What to Know About the Opera in Prague

My entire trip to Prague was inspired by my desire to see the Czech opera Rusalka in its home country. If that sounds crazy, you’ll really question my sanity to know I started planning my Christmas trip to Prague in July. (Mainly because the Vienna Opera around New Years had already sold out by then, but that’s another story.)

Opera probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Prague, but don’t forget Prague was one of the few cities to survive World War II without extensive damage, so the theaters are old and intact. Seeing these architectural masterpieces is worth an opera by itself, especially considering how inexpensive they are.

So here’s what to know about seeing the opera in Prague.

1. There are three main theaters in Prague (plus a fourth new one).

Prague has not one, not two, but four main theaters and each one is worth visiting for different reasons. Each theater is outlined below with what makes it unique, what performances are produced there and details about going.

The Estates Theatre in Prague.

The Estates Theatre is the only surviving theater where Mozart performed. (My seat was #3.)

2. The oldest is The Estates Theatre.

Continuously running since 1783, The Estates Theatre (or Stavovské divadlo in Czech) is one of the few theaters in Europe that’s preserved (almost) in its original state. Some of the wear and tear is visible on the walls and ceilings, but the authenticity is amazing. It is also the only surviving theater where Mozart performed and where the world premiere of his opera Don Giovanni took place in October 1787.

The outside of the Estates Theatre in Prague.

The outside of the charming Estates Theatre.

The Estates Theatre was originally built to house German dramas and Italian operas but eventually Czech productions played there. Today it houses dramas, ballets and operas (mostly Mozart pieces).

The interior of the Estates Theatre, one of the opera houses in Prague.

The Estates Theatre is surprisingly small.

I saw The Marriage of Figaro at the Estates Theatre. The theater is surprisingly small with an orchestra pit that only holds around 30 musicians. (See the virtual tour here.) But the sound carries well and I couldn’t imagine any seat in the house being bad, with the exception of the really high levels. The set was incredibly minimalist (and not in the artistic way) but it was enjoyable to see a Mozart opera in the historic theater.

The inside of the Estates Theatre, one of the opera houses in Prague.

The Estates Theatre focuses on Mozart operas.

Details: The Estates Theatre is located right in Old Town Prague. Opera tickets range from 100 Koruna (about $4) to 1,290Kč for boxes ($53). Prices vary for ballet and dramas; here’s the price list. Theater tours are available in several languages by emailing them, but they told me only groups were allowed. Operas have subtitles in Czech and English.

The State Opera house in Prague.

The State Opera was my favorite.

3. The most beautiful is The State Opera.

The State Opera (or Státní opera) opened in 1888 as the New German Theater and was later known as the Smetana Theater until 1989 when it became the Prague State Opera. It has an interesting history that mirrors Prague’s political past.

It was originally built as The New German Theater for German-language operas and in the 1930s doubled as a refuge for artists fleeing Germany. Once Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis, political assemblies were held at the theater. After the war, the repertoire focused on Czech operas (and renamed “Smetana Theater”), eventually moving to large-scale worldwide operas and ballets under the Czech communist government. After the Velvet Revolution (meaning the fall of communism), it was renamed the Prague State Opera and focused on performing worldwide operas and ballets.

Details of the boxes at the State Opera in Prague.

Details of the boxes at the State Opera.

The State Opera is where I saw Rusalka on my second night in Prague. The mostly-Czech cast did a beautiful job, although the subtitles (shown only in English) were a little strange compared to when I saw it in New York City. But seeing it in its home country was nothing short of surreal.

Interior of the State Opera house in Prague.

A panorama from my seat at the State Opera.

Details: The State Opera is not far from Old Town Square but a taxi is probably the best way to get there. Opera tickets range from 180Kč to 1290Kč (roughly $8-$53). Note that the upper circle and dress circle have reduced visibility. Like the Estates Theatre, tours are available in several languages by emailing the theater. Individuals are welcome, although they did not hold tours during my stay. More info is here.

The stage at the National Theatre in Prague.

