Author: James Bennet

The Last
End Sounds
Street: 11.05
The Last = Descedents/All + The Stooges + Wednesday Week
Punk rock is such a hard genre to define. Once you think you’ve got it figured out, a band like The Last pops up on your radar. The Last formed in the late 1970s in Hermosa Beach—part of the same scene that spawned Black Flag and Red Cross. The lineup is solid—when you pair the Nolte brothers with the powerhouse punk rhythm section of Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson, you end up with the sort of alchemy that is both pop-sensible and face-melting. Mike Nolte adds a garage-y organ to traditional pop punk hooks and layered backing vocals to give the songs a 1960s feel. It takes more from The Stooges than from the middle class, and this is refreshing. In all, it is a solid return to form for a little-known punk band that has gone 17 years without a proper release. –James Bennett

band of annualsBand of Annuals
Live Warehouse EP

Self Released
Street: 11.01
BOA = Neil Young + Emmylou Harris + that dreaded country twang

It’s rare these days that a record can actually exude warmth. Live Warehouse EP does exactly that. From the first song, “Thought I’d Have Learned,” to the final “Blood on my Shirt,” these seven live tracks tug at your heart strings and make you long for a time when communities lived and died by what was playing on their phonographs. Classic country and folk themes like alcohol, infidelity and regret are all present here. The songwriting and sheer musicianship represented on this disc will make you wonder why Band of Annuals is not the best-selling band in every music store in Utah. They should be, the record is that good. It is the best alt-country music to ever come out of Salt Lake City. It will inspire you to write poetry, to sleep in without guilt and to call an old friend and start planning that road trip through Kentucky that you’ve been putting off for far too long.

The view outside El Viroleño

El Viroleño

471 W. 800 South, Salt Lake City || 801.595.7021
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

I will be the first to admit that I have never really explored Central American food. My exposure has mostly been limited to the occasional plate from a multicultural festival pop-up restaurant. I knew that I needed to dig deeper, but I had no idea where to even begin. When I heard that there was a traditional Salvadoran restaurant along the 8th South corridor, I jumped at the chance to take a closer look.

El Viroleño is housed on the bottom floor of a two-story, brightly-painted orange building. It is difficult to drive past without noticing. The sign out front and the lettering on the sides of the building all boast of the restaurant’s pupusas. As pupusas are considered by many to be the national dish of El Salvador, I knew that this was where I needed to start. From the menu description, I was expecting an empanada-like hand pie, but what came from the kitchen shot past my expectations.

Pupusas & Appetizers

Local artist Alethia Lunares enjoying some pupusas.
Photo: Talyn Sherer

First off, the pupusas are huge. Each one filled an entire medium sized plate. For the uninitiated, as I was, pupusas are at least a little similar to quesadillas in their construction – the main difference is that the filling is stuffed into a piece of corn tortilla dough before it is flattened out and cooked. The restaurant offers five different pupusa fillings. We tried three: the Revuelta, the Locro con Queso, and the Chicharrón. They are all are served with a vinegary cabbage slaw condiment and a jar of spicy tomato sauce. The Chicharrón—filled with a mixture of cheese and shredded pork—was our favorite. It is hard to go wrong with slow-cooked pork. The flavorful juices of the filling added depth to the entire dish and went surprisingly well with the crunch of the cabbage. The Locro (edible flower) con Queso paired cheese with a broccoli-like Salvadoran vegetable (the locro), and the Revuelta mixed in a bit of everything. The restaurant also offers a straight bean-and-cheese or simple cheese option for those wanting something a little less intense. They were all unbelievably sumptuous and filling, and a steal at $3 or less apiece.

Wanting to see how familiar items would come out when given a Salvadoran twist, we ordered a pair of tamales. The Tamales de Cerdo o Pollo ($2.35) differ from other tamales that I’ve tried—they are steamed in a banana-leaf wrapper and not in one made from corn husks. Also, the chicken or pork filling is mixed with peppers and potato wedges. We were encouraged to use the same condiments from the pupusas with the tamales, and that it worked incredibly well. The ratio of filling to masa breading was perfect, and the added freshness and spice of the toppings cut some of the richness of the dish. It was great seeing something familiar to most of us completely reimagined. Even the pickiest of eaters in our dining party loved the tamales.


A full serving of El Virolenño's food
Photo: Talyn Sherer

Rounding out a meal that had thus far been made up of tempting appetizers, we ordered two entrées: the Chile Relleno Plate ($9.95) and the Carne Asada Plate ($10.70). Both were served on a plate of rice and refried beans with two thick tortillas. The chile relleno was similar to what I have ordered from Mexican restaurants, consisting of a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper rolled in an egg batter and fried. Where this one differed was that diners could order the relleno with a ground beef or a chicken filling. They were out of the ground beef mixture the day we were there, so we gave the chicken chile relleno a try. I’m glad we did. The tart pepper casing was a good match for the flavor of the chicken, and the spicy tomato smother gave it just the right kick. The carne asada was presented in much the same way—on a bed of refried beans and rice with a pair of tortillas. The marinated flank steak was butterfly cut to make it extra thin, and pan-seared to perfection. The thick Salvadoran tortillas—almost pancake-like in their girth—were consumed, in part, with each bite cut from the steak. The carne asana was easily as good as any I’ve ever had, and I make it a point to order the carne asada almost every time I see it on a menu.

