The University of UtahRedthread Home

What’s in your ‘hood? A BLT and architecture worth saving

Note: if you only read in 140 character bursts, stop here.  You’ll be over your limit shortly.


Today I went for a walk, principally because I’d been on a plane most of the prior evening.  It being nearly 70 degrees outdoors didn’t hurt.  Exercise and sunshine beckoned.


Secondarily, walking around the University’s neighborhoods started to appeal to me a couple of weeks back when the U was evacuated due to a major gas leak. [No damage or injuries.]  When folks got the word electronically that campus was closing, they uniformly jumped in their cars.  Some tens of thousands of faculty, staff and students thought of no better way to get out of potential danger than to drive away.  The hours-long traffic backup on the two-lane, winding campus roads could not have been avoided with any number of the post-event suggestions.  (Have you ever left parking lots after a game – even with traffic control?)  The capacity just isn’t there for rapid movement. 


So I thought–like Mom always said (and Ken Smith, the U researcher has studied)–I should be using my feet.


With that in mind, I’ve begun investigating the areas beyond the invisible but seemingly impenetrable boundaries around the campus.


I decided to head to a coffee house I’d heard of a couple of blocks away, hoping to get lunch with some java.


The shop–Café Noir–is just down the street from the U. It’s on Second South just west of 1100 East. [As a Utah native, that direction makes innate sense.  I understand that for those hailing from Connecticut, it will cause reactions ranging from knowing chuckles to hyperventilation. But the sooner you figure the system out, the better for you.  Call it ‘tough love.’]


It (the coffee house) would be a comfortable spot for a good cup of coffee, judging from the, uh, variety of customers gathered there. Offerings include many drink choices hot or cold, caffeinated or not, and some pastries. There are two outdoor tables on the south side for soaking up sun, and a barista complete with ample piercings and rasta hat.  I’ll come back one day for a coffee, but today I needed food. With said barista’s recommendation to find an Einstein Bagels maybe nearby, I set out to find something on my own.

Stately, welcoming homes.

Stately, welcoming homes.






 I continued walking west on Second South. Surprisingly pretty. Driving downtown, you overlook the grace of old two- and three-story mansions.  You miss the scale of handsome trees arching over the sidewalks.  Close up you can feel the humanity indicated by wide porches sporting wicker chairs, spring flowers popping up around the base of the trees and even around the street signs dug into the parking strips.  One house had been converted to a day care, its driveway lined with orderly strollers.







Smart cars.

The original 'smart cars'.





A painted lady in SLC, not SFO.

A painted lady in SLC, not SFO.

 Elsewhere, gingerbread trim painted in two and three colors says there remains pride of ownership in these grand homes tantalizing with history, charm and life in a way McMansions plopped in a suburb never will.



I turned right on 9th East toward the hospital thinking there must be a café nearby for the medical crowd. 


Right again on 100 South put me between the lofty Salt Lake Regional Medical Center (always Holy Cross to me) and Medical Towers, an office building seemingly in need of paint and landscaping.  But a sandwich board pulled me into a café called the Roundhouse, serving breakfast all day. 


Sometimes, simple is best.

Sometimes, simple is best.

I plunked down on a stool at the Formica counter and picked up the newspaper.  Sometimes a place like this can stir up misgivings. But not today. I settled in easily. A Hispanic couple tended the grill piled high with shredded hash browns as they made up generous plates of food.  I ordered a BLT on wheat. She brought me a china mug of coffee.  I watched them work in graceful tandem, noting orders, wiping up spills, flipping potatoes. A refill and my sandwich, with chips, came in good time.  The bread was freshly toasted, bacon thick and meaty, iceberg lettuce crisp – just like Mom made.

While I was eating, an office worker came in, ordered lunch to go.  She found only things to complain about to the couple making her lunch, including not being able to procure a packet of sugar to take back to her office. She had to sugar her tomato on site, poor thing. Apologizing to the proprietors for Office Worker’s rudeness when I left (somebody had to), they relaxed and smiled with me.  Lunch with tip, was six bucks. Smiles for free.   

A veritable feast for the eyes.

A veritable feast for the eyes.

 Finishing my walk going east on 100 South I spied one last spectacular house—brick painted blue brighter than the sky.  The effect was made even more dramatic by the well-tended garden so full of flowers that they spilled out of the yard, even onto the wide parking strip, and the view sated me like a slice of bread pudding. 

Back at my desk, I was reminded that some habits are worth keeping – using your feet and your manners, appreciating and taking care of what you have.  I’m going to keep exploring the neighborhood, and reporting on what I discover.