“The Nation to Itself” is above the stage at the National Theatre.

4. The most popular is The National Theater.

The National Theater (Národní divadlo) is much larger than the previous two. It was built in 1881 with the help of donations from Czechs around the world as a place to preserve the artistic talents of the Czech culture and to oppose the Hapsburg rule. It even has a stone in the basement shipped from Czechs in Chicago.

The seats inside the National Theatre in Prague.

The seats inside the National Theatre in Prague.

It sits next to the Vltava River, facing the Prague Castle (where the Hapsburg rulers lived).  Above the stage it says “The Nation to itself” (Narod sobe) and paintings in one of the foyers shows the beginning of art in Prague (pre-Communist), the dark age of art in Prague (during Communist rule) and flourishing of art (now).

Details of the balcony roof at the National Theatre in Prague.

Details of the balcony roof at the National Theatre.

Operas, ballets and dramas are all performed here but ballet seems to be the most frequent. I saw an incredible rendition of The Nutcracker mixed with A Christmas Carol—essentially the story of A Christmas Carol set to Tchaikovsky’s famous music. The storyline was much more exciting than the traditional one and went better with the music. The costumes and set were creative and colorful and the dancers were excellent.

The inside of the National Theatre in Prague.

A panorama from the top during the tour.

Details: The National Theater tickets vary for dramas/operas/ballets. Ballet tickets range from 100-1,100Kč (about $4-$45). Tours are available on weekends for individuals at 8:30 and 11 am in English for 250Kč (150Kč for students); scheduling is not required just arrive 15 minutes early. Email the theater for group tours or other languages.

5. The newest is The New Stage.

The New Stage is next to the National Theater and was completed in 1983. It exclusively produced Laterna magika productions from 1992-2010, a nonverbal type of theater that combines dance, film and black light theater. Today, drama and ballets are also performed along with festivals, guest performances and independent projects.

I did not visit the New Stage but you can find more information about it here.
Seats at the National Theatre in Prague.

Seats at the National Theatre.

6. What to Know Before You Go.

Most operas have English supertitles projected above the stage. The languages are listed on the information page of the individual opera. Programs are 60Kč and are in Czech and English. Tickets are available online; December performances went on sale September 1. Performances sell out so plan ahead. All tickets for the above theaters can be purchased together (and ballet/drama/opera/etc can all be combined).

Kelli Nakagama at Rusalka at the Estates Theatre in Prague.

I was slightly overdressed (like usual) at the Estates Theatre.

The attire was on the dressy side, but not a lot of formal wear (like tuxes). Men were in suits and blazers while women were in dresses and dress pants. Not as casual as Paris; about the same as what I’ve seen in New York City.

Each theater has several bars offering Bohemian Sekt (sparkling wine), wines, beers and liquor, plus sandwiches and other nibbles. Coat check is available or if you have box seats, available in your box. As with every opera house, I recommend arriving early to admire the beauty of the opera house (and people-watch).

First Look :: Copper Kitchen in Holladay

First came Copper Onion.  The New American restaurant revolutionized how Utahns thought about food—and how the food world thought about Utah.  It put Salt Lake City, its chefs and its culinary scene on the gastronomic map, paving the way for a whole new range of restaurants serving world-class food.

Then came Copper Common.  Part bar, part restaurant, Copper Common was a drinking establishment that filled a much-needed hole in Salt Lake City.  Serving cocktails created by mixologists and bar food you actually want to eat, the Copper Onion offshoot was a success from the start.

And now, there’s Copper Kitchen, the newest member of the Copper-coated team created by chef and owner Ryan Lowder.  Copper Kitchen, in Holladay, moves the dining scene outside of downtown Salt Lake City and serves a similar style of New American comfort foods like it’s oldest sibling.  The menu has the same essence, the atmosphere the same attitude, just under a different (copper) roof in a different part of town.

Bresaola-topped baguette at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

Bresaola-topped baguette.

