ST. GEORGE — Few restaurants can boast a five-star rating on Yelp with more than 200 reviews and counting, but one local cafe can.
Zion Blues Cafe and Roasting Co. is known for its eclectic menu of coffee and teas, smoothies, salads, gourmet sandwiches and more – served from a modest location on West Red Cliffs Drive in Washington City.
Although Zion Blues Cafe is rocking and rolling, it is time to expand yet again, said owner Reid Smeltzer.
“I first opened Jazzy’s Rock ‘n Roll in 1994,” Smeltzer said. “I started with a little coffee cart in the Red Cliffs Mall. At that time, I was the first barista in this town.”
In 1997, Smeltzer opened Jazzy’s Rock ‘n Roll Grill on Bluff Street and focused his attention at this location until approximately six years ago, when he sold his interest in the cafe.
Fast forward and Smeltzer plans to relocate and rebrand his current restaurant – Zion Blues Cafe on West Red Cliffs Drive – back to Bluff Street next to Three Amigos Market and open a fine dining restaurant with his Vietnamese wife Khuyen, who will be the executive chef.
“Khuyen is amazing,” Smeltzer said. “She makes some really great food.”
For residents familiar with Jazzy’s, the new restaurant – Blues Cats Rock ‘n Roll Grill – will be an upscale version of its predecessor featuring culinary delectable dinners and an attractive wine list to select something that pares wonderfully with the menu items, Smeltzer added.
The restaurant will also feature a drive-up window offering a grab-and-go option to hungry St. George residents, and live music for a dinner and a show.
Anyone who has been married for any length of time will know that “a happy wife” equals ” a happy life.” Although there could be a similarity here, Smeltzer said it was more about making his wife’s dreams come true.
“I was content doing Zion Blues Cafe with my wife and it’s a tiny footprint,” he said. “But Khuyen’s dream has always been to have an upscale restaurant, so I thought why not, let’s give it a shot.”
The new location is 3,500 square feet, enough space to do some wonderful things, Smeltzer added.
“We are going serve a bistro-style menu with different nights involving some type of a theme,” Smeltzer said. “Right now, the owner of the building expects to open in April, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be that soon or not. We are looking forward to opening the restaurant.”
When Blues Cats opens, Smeltzer plans on closing down Zion Blues Cafe to focus all of his attention on his new location.
“Two locations is too much work,” he said. “That would terribly hard on my wife.”
Ian, from Farmington, gave a glowing review of Zion Blues Cafe on Yelp and he was not the only one to rave about the food.
“I stumbled upon this gem while visiting a local grocery store,” he wrote. “I stepped into the eclectic cafe’s mood of jazz history and light treats. My goal was a simple sandwich to ease my hunger and measure their skills. My attention was caught by the authentic egg rolls hand-made by the chef.”
Ian’s wife waiting in the car was frustrated when he returned with two orders of egg rolls and no sandwiches.
“The egg rolls are the best rolls are the best I’ve ever had,” he said. “The crunch is memorable and the flavors and sauce and delicious.”
Tom Callister, partner with Linx Commercial Real Estate, said there are many factors why the business climate in Southern Utah is favorable for growth and development especially for restaurants.
Factor in Washington County becoming one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States and tourist visitations that are off the hook: Currently, twice the amount of Park City and much more than the main tourist island of Hawaii – Oahu, and you could expect businesses here to flourish, Callister said.
You also have to include value-added organizations and businesses such as Dixie Regional Medical Center, Dixie State University, Tech Ridge and the city’s close proximity to world-class national parks such as Zion.
“These are all part of it, but when it comes to restaurants tourists have proven to be a very important component,” Callister said. “The reason why is residents of Southern Utah are fairly conservative with their spending. For more sitdown restaurants … to be successful we need to have visitors coming through.”
Success breeds success and Callister anticipates St. George becoming home to a large mix of dining experiences.
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