Red Rock Brewing Co.
254 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City ; 801-521-7446
Despite the large menu, the kitchen makes some decent food. Cheaper samplers and beer- and food-pairing suggestions would be appreciated.
Cuisine: Brew Pub, American
Hours: Su-Th, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; F-S, 11 a.m.-midnight
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 7
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: French onion steak sandwich, fish and chips, Cobb salad.
June 10, 2009
Red Rock edges Squatters; both need to pare options
By Lesli J. Neilson
All brewpubs are not created equal. I learned this on recent visits to Squatters Pub Brewery and Red Rock Brewing Co. While both establishments have received copious brewing awards over the years, when it comes to their menus, one executes its menu a bit better than the other.
Open since 1989, Squatters is the grandfather of brewpubs in Utah. In a span of 20 years, it has become hugely popular and eco-conscious. The company has launched a microbrewery, a "roadhouse" in Park City and a pub at the international airport.
The décor at the Salt Lake location is as you'd expect: a cavernous space with exposed brick, wood and cinder block. Steel tanks and a long bar are off to one side and flags and awards are everywhere. Its menu reflects the times: calamari share space with edamame and Thai yellow curry can be had with fowl, fish or organic tofu.
With a menu that has no less than 50 choices, it's no wonder many of the dishes we ordered were mediocre.
Calamari ($10.99) arrived deep brown but lacked crunch and flavor -- except for the fried lemon slices, which were great. Hefeweizen-battered cod in the fish and chips ($12.99) was greasy and left me and my companions with that "bad fried food" feeling. "Rustic" Italian pizza ($9.99) with basil, mozzarella, parmesan and marinara was nondescript, except for the unbecoming outlines of semi-melted, pre-cut shredded parmesan.
Sweet potato fries were the best part about a Reuben ($10.99) sandwich. Though the tang from sauerkraut and Russian dressing satisfied, the corned beef slices were thick and difficult to bite and the toasted marbled rye was soggy.
Dessert wasn't much better. The graham cracker crust in a Key lime pie ($5.99) didn't have enough butter for binder, so it felt like I would inhale graham cracker dust and choke at any second. Both molten lava cake ($6.99) and bread pudding ($5.99) were overworked and dense, and left gooey gobs in our mouths.
Other dishes worked much better: A Caesar salad ($8.99) had a deliciously balanced dressing with plenty of zing from lemon and garlic, despite some brown edges on the romaine. The stout barbecue buffalo burger ($11.99) arrived, as requested, tender and medium rare, with addictive garlic fries. And the big mugs of coffee ($2.69) were outstanding. (Millcreek Coffee Roasters supplies the beans.)
Since I hadn't been to Squatters in a long time, the beer sampler ($4.49; yes, that's 75 cents a glass) was the way to go. Six 3-ounce pours of Hefeweizen, Chasing Tail Golden Ale, Provo Girl Pilsner, Vienna Style Lager, Full Suspension Pale Ale and Captain Bastard's Oatmeal Stout are presented on an old ski tip with six holes to hold each glass, while a laminated card lists the characteristics of each beer. It's a novel way to present them. Otherwise, you can order beer by the bottle, a third of a liter, half liter or pitchers ($3.79-$12.49).
As for service, the utensils sitting in canisters at each table are an indicator of the pub's casual style. What I can't understand is when dirty plates aren't cleared before other dishes arrive. Should one expect more out of a brewpub? I suppose not, given the number of patrons eating the night I dined there.
Red Rock Brewing Co. joined the burgeoning brewpub scene in 1994, located not too far from Squatters. Some may have thought this a foolish move, but 15 years later, Red Rock is holding its own and then some. On a recent early weeknight, the place was as busy -- and loud -- as ever. Its vibe, though still a brewpub feel, is a bit more refined than Squatters, with more wood finishes.
Red Rock also has an encyclopedic menu, clocking in at 65 items, not including specials. Though our meal was far from perfect, overall, the quality of food at Red Rock surpassed that of Squatters.
One of the best items is a French onion steak sandwich ($15.99). The open-faced sandwich comes with sourdough, New York steak, caramelized onions and melted Gruyère and mozzarella cheeses. The Reuben ($9.99) sandwich was better than Squatters' version. The corned beef was thinly sliced, and though not traditional, provolone replaced the Swiss cheese, while the toasted marble rye wasn't soggy.
A Cobb salad ($8.49; $11.99) was fresh and abundant, while the halibut fish and chips ($16.49) weren't greasy and had a clean taste to them.