Copper Kitchen sits in Holladay’s newly revamped area on 4600 South 2300 East neighboring the new Caputo’s, Taqueria 27, 3 Cups and not far from Provisions.  This area is an oasis to southern Salt Lake City dwellers, who no longer have to trek all the way downtown just for a decent meal.

The copper ceiling and open kitchen with bar seating are reminiscent of its sister restaurant, but Copper Kitchen has cozy booths and plenty of parking—both welcome changes.  But don’t be fooled; reservations are just as crucial as at Copper Onion.

House-cured olives and pickles ($4/each) top the snack part of the menu, along with charcuterie and cheese plates ($14/each).  The cheese board was great to snack on while perusing the menu and picking a wine from their two-page list, expertly grouped by light, medium and full body.  The duck croquettes ($7), with duck confit, cremini mushrooms and a tangy sweet orange aioli are a memorable start to the meal.

Octopus with jalapeño and celery at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

Octopus with jalapeño and celery.

Full appetizers are dishes like the grilled octopus ($17) with celery, jalapeño and balsamic vinaigrette, was slightly spicy but the balsamic and jalapeños overpowered the flavor of the octopus, which is braised for 5 hours before being grilled over the wood stove.  A medley of salads—beet with avocado (below, $9), pear with pine nuts and fennel ($10), Caesar with anchovy crumble ($7) and brussel sprouts with apples ($9)—and soups (chicken with roasted dumplings, $8, and french onion, $9) finish off the starter side of the menu.

The beet salad at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

The beet salad was a delicious mix of textures and well-meshed flavors.

The beet salad ($9) is a refreshingly light option, with perfectly cooked beets (not too soft, not too hard), avocados and salty, crunchy toasted pistachios on a pillow of whipped ricotta.  The well-balanced salad was a definite hit.

The bresaola baguette (pictured at top, $12), was another enjoyable starter; slices of bresaola-topped bread with delicately spicy horseradish served with a side of greens in a salty truffle vinaigrette.

Mary's Chicken, with grilled and fried pieces, at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

Grilled and fried chicken, for when you can’t decide between the two.

The entrees include a small set of offerings covering all the basics :: chicken, steak, pork, fish and lamb.  Mary’s Chicken ($24) was one of the favorites with both grilled and fried versions, served with root vegetables in a mustard vinaigrette.

The lamb shank ($29) was more of a hit than a miss, with the celery salad a little too mayonnaise-heavy for my taste and distracting from the perfectly-cooked lamb flavor.

Beef bourguignon at Copper Kitchen in Hollday, Utah.

One of the best dishes at Copper Kitchen: beef bourguignon.

The beef bourguignon ($21) was another well-loved dish, pairing perfectly with the pork belly batons, beautiful house-made pappardelle pasta and creamy mustard sauce.  It was a well-balanced, savory winter dish with bold notes of garlic and shallots.  The special, pork belly with clams ($18), had a delicious jus but was otherwise a little off-balance.

Candied pork chop at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

The candied pork chop was phenomenal.

The snake river pork chop (one of the night’s specials, $23) was an outstanding dish.  The candied pork (yes, really) with a sweet crispy edge was served with barley, sofrito, bacon jam and cremini and shiitake mushrooms.  Oh my, was it amazing.

Maple spice ice cream sundae with grilled bananas at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

Maple spice ice cream sundae with grilled bananas.

Desserts include a small selection of finales ranging from light (cheese board, $14) to rich (chocolate peppermint torte, $7) to extravagant (maple spice ice cream sundae with grilled bananas, $8) to satisfyingly simple (cheesecake with white honey, below, $7).  The cheesecake was surprisingly light (the waiter explained it was whipped) and not too sweet, with just the white honey drizzle on top.

Cheesecake at Copper Kitchen in Holladay, Utah.

Fluffy cheesecake drizzled with white honey.

Copper Kitchen fills an empty hole in the southern end of Salt Lake City, serving outstanding home-cooked foods.  Some dishes had a few kinks, but I’m confident they will be straightened out (and then some) with time.

