SALT LAKE CITY — One of the perks of being an NBA player is the number of culinary opportunities available in league cities across the US and Canada.
In normal times, some of the world's best restaurants are welcoming to players who are in town for a game and want to experience a blue-ribbon meal.
However, the rules have changed during the pandemic and the NBA has issued a short list of restaurants that players are allowed to dine-in at while on the road this season.
The NBA worked with the league's players association and teams in each market to come up with an assortment of places to eat, as part of the NBA and NBPA’s joint health and safety protocol.
According to ESPN, when teams travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz, the list of approved dine-in restaurants amounts to just these three establishments:
- Red Iguana
- Valter's Osteria
"I was not expecting it," said Red Iguana owner Lucy Cardenas, with a laugh. She said the restaurant did not apply to be on the list, and it took her by surprise.
Red Iguana is a Salt Lake City staple, known for its huge variety of mole sauces, and unique Mexican dishes.
"Apparently the players requested us, and so they had to come in and make sure we were following protocols and things like that," she said.
But even then, Cardenas indicated that they had no idea they'd end up on a list with only two other restaurants representing Salt Lake City to host NBA players for meals.
"I remember being told they wanted us to get certified, but I just thought they wanted to make sure we were following the rules, and since it's the NBA and they don't want to people to get COVID and they want to make sure they're okay," Cardenas said. "So there you go. And the next thing you know, I hear we're on this list so, yeah pretty crazy."
All the restaurants on the league's list have "agreed to conform to specific rules and regulations," according to ESPN.
- Each restaurant must have an outdoor space or private room that doesn't share air space with the rest of the facility.
- Secure entrances and exits for players.
- Servers must wear face masks.
Cardenas said they have served NBA players over the years, both in the restaurant and through catering.
It may not be something they asked for, but Cardenas said they're humbled to end up on the list and they will make sure to follow the strict protocols set forth by the NBA.
"I'm grateful that they love us, and they want us," she said.
Manoli's, which serves Greek cuisine, is located on Harvey Milk Boulevard and 400 East.
Valter's Osteria, a beloved Italian fine dining restaurant downtown, features a Utah Jazz mural on the side of its building.