They call it “The E-Mail.” For savvy diners throughout the greater Salt Lake City area, this once-monthly missive is a can’t-miss entrée to an evening of fine food, inspirational art, elegant decor, and intriguing conversation— all the things a fashionable foodie craves from an upscale dinner out. So why not just pick up the phone and call weeks in advance for a reservation? Because everything about these dinner parties changes each month, from the location to the cuisine to the guest list.
Welcome to the world of Utah’s premier “roving dining club,” By Invitation Only (facebook.com/byinvitationonlyslc), whose popularity has taken off since its inception in 2010. While menus and locations for these pop-up restaurants are always different (for example, on any given month, the theme might be a New York City–style dinner, served from food trucks with street performers and Broadway musicians; fine Mexican cuisine for Cinco de Mayo; or a Halloween costume party with all of the food colored bloody red), one constant is the promise of a night with exquisite cuisine and company. Recent dinners have featured lauded guests such as former president Bill Clinton and award-winning chefs such as DC-area hot shot Michael Norman. The master of these ceremonies is Justin Kinnaird, By Invitation Only’s founder and creative commando. He spent years as the general manager of Salt Lake City’s Cucina Toscana, where Kinnaird impressed guests with his innate charm and talent for conceiving the perfect dining atmosphere. Eventually he sought to produce his own fun, sophisticated alternative to a typical night out, and Utah’s first underground restaurant was born. Ever since, it’s been one of the most exclusive—and most elusive—tickets in town.
Frequent guest Deborah Haslam remains dazzled years after her first dinner. “With Justin’s passion for entertaining, his demand for high-quality service, and his naturally creative spirit,” she says, “BIO dinners are among my favorite events to attend.” For Kinnaird, the recipe is simple: “When food and service become an experience rather than a function, it’s powerful.”