Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ogden's 25th Street Raising Its Sundance Profile

Alex Montanez hopes to attract Sundance film goers to Ogden's 25th Street.   
   Park City usually steals most of the thunder during Sundance Film Festival, and some people may not even realize that Ogden's Peery Egyptian Theater is one of the festival's film venues.
   But some Ogden business  owners hope to change that, including Alex Montanez. He's the owner of Rovali's Ristorante, and chairman of the Historic 25th Street Asssociation.
   Interestingly enough, Montanez told me he grew up hating 25th Street.
   Last week I interviewed Montanez for my column in today's Standard-Examiner.
He told me his dad worked for the railroad, and spent a lot of his time on 25th Street back in the day when it was known for seedy hotels, bars and other vices. "At nights, I would go from bar to bar looking for him," he recalled.
   But now, he's become one of the street's biggest cheerleaders, as chairman of the Historic 25th Street Association.  He and his family first opened their restaurant in a Layton strip mall near a Wal-Mart. But they found that 25th Street was a better location.
  Of course, 25th Street has changed a lot from its heyday, when Union Station was a major railroad junction. Known as "Two-Bit Street " due to rampant prostitution, it was also home to bars, gambling, and narcotics. During Prohibition, from 1920-1933, a number of "speakeasies" sold illegal alcohol. In 1999, I interviewed Chris Pappas, whose grandfather George Pappas owned what was known as The Club and the Roosevelt Hotel. He showed me a small buzzer that was still under a windowof The Club. When the "Feds" were coming, someone would hit the buzzer to alert everyone to stash the booze downstairs. The basements in the buildings were all connected with hidden doors, and the alcohol could be shuffled from one place to the next. Chris also took me downstairs to see those old basement and doors.  
  But that was then. In the '80s, a renaissance began. While still retaining the historic flavor, 25th Street has cleaned up its act, attracting art galleries, shops and locally owned eateries such as Rooster's, Union Grill, Rovali's, Jasoh, La Ferrovia, Karen's Cafe, Great Harvest Bread, Bistro 258, Brewskis, MacCool's Public House, Tona Sushi Bar, Lighthouse Sports Bar, Two Bit Street Cafe, and Lucky Slice Pizza.     As someone who has braved blizzard conditions driving Parley's Canyon to cover Sundance events in Park City, I can tell you it's a lot less hazardous driving to Ogden on I-15. And if you take the FrontRunner rail, you can get off at Union Station and walk a few blocks to the theater.  You probably won't have the excitement of catching a glimpse of Paris Hilton or Brittney Spears, but you also won't have the crowds to deal with as you do in Park City.
Chef Rogelio Nevarez of Rovali's shows off the Tour of Rovali's, a trio of lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, and cheese ravioli, as a Sundance "dinner and a movie" option. credit: Valerie Phillips
  The Historic 25th Street Association is hoping you will make it "dinner and a movie," by stopping at one of the restaurants. Some of them (including Rovali's) are offering 15 percent off your total bill if you show your Sundance tickets.
    I think it's a good idea for the restaurants to also offer grab-and-go items, so people who don't have time to sit down to a full meal can still get something to eat and make it on time to their film. Montanez told me Rovali's is going to do this with an  "express" station to sell pizza by the slice and calzones.

   I'd also like to see some restaurants serving a nightly "Sundance" entree with a guarantee that if you order it, you can be served and on your way within 45 minutes or an hour.    Sometimes people are wary about trying out an unfamiliar restaurant if they're not sure how long it will take.  My husband and I learned the hard way when we had Utah Symphony tickets and tried out a new restaurant. We ended up missing the first half of the program (although I don't think my husband minded too much!).

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