Friends, Sprudge readers, I set before you a resolved confession: I recently traveled to the great state of Utah for a family wedding, and going in, I had very low hopes for finding a coffee experience to match my New York City specialty coffee habit (let’s be real). My dubiousness owed much to the fact that the consumption of coffee is forbidden by The Church of Latter Day Saints, and around 50% of Salt Lake City residents are adherent Mormons. I had assumed I wouldn’t find much in the way of SLC specialty coffee culture, but it turns out I was delightfully, unexpectedly wrong.
Every detail of The Rose Establishment reflects a forward-thinking commitment to quality, from the spatial design to the food program to the coffee and tea. Owner Erica O’Brien—who was baking off some of their amazing house-made pastries when I stopped in with my mother—opened the cafe two years ago in a massive old industrial space that was a soup and sandwich shop before she took over (the building was originally a meatpacking warehouse). The beautiful restoration that she and her father did of the space makes heavy use of white tiling, light woods and industrial fittings to create an open, clean yet cozy space focused around a central bar/baking/prep island. With a wide variety of seating options and a big, shady front patio, the space comfortably accommodates many different social uses. The customers coming in are clearly predominantly regulars, and the central prep island with its bar seating creates a nucleus of easy communal atmosphere that permeates the space.
The straightforward, modern coffee program is perfectly inline with the aesthetic of the space: Espresso drinks each come in one size and are prepared on a paddle-group La Marzocco Linea; French-Pressed coffee waits in air-pots for the grab-and-go customer; and a selection of three coffees are available each day, hand brewed on Clever drippers. I personally tried a Clever brew of Four Barrel’s Costa Rica La Concha Santa Rosa – it was pleasantly nutty, if a shade muddy & indistinct. The shot of Four Barrel’s Friendo Blendo I had was better, but somewhat sharp on its own. However the local Winder Dairy milk used in my cappuccino yielded sweetness without distracting malty notes, married with the espresso’s tart cherry acidity to create an excellent, textbook delicious cappuccino.
In addition to coffee, The Rose Establishment offers a massive selection of teas, three different beers from hometown favorites Uinta Brewing, and genuinely sumptuous baked goods and light food. The orange marmalade and rosemary scone I had was easily one of the best scones I’ve had in 2012 (and I be eatin’ scones, y’all), bursting with the flavor of rosemary so fresh it tasted juicy. For lunch my mother ordered an absurdly tasty and comforting avocado toast with salt, pepper and olive oil on five-grain bread, and I had a turkey sandwich with green apple, brie, balsamic and strawberry preserve. We shared an outstanding Earl Grey Creme Spritz, an original soda that The Rose Establishment recently started making in-house from their popular Earl Grey Creme tea.Clearly The Rose Establishment spends a great deal of time considering all of their offerings and coming up with smart twists on classic flavors. I’m grateful that my old co-worker and Salt Lake native Carly Pino suggested I visit The Rose Establishment — a cafe that trumped my pre-conceived notions on Salt Lake City, and a welcome reminder that great coffee can be found in the most unexpected places.
Some other coffee options in Utah:
View Utah Coffee in a larger map
Alex Bernson is a staff writer for Sprudge.com.