Friday, April 29, 2011

Dairy Keen

Address: 199 S Main St, Heber, UT 84032. 801.654.5336.

Review: On the way back from Vernal I passed through Heber. Now, I love Heber. Great little town in a beautiful little valley. I almost always stop at Granny's on the way through for a shake and some fries. 'Twas not to be this April day; Granny's doesn't open until May. Instead, I tried Dairy Keen down the street from Granny's.

Dairy Keen is a burger and shake joint. Its signature burger is the train, and the place's interior and exterior is decked out accordingly.

You know, I figured since they went to all the trouble, I'd try the train burger.

It consists of a 1/4 pound patty, lettuce, tomato, ham, pickles, american and swiss cheeses, and fry sauce. It wasn't that good. The patty was a bit dry. The ham wasn't good quality, so you could barely taste it. Likewise, the swiss cheese was entirely indiscernible. The thing was loaded with pickles, and the fry sauce was nondescript. Won't be ridin' the train again anytime soon.

Next up was a fresh strawberry shake.

The ice cream wasn't terribly high quality. And while fresh strawberries were advertised, there were exceedingly few of them. In fact, there was no real pronounced strawberry flavor in the shake at all. They were almost an afterthought, as was the shake.

In all, a disappointing experience.

Rating: 3.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Dairy Keen on Urbanspoon


Address: 224 S 1300 E, SLC, UT 84102. 801.581.0888.

Review: The wife was preparing to perform in "L'incoronazione di Poppea" (The U's spring opera), so I had a bit of time to kill. And what better way to kill time than to find a new place to eat? There is none, of course. With this in mind, I meandered to Aristo's, a Greek restaurant near other venerable joints like Indochine and B&D Burgers.

I began the meal with oxtapodi toursi, which is baby octopus marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, and spices, and served with lemon and parsley.

Having grown up in Alaska I dig me some octopus. These little guys had a nice taste. The red wine vinegar and lemon gave a nice kick to the mild meat. The parsley and spices rounded out the flavor nicely. The octopuses themselves were a bit dense and slightly grainy in texture. (Okay, I know some of you just said to yourselves, "It's octopi, you misguided soul." Well, octopi is acceptable, as is octopuses, which is more common. Octopodi is even used, but really only in British English.) I imagine this is because we live in Salt Lake and not on the Greek coast; but, in any case, the non-freshness detracted from the overall quality of the dish. That said, I'll probably order it again.

Next up was the gyro. Yeah, I know, Greek restaurant and all those options and I picked the gyro. Well, they're good, man. Don't fix what ain't broke.

This was a standard gyro: sliced beef/lamb combo meat heavily spiced with oregano and other goodies, tomatoes, red onion, tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber) sauce, all on a pita. First, the pita. Light, slightly spongy, luscious flavor, very nice. The meat was well spiced and tasty, although it seems gyro meat is invariably dry since you're only served the crispy outside of that meat club looking thing. The tomato, onion, and tzatziki all act to lighten the gyro and give it a little acidic bite. Good, good stuff.

And lastly, Aristo's oven-roasted potatoes deserve mention.

I'm still slightly torn about these. Spiced with oregano, oil, and vinegar, these were possible the most moist oven-roasted potatoes I've experienced. And they had some big flavor. On the other hand, the addition of liquid at the end of the cooking process negated any crispiness these potatoes once enjoyed. In the end, I think the trade off was worth it.

In all, Aristo's is a quality place. I'm looking forward to going back and trying some of the more exotic, if you will, dishes.

Rating: 7/10 (5/10 is average).

Aristo's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blue Iguana

Address: 165 S West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. 801.533.8900.

Review: One goes to the Blue Iguana because it's cousin (Red Iguana) is just so dang good. Unlike the Red Iguana, however, you can sit down, not knock knees with your neighbor, and actually hold a conversation with those at your table without straining to hear every word. Oh, and it's always kind of cool to walk down a glass tube to your restaurant.

But decible level and descending tube aside, how was the food?

Being a huge fan of the Tacos Don Miguel at the Red Iguana, I ordered a taco diad: tinga (slow-roasted pork with chiles) and camerones (shrimp), pineapple, and chorizo.

