Wednesday, October 21, 2009


There has been a wave of new burger joints to open up all through the Salt Lake metro area. Some are local ventures while most are franchises of national chains. It’s become very obvious that with so many different burger places around, having a unique twist or gimmick is essential to standing out, being noticed, and getting customers in. Places are smashing their burgers, putting gourmet spins on burgers, or offering a deluge of strange toppings to get people hooked. I’ve been meaning to try some of these places out although I’m a little skeptical of the schtick. I just hate when your food has to have a gimmick in order for it to be good.

I ran across Scaddy’s while running an errand at Costco and the restaurant supply store Bintz’s. Scaddy’s is located in a strip mall right across the street from each of the aforementioned stores. I noticed the Scaddy’s sign which read, “where fresh taste is everything”. I was intrigued since it looked like your run of the mill burger joint unfortunately located in a strip mall. Being the skeptic that I am, I decided to check out what this new places’s gimmick was….something about freshness…I guessed that perhaps they had devised different types of fresh salads that came on top of your burger….or something like that.

When I walked in though, I quickly saw a very standard, small and simple menu: hand-battered chicken, about 6 different kinds of burgers, a couple of different cold sandwiches as well as some salads, sides, and ice cream. The restaurant has a very standard fast food kind of feel with a semi-sports-bar atmosphere with a few flat screen TVs thrown in. I asked the cashier what their “freshness” sign was about and she replied that they make everything from scratch – they don’t use any frozen products. Mmm…interesting I thought. When I probed a little further about this topic, I did get a little more detail. The main ingredients are all fresh, but they don’t make their own bread, ketchup, ice cream, etc. – however they pride themselves on not using frozen products like burger patties, frozen french fries or onion rings. And they do make some of their own sauces and dressings. Mmm…interesting. So their schtick is “freshness”.

So how fresh does their food taste? The Scaddyburger, a ¼-pounder served with their special Scaddy-sauce was actually very satisfying – and yes – fresh tasting. The burger had a nice texture and flavor, the special sauce was kind of a blend of thousand-island and Russian dressing (definitely ketchup based) and the French fries were definitely cut from fresh potatoes. The toppings were also of high quality, with crunchy bright flavors. I really enjoyed my burger – it also wasn’t too greasy. But the highlight on the Scaddy’s menu for me were the hand battered chicken fingers. And can I just say the chicken fingers were just AMAZING. The breading was light but crispy and the chicken was soooo moist and tender. I couldn’t believe how good they were. I mean they were really good. The onion rings were also quite good with a delicate crisp crust. They also make pretty good milkshakes. But that chicken…man. That was good.

It turns out that Scaddy’s real schtick is that they’re a locally owned and operated family business that wants to run a burger joint the right way. Owner Wayne Scadlock and his family work all facets of the operation, from cooking to cleaning and cashiering. Eating there now a few times, I’ve noticed that Wayne himself has come by my table every time to see how I was enjoying my food. Given this family feel and professionalism, their use of fresh ingredients, and a hand-battered chicken to die for, Scaddy’s stands out from the malay of burger joints that have popped up all over the Wasatch front. I for one am totally down with the freshness motto at Scaddy’s. It’s not a gimmick – just fresh, real good food.

Scaddy’s ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

1846 South 300 West

Owner: Wayne Scadlock


Scaddy's on Urbanspoon


Is Vinto yet another reincarnation of the typical wood-fired pizzeria, joining the ranks of a dozen or so pizzerias around town with the exact same schtick? This is a question I’ve been trying to collect data on for the past couple weeks…which means I’ve eaten at Vinto…a lot. And to be honest, I haven’t exactly made up my mind. “Fast-casual” is the concept that owner David Harries had in mind when creating Vinto. Restaurants in this broad category generally offer meals that are a step up from fast-food but served in a timeframe conducive to getting the customer out quickly if need be (for local chain examples, think Pei-Wei or Noodles). The difference at Vinto is that you, the customer, can actually control the pace at which the food comes out (and of course it’s an independent locally owned venture). If you’re in a rush you can order everything all at once and the food will come lickety-split. Or if you’d rather linger a bit, you can tell your server what you want a little at a time in order to set a more leisurely pace. The other big difference with Vinto is that the kitchen uses a battery of fresh, high-end ingredients that come through in a very focused rustic Italian menu.

