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It started with a taco cart to help promote his family’s retail store. Now, Alfonso Brito is bringing his passion for creative cooking to Logan with the new restaurant Santos Bar & Grill.

“This is a completely new environment for us,” Brito said. “But the key elements are good food, good service and a good environment so everybody feels welcome.”

Though he and his wife, Claudia, were able to turn the taco cart into a brick-and-mortar location in the Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake in 2018, the new location — which is still in its soft opening phase — will have an expanded menu compared to Santo Tacos.

Brito started in the restaurant scene 20 years ago and is excited to continue fulfilling his passion: making good food, from the plate to the palate.

“Our cooking is creativity,” said the Salt Lake City restaurateur originally from Veracruz, Mexico. “When somebody’s enjoying (the food you make), that’s when you feel satisfied. … that’s when you say ‘Oh, this is why I’m here.’ This is my success.”

Though many businesses — including the Britos’ retail Metro by T-Mobile franchise selling cellphones — have seen a lull in business, and some friends have had to close their restaurants, Santo Taco is seeing double sales than this time in 2020. This gave them the Britos confidence to open a new restaurant in Logan.

The restaurant has seen a number of setbacks since it initially opened, though Brito considers them “opportunities” for growth and improvement.

“We are in a casual, fast environment there (with Santo Tacos),” Brito said. “Now, this is a full-service restaurant and a bar, so obviously there are opportunities that we are working on in. It’s better day by day, and if something goes wrong, we try to make it right for the customer.”

Some locals have already deemed the spot a favorite, with Brito starting to see regulars come in and develop favorites — like the birria tacos or the molcajete platter, featuring grilled foods from “sky, land and sea” — along with Mexican-American fusion dishes like the carne asada fries.

“We are surprised at how good our community in Logan has welcomed Santos, and we are going to pay it back,” Brito said. “We feel very, very welcome.”

In fact, the Britos have been looking for a home or apartment in the valley to be closer to the new restaurant and hope to move as soon as they can find one in the booming market.

One of the reasons the Britos picked Logan as the first location for the full-service restaurant was the strong economy of the community as well as hearing from locals that the south end of the valley was in need of a bar, especially after the location’s former occupant, Steiny’s Family Sports Grill, closed its doors and surrendered its wine and beer license.

“We listen to our customers,” he said of the decision to pursue a liquor license for the family restaurant. “There’s something for everyone.”

Kirk Jensen, the economic development director for Logan, agreed it’s been an underserved area in the college town, though places like Santos Bar & Grill are helping to fill the need for more nightlife in the area.

“It’s a concern we’ve heard periodically, from time to time,” he said. “It’s just one piece of the puzzle. … What really matters is that it adds vibrancy and brings people downtown. We want to strengthen our relationship with the university population and others so that they feel served and can find what they’re looking for downtown.”

Brito hopes to hold a grand opening for the Bar & Grill at 880 S. Main Street in Logan in March, complete with a revamped menu and a mariachi band.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “It will be a fiesta.”

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