Guest editorial: Explore ways to diversify Park City’s food culture

I just returned from a delightful family trip to Moab (pop. 5,303) and was shocked by the vibrant food scene that town has. Moab’s tourist economy is not all that dissimilar from Park City’s (pop. 8,467), yet Moab seems to have figured out how to have a diverse dining scene, whereas dining in Park City is monotonous, mundane, and expensive. I think we can do better.

A healthy food scene is a sign of a healthy community, but dining in Park City is moribund. Menus at our most well known restaurants are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Prices are through the roof. And none of our restaurants can even be remotely considered to be serving the community. Food is something that brings everyone together, from the wealthiest among us to the seasonal workers that keep our town running, but Park City seems to have its back on cultivating this key cultural cornerstone. In fact, our town is doing everything it can to throw up roadblocks to innovators who wish to change that, which is why I was extremely dismayed that Versante was denied the approvals it needed to continue to operate its “On the Lawn” concept.

On the Lawn is exactly the kind of experimentation Park City needs to give its dining scene a shot in the arm. Operated out of a food truck, Versante On the Lawn is a great place for Parkites to come together and dine outdoors in a communal setting. On the Lawn serves pizza, a food that transcends class. And On the Lawn, when compared to other dining options in town, is more affordable than most. On the Lawn should not just be allowed to operate but we should be exploring ways to create more operations like it.

The food scene in Moab, with its diversity of options and price points, is a good reminder of what can be possible here. It is not the government’s job to decide what a restaurant can have on its menu, but the government does play a role in creating the conditions to have a diverse and thriving food culture. The town government should be exploring ways to diversify Park City’s food culture without letting bureaucratic red tape get in the way. Everything should be on the table from examining ways our zoning code increases costs for restaurants, eliminating red tape, and exploring thefeasibility of creating a food truck park like Moab has. Increased competition for diners would help all Park City restaurants from the high end to the low. Cities and towns that are known for their food thrive from the competition, not in spite of it, so let’s legalize dining in Park City to improve the quality of life for residents and give guests something else to rave about when they visit.