The menu at Vinto includes a small offering of antipasti, salads, piadinas, pizzas, and desserts. One daily pasta special is also run alongside the regular menu. When you take a look through the menu, one obvious theme coming out of the kitchen is evident: every item is simple, composed of not too many ingredients, usually representing well-planned combinations of tried and true flavors. This is not fussy-fine dining by any means but rather simple, hearty, rustic Italian fare – very close to what you’d get in an everyday sort of pizzeria or café in Italy. Most of the menu items I’ve had taste good and are made from good quality ingredients. The salads are huge and can be considered meals unto themselves. The Italiana chopped salad is nicely composed of chopped lettuce, chicken, pancetta, fontina cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers, lightly tossed in a red-wine vinaigrette. The individual ingredients are great and don’t need much to bring it all together but the vinaigrette seems to lack a little punch.

I’d never heard of a piadina before eating at Vinto but I must say the grilled chicken piadina is quite nice - nothing too over the top – just many high quality ingredients such as grilled Portobello mushrooms, fontina cheese, and mixed greens tied nicely together with a balsamic reduction. The piadina, an Italian flatbread or tortilla, provides a nice crunchy, yet chewy, envelope for the delicious filling which has a smoky flavor from the grill, a sharp taste from the cheese, crunch from the greens, and a lovely sweetness from the balsamic. Just imagine a large Italian style taco packed with lots of flavor and texture.

The pizza crust at Vinto has a crisp yet doughy texture. I would say the pizzas are pretty good – certainly not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely no way near the worst either. With good ingredients such as fresh mozzarella and clearly superior meat products like thick sliced pepperoni and house made artisan sausage – you really would have to do a lot to ruin a pizza made from stuff of this high quality. Taste-wise, the pizzas I’ve had there have been standardly good, not mind-blowing, but definitely solid.

In addition to the regular menu, a pasta item is also featured each day. So far I’ve had the opportunity to sample their spaghetti Bolognese – classic spaghetti in meat sauce. I must say that the depth of flavor I found lacking in the salad and pizzas was definitely present in this pasta. The pasta was a perfect al dente and the Bolognese was both a little sweet from the carrots and tangy from the tomato blended together in a velvety like consistency that made for a savory spoonful every time.

Finding a niche in the restaurant demographic is very important to the success of a new business. I think Vinto is on to something with its a little more upscale “Fast-casual” concept. The interior of the restaurant is beautiful and modern. It definitely evokes the vibe of quick and sophisticated yet casual. My impression of the food though is that the menu items are pretty safe and generally good in a standard sort of way. But it’s possible that they’ve perhaps over-sanitized their menu. I’m not sure I can explain it well enough here but I feel like the food coming out of the kitchen is a bit robotic at this point. I haven’t been really wowed by anything I’ve had. But nothing has been bad or severely disappointing either. Can anyone say status quo? So it’s almost as if Vinto truly does fall into the same “Fast-casual” category as say Noodles. But I guess I don’t want it to be in the same category because there clearly is some passion in the well thought out concept and menu. I just want to taste that passion in the food a little more. I think Vinto’s challenge will be to find the right combination of safe, best selling dishes that still deliver a complexity of flavors. With a great “Fast-casual” concept, a cool space and interior design, and truly fabulous ingredients, Vinto is well positioned to not be just another standard pizzeria or casual Italian joint. As such, I expect great things to come out of Vinto’s kitchen and am going to keep a close eye on this up and coming restaurant.

