Blue Poblano: The Strong, Silent Type
473 E. 300 S. Salt Lake City, Utah
T: 801.883.9078 | bluepoblano.com
Monday–Saturday: 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Monday–Thursday: 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m.
The Blue Poblano space, just west of Dick N’ Dixie’s and east of its earlier tenant, The Other Place, is filled with the cool, blue faces of painted spirits, spar-varnished, brass-tattooed barrel-top tables and dark, alternative music playing quietly. The atmosphere is studied stillness. Even the kitchen, hard at work making orders from scratch, is muted, the voices of the cooks and servers as quiet as the dust that rises before rain.
The food here is really made-to-order and leaves the kitchen more slowly than other Mexican places, so starting with a delicious $2 Tecate or PBR can is my strategy. Ask for one of the chilled blue glasses. This is a classy place—make your beer match the décor. Get some starters in your sights, as your more-involved food will be a few minutes.
The Nachos ($7) are a flower of color and flavor erupting from their bowl. These are connoisseur’s nachos—don’t just power through them to soak up beer. The fresh jalapeño, the excellent chips and rough original pico de gallo, the crema and beans, the broth at the bottom of the bowl—a surprising pool of nourishment—all play a part. The flavor is not that of other nachos. The bites are savory and don’t dull down. If food is poetry, these nachos could be taught in college. They are ecstatic; they are reward enough for the travel. If you can’t bring yourself to the nachos, try the Chips ($2.50) and Guacamole ($5). The Guacamole is handmade, with flavors of cilantro, candied cumin pepitas and fresh onion. It’s good, and good for you. They don’t offer a combination of the two—you have to pay to try both. There’s Chips and Salsa ($4.50), too. The salsa is novel, featuring a finely chopped character and a smoky, not spicy, finish. Blue Poblano makes Mexican food that doesn’t taste like Mexican food, but tastes like food that looks like Mexican food. It is uncanny. It is also good.
The Dang Quesadilla ($5) is fun, fresh and warming: a healthy sprinkle of cilantro and onion on quarters of a grilled tortilla, cheddar jack cheese, grilled onion and fresh crema anda little pot of the excellent salsa to unite the flavors. This shareable table brightener is priced to please.
Ask about their best taco, the Fish Taco ($4.75). It’s a small fist of deep-fried swai in a flour tortilla, covered with a mound of tomato, onion, cabbage and white cheese with a tread of avocado and radish orbiting the buried golden nugget. It only took four bites, but it left a mark. Schedule this fish taco for your foodie taco tour. The Vegetarian Taco ($7.50) admirably defies expectation, with a lime-spiced white rice and generous avocado, crema, jack cheese and white queso fresco, crunchy cabbage and smoked-pepper red and green salsas. It is a new, more present veggie taco with more “yes” factor than the common black bean or guacamole versions.
The burritos are boxing gloves. They look safe, but they’re big and they might knock you down. The Beef Brisket Burrito ($11) is served in a foil wrapper, as big around as a forearm and covered in a rough and tough tortilla. The first brush is sweet smoked onions and the beans, which are light and satisfyingly umami. The crunch of radish and cabbage follows, which breaks like a wave on the generous and delicious marinated beef brisket. It is a Dr. Pepper and orange reduction that lubricates the machine that has filled my senses, and I love it. The Bean Burrito ($7.50) arrives with its leather-thick tortilla—again, a hunk of pleasure. Smoky and rich, it tastes more intentional than some of the fresh-to-table items. There is a mind behind this bean burrito. Smoky peppers flavor the beans and cheddar jack cheese. These few simple flavors cover the whole of my palate. My mind returns to this item just now. I want it.
The Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas ($14) is a loaded plate with beans and rice. Topped with green onion, cilantro and radish wheels, the two enchiladas, medium-sized and delicate, are doused in straight salsa verde. The chicken is abundant but dull—the enchiladas are not the success that is so much of Blue Poblano’s menu. Actually, the rice and beans were each, on their own or together, far more fun and satisfying. This is true of Blue Poblano’s chicken items—the Taco, Burrito and Enchiladas—all lacked the flavor interest of the beef, pork or especially, the great vegetarian dishes.
Get your coffee ($2) here, or try one of the margaritas: House, Mango, Grapefruit ($9) or Prickly Pear ($10). If you prefer a special drink not offered here, there’s a speakeasy-style ordering space inside Dick N’ Dixie’s full-service liquor bar. Me, I stuck with cheap beer in cans.
As local taquerías go, Blue Poblano is quiet, even reserved. It’s a bit of a secret to all but its neighborhood, but it fills up with happy hipsters for its afternoon and evening meals, and it serves a truly unique plate of delicious.
Editor’s note: As of Sept. 29, 2016, Blue Poblano has shut their doors as a restaurant but will continue on as a catering service. Cheers to a stellar restaurant that charmed Salt Lake City—we loved every bite!