98 Center employees Memi Chibane, left, and Sommer Stewart helped Moab resident Jim Yeager with his bill on Monday, June 27. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

A little off the beaten tourist path is a new restaurant called 98 Center, which, in addition to good food, is geared toward creating more night life on Center Street – particularly for the locals.

Alex Borichevsky, along with business partner Frankie Winfrey, saw an opportunity when Pantele’s Desert Deli, formerly on the corner at 98 E. Center St., went up for sale. They bought the restaurant equipment and leased the building.

“It’s a really nice restaurant space, with a big kitchen, dining area,” Borichevsky said. “It has one of the best restaurant views in town.”

98 Center specializes in pho – a traditional Vietnamese soup, as well as Vietnamese-style sandwiches served on fresh-baked baguettes.

“It was something the town didn’t have,” Borichevsky said. “Frankie and I are trying to supply what we think the town needs.”

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup made from beef marrow and flavored with ginger and onion, star anise, cinnamon, clove and fish sauce – a soup that takes eight hours to prepare. The restaurant also serves a vegetarian pho that contains shiitake and porcini mushrooms.

“It’s hearty, flavorful, and cooked down until a rich consistency,” Borichevsky said. “Everything is made in house.”

Vietnamese sandwiches include the marinated steak, with pickled carrots and daikon radish, serrano peppers, cilantro, Japanese mayo and hoisin sauce; a lemongrass marinated tofu sandwich grilled on a flat iron, and topped with pickled veggies and sauce; and a portabello mushroom sandwich with roasted red pepper and Gouda cheese.

Borichevsky, who grew up in Philadelphia, couldn’t resist adding a cheesesteak sandwich to the menu, which also features club, pulled pork and chicken sandwiches.

One of the more unusual dishes at 98 Center that is already very popular is the braised fennel bulb salad served over rice noodles, with tomatoes and basil and an orange vinaigrette dressing, Winfrey said.

Winfrey said he especially enjoys the chili beef – shaved beef in a spicy fish sauce served over a bed of greens. The restaurant uses grass-fed beef and all natural pork in its dishes.

“Our slogan is, ‘elevate your palette; elevate your experience,’” Borichevsky said.

Since the restaurant’s soft opening on June 3, patrons have also come for the pour-over and cold-brewed coffees – where every cup’s beans are ground to order.

Hoping to attract more night life on Center Street, the owners plan to host live music – such as performances by local blues-funk-folk musician Jasper Groff.

“We’ll be doing a lot of cocktails, mocktails, and beer and wine,” for a lounge-like feel in the evening, Borichevsky said.

98 Center uses several different kinds of bitters, and tinctures in its drinks – locally sourced from Sundial Medicinals in Moab, and Wise Raven Herbs in Castle Valley.

“One of my favorites is the Elder Rye made with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, rye whiskey, and elderberry liquor, lime juice and grapefruit bitters,” Borichevsky said.

Borichevsky and Winfrey also own the nearby Sabaku Sushi, at 90 E. Center St. Winfrey is the chef at Sabaku, while Borichevsky cooks at 98 Center.

The business partners founded Sabaku six years ago. Borichevsky said they wanted to create an additional gathering spot for good conversation and good food.

‘We saw this other opportunity pop up,” Winfrey said. “We liked the spot on Center Street. It’s more of a locals place.”

After its soft opening for dinners only, 98 Center is officially open now for both lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to midnight on Mondays through Saturdays.

“Our goal is to have food available quickly,” Borichevsky said. “We’re hoping to have a good, fast lunch here.”

98 Center is the new Vietnamese-themed eatery opened by Sabaku owners Alex Borichevsky and Frankie Winfrey

“Our slogan is, ‘elevate your palette; elevate your experience.’”

For more information, call 435-355-0098, or go to www.998center.com.