Vinto ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

418 East 200 South

Owner: David Harries


Note: Executive Chef Rosanne Ruiz left Vinto shortly after opening the restaurant. Apparently owner David Harries decided that the simple Vinto menu did not require the watchful eye of a full time head chef and has since hired a kitchen manager to take Chef Ruiz’s place. Perhaps this robotic sense of the food and lack of passion that I picked up on could in part be due to the loss of strong leadership and vision in the kitchen?

Vinto on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 3, 2009


People always lament about how Utah is light years behind in terms of modern, cutting-edge cuisine. Being raised in and having eaten my way through the San Francisco bay area as well as having had the opportunity to take food-inspired vacations in New York and Philadelphia – I must say that I generally agree with this statement. Don’t get me wrong…I really think there are many great restaurants in Utah doing some great food. But sometimes I feel like it’s “monkey see, monkey do”. I think we have been lacking a strong, modern sexiness in the Salt Lake culinary scene – a place on the cutting edge that takes our palates someplace they’ve never been before. Now enter Forage, the latest of a number of new, up-and-coming restaurants in Salt Lake City.

In an old converted house, Forage sports a modern, sleek décor. Like many of the new restaurants in town, Forage is on the smaller side – its small living room offers the only seating for dining in. The menu is impossibly simple: you either get a three course meal or you do a tasting of the entire menu. Like the décor, the menu is also very sleek with little description so you have lots left to the imagination when ordering. On our first night to Forage we had just rode a 50-mile bike ride in Park City (The Summit Challenge) and we were starving. Although we probably could have done the whole tasting menu the waiter was quick to point out that it does take up to 3-4 hours to complete. We didn’t really feel like sticking around that long so we each decided to go with the three -course option.

With each three-course meal you also receive a number of amuse bouche. These tiny starters were amazing. Not only did they taste great but they were also beautiful works of art. Our first amuse was a deep-fried garlic tomato croquette. These wondrous bites of tomato exploded in your mouth with a single bite. When I asked how the croquettes were prepared, I was told they were a mix of tomato and garlic bound together by gelatin and then deep-fried. (This is what I mean by cutting edge and modern). We then received three more amuse before the start of our three-course dinner: 1) a beautifully presented brown-shelled egg filled with a sweet custard finished with a sherry vinaigrette…really reminiscient of crème brulee, 2) a little shot glass filled with a delicious, cool summer vegetable gazpacho, and 3) a single spoonful of a raw fish (tuna if I recall?) preparation topped with chive. All were wonderful little tastes, each bursting with flavor, getting our palates ready for the main event.

First course arrives and we enjoyed the summer squash risotto and the vegetable garden plate. The risotto is actually “risotto” (risotto in quotation marks). It doesn’t contain any rice (as traditional Italian risotto does) and so the term “risotto” here is only used in the sense of how risotto is made but the main ingredient is squash chopped into pieces that resemble rice. The “risotto” was a nice al dente paired with a savory tomato and garlic compote. The vegetable garden salad was less of a salad than a nicely composed plate of summer vegetables – but this was also fresh, crisp, seasonal, and delightful. These dishes provided a lovely “start” to the evening (“start” in quotation marks since we actually had already eaten 4 amuse bouche).

Our entrées came next. We dived into the beef strip loin and the roast Colorado lamb. The waiter said the beef was cooked sous vide, a cooking technique using a water bath originally designed for use in research laboratory settings. The cooking technique yielded beef that was tender and succulent; it was complemented nicely with a savory tomato confit and a potato puree - a neat take on a classic meat and potatoes dish. The roast Colorado lamb was equally as pleasant served with eggplant and cucumber alongside a chick pea “gnocchi”. Gnocchi is an Italian potato dumpling but the Forage chefs have crafted a similar dumpling made of chick peas – and this “gnocchi” is just as good with a wonderfully nutty taste. The chick pea “gnocchi” and the smoked paprika definitely gave the lamb dish a delicious Moroccan slant.

