Catalyst Cafe: The Return of the Dodo
That bird cafe returns to SLC’s east side. Not at all extinct, the Dodo is lookin’ good.
Once a local favorite on 9th East, the Dodo now occupies a prime location on 21st South and 14th East overlooking the tall pines and cottonwood trees, flower gardens and wide green lawns of Sugar House Park plus a stunning sunset view of Mount Olympus.
When the Dodo Bird in Lewis Carol’s novel told everyone wet and dripping to race around the lake until dry, the Dodo Bird was asked, "Who won?" The bird responded, "Everybody has won and all must have a prize!" At the new Dodo Restaurant everybody wins, and the prize is an extraordinary restaurant managed by new owners who have brought it back to life with new landscaping, an enlarged outdoor patio, and lots of onsite parking. The dining room features two large murals of dodo birds sipping pink champagne and celebrating life by local artist Darrel Barton.
The new Dodo offers an extensive menu with an impressive variety of food items and affordable prices that can accommodate any dining budget. Many favorite items from the first Dodo, which opened in 1981, remain on the menu.
The artichoke pie served with tangy lemon mayonnaise and the toasted sesame seed baked cream cheese served with slices of apple and Asian pear can be ordered for $7. Lunch sandwiches and entrées vary from $8 to $11. Dinner salads such as spinach with cranberries, candied walnuts and gorgonzola cheese start at $9. The honey-baked salmon entree with grain mustard and herb glaze is just $17. And the popular smoked turkey sandwich with Dodo sauce is $9 at both lunch and dinner.
Don’t forget to save room for the Dodo’s well-loved desserts: Tollhouse Cake, homemade apple pie, dark and white chocolate mousse pie, and my favorite, the coconut caramel coffee cake served warm with fresh whipped cream. The desserts are made fresh daily by in-house pastry chef Ramone, who has remained with the Dodo for the past 20 years.
The restaurant’s owners are Byron Loveall and Brian Omera, who have been partners since they opened the Porcupine Grill at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon 10 years ago. Executive chef Mike Corbett and restaurant chef Jim Colloch have both been with the Porcupine group since itsearly days. I asked what has kept them loyal employees for such an impressive duration. They both responded, in essence: "The owners are actually here, caring and supporting their large team of employees. They don’t just show up to critique the profit and loss statements. They are an integral part of the Dodo family." They also mentioned taking pride in making everything on the menu from scratch: soups, sauces, dressings, smoked meats and desserts.
I tried the seafood soup du jour and noticed right away that the vegetables were cut by hand and the soup had an obvious homemade flavor. Their sauces, dressings, soups, and baked meats are all made "a la maison." Their turkey and ham are smoked and sliced fresh from their own kitchen. This is rare in popular local restaurants. Why the extra expense and effort? Well, let’s say you can see and taste the difference.
This location has been the home to numerous restaurants from the early days of Brattens, to the well-loved Bird’s Cafe, the not quite authentic French restaurant L’Avenue, and the soon forgotten Harry’s. Not to worry! The Dodo is not an extinct bird. It is very much alive. And it’s my bet that this Dodo is here to stay.
Ed Huntsman is a professional photographer and former restaurateur living in Salt Lake City.
The Dodo in Sugar House. 21st South at 14th East.Saturday and Sunday brunch: 9 am to 3 pm. During the week, the dining room isopen from 11 am to 11 pm..