Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eating Out for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we drove to Arizona to visit family. It worked out best for us to eat out for Thanksgiving, which was a first for me. We ate at Bill Johnson's Big Apple in Mesa, AZ, one of the few places where we could get a reservation. Bill Johnson's is a Western-style restaurant chain with locations all over the Valley of the Sun. It's mainly famous for steak, BBQ, and breakfast. The Thanksgiving menu was just OK, a step above cafeteria food. However, the wait staff was very friendly.
But we did have some excellent food elsewhere on the trip. On the way down, we stopped in Las Vegas ($29 rooms at Circus Circus), but we decided to forego the LV buffet. We had heard good things about The Egg and I (aka The Egg Works) for breakfast. They have great pancakes, waffles, and eggs served about every way you can imagine. We tried the mashed potato omelette, which sounds a little strange, but tasty and very filling. It was kind of like an loaded baked potato in an omelette. (The fact that there were garlic mashed potatoes made it even better.) The Egg and I (Las Vegas) should not be confused the The Egg and I chain based in Colorado (with a location in St. George and a new location opening in SLC). (I wonder if the Colorado chain is why the other locations in LV are called Egg Works.)
In Arizona, we were sad to see that Mama's Pizzeria (by ASU) had closed down. We used to hang out there when I was a student. We had dinner at Monti's La Casa Vieja (now run by Michael Monti). This place is on the National Register of Historic places. Still the same great steaks, but we're pretty sure that the spaghetti recipe is no longer Leonard Monti's family recipe. (It tastes like generic food service sauce.) And Monti's is much more expensive than I recall. We also stopped at The Golden Gate, a Henrichsen family favorite. This is a decent and affordable family-run establishment with the best hot and sour soup I've had anywhere (and we've looked).
The biggest surprise was The Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona's only olive farm and mill. We stopped here for breakfast on the day we returned to Utah. Here the Del Piero family produces locally grown artisanal olive oils using sustainable farming methods. (Yes, you'll feel like you're in Napa Valley. But it's Queen Creek.) Their "Tuscan-inspired" menu includes fresh fruit waffles, a variety of breakfast sandwiches, and eggs benedict. You can also buy a several olive products and other locally produced food products. If we lived in Queen Creek, everyone would be getting olive oil for Christmas.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Finally, something besides hamburgers. Salt Lake has always had a pretty strong Italian influence. The first Italians who came to Utah were protestants from Northern Italy who had converted to the Mormon church, but the bulk of Italians came in the huge wave of Italian immigration from 1890s to 1920s. These Italians came to work in the mines and on the railroads. Utah's "little Italy" is small relative to other big cities, but it has always been centered on the area between Pioneer park (which still has a farmer's market) and the Rio Grande station. That's where you'll find some true gems: Tony Caputo's Deli/Market and the fabulous, but somewhat expensive Cucina Toscana. (If you've got a special occasion, it's worth the money, and actually not a whole lot more for some dishes than Macroni Grill or other chains.) If you go to CT, you may never be able to go to Olive Garden again. In Salt Lake City, you will also find Settebello, certified Vera Pizza Napoletana. Downtown, by the Library, you will also find Cannella's, a Zagat-rated Italian restaurant in about the same price range as Macaroni Grill (family owned and operated since 1978).

This brings us to Fratelli (brothers). I was attending some meetings at Snowbird, and my wife and daughter and I drove down Little Cottonwood looking for a place to eat. We discovered Fratteli in the Quarry Bend Shopping Center (located at the old gravel quarry near 9000 South and about 1000 East). This restaurant is owned by Pete and Dave Cannellla (the brothers), whose uncle runs Cannella's. They have real-deal Italian food in a casual, family friendly environment (cups on the lids for the little kids). So although SLC has great Italian food, you can also find it in the South Valley, and a shorter drive from Utah Valley. (Check the Deseret News review.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Burgermania Begins

I drove past the Orem In-N-Out on my way to work today, and the line was already starting to form--two hours before opening. I'll be waiting a few weeks before I get in line, but stay tuned for my In-N-Out/Chadders burger challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Casualty in the Burger Wars

In-N-Out is here. So if Five Guys. EZ Take Out in Orem closed. Will Chadders survive In-N-Out?

It's Official

In-N-Out Burger opens in Orem on Thursday, Nov. 19th at 10:30. They expect to sell over 10,000 burgers in the first week. I wonder how this will affect my morning commute?