Desert Edge Brewery at The Pub
602 S. 500 W. at Trolley Square
Mon-Wed. 11 A.M. – Midnight
Thurs-Fri. 11 A.M. – 1 A.M.
Sat. 11:30 A.M. – 1 A.M.
Sun. 12 P.M. – 10 P.M.
Appealing to business professionals, casual eaters and college students on a budget, “The Pub,” as it is also known, is a great casual-dining gastro-pub that caters to a clientele as diverse as its menu.
Opened in 1973, The Pub is considered a Salt Lake original and has kept its loyal following by staying true to its “from scratch” recipes, casual vibe and continuing its tradition of award-winning craft brews. Another hold-over from the more stringent and regulated era of Utah Liquor laws that actually works very well for The Pub is the division of the restaurant into two different dining areas. There is a more industrial, open-air seating area that wraps around the bar, with concrete floors and a more spirited social experience. The other dining area is more “family friendly,” with boothed seating, carpeted floor and is a touch quieter, but the flow of the restaurant does not limit the two from interacting and does not attempt to. As you walk from one area to another, you can see the change in patrons’ ages and attire, and hear the tone in conversations shift, allowing for two completely different dining and drinking experiences—both of which are wonderful. A third option, which was closed during my visit, but will be opening as the weather improves, is the patio area, which is a wonderful blend of both worlds. There is nothing better than a summer brunch on the patio, having The Pub’s seasonal Summertime Kristalweizen draft with the Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadilla ($6.50), or the sun warming your face while snacking on the Bruschetta ($6.50) with fresh mozzarella and The Pub’s tomato-basil balsamic salsa.
Speaking of drinking! The Pub is not short on beer options. With a respectable draft menu,and, more importantly, the ever-changing seasonal offerings, you can always find a great beer to soak your coaster. If you are in a pickle and can’t decide on what to drink, order the sampler tray ($5.50 for eight 1.5 oz samples) to get a tasting of The Pub staples as well as the seasonal brews. As a general observation, you will probably notice that none of the beers available at The Pub are “over-the-top,” quadruple IPA, punch-you-in-the-face, high-gravity beers. Instead, the brewers at The Pub focus on lower-alcohol, high-craft offerings with a much more drinkable tone, which lets you drink without being overpowered and enhances your food rather than dominates it. Once you pick your poison, you can order a glass ($3.50), true pint ($4.50), pitcher ($9.50) or the ever-popular growler ($3.50 to purchase the growler, $7.95 to fill) to go.
With over 20 seasonal variations to add to the standards on tap, there is almost always something that will please your palate. The Road Rage Rye and the Inversion Ale were available during my visits, and I would highly recommend either if they have them. The Road Rage Rye is a light-colored, unfiltered ale with a bright, hoppy bite on the front end that mellows quickly for a clean aftertaste. The Inversion Ale was a very pleasant surprise because, despite the malty brown color, you get a thin ale that isn’t too heavy, with an extraordinarily smooth, smoky flavor, which comes from the brewery’s house-smoked malt. This leaves a pleasant taste subtly lingering in the mouth and pairs very well with the Chile Verde’s ($9.50) deep flavors of poblano peppers, Anaheim chiles and the chipotle crema.
The menu at Desert Edge is surprisingly diverse and strengthened in vision and execution by The Pub’s affiliation with sister restaurants Martine Café, Stella Grill and Red Butte Café. Although it still caters to its core pub-style offerings with its heaping Famous Nachos ($7.50) that come with fresh guacamole, signature salsa, sour cream and very fresh and hot jalapeños (you have been warned), it also offers international flavors of Asian and Mexican cuisine, such as the Asian Chicken Skewers ($7.50) and my personal favorite, the Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas. If you are in a party of four or more, order two servings of the quesadillas, as these always disappear if you turn your attention away for too long. The goat cheese has a different character than other cheeses and holds more of its shape and texture, which is a great textural complement to the beans and crisp tortillas, while the tang of the cheese blends smoothly with the Southwestern spices.
“Pub Sandwiches” and “From The Grill” seem a little pedestrian as far as naming conventions go because, as you scan the menu, you are greeted with selections such as Guajillo Chile BBQ Pulled Pork w/ Gouda ($8.95)—life-changing. However, The Pub’s nonpretentious air is refreshing and speaks again to its laid-back roots, all the while still striving to offer a contemporary menu. The Black Bean Veggie Burger ($8.25) was a bit of a disappointment, as the flavor was bland and the burger had a crumbly texture that missed the mark, but I found the Albacore Tuna Wrap ($15.95, a special on my visit) and the Southwest Chicken with Quesa Fresca Salad ($9.50) impressive as both are “light dishes,” but very filling and rich with flavor.
With the opening of “Jesus Christ Super Mall,” aka City Creek, it seems another hurdle has been laid out before businesses and shops in Salt Lake’s historical Trolley Square. However, one business that should not suffer is the Desert Edge Brewery.
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.
Where the Cafe really excels, though, is with their daily specials. Check the cafe’s Facebook (Washington Square Cafe) or Twitter (@ClockTower77) accounts for updates before you decide, because you will be greeted with killer options such as Thai Coconut Red Curry, Roasted Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese, Pulled Pork Sammies or Wild Rice and Quinoa Croquettes! The Beet Salad makes frequent appearances, with good reason. I was lucky to get it with chevre (made from goats milk) cheese, walnuts, oil and balsamic ($6.50). The mild tartness and creamy texture of the goat cheese was ideal as it paired with the earthy flavors of the beets and crunchy walnuts.
On a separate visit, I split the healthy—nutritionally and portion-wise—Roasted Vegetable Salad. The combination of carrots, eggplant, pepper, cauliflower, broccoli and squash gave a wonderful variety of textures to the dish. The warmth of the roasted veggies softens the tender chevre cheese (which enhances so many dishes effortlessly) just a touch, and its tartness blended perfectly when tossed in the Smoked Paprika that coated the veggies. It’s making my mouth water again just thinking about it, I kid you not.
Currently, with only Monday through Friday breakfast and lunch hours, you have to make a bit of a commitment to eat at the Cafe. Parking can be troublesome, like most places downtown, but the Cafe makes every effort to accommodate its two-wheel patrons with extensive bike parking outside the east entrance. Its location, directly west of the Main Library, also makes it convenient to walk to from most of downtown. According to Valentine, the Cafe is under negotiations for expanding hours to include Sunday brunch soon. With such an ideal location, and the gorgeous grounds of Washington Park, there are few eateries that will be able to match the Cafe’s charm and appeal for a leisurely Sunday meal. Do not be fooled, however, because it is just as good any other day, too!