I’ve had more dreams than a regular person should about Freebirds World Burrito in the Salt Lake area in Utah. For some reason, my memory fails me, saying that they’re in TaylorsvilIe when really they’re in Sandy, West Valley City, and Salt Lake City. I remember first being alerted to them when one of the news stations in my area did a profile. They weren’t even open yet. In the years that have passed, I have been unable to visit them for a variety of reasons. Most of them are financial. The biggest reason is my wife doesn’t want me to gorge myself on their Super Monster burrito.
Who can blame her? Well… I can! You can only dream about a burrito for so long before it becomes a problem for which you need to see a psychiatrist. I’m here to say if loving massive burritos is a problem, consider me problematic. I have tried a lot of burritos in my day. They’re either too bland or too small. If I were to find a burrito that was neither of those things, I would be a happy boy. I think Freebirds World Burrito is the place to do that for me.
Perhaps I’m going out on too much of a limb here. I hate reviewing a place and never hearing back from the place I’ve reviewed. I almost feel like my words are being shouted into the void in those scenarios. I don’t care about receiving praise from my review subjects. I just like to talk to them to get inspiration for my content. Their input is, like George Carlin used to say, spice in my stew. I’m hoping I hear from them after posting this review.
Could you call it a review if you have never tried the think you’re reviewing? I think so. If you’ve heard and thought about something long enough, you can talk about it at length. The only thing you can’t testify to is the quality of the product itself. I’m still willing to give Freebirds World Burrito my enthusiastic endorsement. I have seen pictures of people enjoying what comes out of their kitchen. You can’t go wrong with that. Written reviews are one thing. Pictures of people with joy written all over their faces is something else entirely. I look forward to the day when I can post a more thorough review of their burritos. Until then, if you have one in your area, go check them out.
I’m all about things that used to be here and are now gone. The idea of something dominating the landscape for years and then just disappearing makes absolutely no sense to me. I hate it when icons are paved over in favor of less interesting destinations. We have to do whatever we can to preserve our history and heritage. Letting soulless corporations pave over everything is a good way to fail at that pursuit.
The city in which I live, Ogden, Utah, has its share of recently departed icons. These establishments include Utah Noodle Parlor, Dee’s Family Restaurant, Ye Lion’s Den, Sandy’s Fine Foods, and China Nite. This journey will be complicated because of the varied status of each location.
Utah Noodle Parlor and Dee’s Family Restaurant could be acquired tomorrow. They’re both still standing and vacant or for sale. Ye Lion’s Den would have to be completely redone. According to the business next door to where Ye Lion’s Den, the space it once occupied is stripped down. There’s nothing left. Sandy’s Fine Foods might be a waiting game. Their building is currently occupied by a restaurant that has attempted to alter the iconic look of the place. Plus, the former owners operate a popular catering service in the area. China Nite would have to be rebuilt or restarted at another location. It has since been demolished.
I want to acquire all these places, restore them to their former glory, open the doors, and start serving the people. I want to give countless locals the opportunity to pursue sustainable employment. I want to bring culture back to a city and county that seems to be doing everything in its power to abandon it. I let an icon of my community slip into the abyss before. I’m not about to do it again.
Money is the sticking point here as it is with so many things in life. Completing this project would require millions of dollars up front, not to mention what would be needed to keep going later on. I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Restaurants in a community lack identity if they don’t have an elder statesman among them. The past few years haven’t been kind to the older restaurants in my city. I’m hoping that the people will rise up and make sure that years to come are much improved for our storied establishments.
Pig & A Jelly Jar is an obsession of mine. I’ve been there a couple times and absolutely love it. I haven’t had an item on their menu do anything other than impress me. They even serve great coffee, which is uncommon, especially here in Utah. This place is at the top of my list of eateries whenever I decide to go out a bite.
I’m disheartened when I see so many people expressing their disappointment with this culinary palace. It appears that a lot of these reviews came from people who were either too picky or had a bad experience and, rather than let Pig & A Jelly Jar rectify the situation, decided to blast it out across the internet. Reviews like these are the reason why I don’t trust online reviews whatsoever. People see negativity and whizz past intent, punishing fine eateries in the process. I applaud the owner of Pig & A Jelly Jar, Amy B., for her willingness to respond to every review, no matter how silly or petty.
