Washington Square Cafe
451 S. 200 E.
1st (lower) Floor of City-County Building
Mon. — Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
It has been almost two years since Washington Square Cafe opened its doors, but you should not wait a minute longer to visit this secluded diner in the heart of downtown Salt Lake. Located in the historic City-County Building, the seat of Salt Lake City government, on the Washington Square block (where the Utah Arts Festival and Utah Pride Festival happen) you may have never noticed this hidden gem that is cranking out great breakfast, lunch dishes and “specials” that actually live up to the moniker!
Washington Square Cafe is the extension of Clock Tower Catering (which serves parties, community and special events outside the cafe hours), however, you should make a point to swing by the Cafe and visit with Liberty Valentine. The owner prides her operation on the tenet of “providing the highest quality food at the most affordable price.” She does just that and more while adding a warm sentiment for every patron with her generous smile and laugh. Located on the lower level of the east side of the building, the restaurant may lack flair and kitsch, but there is something comforting about the muted tones, throwback tables and straightforward style of the cafe. Mirroring the sentiments of Chef Mary Catrow, the focus should be on the food.
Classic diner breakfast items include minimalistic fair like The Basic, featuring two eggs, any style, with home fries and choice of a bread side ($4.50), French Toast/Pancakes ($5.50) and a variety of omelet dishes. Catering equally to omnivores, vegetarians and gluten-free patrons, the staff has done an amazing job of making all of the dishes enticing and, more importantly, delicious. You can easily over-indulge by adding sides of eggs, fruit, toast and assorted meats, but the servings are well-portioned and leave you satisfied, not stuffed.
The bulk of patrons come for lunch, and the cooks aim to please with staples, including hot sandwiches such as the Monte Cristo or Rueben ($6.75), and an array of salads and cold sandwiches such as the Lemon Chicken Garlic ($6.00). Served on pita bread with lettuce and tomato, the Lemon Chicken Garlic sandwich is a bright, light and flavorful menu item that really surprises with the homemade pesto aioli. Served with chips and salsa (you can substitute with fries or a salad for a buck), this is a great “go-to” if you just can’t decide between all the options. For the vegetarians, I highly recommend the Grilled Veggie Hoagie ($6.25) or the Veggie Burger ($6.25). As an omnivore, one thing I appreciated about the Veggie Burger was the homemade patty. Unlike some restaurants that try and replicate the shape, color and texture of meat, Chef Catrow opts for a more natural patty, with great seasoning, non-pureed vegetables and a mashed potato binder. Served on a Stoneground bun with chips and salsa on the side (or fries/salad), you can also treat yourself by adding cheese, avocado or hummus.