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Best Brunch in the Salt Lake Valley — Pesto Linguini Leaves Something to Be Desired

Restaurant: Tin Roof Grill
Cuisines: Tapas & Mediterranean Cuisine
Location: 9284 S. 700 E. Sandy (Map)
Price Range: $2.99–$9.99 (Extensive Wine List)
B+ — See Foodie Report

I had frequented several of the previous restaurants in the been a space not occupied by the Tin Roof Grill, but none of them came even close to matching this place.

The interior appeared to be completely remodeled, increasing seating capacity, while also giving it a much classier look and feel, with nice tables and chairs (dark wood) and walls covered with painting and photographs by local artists (each given credit for their work and also for sale). I was there on Mother's Day for brunch, and they were clearly just hopping. Nonetheless, we only had to wait a few minutes to be seated, despite the numbers waiting for a table, and they were bussing like wildmen (and women).

Upon being seated, our waitress (smartly dressed in white shirt and apron over black pants, the standard for their wait staff) promptly said, "We're really busy. But I'll do my best to get your food to you quickly. Maybe an appetizer while waiting for your entrees?" I thought, "You sneaky little devil."  But my mom saw that they had an artichoke appetizer on special, and asked about it. Once the waitress said it was grilled, she was sold, and ordered it; we also ordered our drinks.

Looking at the menu, it was clear that they specialize in tapas, but the rest of their menu is pretty eclectic, containing a lot of standard fare from microbrew pubs, as well as pasta and fish. There were some very interesting items, but I was there for brunch, which the chalkboard seemed to be dedicated to.

When our waitress returned with our appetizer, it was a thing of beauty. I'm not real crazy about artichokes, but I can eat them. If I have to. And if you fly them around and make airplane noises until I open the hangar door. But this was grilled over an open flame. I love to grill. I have grilled about anything you can think of, but never an artichoke.  Something that I will have to remedy.

The grilled artichoke was served on yet another bed of nice greens, and came with a small ramekin of garlic aioli for dipping.

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "Oh, man. I will never look at an artichoke the same way again."

The artichoke was tender, the smoke from the grilling was excellent. It gave it a smokiness that, coupled with the dipping sauce, made the artichoke more of a dish in itself, where I had always viewed it as something of an overgrown garnish before. When the artichoke halves were gone, I even ate the bed of greens with the aioli.

But I digress. Before eating the appetizer that forever changed my opinion of artichokes, I asked about the Biscuits and Gravy. She said they came with eggs and, rather than traditional biscuits, it was their "take on biscuits." I thought: "OK. I'll bite," and asked what that meant. She said it was a sort of flat bread, but it's not flat." Then added, "You have to try it to understand."  So I ordered it, as well as a side of bacon. She made a noise that was somewhere between a gorilla growl and a lion's throaty rumble, and said, "Good idea. Our bacon's amazing." I consider myself a bit of a bacon connoisseur, so I thought, "I'll be the judge of that."

Our entrees came more quickly than I anticipated, judging from what she had said and just the general business of the place. (It was, indeed, busy.) And my Biscuits and Gravy was unlike any that I have ever had. The bread had a smooth top and looked more like a scone than a biscuit. It was a little chewy, with a nice crust, and totally changes the experience of having biscuits and gravy.  The gravy was a bacon gravy, which you just don't see often, and that's a shame, because bacon gravy is awesome. And this was the case with the Tin Roof Grill.  The eggs were light and fluffy, and generally delightful.

But the star of the show was the side of bacon. It was thick sliced, and they had cooked it on the grill. It had grill marks, was flecked with fresh herbs, and the smoky headiness was unlike anything I've ever encountered with bacon. It was absolutely the best bacon I have ever had in my life. So, when the waitress returned, I asked her about it. She said that they cure their own bacon, which is why it's so good. And she was right. It was absolutely amazing.

Last words out of my mouth: "This might very well be the best brunch in the Salt Lake Valley."

My second visit to the Tin Roof Grill started out strong. When I opened the door, a wave of smoky aroma wafted over me, taking me off the pavement and carrying me trippingly along to a place where the mouth waters and life is good. What a great way to start a meal!  But that feeling did not last long.

Unlike the first time, the place was not as busy, and I was told to sit where I liked. So I chose a corner booth and was promptly met by the waitress wanting to take my drink order. I asked for a Dr. Pepper, then she told me that they had a great tapas on special, with pork chops that are frenched. I had never heard of that being done with pork, so I asked, "So is it lamb?" She smiled and made a motion like she was shooting herself in the head with her fingers and said, "Oh. Yeah! Lamb! Duh." She even staggered a little after bending her thumb for the discharge of the imaginary bullet. Some might have thought it was cute, but it left me feeling like she was new on the job and overdoing it to cover for misspeaking.  I was annoyed.

I then told her I just wanted to look at the menu. She left, came back with the drink after about two heartbeats and asked me if I was ready to order. I said I wasn't, so she said she would be back. Another few heartbeats later (maybe five) she came back again. I told her I still needed a few minutes, but my annoyance was growing toward the angry end of the stick.  This time, she gave me enough time to actually look over the menu (she must have picked up on my growing frustration). I decided on their Pesto Linguini and ordered it.

While waiting for my meal, I looked around, and the place was immaculately clean, the smell of smoking meats was wonderful, and the TVs were playing a variety of programming, all with the sound turned down. It was very comfortable and pleasant.

My pasta arrived very quickly, served in a beautiful bowl with a red rim, decorated with a ring of designs that reminded me of Moorish design in Spain.

First words out of my mouth: "That's it?"

The bowl was small. And I wondered if I was getting $9.99 worth of pasta. (Outside of the entries on the Wine List, it was the most expensive thing on the menu.)  It was accompanied by a roll that she told me was baked there on site.

She then asked me if I wanted any red pepper flakes or Parmesan cheese. The pepper flakes were already on the table, so that was odd to offer it. But I said, "Yes, I'd like some Parmesan." She said, "Cheese?" I stared at her a moment, wondering what else she could have thought I meant, then said, "Yes. Cheese." So she went to work with her grinder, till I said, "When."

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "Good.  Not great. But good."

The pesto had a nice flavor, but it overpowered the chicken completely. It would have been nice to be able to taste a bit of the char on the chicken, which had been grilled over the flame and sliced thin, but I couldn't. There were fresh, diced tomatoes mixed in that were very nice, but the second bite pointed out something more: needs salt. I am not one who salts my food, unless it's French fries and, then I do so sparingly. But this pasta was under seasoned. There was also quite a bit of oil in the pesto, forming a bit of a pool in the bottom of the bowl.

The roll was very good, clearly made in house, but there was no butter for it. So I ended up using the bread to mop up the extra oil in the bowl, like it was a balsamic-and-oil appetizer at a lot of Italian restaurants.

When I finished, I was not full. As I had feared, the small portion did not leave me with the life-is-good feeling I love when my stomach is full, it was under seasoned, and my waitress was a little annoying.

Last words out of my mouth: "Amazing brunch. Maybe I should stick to that." Foodie Report

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