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Good Food!

Combo Kababs — One of the Best Meals I've Had in a Long Time — Baby Back Ribs That Tangle with the Best of Them

Restaurant: Wasatch Broiler and Grill
Cuisines:
Mediterranean, Grilled Steak and Chicken, Pasta, Salads, Sandwiches
Location: 4927 S. State, Murray (Map)
Price Range: $2.20-$17.95
Grade:
A- — See Foodie Report

I had not been to the Wasatch Broiler & Grill for at least 10 years. I just don't get out to that part of Murray very often, but I was leaving Costco and could get out of the parking lot easier by turning North, which took me by the Wasatch Broiler, and I thought, "Oh, yeah! I really liked that place." And I wondered if it would be as good as I remembered. I was not disappointed.

It was the day before Halloween, and the wait staff was in costume, and seemed in high spirits. But what really struck me was how much they had come up in the world. Last time I had eaten there, it was more of a fast food-style Greek restaurant, a la Greek Souvlaki. That is not what they are anymore.

The décor is beautiful. Nice tables and chairs, beautiful tile on the floors, a large fish tank in the center of the main portion of the dining area, a massive grill where you can see them flame broiling their goods. The far wall was lined with nice booths, and all I could think was that they had transformed themselves into something of a fine-dining establishment. Not what you would expect in a strip mall behind a Alberto's. But a very nice surprise. And, with that grill there, you could not help but feel hungry, smelling all that good stuff cooking.

I was seated quickly, a woman pretty much asking me where I wanted to go. So I chose a table right next to the fish tank. This blocked my view of the grill, but there's something strangely mesmerizing about watching fish in a vertical tank like that. It was so soothing that I didn't even start looking at my menu until the waitress came out to ask for my order. I told her what had happened, and she just smiled and nodded like she had that happen all the time, then asked what I would like to drink. I went with lemonade, then opened the menu, and was surprised at how much it had expanded. Last I had been there, the place was pretty much all about kebabs. That was certainly not the case now. The menu features salads, pastas, chicken, seafood, steak and ribs, burgers, sandwiches, pizza — and even had a kids menu. And the prices were good. But I wanted to see if they were as good as they used to be, and looked at the kabob portion of the menu (which was taglined, "What made us famous!"). Last time I ate there, I got the combo kabob, with chicken and steak. But it was not there. Ah, man …. But then I saw the combination plates section of the menu, and found my steak and chicken kabob. That's better. It came with a choice of lemon rice or Wasatch Broiler seasoned potatoes. I went with the rice. The waitress took my order, told me it was a good choice, then I went back to zoning out at the fish tank.

The meal was a bit slow in coming, I was going to a movie after, and was a little concerned about time, but it didn't push that envelope too much.

First words out of my mouth:"That's just beautiful."

The kebabs had gorgeous grill marks, and rested on a bed of yellow rice sprinkled with orange seasoning. (Paprika?) And the chicken was more orange than yellow (like I remembered), meaning that it was a bit more Middle Eastern than Greek. There were chunks of onion between the pieces of meat, as well as squares of bell pepper. It was served on a plain-but-elegant white plate. And it smelled amazing. So I quickly started pushing the meat off the wooden skewers.
I had a VERY good feeling about this.

First words out of my mouth after first bite: "Oh, baby. That's amazing."

As I suspected, the seasoning was more Middle Eastern than Greek, less of a lemony flavor, more turmeric. But it was just beautiful. The flavor from the flame broiling was perfect, and the blend of seasonings was layered, giving more nuances of goodness the longer I ate. And, where too many combinations like this offered outstanding chicken with so-so steak, that is definitely not the case at the Wasatch Broiler. I had asked for the steak to be medium well, and it was cooked perfectly without being dry or tough. They definitely know how to cook beef to order. The onions, grilled to being semitransparent, making them sweet and a great addition to the flavor, as did the rice. The rice, again, is not like the Greek lemon rice, but that takes nothing away from the flaor. Even better, it was moist and steamy. There were no hardened bits from sitting in a heated pan for too long. It was just perfect. And, of course, I achieved my goal: that life-is-good feeling that comes with a full stomach.

In the end, it was one of the best meals I had had in a long time. It was comfort food, leaving me feeling content and relaxed, happy to sit and stare at those fish … but I had to go.

Last words out of my mouth: "They're not as good as they used to be. They're better. Not even the same restaurant anymore. Wow."