Go to Copper Kitchen for :: a casual but creatively delicious meal with all the flair of downtown except the drive.  Notes ::  Open Sunday-Thursday 5-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 5-10 pm.  Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am – 3 pm.  Reservations are available online here.  Free parking is available in the underground garage.

Copper Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Christmas in Prague

The smell of cinnamon dough roasting over charcoal—an enticing scent of sweet mixed with smoke—wafted over the Christmas Market in Prague’s Old Town Square.  Somewhere a live band played an upbeat tune, giving the already festive air an even happier feeling.

It was Christmas evening and I had just landed in Prague.  The darkness combined with my jet-lag made the night feel late, even though it was only 6 pm.  The Astronomical Clock chimed right on time, the tiny doors on its tower opening to reveal puppet-like figurines portraying a skit called “The Walk of the Apostles.”  It’s the world’s only working astronomical clock, first installed in 1410, that tells the positions of the sun, moon, zodiac constellations and, of course, the time.

The Christmas Market in Old Town Square, Prague.

The Christmas Market in Old Town Square.

Locals and tourists alike mingled and wandered through the square, sipping on svařák (warm mulled wine), munching on Prague ham roasted over an open fire or the charcoal-roasted pastries—a traditional Czech treat known as trdelnik that tasted of sweet cinnamon sugar contrasted with a slightly smoky aftertaste.

The entire scene felt like a dream….  Christmas in Prague.

The Christmas tree at the Christmas Market in Old Town Square in Prague.

The Christmas tree at the Christmas Market in Old Town Square.

I was lured to the Czech Republic by the opera Rusalka.  The Dvořák masterpiece is one of the most beautiful orchestral works I’ve ever heard.  It tells the story of a mermaid who trades her voice for the chance to love a human prince, leaving her underwater family behind for a new world.  (Disney fans will recognize the familiarity in The Little Mermaid.)

The Czech opera hooked me, but it was Prague’s architecture and history that inspired me to give up spending the holidays with my family and travel to a new land, much like the mermaid Rusalka.  Only I wasn’t looking for love, just excitement and a solo adventure, plus an excuse to avoid my least favorite holiday.

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) from the Charles Bridge (Karlův most).

Prague Castle (on the hill) from the Charles Bridge.

In the days that followed Christmas, I would remain in constant awe of the beauty and history that surrounded me.  I saw Rusalka at the State Opera House (opened in 1888), then The Marriage of Figaro in the only surviving opera house that Mozart conducted in (the Estates Theater), followed by the ballet—a combination of the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol—at the National Theater.  Each one was a whirlwind of gorgeousness for both my eyes and ears.

I drank Czech beer in a brewery open since 1402, surprised that I actually enjoyed light beer (although their dark beer will forever hold a special place in my heart) and enjoyed the comfort of Czech cuisine, like a warm bowl of beef goulash on a snowy December day.

The view of Prague from the towers of St. Vitus Cathedral.

The view of Prague from the towers of St. Vitus Cathedral.

I trekked up the hill to the Prague Castle complex, climbing the tower of St. Vitus Cathedral to see the city from its highest point, marveling at the red rooftops and numerous spires that influenced the city’s nickname, City of A Hundred Spires.

I wandered through Saint Wenceslas Square, where the Nazis held mass demonstrations during WWII and where Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1969.

The coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg made out of human bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic.

The coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg made out of human bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic.

One day I even ventured to the small town of Kutná Hora to see a church decorated with 40,000 human bones.  But the Sedlec Ossuary, often called The Bone Church, wasn’t as stunning as the tiny streets or the ancient houses standing since Medieval times.

Prague ham roasting outside and trdelník at the Christmas Market.

Prague ham roasting outside and trdelník at the Christmas Market.

Each day I’d walk past the Christmas Market and stop for trdelnik or mulled wine to warm me from the inside.  I’d marvel at the Christmas tree in the square whose lights never turned off and listen to the dozens of languages being spoken around me.

I went to Prague to avoid Christmas and ended up falling in love with the lights, the decorations, the magic of the season.