As you can see, these tacos came not only with the obligatory beans and rice, but with copious amounts of lettuce and pico de gallo. The rice and beans are like rice and beans at almost all Mexican restaurants: meh, whatever. The taco with shrimp, pineapple, and chorizo didn't fair much better. There was little chorizo, and it didn't go entirely well with the pineapple. Moreover, I could barely taste the shrimp. The tinga, by contrast, was excellent. The pork was juicy and tender with great flavor. While not entirely spicy, there was enough heat to make the taco that much more interesting. Now this is a taco worth returning for.

In all, my plate was okay, but not that strong. The tinga was the real bright spot of the meal.

Rating: 5.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Blue Iguana on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lucky 13

Address: 135 W 1300 S, SLC, UT 84115. 801. 487.4418.

Review: Lucky 13 is a bar, an unabashed bar. As such, they serve bar food: burgers, fries, fried jalapenos, fried pickles (see the pattern?). The selection of burgers isn't large, about six or seven. Two burgers are of the redonkulous Man-Versus-Food variety (e.g., a massive double burger, loaded with habaneros and whatnot, squished between two grilled cheese sandwiches). We steered clear of these gimmicky behemoths, and ordered what turned out to be some mighty fine grub.

I had the flame thrower. It was a 1/2 pound patty with mixed greens, sauteed onions, blue cheese (it originally came with cheddar, but they gladly switched it up for me), house-smoked bacon, roasted jalapenos, and roasted habaneros. The patty was thick enough that it could be cooked medium (i.e., still pink in the center), which means it retained its juiciness. The next thing I noticed was the blue cheese. It was pronounced, pungent, salty, and slightly sour, just like it should be. The sauteed onions were a sweet balance to the cheese. The house-smoked bacon was thick, with lots of natural smoke flavor. Quality. The roasted jalapenos and habaneros brought nice fruitiness and heat to the party. And this burger is not for the faint of heart. Heat abounds, almost, but not quite, to the point of masking the more subtle flavors in the burger. Also, the bun was hearty enough not to be lost among the mass of other ingredients. Only thing that didn't really work was the greens. They became a bit wilty and soggy after the first bite. All in all, a good, good burger.

My two friends had, respectively, a straight cheeseburger with ketchup, and a celestial burger. Both were highly praised.

Now, on to the fries. These weren't no sissy fries in sissy portions. The fries were plentiful, crispy, hot, and light on the inside. They was good. And the fry sauce was spicy. Nice touch.

I normally don't comment on price, but this was a big meal. Each burger and fries could easily feed two people. At $10 for the flame thrower, and less under $10 for the other non behemoth burgers, Lucky 13 is a pretty good deal.

And many people have commented on the service not being up to par. Maybe, however, we epxerienced no problems at all. Our waitress was attentive and our food arrived promptly. Our glasses were always full. For a bar, it was a rather enjoyable experience.

In all, good stuff. Certainly one of the best burgers and fries combo I've had in the SLC.

Rating: 7/10 (5/10 is average).

Lucky 13 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Address: 2470 South Redwood Rd, Ste 105, West Valley City, UT 84119. 801.301.8985.

Review: I found Tabasco's

entirely by happenstance. I was reading a blog post on (props to them), and found a review of a dish called molcajete. It looked incredible, so a fellow foodie friend and I tried it. It was, indeed, incredible.

Molcajete means mortar (of pestle and mortar fame), but it also refers to a dish, which, not surprisingly, is served in a molcajete. Our molcajete was in the shape of a pig, or a small bear, I can't tell.

This little piggy (which was scalding hot) went to market and came back stuffed with all sorts of goodies: shrimp, chicken, steak, roasted jalapenos, cactus strips, queso fresco, green onions, salsa, and more melted cheese.

Oh, and they give you a side of rice, beans, and fresh-made corn and flour tortillas. Now, I'm usually wary of dishes like this, because so often they are more about quantity than quality. Not so here. Each part was well executed, and the whole thing just worked. The shrimp were cooked well and not dry. The chicken was good if not a little dry. The steak was tasty and juicy. The jalapeno added its fruitiness to the dish, although it added no heat. The cactus was an ingredient I had never experienced before. It was rubbery and squishy and had a taste sort of like a bell pepper crossed with a green bean (I know; that makes no sense, but it's true). As odd as that sounds, it was good. The cheese was fresh and light and melty. Mixed with the salsa, it sang. Even the green onion, which became limp when cooked, imparted an earthy goodness to the dish. Honestly, just a great experience.

Here's another photo, just for fun.

