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Good Food!

Big Pile O' Brunch -- And Bring on the Chocolate Porcupine!

Restaurant: Porcupine Pub & Grille
Cuisines: Sandwiches, Salads, Pizzas, Pastas, Steak, Chicken
Location: 3698 E. Fort Union Blvd., Salt Lake City (Map)
Price Range: $2.99–$23.99
Grade: B- — See Foodie Report

I hadn't been to the Porcupine Pub & Grille for at least 10 years, because I went there when they first opened, then again shortly thereafter and left very disappointed.  In that time, they have certainly gotten their act together.

I went in for a very busy Sunday brunch, and was told that I would have to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. Judging from the crowd and the 100-plus degree temperatures outside limiting use of the patio, I wasn't surprised. I was seated in about 10 minutes, and was rushed out to a table that had been wiped down and was still wet — except for about 10% of the table, that was missed altogether, and fat piece of potato that was stuck to my chair. Luckily, I noticed it before I sat down. The place has two levels for dining, in addition to the outdoor patio, and feels like a ski lodge, with wooden tables inlaid with stainless steel (although it was, indeed, stained), at least a half-dozen flatscreen TVs with the closed captioning on, a nice bar area, plenty of t-shirts and artwork for sale on the walls from local artists. All of this made it feel like I was going to take part in a culinary event.

The waiter was pleasant as he came out and took my drink order, then returned shortly after to take my order. I asked him for a recommendation, and he said, "I'm a big eater, so I always go for the Big Pile O'Breakfast."  I'm a big eater, too, so that sounded about as good a recommendation as any. The Big Pile O'Breakfast comes with a double portion of potatoes, choice of ham, bacon or sausage, three eggs and pancakes. I ordered bacon, the eggs scrambled and the regular pancakes, as opposed to those with fruit in them. I could tell that I was going to be a happy camper.

That is, once I was served.

Granted, they were busy, but service was slow. I checked the time once to notice it was 20 minutes since I have placed my order, then the waiter showed up to tell me that it was coming, but they were really busy. (He must've seen me check my cell phone.) When the food came out, it was heaped and steaming.

First words out of my mouth: "Wow. That is a big pile of breakfast."

Plating was nothing special, nice plates, but the "pile" was literal, with everything pretty much stacked one on top of the other.

First words out of my mouth with the first bite: "Oh, baby, that's good bacon."

The bacon was very smoky, probably applewood. The eggs were fluffy and hard scrambled without being dry. The pancakes were excellent, fluffy and moist enough that they drank up enough maple syrup to be very good without turning to a dough that would make a man's sweet tooth turn sour. But the best thing, above all, were the potatoes.  I think they were honestly the best breakfast potatoes I had ever had. They were extremely well seasoned, cooked skin-on, and there were plenty of them. To be honest, I could have made a meal just from the potatoes and been happy. I definitely achieved that life-is-good feeling that comes with a full stomach. In fact, I was overstuffed, but happy to have it.

When I was finished, the waiter asked if I wanted dessert (the mere thought of it was almost enough to make me ill), and recommended the Chocolate Porcupine. Although there was no way I could eat another bite, I was intrigued, and asked what it was. He seemed to have a hard time describing it, saying only that it had hard chocolate, on a brownie with ice cream "and stuff." (Hard chocolate?)

Most negative thing about the experience: the wait. Once I got my food, I was a happy man.

On the second visit, I decided to hit the Sunday brunch again, since they have separate menus for dinner and lunch.  This time, however, I was sorely disappointed.

It was not nearly as crowded as the time I had been there before, but the temperatures outside were much more mild, so using the patio might have made the difference.  I was told it would be a bout a 10-minute wait to be seated but was pleasantly surprised when they called my name in less than five.

I was seated very near where I had been before and, although the table was still a bit damp from being wiped, it was not puddled, which was an improvement, and my chair was sans potato. The waiter came out quickly to take my drink order, then returned and asked if I was ready to order. I wasn't, so he left, then came back again pretty soon after, and I still wasn't ready. I didn't mind the prodding, but I was a little annoyed that he seemed to think that wanting to give the menu a lookover was inconvenient for him. When he came back the next time, I ordered the breakfast burrito. He said it was a great choice, and asked what kind of meat I wanted, suggesting the special Italian sausage they had that day. I thought, "Italian sausage on a Mexican dish?" That should have been a red flag.  I should have listened to my inner voice telling me, "No, you were already wondering about the green bell pepper on the burrito — run away!" But I didn't. I asked for a mix of bacon and ham, and that they hold the sour cream. Although the menu didn't mention that the burrito was smothered, I saw they had chile verde on the menu, and assumed that it would be smothered in chile verde or naked. Both assumptions were wrong.

That is, once I was served.

Again, I was reminded that I had waited at least 20 minutes to be served the first time, and nearly as long this time. Then it arrived and I had that immediate feeling of letdown when something is not what you expected.

First words out of my mouth: "Are you kidding me?"

It was smothered … but in red sauce. Where was the chile verde? Chile verde makes the breakfast burrito.  And where were the breakfast potatoes that were so awesome? The edge of the plate was piled with homemade hash browns. They were skin-on, yes, but I don't think a single grain of salt or pepper (let alone all the wonderful spices from the first visit) graced those potatoes until I put it there.

First words out of my mouth when I took that first bite: "Hmn. Green bell pepper. No chiles. Hmn."

I got to some jalapenos later, which was good, as well as some mushrooms that were a nice touch, but it just didn't make up for smothering it in a red sauce that wasn't much above plain tomato sauce. I ate it all and was left a little hungry. So I asked about the Chocolate Porcupine that my previous waiter said had "stuff" on it, and got a much better description: a brownie, with chocolate mousse, Bavarian cream, and hard dark chocolate on the outside, like a dipped cone. I asked him about the Bavarian cream, and he said, "Ever had a cream-filled donut?  Like that."  Ah. So that's what "stuff" is. So I ordered it.

I'm not really big on desserts (I prefer appetizers over them), but was very pleasantly surprised. The hard chocolate was made to look like it had porcupine quills on the back, and two white-chocolate chips for eyes. The hard chocolate was thick, which made it really hard, and fun to eat as a result. (It spoke to my barbarian side, having to bring down my fork in a killing stroke before my feast.) It was also accompanied by some vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Last words when finishing the meal: "I wish I had asked about smothering the burrito in chile verde."

Best thing about the meal: the Chocolate Porcupine.

Worst thing about the meal: no chile verde.

FoodUtah.com Foodie Report

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     food·ie (fd)
     noun. Slang.  A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.