2008 Dining Guide

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Chubby’s Restaurant 

Chubby Burger

When you think of American hamburgers, you don’t always think of a Mexican restaurant. Yet on my quest to find some of the best hamburgers in the city, I just happened upon a neighborhood Mexican Restaurant called Chubby’s (955 N 1400 W).

The exterior of the restaurant lacks the glitz of the larger, more expensive restaurants surrounding it and blends into the neighborhood as if to say it has always been there. Entering the restaurant you are greeted by friendly staff and told to sit wherever you would like. The restaurant is filled with booth and table combinations, eclectic Mexican folk art and sports trophies. There’s even a sign reminding you to smile, because you are always being watched by monitors.

The menu offers typical diner-style Mexican entrées as well as American cuisine selections. Getting back to what I said earlier about burgers, one on the American menu caught my eye: the Chubby burger, a beef patty smothered with guacamole, ham and onions. I decided to take a chance and ordered it.

The waitress asked if I wanted regular fries or Mexican fries. I must’ve looked confused, because she quickly explained the difference. The Mexican fries sounded more like a thick potato chip in contrast to the regular French fries we are all accustomed to. Since no hamburger is complete without French fries I weighed my options while sipping my Diet Coke. In the end, I ordered the regular fries.

While waiting for my burger, a loud Polka-style song blared from the juke box and the laughter from the diners became excited and fast. A mix of English and Spanish filled the room, competing with the accordion and tuba music that swelled and diminished into the sounds of the neighborhood diner. I took another sip of Diet Coke and turned my attention to the aforementioned Mexican folk art and sports trophies, which were proudly displayed as if in remembrance of some accomplishment outside of the restaurant.

When the burger was placed in front of me, I thanked the waitress who brought me a fresh Diet Coke before leaving to wait on other tables. The burger she brought had a toasted bun and was covered with freshly-made guacamole and pan seared ham. At the burger’s side was a leaf of fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and a large slice of grilled onion, typical toppings.

Although I was impressed with the fresh guacamole, what completely impressed me was the large slice of onion. It had also been pan seared to bring out its sweetness. As a chef, I was surprised to find these little extra steps that had been taken for a burger. With great anticipation, I took my first bite … and it was of one of the greatest burgers I’ve tasted. The flavor of the tomatoes, grilled onion, ham and guacamole in combination with the beef patty was incredible. Never before had I combined so many flavors with a burger. I squeezed a large lake of ketchup onto my plate, dunked a French fry and was soon lost in the flavors of not quite Mexican or American but the Chubby Burger. I finished my burger, sipped the last of my Diet Coke and paid my bill. The staff thanked me for coming and I thanked them for a great experience.

This is definitely one burger I will have again!
The Garden Café

Club Sandwich

Any chef will tell you that lunch menus can become very boring. On my quest to liven up my lunchtime a few weeks ago I ventured into the Joseph Smith building and up to the top floor which is home to The Garden Café and a fine club sandwich. While a sandwich is just a sandwich, every once in a while you find a restaurant that really hits everything that makes a sandwich a _good_ sandwich: fresh ingredients, great presentation and, of course, the accompaniment of a bottomless glass of Diet Coke.

At The Garden Café I was greeted by the host who told me I would be seated shortly. While waiting for my table I wandered around the top floor, enjoying the view of Temple Square and surrounding city. Upon being seated, I immediately noticed the open feeling of the restaurant. The natural lighting, plants and table placements made it possible to feel like you were dining in a garden.

I was greeted by my server and handed a menu. Reading it over, I thought that the food was simple and to the point. Looking at the tables nearby, I quickly noticed that presentation of the dishes were simple and clean as well. After ordering my club sandwich, sipped on my Diet Coke and just sat back to enjoy my dining experience.

As I waited, I reminisced about the club sandwiches my grandmother made when I was a child until the friendly server brought the restaurant’s take on the dish. The sandwich I had ordered was artfully and excitingly presented — cut into four pieces and arranged around a volcano of French fries. It made the memories of sitting at my grandmother’s cupboard enjoying her amazing club sandwiches come flooding back.

The toasted bread, fresh tomatoes, crispy bacon, crunchy lettuce and mayonnaise used by The Garden Café are standard for a club sandwich. What truly set my grandmothers club sandwiches apart from this standard, however, was the fact that she dipped the toasted bread into the bacon fat. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the café’s chef had done the same thing with my club sandwich as my grandmother did when I was child. A little touch like this can make the simplest of foods extraordinary!
Trio Restaurant

Roasted Tomato Soup and Parmesan Flat Bread

There are times that the simplest of dishes taste the best. With this in mind let me say that if you haven’t tried Trio Restaurant’s roasted tomato soup and parmesan flatbread, you should. These simple foods represent everything I have come to expect from this restaurant. I’m also calling attention to them here because smaller menu items tend to be overlooked, and often aren’t recommended to the savvy culinary palate.

When entering the downtown Trio restaurant located on 900 East, the first thing that catches your attention is the beautiful contemporary décor. Comfortable booths and tables are scattered throughout a large open space surrounded by large windows. Each table is covered by a large piece of paper and beautiful place settings (I always like to fold the sharp edges of paper under to prevent paper cuts.) Diners seem to enjoy just “hanging” out and visiting over a glass of wine at this restaurant. During the summer months, you can also sit on the restaurant’s beautiful patio which is surrounded by fresh herbs and plants (the water mist dispensers above keep the patio’s temperature bearable during the summer heat).

While waiting for my table the friendly staff offered me a beverage of my choice. As a waiter went to get it, I became mesmerized by the large pizza oven in the waiting area. The aromas of baking herbs and spices enticed my senses and enhanced my overall dining experience. When I was finally seated, I simply ordered the roasted tomato soup and parmesan flatbread.

It wasn’t long before a server placed a steaming cup of soup and parmesan flatbread in front of me. As I said earlier I have a passion for ordinary foods that are prepared in extraordinary ways. For example, I’m sure you have all opened a can of tomato soup and enjoyed it with a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold winter day. The difference between that canned soup and Trio’s tomato soup is the roasting, which caramelizes and heightens the ingredients’ natural flavors.

Similarly, the parmesan flatbread adds a new twist on the grilled cheese sandwich. This flat crispy baked bread brushed with garlic-infused olive oil and finished off with shaved parmesan cheese serves a double purpose: The crispness of the flatbread makes it work as a wonderful cracker, and the cheese adds a twist to the old grilled cheese sandwich.

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