Butcher's Chop House & Bar
751 Main St., Park City ; 435-647-0040
Steaks and chops. Great wine selection.
Cuisine: Steak House, American
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Onion rings, polenta-dusted calamari, seafood chowder, filet mignon.
January 21, 2005
By Nancy Hobbs
PARK CITY -- Butcher's Chop House and Bar has a lot of great things going for it: An almost-perfect location in this resort town, being at the base of the Town Lift and not far off Main Street, making it easy for skiers and shoppers to navigate.
Proven history in owners Jesse Shetler and Michael "MJ" Johnson, who also own the city's popular No Name Saloon, and Terry Jannott.
A beautiful cherrywood bar with an impressive view of the slopes during daylight and of the city's energy at night.
But as any seasoned restaurateur knows, all the bells and whistles aren't worth a tinkle if service doesn't meet expectations. And new general manager Gary Wohlfarth says he was brought in less than three weeks ago to resolve a service discord.
One example: answering the simple question "Do you take reservations?"
It was a question I posed before inviting dinner guests to Butcher's on a weekday evening between Christmas and New Year's.
"No, we are just taking walk-ins," I was told. "When were you planning to come?"
We wanted a table for four, at 8 p.m.
"Oh yes, we can do that."
"So, we do have a reservation?"
I was assured that was the case. But when we arrived with our invited guests, there was no record of a reservation. A sizable crowd was waiting to be seated. The hostess, in a quandary and perhaps noting my embarrassment, promised to find us a table as soon as possible. Thirty minutes later, just as we were discussing other options, a table opened up and we were seated.
Now, Wohlfarth says, the policy is set -- reservations accepted and, in fact, recommended -- and he will ensure it is followed.
But we had other concerns.
Once we were seated, our server came by but quickly excused herself when she saw the table wasn't yet set, complaining that the hostess had jumped the gun. My friend, a native New Yorker who could probably teach me a thing or two about assertiveness, stopped her to ask why we needed silver to order a cocktail after waiting so long to be seated.
Still, the server held the cards; we waited until the table had been set before she returned. I assumed she was directing others throughout the evening as they delivered our meals, cleared our plates and filled glasses, but we seldom saw her, other than when she came by and commented that something had not been done and she would see that it was.
Here's my beef: The overall service wasn't bad, but listening to a server blame others -- not once, but several times -- for every slip or shortcoming was nearly intolerable.
Unfortunately, we witnessed a similar mindset on another occasion, when our table was one of only three seated in the restaurant for lunch. Despite the slow pace, our server directed his assistant (in my day, we were called busboys, regardless of gender) to do everything other than take our order and deliver the bill. The assistant kept our water glasses filled, cleared our plates and boxed our leftovers with a gracious demeanor that was a stark contrast to the waiter's arrogance.
In both cases, I would have preferred leaving our gratuity with the assistants to share with the waiters, rather than vice versa.
I hope that's all in the past. Manager Wohlfarth said he was brought in to correct "a mess" of major failings in the service area. "Hopefully, well definitely, all of these things are changing soon," he said.
If so, time spent at Butcher's could be enjoyable, as we found nothing disappointing about the food prepared under the direction of chef Greg Grass.
Entrees as varied as baked macaroni and cheese or a 24-ounce Porterhouse steak vary as widely in price, from about $10 to $44. Most of the dinners fall in the mid-$20s, with a la carte soups and salads starting around $6.
There are lots of nice appetizers to kick off a meal. Crunchy homemade potato chips topped with generous handfuls of creamy blue cheese, barely starting to melt, were delicious and would be an indulgence with a glass of wine after a day of activity.
Likewise with the crisp-coated, thick-cut onion rings, though a frosty beer would probably pair better here. Polenta-dusted calamari, served with a creamy, smoky chipotle aioli, was also a treat.
The seafood chowder is an appealing bowl of warmth, full of halibut, crab, bay scallops and a nice addition of smoked salmon. The mix isn't padded with potatoes, and is creamy and flavorful without being overly thick.
Our dinner entrees arrived hot and tantalizing. The eponymous filet mignon was most impressive, topped with a crab cake and golden bearnaise sauce ($31), and the halibut was perfectly cooked, with a crunchy nut crust encasing moist, flaky meat ($24).
The ancho tequila-braised short ribs of beef, incredibly tender and served with a nice complement of buttered egg noodles, is also one of the more affordable dinners at $19.50.
You can get out of Butcher's for quite a bit less by ordering one of the half-dozen pizzas, all priced below $12. The Margherita pizza was perfect in its simplicity, with fresh tomatoes, aromatic basil and lots of garlic on a thin, crisp crust.
Butcher's dining room is a warm, inviting place, paneled with beautiful cherrywood and black-upholstered booths along windows affording views of Park Avenue and the Town Lift's plaza. With new attention being paid to service, combined with consistently good food, this could become one of the liveliest spots in town.