On my second visit, I was excited to be there. They had expanded their menu so much and the potential was just impossible to calculate. I was with a friend and, when we entered, the sign said "Please Seat Yourself." So we went to a booth this time, rather than by the fish. A woman came out promptly and told us that someone would be out to wait on us. We said, "OK," then waited ... and waited ... and waited.

Finally, a woman with an Eastern European accent came out and gave us menus, introduced herself, and walked away. It was one of those moments like someone asking you a question, then wandering off before you get a chance to answer it. Very odd. So we opened the menus and before we even had a chance to get through the first page (and the menu is extensive), she was back, asking for our drink order. My friend said she wanted water, and I was going to order a lemonade, but she walked away again. My friend said, "I guess you're having water." So I shook my head and went back to the menu, when she arrived with water, and asked if we knew what we wanted to order. We still hadn't had enough time to get through the menu yet. So we said we needed more time, she seemed a bit annoyed, and left again. So we spent five or so minutes deciding. I was tempted to order the Beef Ribs (something you don't see very often, particularly in Utah), but wanted to be able to compare it to other places I have eaten, so I decided on the Baby Back Ribs. That decided, I looked up for out waitress. She was nowhere to be seen. The restaurant is not that big, so it made sense that we would see her. But we didn't. So we waited ... and waited ... and waited. At this point, I was beginning to wonder if we should leave, because we were going to a movie, and didn't want to be late. Then, after about ten minutes, she emerged from the kitchen to ask if we were ready. No smile on her face, just a generally disinterested expression on her face. So I was not only becoming impatient, but annoyed.

My friend ordered, and was asked if she wanted to order a side salad. She said no, and the waitress turned to me. With misgivings, I ordered the Half-Rack of Baby Back Ribs with the House Potatoes, then started to ask about the Side Salads, when she walked away again. My friend laughed and said, "I guess you're not having a salad, either." She was laughing, but I wasn't amused at all.

The meal was a bit slow in coming but, when it did, I was greeted first by the smell of my ribs: I could smell smoke, sweetness from the barbeque sauce, a hint of vinegar ... then got a look at it when she sat it down in front of me.

First words out of my mouth: "Wow. What a beautiful dish."

The ribs were coated in a deep red-brown sauce, and quartered potatoes cooked in butter littered the plate, that half of the plain-but-elegant white plate peppered with red seasoning (again, paprika?). And it smelled amazing. I tried to cut the ribs, but they were too hot, so I went instead for a bite of potato. I had a VERY good feeling about this.

First words out of my mouth after first bite: "That's what potatoes are supposed to be like."

The flavor from the potatoes was awesome. The butter mixed with the seasoning was excellent, giving it a richness and body far beyond what so many restaurants serve. The thing is, potatoes are sort of like escargot, in that they are a vessel for flavor. If seasoned well, a potato dish can really take a good meal and make it excellent. And this was no exception. I ate about a third of the potatoes before going back to try the ribs, and that's just not the way I eat. With me, the main dish gets my full attention, but the potatoes were just delectable. But, finally, I went back to the ribs, cutting off the first one (because they were still plenty hot), and took my first bite. The first thing that hit me was texture. The ribs were tender, but had a crust on them from being cooked on their impressive grill. Then the sauce hit me, with a hint of heat, followed by a blend of sweet and tanginess from the vinegar that I could smell initially. The pork was well smoked and cooked very well. A lot of places don't grill the ribs, as well as smoking them, and I just love the additional flavors it brought to the party. They definitely know how to cook ribs. I cleaned my plate, mopping up any stray drops of sauce, butter and seasoning with the last of my potatoes, and realized that I did not have the life-is-good feeling that comes with a full stomach. A half rack, well, is a half rack. And I can put away a whole rack. So this must be what it feels like to have room for dessert .... But we had to go. So our waitress came to ask if we wanted dessert, clearly disapproved when we said no, so she dropped off our bill and I put my credit card in the slot, so she could see that we were ready. Then waited ... and waited ... and waited. Just when I was going to walk up to the register myself, she came out to get it.

It was an excellent meal. Unfortunately, the help has a big influence on the dining experience, and I was doing a balancing act between really appreciating some excellent food and wanting to talk to the manager because the woman waiting on us was rude and, from all that we could tell, lazy.

Most negative thing about the experience: the waitress.

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