Other items, such as the calamari ($9.99) and beer cracker ($5.99), were uninspired. The tentacles and rings of the cephalopod were lightly golden, lacked crunch and didn't have much flavor, while the roasted garlic, Gorgonzola, salt and sage scattered on flatbread looked chintzy for the price.
The kitchen made other errors, such as the flat-iron ($16.99), which was 10 ounces of incorrectly cut steak with lines of gristle throughout. Otherwise, it was tender and enhanced by Gorgonzola butter and onion straws.
And canned, horrid-tasting whipped cream should never accompany any of the desserts ($5.49-$6.49) and peach cobbler ($6.99) should never contain canned peaches. Instead, order a float ($4.99) with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and house-brewed root beer or cream soda.
At Red Rock, samples of beer are $1.25 for a 3-ounce glass. The limit is six per person. The characteristics of each beer must be gleaned from your server as there's no explanatory cards like at Squatters. Now that's not very beer-friendly. Squatters also beats Red Rock in the price of samples -- $4.49 versus $7.50. I sampled the Bamberg Rausch bier, which tasted like smoky bacon, the Belgian wit and the smooth and dark oatmeal stout. If you order a pint on tap, beers are all $4.50.
There's no denying both Squatters and Red Rock do an excellent job at brewing beer, but with more than 100 menu items between them, they should take a lesson from their limited beer menus and strive for quality over quantity when it comes to the food.
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.
September 21, 2005
Redrock satisfies, time and time again
By Nancy Hobbs
Consistency is a valuable asset in the restaurant business. To use the catchphrase of the day, it's priceless. Diners who learn they can count on good food and service at a particular restaurant become loyal customers, and through introduction and word of mouth, convince others that it's an establishment worth patronizing.
That, in fact, is how I came to revisit Redrock Brewing Co. -- on a couple of occasions -- after a long hiatus.
A friend suggested the brew pub as our rendezvous point for a preconcert dinner recently. Within the same week, I was invited by a group of golfing buddies who frequently go to Redrock after a round.
In the latter case, my friends all perused the menu of sandwiches, salads, pastas and several fish entrees, and even contemplated the specials after our server recited them. But it seemed that everyone finally succumbed to their personal favorite, and admitted that knowing they could come to Redrock and always have their cravings satisfied was what brought them back time and again.
So we began with a "beer cracker" appetizer -- an inviting toasted flatbread topped with a blend of pungent Gorgonzola, garlic and sage.
The hearts of palm and bay shrimp salad is one friend's perpetual favorite, and I could see why, with avocado, feta, new red potatoes and capers mixed in with romaine and, of course, the huge salad's featured ingredients -- all tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette.
Huge salads are a Redrock forte, it seems, with more than a half-dozen choices on the menu, including a Chinese beef salad, pork tenderloin salad, a New York steak salad and another friend's favorite: warm shrimp and spinach salad, with roasted sweet potatoes, Gorgonzola, grapefruit wedges and a delicious lemon pepper dressing that complements the intriguing melange of flavors.
Another dining companion went for the fish and chips. She's especially fond of Redrock's beer-battered, flake-tender halibut (so am I), served with pub fries, crisp coleslaw and accompanied by both tartar sauce and malt vinegar.
I was equally happy with my choice, a French onion steak sandwich, with sliced steak and grilled onions on a toasted bun, topped with Gruyere cheese.
But the wild mushroom pizza -- a mixture of shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms with balsamic caramelized onions and fresh thyme -- was especially delicious on our dinner visit. Paired with a small Caesar salad served just as it should be, with freshly grated Parmesan, anchovy fillets, crisp romaine hearts and a classic Caesar dressing, it was a perfectly satisfying meal.
Any of Redrock's house-brewed beers are, of course, easy to come by at the restaurant (you can also buy growlers -- enough to fill 4 pints -- to take home), but the restaurant also has a full bar of premium liquors and a nice variety of wines by the bottle and an array of offerings by the glass.
Several house-brewed nonalcoholic selections also are on tap, including root beer, cream soda and orange soda, all of which make a delicious float when paired with Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.
Given its success the past 11 years, Redrock recently opened a second restaurant in the Redstone development at Park City's Kimball Junction. Officially called Redrock Junction, the major difference is that the beer isn't brewed on site, but delivered by the keg from Salt Lake City. The menu is essentially the same, and with most of the original culinary crew still working for Redrock at one or the other location, partner Eric Dunlap says that valued consistency in preparation should continue.
Replicate downtown's friendly and efficient service, and Redrock is set to enjoy another success.