Porcupine Pub & Grille
3698 E. 7000 South, Cottonwood Heights ; 801-942-5555
The best way to apres-ski when coming down from the canyons. Servings are hearty, the beer chilled and the atmosphere is lively.
Cuisine: American, Brew Pub
Hours: M-F, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; S, 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Su, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 7
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: Chile verde burrito, fish tacos, nachos, bread pudding.
February 24, 2010
Bring your appetite to the mouth of Big Cottonwood
By Vanessa Chang
Cottonwood Heights » Depending on their size, a person can burn anywhere from 300 to 700 calories during a day of skiing. I know people who likely burn much more, though they tend to be the types who burn more calories just by sitting drinking beer than I ever could climbing the Matterhorn -- on Rollerblades.
These metabolically-blessed folks, though, are on even ground with us mortals when it comes to eating. By that, I mean specifically eating at Porcupine Pub and Grill. Even those who pride themselves on their massive caloric intake will look upon any entrée here with a sense of disbelief. "Is that really all for me?"
It in fact is. Porcupine lives up to its pub moniker, oozing casual and laid back as much as their bartenders pour out pints of local microbrew. Everything about the restaurant is big -- the building feels like a loft apartment built by Paul Bunyon as a winter hideaway, the conversations are big (there's no such thing as whispering here), so is the mountainside scenery, and of course, the portion sizes. And if you choose well, the flavors come out big, too.
There are times to bemoan the downward spiral (or should I say outward expansion) of waistlines nationwide. But it's a hard argument to win when your philosophical opponent is one of those metabolically gifted friends just after she's spent the whole day at Solitude. She literally smells like physical activity. The subtle blend of sweat, body chemistry, artificial moisture wicking fabric and sunscreen is overwhelmed by the garlic, onion and chili rising from the huge platter placed before her. Behold, the chile verde burrito ($12.95).
It's one of the winners on Porcupine's vast menu. The spicy filling features all the aforementioned aromatics with tender bits of pork. Stuffed into a huge flour tortilla and served alongside the old standbys black beans and rice, it's enough to feed two to three people. My athletic friend asked for a to-go container and happily talked of having leftovers for lunch the next day.
Porcupine's menu diversity is simultaneously part of its appeal and weakness. Places like this rarely spark dining debates, since everyone can find something they want to eat. Replacing glucose stores and re-carbo loading aren't problems here. Hearty nachos ($9.99), a pile of prudently-fried calamari ($9.99), and a rack of baby back ribs ($15.99) provide equally ample units of energy and flavor.
But the intensity wanes a bit when we're talking ahi spring rolls ($12.99), which were visually stunning but completely flat in flavor, except for the wasabi dipping sauce.
Porcupine is a big place and it serves a lot of people. Whether they expended calories in front of a computer or on the mountain, they come to seek Porcupine's brand of solace: A tall, cold pint of beer. The menu's selection is impressive, particularly if you find yourself thirsty and hungry in Porcupine's neck of the woods post 9:30 p.m. Lunch and brunch are equally bustling, too.
With volume, though, there's always a risk of missing the mark. For the most part, people here don't seem so finicky as to send back their plate of tequila lime chicken pasta ($12.99), even if the pasta is overcooked. It's forgivable, because they're hungry and the sauce is good.
Discriminating gourmands will no doubt find more to lament. But you couldn't get this variety and value anywhere on the mountain. And since the restaurant is strategically located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, why wouldn't you stop in for cold beer and rejuvenating, rib-sticking eats?
At places like these, servers are an interesting lot, and wherever they hail from, are likely to live here for the snow. From one regular server, I've gotten equally good recommendations on ski runs and local microbrew. The service fits the casual atmosphere but I've yet to encounter anything that borders on sloppy. They're quick, efficient and know how to steer you toward a good thing.
Like the bread pudding ($6.99). In my book, this dessert does double duty for its carb-content (I never was a fan of Atkins or South Beach) and its gentle textures and flavors. Porcupine Pub's isn't the best one I've ever tasted, but after a day in the outdoors and some spicy chile verde in my belly, the vanilla scented custard and soufflé-light bread was just what my gut needed.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ 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.
