Home cooking, with dash of Salt; Volume doesn’t keep eateries from satisfying world’s taste buds

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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SALT LAKE CITY – Siegfried Meyer knows bratwurst. He just didn’t expect to have to know this much.

“I’m going through 1,000 pounds of bratwurst a day,” said Meyer, who runs Siegfried’s Delicatessen in downtown Salt Lake City. “The Germans want to eat German food.”

Siegfried’s, which normally makes 70 varieties of sausage and has brought in more for the Games, is one of the many local eateries that have been tapped to serve the Olympics’ international crowd.

Together, they’re proof that no matter how deeply Olympic sponsor McDonald’s penetrates foreign cultures, there’s always a taste for home cooking.

“There are plenty of people looking for something other than hamburgers,” Meyer said.

Absolute, the city’s only Scandinavian restaurant, rented itself out to the Austrian Olympic committee for the Games. With the high concentration of Swedes, Norwegians and Finns in the Winter Olympics, Absolute probably stood to make quite a profit if it simply stayed open for regular business.

“But it’s a guarantee if we rent it out,” said Kimi Eklund, the restaurant’s owner. “And it’s a way to be a part of the Olympics, instead of just doing the same things we do every day. Instead, we get to meet the medalists, meet royalty, meet the prime minister. We’re a part of it.”

And since the Austrians have been faring well on the medal stand – with 13 medals won as of Sunday – the atmosphere has been celebratory, she said, which makes the schnitzel, goulash and strudel go down well.

The city’s top-rated French restaurant, Au Bon Appetit, has been taken over by the Swiss Olympic committee. But unlike Absolute and other Olympic-affiliated restaurants, Au Bon Appetit, renamed the House of Switzerland, has remained open to the public all along.

“The fondue is as good as in Switzerland,” said Swiss alpine skier Oliver Koch.

Owner Christian Peyrin echoed a complaint of many downtown business people: while the influx of Olympians has helped their bottom lines, their regular customers have been scared away.

“The people here are not used to traffic,” he said. “It’s been very, very smooth. But in Salt Lake, whenever they see three cars, they call it a traffic jam.”

Still, business has been strong. A normal Friday or Saturday might bring 200 customers to Au Bon Appetit, Peyrin said. During the Games, an average day might bring 450 or 500.

“We are super-swamped,” he said. “I’ve worked in cities like New York, Paris, Chicago, and this week, Salt Lake feels like a city for the first time.”

To help run the show, Swiss officials brought in 22 volunteers from the mother country, including three chefs. That’s necessary when feeding a Swiss clientele, since Switzerland has no fewer than four official languages.

Meyer’s deli is supplying all the food for the Thueringen House, which is watching after Germany’s Olympians from Thueringen state, once the breadbasket of the East German athletics program.

“I’ve had just about every German newspaper, TV station and magazine in here,” said Meyer, who’s run the deli for 32 years.

The Germans have surprised Meyer with the amount of food and drink (“They’re big on beer”) they’ve consumed. What he expected would be enough bratwurst for two days barely survived one, which is why he was at the deli Sunday, normally his day off, making sausage.

“I get Germans and Austrians and Scandinavians and everybody in here,” he said. “They come and go all day long. Two people leave, and two more people come in. We’ve been packed over capacity.”