Whenever I write a review as positive as this one, people think I’m in the pocket of the thing I’m reviewing. On the contrary, the people at Pig & A Jelly Jar don’t know me from a hole in the ground. I’ve been through their doors a couple times. I’ve never introduced myself though. My words are as genuine as the effort they put into each of their dishes.
I’ve eaten at a lot of places. I hate it when a place tries to add artificial ingredients into my meal. I like for my food to be as natural as what I make at home. I’m not interested in leaving my house unless someone is going to come correct with what they’re serving me.
If you’re looking for a place that serves food that’s as real as it gets, head over to Pig & A Jelly Jar. They have locations in Ogden and Salt Lake City. I’ve only been to their Ogden location, which is as comfy and cozy as a restaurant can be. I feel like the people who work at this place are my friends. I like how I feel like I’m a part of their family whenever I sit at one of their tables. As I sit here, I find myself thinking about their menu. Maybe you’ll see me there chowing down on something delightful.
A little while ago, I was excited to see Black Bear Diner move into the building that was once occupied by Blockbuster Video in Ogden, Utah. I was excited until I went there and had a meal though. To say that their service was bad was an understatement. It was so bad that it impacted the quality of the food itself. I was so disgusted at their utter indifference and profound incompetence. I thought that this might have been the result of coming to a restaurant that had just opened its doors. I made it a point to come back later.
My second visit was the same as the first. They forgot about me and I had to ask for a table two or three times. Our server stopped coming to our table shortly after they dropped off the entrees. I had to seek someone out to pay my check and get out of that place. I vowed never to come back again, but I’m not that kind of guy. I like to present my concerns to companies that have let me down in the hopes that they could showcase their best side, winning me back as a customer in the process.
I’m tired of companies who feel like individual customers do not matter. They play a numbers game, thinking that they’re doing well even if a few customers might not have the highest opinion of them. That’s depressing. Smaller businesses don’t do that to their customers. They treat everyone who walks through their doors like they’re family members. This is the way every company needs to think regardless of their size or level of success. I get the sense that Black Bear Diner does things this way, even though they’re successful and located in several states.
I love food. There’s nothing that disappoints me more than when a place that’s supposed to serve food well lets me down. I get that there are bad restaurants. Based on the reviews they’re getting, Black Bear Diner does not seem to fit into the category of lackluster eateries. Yet, my experiences with them put them near the bottom of the list of places at which I would like to eat in my area. This disconnect is troubling to say the least. Perhaps someone with Black Bear Diner might reach from the darkness and enlighten me on what makes them a place worth visiting.
A memorial goes a long way, but it can only go so far. Remembering something is all well and good. If that thing isn’t here, you can remember it all you want. The thing you’re remembering isn’t going to come back. You will feel better for awhile having remembered it. This feeling will subside, making it even more difficult to process your loss than if you had done nothing at all. I’m not advocating for the abolition of memorials in all their forms. What I’m saying is we need to do more to appreciate and preserve what we love while it’s still here.
I’m lucky to have not dealt with a lot of loved ones passing away. Family members have died of old age, but I didn’t have good relationships with a lot of them. Only two losses were substantial. I found ways to overcome those losses because I knew we had shared many great moments and left on good terms. I miss them often. However, for some reason, I don’t miss them so much that I wish they were still here. It would be wonderful if they were. I just remind myself their number was up and anything we could have done in our relationship was accomplished and then some.
I often regret the fact that I didn’t spearhead an effort to save the Cinedome 70 in Riverdale, Utah sooner. I should’ve acted the moment I saw a for sale sign attached to the building. Public interest would’ve been up and all the damage vandals inflicted on the structure could’ve been avoided. I realize that a lot of people think I’m foolish for admiring a building that’s now long gone. I get it. I just love buildings that are loaded with personality, especially buildings that were constructed by passionate people.
Modern architecture is soulless and lifeless. Nothing but a bunch of straight edges and open windows. Corporations rule the day and they prioritize designs that are easy and cheap to replicate. Consumers go for these establishments because they’re everywhere. They pass up the little places, thinking that they should avoid them since the owner wasn’t able to plunk down the money to outfit everything with the newest and the best. Whatever happened to appreciating the little guy? I wish the juggernauts would go out of business tomorrow, allowing for the up and comers to create the jobs and make things enjoyable again.
