This is the Place
Simple and Elegant, Down-Home Cooking Cranked Up a Notch
Restaurant: Red Rooster Waffle
I had noticed that the Red Rooster Waffle Company was being built in a new section of Jordan Landing and had wondered what it was going to be like. Then I received an e-mail from a FoodUtah.com reader practically demanding that I review the place, and even making a couple suggestions on what I should order. So, when going past it one day, I decided that I would take up that challenge.
On first approach, I was impressed by the signage. They had someone do some good graphic design for the place — or it's a national chain. If it's the latter, then I figured that I could still do a review, since it's the only one in Utah. (As much as I hate national chains wiping out small businesses.) When I opened the door and stepped inside, I was first surprised by how much larger it is than it looks from the outside. There is plenty of seating.
The next thing I noticed was the décor itself. There was certainly money spent on creating a look and feel that was consistent with the name. The counter area is all contained behind a faux barn (taupe in color, not red and white), and the stylized rooster from the signage is big on one wall, and the wall menu has plenty of consistent graphics and colors that makes it very appealing. You order at the corner (there's a black, metal rooster cutout telling you to "order here"). Then an older gentleman came over to take my order, whipping out a laminated menu to do it. He asked if I had been there before and, when I said no, he practically beamed and said, "Excellent!" I then asked if I could make any substitutions and he said, "Of course. Anything you want. I own the place, so I can get you whatever you want." I said, "Really? This isn't a national chain?" He said, "No. It's mine. And my wife and my daughter. After 20 years at Hertz, I wanted to open a restaurant. And, after going to a waffle place, I thought, 'I can do better than this!' And we got started." He then told me that they have a lot of combinations, that his daughter (the operations manager) came up with by sending out an e-mail that said, "If you were a waffle, what would you be?" Then they took the hundreds of responses, started making them, cut it down to about 20, then cut it down again to the best of those. He then said, "But the absolute biggest seller is the Chicken and Waffles. It's sort of a Southern thing, and the recipe on the fried chicken is all my own. I've had people tell me it's the best they've ever had."
I had been planning on something else, but that sounded like as good of a recommendation as was possible, so I ordered the Chicken and Waffles and a soda. He circled it on the laminated menu with a dry-erase marker, then we went down to the register, where he entered it on the computer and I paid him and went in search of a table. The first one I saw had not been bussed, and it was littered with the carcasses of shredded waffles soaked through with red. It just didn't make for good associations in my mind. So I sat a little further away from the table that had previously been home to the waffle slayer, and sat out my hard-plastic number teepee.
After sitting down, I read the menu board to see what I had actually ordered and was immediately stricken by doubt. The waffles have maple syrup (which is my favorite), but it says they come with orange butter. And I just wasn't sure if that would fly with the maple syrup — and that with a fried plate of flightless bird. My doubts grew. Ah, well, I've paid for pointing at someone's plate and saying, "I'll have one of those" before — and I lived. I would live through this one, too.
As I sat and waited, I noticed that there was a flat-screen TV on the wall, a couch with a coffee table (and free wi-fi) and a checker-board table where you could sit and eat. The rest of the tables were all black, with nice wooden chairs that are very dark, but with a reddish undertone. Again, it made me wonder just how much they had invested in décor. It reminded me of Dooner's — which is not a bad thing at all — but, sadly, Dooner's appears to have overextended before opening, and ended up going under.
The wait wasn't too long, then my plate arrived, with two fried-chicken breasts (boneless, but with a wing drumette still attached) and a large, deep waffle. It was an elegant, rectangular plate that was classy in its simplicity.
First words out of my mouth when my food arrived: "Wow. That's a lot of food."
And, as you may already know, one of my qualifiers for a good meal is, indeed, quantity. So that was one in their favor.
I spread the butter on the waffle, then poured on the syrup, so it could soak in, and I started on the chicken.
The breading was light, and much finer than the breading that you see at KFC, which made me wonder if it was panko (Japanese bread crumbs) with his own spices mixed in. There were flecks of orange, and the overall color was a little lighter than most people are used to, as well. I cut off a bite.
First words out of my mouth when I took that first bite: "Good. But a little dry."
That was a bit disappointing. As I ate more and got more into the real meat of the chicken, it got to be very moist, but there was just something missing. I'm not sure what it was, but there was a void in the flavor. Maybe it needed a little heat. I noticed that the waffle fries on someone else's plate had paprika on them (and the woman said the fries were spicy), so maybe a hint of paprika would fill that void.
