: There’s nothing inherently wrong with welfare and it’s a great part of our social safety net. But many people may not realize that they are actually recipients of a kind of welfare in the form of government-subsidized free parking. Basically, if you park on the street for free, you’re accepting government assistance. This post also suggests that perhaps there are better ways to use resources than providing welfare-parking.

6. Great Cities Keep Their People: Drawn from Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, this post points out that a city can’t be great until people voluntarily choose to live there. They also have to want to stay, even when given the chance to relocate.

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Filed under Development, economics, Food, neighborhood, parking

(Pro(vo)cation) Turns One!

Sunday, (Pro(vo)cation) passed the one year mark. Though many readers didn’t find this blog until later, it actually began Nov. 4, 2011. This was the first post that wasn’t originally written for another site, and this was the second post. So it seems time for a brief retrospective.

The 100 Block, a frequent topic on this blog.

First, thank you for reading. When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would go. Now, I’m consistently surprised by the response and I’m flattered, humbled, and a bit intimidated when someone tells me they read along.

When I started writing, I also thought I might write two or three posts a week for six months or so, and then I’d be done. Before long, however, I began writing more and more until I settled on the current format of three posts a day, five days a week.

So far, this blog includes 720 posts. As of Sunday night around 8:30, it had 38,773 all-time page views, most of which have come in the last six to eight months as the blog has gained more momentum.

A view of Los Hermanos, the old Carnegie Library and the Wells Fargo Building.

I think that number is great, but if you’re reading along here it also seems to represent a group of people who care about Provo. We may all have different opinions, but clearly there are a bunch of us who think Provo is worth having an opinion about.

Much to my surprise, these are the three most popular posts ever:

1. The LDS Church Muscles Its Way to Development Nirvana

2. The Interchange Boondoggle Part 1

3. Dawn of a New Era: Muse Music Changes Ownership

And these were the three least-clicked posts:

1. The Difference Between Walking and Walkability

2. Are the Olympics a Bad Investment for Cities?

3. Lingering, Loitering, and Lively Sidewalks

The Provo Library has also been discussed on this blog.

If you were to go back and read all the posts on this blog, you might notice a bit of evolution over time. The way I write these posts has certainly changed over the last year, and moreover I’m constantly learning or being told new things, leading me to revise and alter my positions.

In any case, one of my favorite developments recently on this blog is the addition of guest posts. There haven’t been a lot of them yet, but the posts people have submitted demonstrate that people feel passionately about Provo.

The Knight Building is just one example of Provo’s historic architecture.

They’re thinking about the city and they like it. If you’re reading this, I urge you to consider submitting something yourself; I’d love it if this blog evolved to represent a wide range of views, rather than mostly just the opinion of one guy.

In the meantime, feel free to make suggestions, send me pictures — of Provo or anywhere else that is worth studying — and point out problems. I plan to continue writing this blog for sometime yet, and hopefully it’ll continue getting better and better. And thanks again for reading.

The Rooftop Concert Series has come up repeatedly on this blog.

The conversion of the Provo Tabernacle into an LDS Temple also has come up often on this blog. This picture shows a smoke stack that, sadly, was demolished this year.

Provo’s thriving restaurant scene is one of its greatest assets.

Mountains, trees, and BYU are among Provo’s other assets.

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Filed under building, Food, Provo, Provo Tabernacle

Provo’s Downtown Ranks 8th in the U.S., Proves Uniqueness Wins

This week Livability ranked downtown Provo the eighth best in the nation. The article mentions downtown’s architecture, mountains, and “quaint, village-like atmosphere” as notable assets. It continues,

Historic downtown Provo encompasses 35 blocks and contains more than 150 retail stores, 39 restaurants and several government and private offices. In addition, many consider the Covey Center for the Arts and farmers market among the district’s top assets. Turn-of-the-century street lighting and traffic signals add to the historical ambiance that visitors and residents embrace.

This is news great for Provo, but what does it actually mean?

Restaurants and a comedy club on Center Street.

Among the obvious lessons about the importance of preserving historic architecture, improving walkability, and investing in growth, I think there may be another more important point: uniqueness and local loyalty pay off.

Consider: of all the restaurants in downtown, every single one is independent; all of the entertainment venues specialize in local performances; even much of the historic architecture was designed, out of necessity, by a local architect.

There are hundreds of “quaint, village-like” downtowns in the U.S. Many of those downtowns are great too. But a city doesn’t rise to the top of the pack by slavishly copying other cities; it rises to the top by developing a unique character that can’t be found anywhere else.

Stores, restaurants and an art installation. When was the last time you saw guerrilla art outside a chain restaurant or strip mall? For me, the answer is never.

As I write this post, I’m thinking in part of conversations happening on the Keep Downtown Independent Facebook page. Those conversations mirror many others going on in Provo and elsewhere about the relationships of local and non-local business.

But this much is apparent: 1) Provo’s downtown is being recognized as among the best of the best; 2) it also has very few non-local businesses; and 3) that lack of chains is atypical, in my limited experience, for a downtown.

The logical conclusion from those three points is that downtown Provo’s unique, local business composition has something to do with its growing success. It follows then that bolstering that composition would increase success, while compromising it would jeopardize success.

I don’t have a conclusive argument to make on this subject and I tend to shy away from any one-size-fits all solution. But as the city moves forward it’s my hope that it becomes more unique and less like the many other downtowns that it has already surpassed.

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Filed under Downtown, Food, local, Provo

Provo Restaurants Dominate Utah

SLUG’s coverage of Provo varies — it’s often of the “wow, something cool actually exists down there” variety — but this week writer Alex Springer gave credit where credit was due when he highlighted one of the area’s greatest assets: restaurants.

Covering Local First Utah’s Celebrate the Bounty event last weekend, Springer wrote that some of the best restaurants actually hail from downtown Provo:

Each restaurant in attendance served great food, but there were a few that presented dishes that will definitely bring me into their establishments for more—even though a lot of them are all the way down in Provo.

Of the five restaurant’s Springer goes on to profile, three are from Provo. Among other things Springer calls Communal’s Locals Only PB&J “the most exquisite dessert” he tried, describes Black Sheep’s meat as “awesome,” and says he loved “everything about” Station 22’s chicken and waffles.

Communal earned praise from SLUG magazine for it’s work at Local First Utah’s recent event.

Provo’s restaurants, and in particular these three, rightly deserve a pat on the back for their creativity.

But the event and subsequent article also show how a city earns a reputation for quality, and for coolness. In other words, this sort of thing builds the city’s mystique and, as Springer himself plans to do, should entice new people to visit and economically support Provo.

SLUG praised Station 22 for their chicken and waffles. I can confirm that the chicken and waffles are delicious.

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Filed under Food, restaurant