I’m in awe of the fact that my failed campaign to save the Cinedome 70 in Riverdale, Utah is coming up on its 7th anniversary. While the campaign failed to actually save the theater, it succeeded in making sure that it didn’t go out quietly. I thought the idea of a theater that had been in a community for decades disappearing in the blink of an eye was a travesty. I had to unite the troops to make sure that this didn’t happen. In hindsight, my efforts were startlingly inept in every sense of the word.
If I could go back, I would have started my campaign much earlier. This might not have been feasible though. When the theater closed in 2001, I was a little over 14 years old. I enjoyed the aesthetics of the theater every time I went through Riverdale. At that age, I was more self-centered than I would care to admit. By the time I developed a more selfless mindset, it was too late and the theater was on its way out. I should have organized a campaign to raise the funds to buy the theater. I had a decade to do it. I will never know why I failed in this regard.
From the ashes of this cinematic palace, a car dealership rose to the sky. The owner of this dealership is the Larry H. Miller Corporation. They’re not a mom and pop operation. They operate countless dealerships and movie theaters throughout the state of Utah and beyond and own the Utah Jazz. A community fixture was bulldozed for a replaceable business that could easily close if the economy went south. I stood at the feat of a corporate juggernaut and didn’t blink. My unwavering defiance mattered very little as LHM had the money and legal resources to bury me.
I appreciate the fact that there’s a painting and plaque in the dealership building. It doesn’t say that the theater was there or for how long. Really it’s a piece of art that blends into the background. I fear that the Cinedome has been forgotten and I’m responsible. I will not let that happen. I will make it a point to talk about it a lot more in the future. Perhaps I might be able to get a mention or two of it in local media. As I did during the campaign, I’m not ruling anything out.
I could spent a million years writing how much I love kona coffee, but all that time still wouldn’t get to the bottom of my adoration for this segment of the coffee universe. I used to see kona coffee as something unattainable, practically a mythological item. Those days are long gone; however, I still hold this coffee in high regard and look at it as the pinnacle of the industry. Kanalani Ohana Farm is one of those entities that does kona coffee right. It all comes down to the dedication they show from the moment they hand pick their beans until they show up in the hands of someone like me.
I can’t get enough of coffee that comes from entities that take it seriously. You are able to discern this fact from the moment you open the bag. The smell of well crafted beans is potent enough to knock you on your butt and make you want to get to your grinder like your life depends on it. From the moment you take your first smell of a type of coffee, you can almost taste what will soon be filling up your cup. It’s hard to put this level of anticipation into words.
That’s the kind of feeling I got when I broke into my bag of Kanalani Ohana Farm kona coffee. I fully understand that they offer their product on their website. Anyone can order it and have it shipped to their house within a few days. Despite all these facts staring me in the face, I somehow feel like I’m one of a privileged few. I feel like I got an invitation to a secret location in a spooky envelope. As I pour a cup of coffee, it’s almost like I’m transported into a secret bunker where I’m able to enjoy this brew with some of the best coffee minds.
Speaking about coffee in these terms might seem excessive. I couldn’t disagree more with this assertion. Any time you’re able to try something on which another person spent countless hours working you think of it as an honor. You’re not tasting coffee when you try Kanalani Ohana Farm’s coffee. You’re tasting the work that they put into it and how much they want it to be great for you. That’s not a sensation you will get when you drink coffee from many different brands. Kanalani Ohana Farm is a cut above.
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If I were to pick one symbol that defines the iconic nature of China Nite, it would be the Hoi Toi statue or the big smiling Buddha statue that hung proudly on the front of the building, beckoning customers from far and wide to get a bite to eat.
This statue has gone missing. I am able to rest easy knowing that it’s somewhere safe because it was removed from the building long before came tumbling down. I have received some leads on its location, putting it in someone’s backyard in one of several cities. The vagueness of these leads is the reason why I decided to write this post. I want to know where the big guy is now. I want to know that he’s safe.
The best information I received on the whereabouts of the Buddha statue came from the administrator of the China Nite Facebook page. They said that someone purchased it and it’s in a backyard in North Ogden. I’m hoping that this is the case because I’m currently living in this part of the state. I would like to pay the owner a visit, take pictures with the Buddha, and come back to you with a full report.