And then there was the chips and salsa. Chips were, yeah, whatever, chips. There were three salsas: red, green, and fire-roasted jalapeno.

The red and green, are a bit take-it-or-leave-it, but the fire-roasted jalapeno (bottom left corner) was awesome. One of the better salsas I've had.

One tip for those who order the molcajete: bring four people (three if you have body-builder in the group). It feeds that many with ease. Two simply isn't enough.

In all, one of the best Mexican meals I've eaten. I'll certainly be back.

Rating: 7.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Tabasco's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Siegfried's Deli

Address: 20 W 200 S, SLC, UT 84101. 801.355.3891.

Review: There are certain times when you go to a restaurant and everything (food, memories, etc.) just comes together to make a wonderful experience. My experience at Siegfried's Deli was one of those times.

Siegfried's is a German Deli located a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Capital Theater. Its location makes it a perfect pre-performance dinner spot. In fact, my wife and I discovered Siegfried's searching for dinner one evening before Utah Opera's performance of Bizet's Carmen.

I ordered the wienerschnitzel with sides of spaetzle and brown gravy and red cabbage. The food transported me back to when I would visit my brother in Frankfurt, Germany. There are no better memories than, while sightseeing with my brother, stopping at a street vendor to procure a massive and tender schnitzel. Siegfried's schnitzel was likewise tender (although not as big) and tasty. A little lemon wakes up the taste of the meat and adds a nice counterpoint to the dish's fattiness. The spaetzle (an extruded simple pasta) with brown gravy was as I remember: heavy, gravyed, and salty. The red cabbage was tender with a small amount of toothiness left. It's slight bitterness and acidity (not to mention its nature as a vegetable) was delightful. (Now, I know in my mind Siegfried's isn't quite as good as the food I had in Germany, but it's pretty darn close, and, in any case, it's pretty darn good.) Ultimately, like all good German fare, Siegfried's food leaves you wanting more. I certainly do.

Side note: Carmen was a very enjoyable production. The whole evening was simply wonderful.

Rating: 8/10 (5/10 is average).

Siegfried's Deli on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Address: 300 E 12300 S, Draper, UT 84020. 801.307.0079.

Review: Okay, okay, I know I said previously I don't normally review big chain restaurants. However, like Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Smashburger is still small enough that I don't feel bad giving them free publicity. Alright, justifications aside, let's get to the food.

Smashburger specializes in large 1/3 and 1/2 pound burgers. The smash part of smashburger comes from the shape of these burgers. Apparently, in an effort not to look too pre-formed and pre-made, they smash the burger patty. This gives the whole burger a rustic look, I guess. Honestly, who cares, just as long as it tastes good. And it is to that subject we now move.

I ordered the 1/2 pound Spicy Baja burger.

It had pepper jack cheese, guacamole, jalapenos, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, all on a chipotle bun. First, the bun. Soft, but with enough structure it didn't break down as I ate the burger. It didn't have any chipotle flavor to it, but that's fine. It was good. Second, meat. Lot's of it there was, and the slight char on the outside was done right. Unfortunately, like all fast food places, the patty was overcooked and a bit dry. Third, toppings. The cheese on my burger was almost non-existent. It was a tiny thin slice that added no flavor to the burger. The guacamole, on the other hand, was a cool, refreshing counterpoint to the hot patty. There wasn't a lot of the chipotle mayo, but what was there added good flavor. Everything else (lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) were pretty standard burger fair, and exactly what you want. In all, pretty good. Nothing mind-blowing, but good.

Now, the fries, or smashfries to be exact.

Unlike In-N-Out and Five Guys, Smashburger's fries are thinner, lighter, and airier. To get this lighter feel and texture, the fries give up a bit of fresh potato flavor, but the trade-off is worth it. Smashburger fries stay crispy throughout the eating process. And the rosemary, olive oil, and garlic concoction they put on the fries livens up the flavor. (Of course, these flavors don't go well with ketchup, so if you like ketchuped fries with your burger, order just the french fries.) Good fries.

In the end, Smashburger is a solid fast food burger-and-fries experience. That said, large fast food chains can only make okay food at best. Places like Smashburger will never give you a truly great burger experience. For that, you will need to find independent burger joints that use better ingredients and take time to cook your patty correctly. However, in the realm of large fast food chains, Smashburger might very well be the tops.

Rating: 6/10 (5/10 is average).

SmashBurger on Urbanspoon