The bridge tower at the end of the Charles Bridge.

The bridge tower at the end of the Charles Bridge.

Yes, there were awkward moments (after all, I was traveling alone) and language barriers, delicious food and not-so-memorable dishes.  There were late nights combined with early mornings with the suffering of hangover headaches.  But every single moment was wonderful.

St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle Complex.

St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle Complex.

And then in the blink of an eye—as it always goes when traveling—it was time to move on to Vienna to experience Austrian culture and celebrate the new year.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share details about my favorite Prague places, seeing the opera in Prague, a delicious meal or two and my day trip to Kutná Hora.  

Related :: Merry Christmas and Off to Prague & Vienna and Rusalka in New York City

7 Restaurants to Try in 2015

The new year is a blank slate for all sorts of things: goals, achievements, adventures, places to eat.  That’s right, a whole new calendar full of meals that need eating.  Everyone might be in diet mode right now but we all know that’s not going to last.  To prep you for when that times comes, here are 7 restaurants to try in 2015:

Eggplant stir fry at Chabaar in Murray, Utah.

Deliciously spicy, the egg plant stir fry is full of contrasting textures and tastes.

1. Chabaar Beyond Thai

Chabaar is without a doubt the best Thai food in Salt Lake City.  The menu covers a wide range of dishes, each uniquely flavored and awesomely prepared.  But–and this is a big but–they do not take heat lightly!  Their dishes are incredibly spicy so order 1 or maybe a 2 if you’re feeling daring; anything beyond that you’ll suffer.  (They make you sign a waiver if you order over a 5!)

Must Order Dish:  the eggplant stir fry with chicken. It’s not actually on the menu but if you ask for it, they’ll make it.  And it’s amazing.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket with hush puppies and mac and cheese at R&R BBQ in Salt Lake City.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket with hush puppies and mac and cheese.

2. R&R Barbecue

When it comes to barbecue, R&R Barbecue does not mess around.  They’ve won nationwide awards for their slowly smoked meat and once you taste it, you’ll see why.  Their brisket is smoked for nearly 20 hours until it’s a perfection of smokey goodness.  But the secret is out so arrive early before the goods are gone.

Must Order Dish: brisket, in any form.  I prefer the two meat plate with sliced brisket and pulled pork, hush puppies and a side of mac and cheese–plus a glass of Evolution beer to finish it off.

Pumpkin tortelli at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The pumpkin tortelli is incredibly rich but perfect for winter.

3. Provisions

The south end of Salt Lake City used to be a black hole of chain restaurants but now a whole line of restaurants have opened in the Holladay area, giving downtown a run for its money.  One of the best restaurants in the neighborhood is Provisions, a small plates place serving New American dishes created from local ingredients with a menu that changes almost weekly.  Plus their cocktail menu is worth stopping for by itself.

Must Order Dish: the pumpkin tortelli (if it’s still on the menu).

See my full review on Provisions here.

Fried chicken with a hint of shoyu = excellent.

Fried chicken with a hint of shoyu = excellent.

4. Rye

Rye is hard to define.  It’s part coffee shop, part diner, part really good food, plus it’s almost a concert venue.  Next door to Urban Lounge and sharing the same owners, concerts are piped into Rye on live TV screens.  They serve breakfast weekdays starting at 8 am (9 pm on weekends), evolve into dinner at 6 pm, then go back to their morning menu til midnight.  And their cuisine?  It, too, defies explanation; it’s part Asian fusion, part American diner.  All I know is the shoyu fried chicken is phenomenal.

Must Order Dish: shoyu fried chicken.

See my full review on Rye here.

Risotto of goat cheese, heirloom carrots and spring onions in a citrus emulsion at Fresco in Salt Lake City.

The risotto was a starburst of carrots and onions.

5. Fresco

When many people think of Italian food, they think of pasta-heavy dishes drenched in red sauce.  (And that’s ok, that kind of Italian is great!)  But there is another side of Italian food full of sensual sauces, rich risottos and hearty dishes like wagyu beef gnocchi.  And the best place to find it is at Fresco.  The quaint restaurant was once a house and its patio will make you feel right at home.

