Meet Michael McHenry: entrepreneur, restaurateur, philanthropist, community engineer, mentor, and all-around fabulous guy!
I live in a pretty hyped world of positive thinkers, but by the time I finished his interview, I felt like I was ready to change the world! Michael and I first met on the top of the downtown Maverick building getting ready to repel “Over The Edge” to raise money for the Salt Lake Family Crisis Center. Ready, set, jump! That pretty much describes his life and his mantra—if you see something worth doing, do it with excellence and jump!
Michael’s first jump into the food and hospitality industry began in 2003 when he was part of the team creating the popular fast casual restaurant Costa Vida. He then jumped to help Blue Lemon develop the concept of Express Gourmet in Utah. Michael’s big leap was into the realm of “socially minded, heart forward” restaurants with a purpose. For example, Even Stevens Sandwich Shop sold over three million sandwiches and donated just as many to the community in under four years. That’s what I lovingly call the “#awesomenessfinger”!
However, Michael knew there were still many roads to walk, people to invest in, and restaurants to open as he continued his journey. He knew that his talents were best put to use by creating new restaurant brands and opportunities for individuals in the communities his loves—brands that would be centered around his personal vision and rewards center. He founded The McHenry Group and began opening restaurants that focused on the needs of the neighborhood, where it is about connecting people and allowing his creative genius to flourish. A good day for Michael is one where he connects table-side with his guests, leads his brands with heart, and is crafting the next food awakening for Utah.
The brands currently open by The McHenry Group are: Dirty Bird Fried Chxx, Ginger Street, Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, and SouthSide Pizza Company (a delivery-only brand), with a sneak preview to their latest venture to open late spring, Sunday’s Best. As Michael explained the upscale nature of an all-day brunch experience, I could quickly see that this would also become one of my favorites! I have fallen in love with Oak Wood Fire Kitchen and the wood-fired masterpieces of Chef Ryan Nelson (of Provisions fame.)
Call me crazy, but a good day for me is to just sit and watch the chef work his magic on pizzas, oak bread with goat cheese, best-ever chicken pot pie, and even a tasty nugget called squash bread—all coming from the famed oak wood fire oven. You will find a gathering of your friends, and neighbors, and me at the restaurant for every lunch and dinner. And if you’re looking for a great place for brunch, look no further with offerings such as house-made beignets (be still my heart!), biscuits and gravy with a poached egg on top, my favorite avocado toast, and chicken and waffles. Yes, and there are some healthy options as well!
Michael knows how to create what he calls “anthropology of space,” where even the atmosphere simply makes people feel happy. Can you tell that I’m in love with this guy and everything he touches? The highlight of all this is Michael’s social initiative: Healthy and Full. What’s not to love here—a guy with the heart of a lion, the vision of angels, and the platform of food to change the world. The McHenry Group restaurants are worth the drive from anywhere in Utah. I invite you to come and fall in love.
Learn more at oakwoodfirekitchen.com.
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