August 10, 2005
Set your quills down at Porcupine Grille
By Nancy Hobbs
The number of people dining out dropped precipitously after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and though diners have returned significantly over the past four years, it seems a lot of restaurants just haven't gotten back to stride. Not so with Porcupine Grille at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, which appears to be attracting a voracious clientele for its daily lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service. Even with summer seating for 200, including room for three-dozen diners on the deck overlooking 7000 South, patrons were spilling out the front door on a recent Wednesday night, willing to endure the 15- to 20-minute wait for a table.
Even at lunch, the parking lot was full and diners' cars lined the nearby street, although there wasn't a wait to be seated.
Inside, it's obviously bustling, and with a full house, it gets loud. The high ceiling looks like it's been fitted with a giant blanket of insulation, likely to help absorb some of the noise.
Simply put, Porcupine Grille is probably not the best place for romance or a quiet dinner conversation, but if the quest is for someplace lively, casual and friendly, it's a great place to set your quills.
Porcupine has an impressive array of beers on tap, most of which are brewed at more than a half-dozen microbreweries around the state. And in order to stay true to the "pub" part of their name, owners Bryan O'Meara and Byron Loveall segregated a small area of their restaurant to remain a beer bar when they applied in recent years to expand liquor service throughout the rest of the restaurant.
It does add a bit of confusion for those of us not tuned in to the latest twists and turns in Utah liquor law. An example: Those waiting for tables the other evening could step up to the Porcupine bar and order a beer, but if you wanted a cocktail or wine, the bartender kindly (and apologetically) asked that you step back outside the tiled and railed area that delineates the beer bar, and as soon as he could find a server with a free hand, he or she could order and deliver the requested drink outside the "bar."
Got it? Neither did I. Nor did I get a drink before our table was ready, which makes sense. All of the servers were busy offering the excellent service we later enjoyed to the full house of tables.
O'Meara later explained there are a couple of purposes served with their setup. Since it opened in 1998, the pub has served a segment of customers who simply drop in for a couple of beers. The bar has about a dozen stools within its confines where those customers can still enjoy that option, says O'Meara, whereas outside of it, which is licensed for full liquor service, patrons have to declare an "intent to dine."
The casual, pub-style food has always been most popular at Porcupine Grille, and that hasn't changed. Burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and salads fill the menu for lunch, while pasta dishes, Southwest specialties and even a filet mignon round out the dinner options.
Among the most popular items at any meal are the fish and chips, with a nice, crisp beer-batter crust encasing hunks of flaky halibut, and lots of steak fries on the side. The wahoo fish tacos (also known as ono fish), also are a favored choice, with two generous tacos served with shredded cabbage and a side of spicy black beans and rice.
The spice there doesn't quite reach the level of heat in the chili verde, however. When the menu has "spicy" in bold face, you know it's going to be amped up. Brace yourself for some teary moments when ordering the chili verde burrito.
We also enjoyed a couple of the evening's specials on a recent visit: The rock shrimp and chorizo quesadilla was tasty, also with a nice spice kick when you got a bite of the sausage.
The restaurant also offers a cold and hot soup every day, and we tried the chilled butternut-coconut special. It was a delicious and intriguing blend of flavors, but also was thick and very sweet, almost like a pudding. I know it wouldn't sell as a dessert, but that's how I enjoyed it -- saved until after the main course, like a salve for the chili verde.
Last but certainly not least among the recommendations at Porcupine are the salads, all available in two sizes, with chicken, tofu, grilled shrimp or salmon as optional additions. All are loaded with colorful and flavorful treats, from pears, blue cheese and pecans on the house salad, to fresh corn, black beans, avocados, jicama and pepperjack cheese on the Southwestern.
Whether you're looking for a lively dinner spot or casual stop for lunch, Porcupine Pub & Grille has plenty to offer in the way of food, drink and good service. With brunch service starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, it's also a nice prelude to a day up nearby Big or Little Cottonwood canyons.