Must Order Dish: you can’t go wrong with the daily risotto.

See my full review on Fresco here.

Chicken and waffles topped with an egg at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

Oozy egg to top off an already amazing dish.

6. Pig & A Jelly Jar

When I first heard of chicken and waffles I thought whoever came up with the dish must have been crazy.  Then I tasted the way the crunchy, salty fried chicken meshes seamlessly with the sweet syrup and buttery goodness of the waffle and how the egg yolk seals the whole scene together.  And I realized that crazy is often confused with genius, and chicken and waffles is pure genius.  It’s the specialty at Pig & A Jelly Jar and they serve them alllll day long.  After all, the dish is part breakfast, part dinner!

Must Order Dish: as if it needs saying: chicken and waffles!

See my full review on Pig & A Jelly Jar here.

Cocktail at the Gibson Lounge at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Gibson is known for its cocktails but their food is just as awesome.

7. The Gibson Lounge at the Grand America

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Two little secrets, in fact.  First, the Gibson Lounge at the Grand America is one of the best bars in the city.  They make exceptional cocktails in a snazzy bar that feels straight out of the 1920s and the best part is it’s not overcrowded with the usual SLC crowd (you know that scene starts to get old).  Second thing, their burger is incredible.  I know, I know, it’s a bar at a hotel.  But trust me on this one.  Order the burger.  They serve it (and the rest of the menu) til midnight seven days a week.

Must Order Dish: the Grand Burger with onion marmalade and melted blue cheese.

See my post on my staycation at the Grand America here. 

**

Ok, there you have it: 7 restaurants to try in 2015.  And if you’ve been to them, maybe it’s time for a revisit.  We have a long year of eating ahead of us!

Related :: 7 Restaurants to Try in 2014 and 7 Restaurants to Try in 2013.

Merry Christmas (And Off to Prague & Vienna!)

There was a time when the thought of “the holiday season” didn’t make me cringe.  A time when I looked forward to decorating the Christmas tree, when I loved wrapping gifts and I couldn’t wait to play holiday music on the piano.

That time is long, long gone.

The Christmas tree in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

The Christmas tree in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Now I’m the local Scrooge, bah humbug-ing around Salt Lake City at the first sign of holiday decorations.  (Which, I might add, started the second week of October.  Christmas trees in October, people!)

Last year I survived Christmas, then escaped to Washington D.C. the next day where I spent a week sightseeing the capitol’s monuments, visiting memorials and museums and eating as much food as possible.

The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

This year, I’m going even more extreme.  I decided to trick myself into counting down the days until Christmas by leaving on Christmas Eve to Prague.  I have tickets to see my most favorite opera, Rusalka (that I saw in February in New York City), and The Marriage of Figaro in the only theater left in existence where Mozart himself performed.  I’ll finish with the Nutcracker ballet (continuing a tradition started last year in DC) before heading to Vienna.

In Vienna I will ring in the new year at the New Year’s Eve ball at the Hofburg Palace, then see an opera about that very ball at the Vienna State Opera (Strauss’ Die Fledermaus) followed by Rigoletto the next day.  I have a ball gown with opera gloves.  I have a winter wardrobe to keep me warm.  And I have a to do list that will entertain me for days.  Twelve days, to be exact.

Giant nutcrackers stand guard at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C.

Giant nutcrackers stand guard at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C.

Needless to say, I’ve been counting down to Christmas since July (when I bought my opera tickets), feeling like a little kid anxiously awaiting Santa and his reindeer.  And while that doesn’t make me appreciate cheesy Christmas lights on my neighbors’ houses any more, it does make me feel a little bit of that so-called “Christmas spirit” everyone keeps yacking about.

So in light of that, Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  I will have plenty of posts about my adventures in Prague and Vienna in a few weeks, but in the meantime, follow me on Instagram or friend me on facebook where I’ll be bombarding everyone’s feed with as many photos of Eastern Europe as possible.

