2336 E. 7000 South, Cottonwood Heights ; 801-943-5138
This veteran breakfast and lunch place thrives with a no-nonsense menu. Friendly and accommodating staff.
Cuisine: American, Cafe
Hours: Open daily, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Accepts: Cash and checks only
Recommended Dishes: Belly buster with potatoes, choice of meat, eggs and cheese; golden deep-fried Utah scones.
April 23, 2008
Carl's Cafe stands the taste of time
By Lesli J. Neilson
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS -- If you hit it just right on the weekends, one of Carl's Cafe's few sought-after tables will be available. If not, you patiently wait to be seated, which doesn't take very long. Carl's crew gets you in, fed and out with precision. After all, they have had 30 years to perfect their routine.
The one-room restaurant is a no-frills kind of place. People don't come for the décor; they come for the food.
What type of fare attracts devotees to Carl's? Classic, home-style breakfast and lunch offerings. Little has changed since The Tribune last visited, in 2003. Since then, prices have increased only slightly, but they are still extremely reasonable -- and it is a cash- or check-only affair.
If you are hankering for a heap of food, the "belly buster" ($5.95) is the way to go. Thin potato slices are followed by sausage, bacon or ham, eggs any style and then cheese (Swiss, cheddar, American or feta).
Biscuits and gravy ($5.25 with eggs and potatoes; $3.50 as a side order) were a tad on the cold side, but the country gravy had nice flavor and the biscuits were flaky.
There also are some down-home touches. Perfectly golden deep-fried Utah scones ($1 each or order it instead of toast with any breakfast meal for 50 cents) arrive about six inches across unlike those daunting Frisbees you get at other places. Carl Wallace's widow makes the zucchini bread (75 cents). It is deliciously moist and classically spiced without nuts.
The most popular lunch items include the Reuben ($4.55) and the Southerner (hot turkey, swiss, bacon and avocado for $4.55).
As for the staff, it is so incredibly friendly and accommodating you can almost forgive the kitchen that the spread of choice is margarine and the blueberry muffins ($1.25) come from Sam's Club.
More difficult to forgive, however, were a dry Alta omelet ($6.75) and overcooked breakfast sandwich ($5.50). Chicken, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms were a fine combination in the omelet but suffered inside their rubbery egg envelope. Dry scrambled eggs also hurt the sandwich. The big bun had me picking out and eating just the ham and cheddar from the sandwich.
Yet despite the flaws -- it was a busy Saturday -- it is obvious that folks love Carl's. After all, the cafe has been around for 30 years.
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
May 9, 2003
By Nancy Hobbs
The first thing visitors should know about Carl's Cafe is posted prominently on the front door to avoid misunderstandings. If you don't have cash or check, don't bother stepping inside.
It's the way business has been done since the late Carl Wallace opened the cafe 25 years ago, and the way his former daughter-in-law Lisa Wallace, who now co-owns and operates the cafe, wants it to stay.
After all, why change something that has worked so well for so long? Likewise, why meddle with a menu of basic breakfast fare and more than two dozen sandwich choices that have attracted steady crowds for more than two decades?
The truth is, Carl's isn't "nouveau" anything, and that is one reason diners love it. If chic and trendy are your cup of chai, this is not the place.
Steak and eggs, eggs and bacon, deep-fried "Utah" scones, omelets any way you choose, and standard drip coffee is the fare for diners seven days a week, beginning at 7 a.m. and offered until closing, which is 1 p.m. on Sundays and 2:30 p.m. the rest of the week.
With fewer than a dozen small tables and a two-stool counter to accommodate diners, the queue starts forming early, especially on weekends. Fortunately the small wait staff is finely tuned for multitasking (coffee cups and water glasses were never empty), and the efficient kitchen sends meals out in quick succession. Although there may be some guests who linger, turnover generally keeps up fairly well with new arrivals.
Take-out is an option for those who can't wait, and employees at businesses in or near the Hillside shopping plaza, where Carl's is, obviously take advantage of that at lunchtime by stopping in to pick up orders for a crowd. With so many sandwich choices, from egg salad ($3.05) and grilled cheese ($2.05) to a "Southerner" (turkey, Swiss, bacon and avocado for $4.25) or "Westerner" (quarter-pound mushroom cheeseburger, $2.80), there is likely something to satisfy everyone's palate.
At breakfast, Carl's omelets are especially popular and come with any two fillings for $4.85, which includes the cafe's delicious country-style hash browns (sliced, not shredded) and toast (a scone can be substituted for an extra 50 cents). A word of caution: Diners can choose from four cheeses, and if you don't specify, the kitchen's default choice is American, which I find gooey and tasteless. Cheddar, Swiss or feta are all better choices.
French toast or a "breakfast sandwich" of meat, eggs and cheese on a rosette bun also are popular for anytime breakfasts, but don't look for pancakes. "Our grill's just too small," said Lisa with an apologetic laugh. Given the everyday crowds, it is amazing the tiny kitchen can turn out all that it does, and in such quick order.