If the person who owns the Buddha is reading this now, I promise you that your location and name will not be divulged. You can contact me anonymously at email@example.com or 801-389-2327. I will work within your schedule and meet you wherever you want me to meet you.
I don’t care if it takes multiple posts to shake down the current location of the Buddha. I fear that this majestic monolith is in a storage shed somewhere rather than the place of honor it deserves. I would love for someone to come out of the mist and current me if I wrong. Trust me, this is one of those things about which I would love to be mistaken.
No one can accurately tell the story of China Nite without mentioning the Buddha. I will delve more into its history in subsequent posts. For now, I’m more concerned about its current situation. Out of all the things that made this restaurant great, the Buddha statue seems to be the only thing that still exists. I could easily go on and on about what used to be and why it’s sad that it’s gone. I will do that, but not before talking about what’s still around.
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Based on the research I’ve conducted, ownership of the land on which China Nite once stood traces back to a Washington Terrace address. I will be writing a letter to this address in the hopes of extracting some additional information. I don’t know the relation of the individuals living at this address to the people who owned the China Nite. I assume, since their name is listed in the public record, they are the current holders of the land. I will not be revealing their name in this forum out of respect for their privacy.
Once I have completed the letter I intend to send to them, I will post it here in its entirety. My main goal for this project has always been to outline every possible detail of my investigations so the process can be followed at a later date. I would rather be completely transparent than leave anything out, causing readers to become confused and ultimately disenchanted.
I don’t like the comments I get whenever I tell someone that I’m going to write a letter. They remind me that the internet exists and that I should just send an email. This comment is both unhelpful and fails to take into consideration all the people who have no web presence. Plus, email is a very impersonal means of communication that can easily be ignored. Letters give reaching out a personal touch and require a physical effort to dispose of.
I used to love writing letters before I became consumed with trying to reach out to everyone via email. I have since come to the realization that there’s nothing wrong with writing someone a letter. If you have legitimate reason to get in touch with someone, you should find whatever means you need to make that exchange possible. I feel like the need for the China Nite story to be told is so profound that it constitutes a reason for me to get in touch with them.
In this letter, I will ask their permission to scan and repost their response. I will give them the opportunity to contact me via mail, telephone, or email. I doubt I will get a reply back. I hope I’m mistaken. I have been wanting to know the postscript for China Nite for years. I hope it’s good news and not confirmation that the end of this Ogden icon was as unceremonious as it seemed.
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What was once the China Nite restaurant on 2783 Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah is now a vacant plot of dirt with a for sale sign near the curb. I looked at this building that was so full of life and character as I drove by it year after year and time after time. One day, I passed by it again and looked to see that a crew was tearing it down. My heart immediately dropped, especially when I saw one of their signs on its side on the ground. I’m hoping that someone saved it and all the other signage on that building and it’s currently getting the loving preservation it deserves.
China Nite did not get the proper sendoff it deserved. We watched as it served as a beacon in the community for so many years only to see it get old, collapse, and then meet its ultimate fate. I’ve always wondered who demolished the building and what their plans for the land were. Clearly nothing came of these plans because the land still remains vacant. An Ogden icon got demolished so we got the opportunity to look at yet another desolate open lot in downtown. Lucky us!
The biggest travesty associated with the demolition of the China Nite is the fact that so many people walk by that land every day and none of them know what stood there. None of them saw the big Buddha statue on the front with all the arrow holes in its belly. None of them witness the majestic glow of the signage when it was lit up at night. All they see is a patch of dirt. That’s unacceptable.
My efforts to come up with the contact information for the family that owned China Nite have so far proven unsuccessful. I know that Glen Hong, the man who ran the establishment until 1995, died last September. Some of his family members are listed on his obituary. I have yet to find any online profiles for these individuals, so my best bet is to write them letters. I’m hoping that if I’m able to get in touch with one of them, I will have the chance to tell the story of China Nite’s afterlife.
I want to know that the outcome of China Nite’s storied history was more than just a pile of rubble that led to a patch of grass and sand. I want to know that someone was given the chance to preserve everything that made this place so interesting. If anything, I want this family to know that their contribution to the community did not go unnoticed, even though the last years of China Nite were nothing like its glory days. Ever since I saw the demolition of China Nite, I wanted to tell its story. Join me, shall you?