FARMINGTON — Sauce Restaurant has opened in an unassuming spot on Mickey Drive, off of east Main Street in Farmington.
Owner Donna Hewett opened the restaurant, 5600 Mickey Drive, suite A, last week after months of planning. The menu features classic handmade pastas, steaks, poultry and seafood.
Hewett said she wanted to price the menu for everybody. Entrees range from $28 for the rib eye steak to $10 for spaghetti.
"I just wanted to create something that was the opposite of a franchise, somewhere people could have something homemade and not have to go to Durango or someplace else to do it," she said.
Although some dishes are reminiscent of white-tablecloth fine dining, such as the veal marsala or the Asian-glazed salmon fillet, Hewett emphasized the "comfort food" aspects of the menu -- such as the burger and chicken sandwich.
Sauce is in Mickey Plaza, a strip mall above east Main Street. Hewett had the restaurant's windows obscured to block out views of the parking lot. From the outside, it's difficult to see anything inside. Once inside, it has the effect of creating a cozy atmosphere.
"You can walk in here and disappear and not even know where you're at," Hewett said.
Hewett took out a lease on the space, a former dress shop, in November. She transformed the property, installing a soda fountain from Ouray, Colo., and putting old black and white family photographs on the walls.
She vows her dishes will include only the freshest ingredients available.
"Everything's so fresh we don't even own a freezer," she said.
Hewett, 53, is part of a four-generation Farmington family. She studied journalism at the University of Texas at Austin before moving to Paris. There, she said she was robbed of all of her possessions, including her passport and money, and was forced to find work. She landed a job as a food critic for a French magazine.
"It started a great love and a great passion in me for great food," she said.
Hewett eventually returned to the United States, living in New York City for 15 years. She moved back to Farmington about 8 years ago. Since then, she has had stints running Totah Theatre and Four Corners Golf Magazine, a venture that ended when the recession hit.
Sauce quietly opened on Tuesday. Hewett said she wanted a chance to work out the kinks before holding a grand opening. She called the first few days of running the restaurant "probably the hardest of my life, but that's what I signed up for."
Hewett said she considered opening the restaurant downtown but opted to follow many new developments to the East Main corridor.
"It just seems to me that things are moving this direction," she said.
Hewett is pursuing a wine and beer license. The Farmington City Council is scheduled to vote on the request Tuesday.
"We're not going to do really expensive bottles of wine," she said. "We're going to do carafes of just good wine, and we'll have a couple of kegs."
Restaurants in Farmington have fared well this summer, said Audra Winters, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce.
"The last couple of weeks, especially with (the Connie Mack World Series baseball tournament), restaurants have seen more traffic," she said. "Throughout the summer, they do pretty well."
Sauce Restaurant is open for dinner 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and closed Mondays. For more information, visit their website at saucesjc.com or call 505-402-6390.