I am really happy that I gave El Viroleño a try. Do not be dissuaded by the industrial neighborhood location or the plastic tablecloths. This is a great place to order large portions of quality, inexpensive food. Try a bit of everything, pair it with a bottle of Mexican Coke, and consider how much weight you’ll gain if you come back as often as you’re going to want to.

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Photo: Owner and head butcher Philip Grubisa proudly uses the whole animals they butcher, from nose to tail, at Beltex Meats.

511 E. Harvey Milk Blvd.801.532.2641 | Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. |

Beltex Meats is a whole-animal, nose-to-tail butcher shop in Salt Lake City. It began in the summer of 2014 with appearances at a handful of local farmers markets. The support and response from these community markets allowed for the opening of a brick-and-mortar location across from Liberty Park on 900 South. Owner and head butcher Philip Grubisa takes a whole-animal approach to butchery, and presents a unique meat shop offering to our community.

Specialty butcher shops are a rare sight in Salt Lake. Most of our meat comes from supermarkets. On how his shop differed from a grocery store meat department, Grubisa says, “We have a whole-animal approach. We start with the entire carcass—a hanging hog, hanging beef, lamb. It hasn’t been cut up or adulterated yet.” He then clarified that much of what a conventional grocery store does is that they buy offsite processed “boxed beef” that is then repackaged and sold on those familiar foam trays. “Our problem is that our consumption of beef in America is far greater than it can actually provide for; it’s not a sustainable system, and our grocery stores aid in that instability.” When pressed to explain how Beltex’s model is more sustainable, Grubisa says, “We teach people that there is more to an animal than a pork chop, a ribeye, a filet or a New York strip. There are thousands of pounds to a cow outside of those cuts alone.” Beltex aims to show people an older style of butchery that deals with lesser-known cuts. These cuts are still very tender, can be grilled or braised, but are not being sold in supermarket settings. The more that we are able to use, the less of the animal goes to waste. In addition, a smaller number of animals is needed to meet demand.

Using unfamiliar cuts of meat can be challenging to the consumer. Grubisa gets it. “I grew up shopping in a regular grocery store with just a few things to choose from. It took me getting into the butchery world to see a use for cuts like bottom round, gooseneck round steaks and heel roasts.” These can be a challenge to sell, but Beltex still manages to sell them. “I was a chef,” he says, “so are the other guys that run the store with me. We are able to explain to customers how to cook less marketable cuts of meat. We can send a customer home with confidence.”

It is one thing to send a customer home with a strange variety of roast. As for the truly odd parts of the animal, “We use the entire carcass: organ meats, skulls, bones,” Grubisa says. “We make broths. We make cured-meat products like pâté. We even sell dog treats and raw dog food. We are a nose-to-tail-focused butcher shop, and we know there’s a use for every bit of the animal.”

Beltex offers many raw cuts of meat: steaks, chops and roasts. They also are able to do custom cuts because, as Grubisa says, “People may have a recipe or something that they haven’t seen in years that their grandmother’s grandmother used to make.” Their knowledge of how to extract those particular cuts is a disappearing art. They also offer many cured meats and European-style charcuterie. This includes salami, pâté, rillettes and much more—very traditional, and very hard to find locally. As far as the cured meats go, the pâté is a top seller.

As for the raw meat, the top seller is beef. “We are in a steak-and-potatoes area,” he says. This is linked to Utah’s agricultural background. Native Utahns make up a good percentage of the customer base, the rest being mostly displaced East Coasters. The influx of tech companies in the valley has dragged people from the outskirts of America to Utah, and many of these people are accustomed to stand-alone butcher shops. They are excited by the familiar experience.

Another focus of the shop is to use animals that are humanely raised and locally sourced. Their beef comes from Mount Pleasant and Boulder, Utah; the lamb is from Vernal; the hogs come from a producer just west of Tooele. “We choose these farms carefully,” Grubisa says. “We want pasture-raised animals that are antibiotic-, steroid- and hormone-free. The people who raise them also need to make sense to us. The animal husbandry needs to be done properly. From start to finish, the animals need to be properly taken care of.” And while these producers may not be certified organic by the USDA, Beltex looks for places that use organic practices. As a service that provides meat for consumption, Beltex sees a need to help its customers make better, conscious decisions on how animals are raised and used.

Beltex is still fresh on the Utah food scene. When asked what the future holds for the shop, Grubisa envisions more plated, orchestrated nights of dinners. Nose-to-tail dinners would both feature their products and would introduce customers to their whole-animal philosophy. They also supply a handful of restaurants with sausage and charcuterie and are open to doing this on a grander scale. Whatever they end up doing, when the products and the people involved are this good, there is bound to be a line out the door.