by Joshua Jones & Steven Finau
A few years ago, a very dear old friend gave us a gift certificate to RYE. Recently, we found that certificate and decided to use it before lost again.
It is a bit embarrassing, being food writers and having not gone into a restaurant that generally receives positive reviews and is three blocks from our house. We suppose our absence is an example of just how many places are opening and how easy it is to forget about the neighborhood diner around the corner. As Salt Lake’s food renaissance continues, we found that RYE accelerates the culinary conventions of innovative restaurants downtown.
Before walking in, we had a concept that RYE had kept the modern mafia machinations of Al Forno’s, (the previous occupant). I also assumed (you know what they say about doing that), that by the name, it would be a sorta-elevated comfort food place.
It was a ‘hell no’ on both counts … RYE is austere. The booths are plywood, the art is white, and the waiter is waiting and wanting. It is not bare bones, but it is bare-chested in its hipster-y, urban vibe. The sexy and sinewy host put us in a booth with a view of the apple-cheeked redhead tending bar. All was beautiful.
We have brought Shandra and Thom, recent transplants from Seattle. They feel at home, and their warmth and laughter bring a bit of character to otherwise pedestrian space. Perhaps that is the point, that the food and friends gathered and served in this concrete creation will fill it with glow and hospitality.
The food did not disappoint. Like North Korea exploring nuclear weapons, RYE is developing umami-bombs. The deeply toasted Brussel sprout appetizer with a balsamic reduction, toasted almonds, and bacon was al dente, salty, and gobbled quickly. It was a great example of how the kitchen is balancing and building flavors off fairly simple, local ingredients.
Said gift certificate allowed us to be indulgent. The truffle mac and cheese ($10) with spinach and bacon was a grown-up’s delight. The melty pork belly from Tooele farms was a standout ($13), marinated in a savory broth with ramen noodles, house-made kimchi, and soft boiled egg … it was luxurious.
A sweet hoisin sauce balanced out a fulfilling smoky poke bowl ($18). The perfectly diced tuna was in an aromatic wonderland of rice, avocado, and Asian slaw. Finally, the homemade veggie burger ($12) made with mushrooms topped with pickled onion was meaty, though it could have used a denser bun, which kind of fell apart from the moist, but flavorful patty.
There were times when the service was a bit dodgy and uneven, and our server seemed distracted on more than one occasion. Having said that, RYE is worth a return visit, even if it’s just for the donut holes with a sweet dunking cream: a wonderful end to the evening.
RYE Restaurant & Bar
239 S. 500 East, SLC
M–F, 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
SAT-SUN, 9 a.m–3 p.m.
M–F, 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
FRI–SAT, 6–11 p.m.