Desserts topped off our meal with a rose infused cake and a frozen chocolate terrine. The rose cake offered a delicious, but not too sweet, end to the meal. It was served with peaches and a yogurt sorbet to round out with a little sweetness and tartness. The frozen chocolate and extra virgin olive oil terrine was truly an extravagant dish served with a plum sauce and chocolate, lemon cake. These were not your typical desserts by any stretch of the imagination, but the charm of a place like Forage is that it challenges its diners to go outside their comfort zones in taking a true food adventure.

In describing the meals we had here, I know I’ve probably misspoken about some of the ingredients and/or preparations used here, likely not doing them total justice. The plates are, how shall we say, a little complicated and I didn’t feel like taking copious notes at each course (especially given we had just gone on that exhausting bike ride). I really just wanted to sit back and be amazed. And amazed is truly the right word to describe my experience. Forage definitely warrants your own investigation. What I can say is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your experience at Forage. I guarantee it will be an adventure for your palate, taking your taste buds somewhere they’ve never been before.

Forage ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

370 East 900 South

Chefs Viet Pham and Bowman Brown


Forage on Urbanspoon


If you haven’t already done so, you need to eat at Cinegrill. It’s a must-do, check off your Utah list kind of a thing to do. Cinegrill was originally opened in Salt Lake just after World War II. It offered simple Italian-American cuisine along with live entertainment and dancing. It was said to be quite popular with Salt Lake residents and University of Utah students. After a 7 year hiatus between 1986 and 1993, Cinegrill continues to be a Utah landmark restaurant still offering the same basic menu as well as live piano played by Cinegrill employees and family certain nights of the week.

Cinegrill is located in a strange space, essentially the bottom floor of an apartment building lit up with a pink neon sign. The inside is a little kitschy; tables are covered with plastic red and white checkered table cloths and there is an odd, old piano located directly in the front of the restaurant as you walk in - and an old bar on your right where you can order and pick up your take out. It’s been this way since the restaurant opened and continues as such today. The staff is friendly and the menu straight-forward. This is casual old diner food at its best. Don’t expect anything fancy or ultra modern here.

To be honest I’ve only had two things off the menu at Cinegrill but I would whole-heartedly recommend them both. My first recommendation is the corned beef sandwich. After all these years Cinegrill still manages to make their own corned beef in-house. That alone is pretty unique. The savory sandwich is a perfect lunch or light dinner and is uniquely served on their old-school, war-era garlic toast. The garlic toast in and of itself is fantastic – reminding me of the garlic toast I got at my high school cafeteria. They’re basically hamburger buns seasoned with margarine (really – I don’t think they use butter) with garlic powder and dried parsley. Again, it’s not fancy fare here – and perhaps not for everyone - but it does fill up your tummy and I quite like it.

My second recommendation is to start with the house salad and then dive into the spaghetti plate. The salad is a huge pile of iceburg lettuce lightly dressed in a creamy Italian dressing. It’s served with a slice of provolone and a slice of pepperoni with a garlic toast on top. It’s kind of a cool presentation really - and interestingly, the whole thing is served on a small dessert or bread plate…so you find it a bit difficult to eat without making a mess. The spaghetti is served in a small silver bowl where a heaping serving of pasta sits below a plop of old-fashioned meat sauce. I like to dump the whole thing onto the plate on which it’s served to mix all the sauce and pasta together into a unified meal. The meat sauce is a basic tomato-ground beef combination…with hints of dried basil and oregano…certainly something you would imagine getting at the home of a New York Italian grandmother or in my case it brings me back to the spaghetti of my childhood growing up with my Filipino father who was a cook in the Navy. It is true comfort food without any gimmicks or new wave interpretations.

Basic goodness is what you’ll get at Cinegrill. It’s a Utah classic that you have to try. It won’t blow your mind away but it will satisfy your soul. So go…now...and be part of Utah history. You may just be lucky enough to find a piano player tinkling away at the keys for you. If so, sit back, stay for a bit, and enjoy this true Utah gem.

Cinegrill ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

344 South 300 East

Co-owner: James Arnold


Cinegrill on Urbanspoon