Saturday, October 3, 2009


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

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