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Orem pancake and steakhouse honors history with new concept

December 2, 2018

Utah County residents have a chance to dine surrounded by history at the new pancake and steakhouse in Orem.

Tru Religion Pancake and Steakhouse quietly opened its dark mahogany doors last week on the north side of Orem’s Midtown 360 development on State Street. While the restaurant is new, much of its interior hearkens back to a time before television, cellphones and self-driving cars.

Most of the Orem restaurant’s booths, tables, chairs, bars, doors and woodwork hails from the former Lamb’s Grill — a staple in Salt Lake City since 1919. Lamb’s Grill closed last year, and Jim Leany, Tru Religion’s owner, purchased its furnishings, hoping to carry on their story, possibly for another hundred years.

“Everything is disposable in America. This is not disposable. This is Art Deco — this stuff doesn’t exist anymore,” Leany said. “We can’t throw away our history because our history defines us.”

With its dropped textured ceiling tiles, booth tables set back from the booth’s entry, and dark wood furnishings steeped in history, Tru Religion invites customers to sit back, relax and stay a while.

Pointing to old Lamb’s Grill newspaper clippings on the waiting room wall, Leany can point out where most of those same pieces are in his Orem restaurant. Booths still have their original hat and coat hooks — recalling a time when men wore fedoras and bowlers, and women wore pillbox hats and frocks. The space also features not one, but two chandeliers — one that greets customers as they enter, and one that adds a bit of elegance to the bathroom hallway.

The bathrooms themselves are Leany’s pride and joy. In fact, he’s hoping his bathrooms win awards. The doors to both the men’s and women’s bathrooms were repurposed from the Lamb’s Grill’s swinging kitchen doors, and still bear the kick marks of hundreds of waiters and waitresses as they carried a load of food out on their shoulders.

Inside the bathrooms, the sinks and tile echo the Art Deco theme, but also add convenient touches. Each stall in the women’s bathroom has two door hooks for coat and purse, and a dedicated shelf for cellphones and other necessities. The stall doors stretch floor to ceiling and include an antique crank bell to ring to check for vacancy.

“I want to own the weekend. We all bust our butts 8 to 5, and on the weekend we want to escape. I want people to know they can escape here,” Leany said. “This is just a pancake joint, but it’s classy.”

Leany paid just as much attention to his food as he did to the setting. He’s the third generation in a long line of lifelong restaurateurs. When he moved to Utah two years ago, he noticed only chain breakfast spots. He wanted to give people the taste of locally sourced, handcrafted breakfast comfort food. To that end, most of his ingredients come from Utah growers, including: honey, salt, eggs, chilies and even the coffee, which is a custom Tru Religion blend from a local Utah roaster.

As for the name, Leany says it fits the theme of his work, and that theme adorns the entry wall:

“Tru service is Tru religion,” Leany quoted. “If you strive to be in service to your fellow man, that’s true religion.”

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