Cheers!

Related :: Love & Travel (And Off to Spain & France!), New Years Weekend in Washington D.C. (2013) and New Years Weekend in Chicago (2012)

Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper

Draper is the spitting image of suburbia, a land full of massive houses overrun by strip malls full of chain restaurants.  It’s a place that’s not exactly known to have good food.

Er, maybe I should say: Draper wasn’t known for having good food. Past-tense.

Then Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper opened its doors.  Yes, it’s in a strip mall.  Yes, it’s in the suburbs.  And—surprisingly—yes, it serves good food.

A chorizo pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Chorizo, mozzarella, asiago and onions.

The food is an eclectic mix of please-everyone favorites.  There’s a whole range of pizzas, a list of salads, entrees like spaghetti, roasted chicken and salmon; there’s Sriracha-honey wings and sandwiches and even sliders.  The menu is a undoubtedly all over the place, but that can be good news for indecisive groups who can’t pick a place to eat.

Even though the dishes don’t appear to be flavors you’d want to mix with each other across the board (nachos and salmon anyone?), the menu advises the small plates mentality of sharing everything among the table.  Luckily, majority of my friends went the pizza route so sharing our dishes was more than complementary, it was more like a pizza medley.

Pork and meatball sliders at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The pork sliders (left) and meatball sliders (right), served with fries.

The only pizza exception we ordered was the sliders.  The meat ball sliders ($11) are stuffed with a house-made ball of beef and pork, topped with fresh mozzarella, a few basil leaves and doused in tomato sauce—true meaty deliciousness.  The wood-oven pulled pork sliders ($10) are a bit sweeter, with a chipotle barbecue sauce dripping over the pulled pork, sweet and spicy coleslaw and onion strings.  The onion strings were soggy, not crunchy, but the coleslaw meshed the flavors well.

They also have a veggie slider ($10) with goat cheese, roasted beets, arugula and caramelized onions.  The fries were the real star of the sliders; crispy, crunchy and perfectly salty, they are served with a wonderful garlic aioli and an awesome Sriracha ketchup.  (Order them as a starter for $6.)

Baked goat cheese at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Baked goat cheese.

The meatballs are served sans bun in a starter dish ($10), where they are also topped with mozzarella, basil and tangy tomato sauce.  The tomato sauce and cheese combination also appears in the baked goat cheese appetizer ($9), served with a garlicky oak bread; a basic introduction to your meal.

Arugula and prosciutto pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The night’s special was an arugula- and prosciutto-topped pizza.

The pizzas are created on a thin-crust with the beautiful balance of crispy thinness and fluffy crust, with slightly blackened bits on the bottom for flavor.  They are a size larger than typical “personal pizzas” that could feed two people with sides.  The Doña Chaya (pictured at top, $12) is a meat-lovers dream, topped with chorizo, luscious globs of mozzarella, asiago cheese and caramelized onions.

The white pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The white pizza.

The White ($10) is a tomato sauce-less pie with a heaping of cheeses (mozzarella, Parmesan, asiago, ricotta) and garlic oil.  It was less flavorful than the special, a red sauce-based pie piled with arugula, prosciutto, parmesan and ricotta cheeses.  I love pizzas topped with salads, it’s like a side dish and main all in one!

Cookie and cream at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Cookie and cream.

Dessert options are much more refined, simplified into a Sweet Ricotta Dessert Pizza ($6) and Hot Cookie & Cream ($5).  The chocolate chip cookie arrives in a scalding skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream and drenched in bubbling-hot chocolate and caramel sauce.  It’s a sugar hit for sure, but not a bad burst of sugar to end your meal.

Go to Oak Wood Fire Kitchen for :: a casual meal of pizza (or a range of other dishes) and a glass of wine (or beer) in the far south end of the valley.  Notes :: Open Monday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am – 10 pm.  Closed Sundays.  Reservations are accepted for parties of 8 or more.

Oak Wood Fire Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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