I then went for the waffle.
A shaft of sunlight broke through the roof and struck me. I gazed up into it and my taste buds seized control of my optic nerve, stealing my power of sight in order to further enjoy the absolute rapture of that waffle. It was very light and, soaked with both the orange butter and the maple syrup, it was a thing of beauty. I am not normally a big fan of pancakes or waffles — but now I know that was because I had never eaten one of these. It was the single best waffle I had ever tasted. And it was so simple! No fruit, no other fancy add-ons or gimmicks. Just simple goodness.
It was just too bad that the chicken (although good), paled so much in comparison. So then I thought, "Can the waffle save the chicken? Is that what the chicken is lacking — a waffle?" It was crazy, but it just might work. So I took a bite of each — and found success. Yes, that waffle could make a shoe sole taste good, let alone the chicken (which was already good, don't get me wrong).
When too full to eat anymore, my plate was clean, except for the drumettes. I had that life-is-good feeling (and them some!) and had to leave before I tried to eat those, too, which can take life-is-good and turn it into too much of a good thing.
Last words when finishing the meal: "What an amazing place. Good for them. And, more importantly, good for me."
On my second visit, I was jazzed to try something new. Their Chicken and Waffles was outstanding, so I wanted to see how the other areas of their menu fared. I have always considered it my personal mission to try every sandwich place I could find, so their Melts seemed like a great area of their menu to hit next. And I was on the case.
When I was looking at the menu board, I was a little let down by there being only four options under Melts, but then I remembered how they had taken something as simple as a waffle and made it sing angel song, so I let that feeling slide, and thought, "Ham & Cheddar. It doesn't get more simple than that … bring on the angels!"
I ordered the Ham & Cheddar Melt with waffle fries, and a soda, paid my bill, then headed toward the soda fountain. It was then that I looked up and noticed that the lighting was made up of the lids from galvanized milk jugs and galvanized tubs. That certainly went along with the overall theme of the place, and it just made me smile. At the soda fountain, I smiled yet again, because their selection included something that I rarely see: Orange Crush. (I can't believe I missed that the first time!) I guess I'm easy to entertain, but that gave me as much of a charge as the farm-implement lights!
This time, I sat at a table with a chess board in the top, and was just tickled to find that there were chess pieces in the drawer. Again, very cool — or should I say cold? It was freezing in there! I am not one who usually gets cold in a restaurant. I have built-in insulation, and I'm usually the one complaining of it being too hot. But I was actually shivering. I was in a golf shirt and denim shorts that reached my knees. I should not have been shivering.
About that time, my plate arrived, and I was about to ask about turning down the AC, but the guy sat down my plate and was gone again, not even a smile. Well la-dee-dah. I felt like throwing a waffle fry at him, just to see if he blinked. That was certainly a shift in another direction from my previous visit.
My sandwich was on grilled multigrain bread, with tomato, and something they called "mustard bacon spread." The waffle fries were seasoned with paprika. Then I went in.
First words out of my mouth when I took that first bite: "Wow. That mustard-bacon sauce is great."
The sauce was sweet, almost like a honey mustard, but not nearly as thick, and had little bits of real bacon in it. It jumped at the palate and was really excellent. The only problem I had was that the grilled multigrain bread was tough. Grilling it had made it very dense and the crust on it was inflaming the roof of my mouth within the first few bites. The ham was smoky and the cheddar was good. And the yellow sauce was running out all over my fingers. This is a good thing. I am a firm believer that sandwiches are more fun when they're messy.
The waffle fries were good, too. The paprika gave them a bit of a smoky flavor and, after having a few, I was beginning to wonder if they were seasoned with garlic salt, as well, or if that subtle, sneaky garlic flavor that crept up on me was also in the sauce on the sandwich.
There was a cooking show on the flat-screen TV and Gordon Lightfoot was playing on the radio. I was sitting at a table with a chess board, and had to keep putting my fingers in my mouth to eat that sauce (I wasn't going to waste it on a napkin). And I realized that I was really enjoying my meal.
I was right. Red Rooster Waffle Company excels at taking
something simple and really cranking it up a notch. I just wish that the
bread had a little more give in it. To be honest, I've had meat that
was more tender. And I didn't have that life-is-good feeling, even
after eating every scrap of those fries. (Something I don't usually
Then I stepped outside into the 90-plus degree heat, and let out a sigh of relief, because I was warm again ….
Most negative thing about the experiences — the temperature. You could've hung meat in there.
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