Left Fork Grill
68 W. 3900 South, South Salt Lake ; 801-266-4322
Great lunch items in a classic diner tradition but with exceptional execution.
Hours: M-T, 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; W-S, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.; Su, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Liquor: Beer & Wine
Corkage: $ 10
Recommended Dishes: Any pie, veal wienerschnitzel and corned beef hash.
April 23, 2008
Editor's note: Chef Jeff Masten is offering veal weinerschnitzel ($10.99) on Tuesdays.
February 13, 2008
Left Fork Grill does it right with classic diner-style food, exceptional execution
By Vanessa Chang
We had barely plowed through our open-face steak sandwich and meatloaf when we overheard the waitress at the counter tell a fellow the pie selections for the afternoon. "Sorry, we're out of banana cream, but we've got a slice of blueberry cream left." We thought we were prepared: We had pre-ordered our pie selections when our lunches arrived. But this surprise appearance of blueberry cream threw our universe for a loop.
"Ooh! Can I change from peach to the blueberry cream?" My friend pleaded with our waitress who had arrived with another round of drink refills for the table. "Blueberry cream?" she said. "You got it." And with that she yelled across the restaurant to the other waitress to say that that lone piece of blueberry cream was now accounted for. The other fellow looked crestfallen, disappointed with himself for taking so long to decide between razzleberry (a mixture of berries) and the coveted blueberry cream.
But all's fair in the pie games of Left Fork Grill, where slices usually sell out by the time the lunch shift ends and the restaurant closes at 3 p.m.; and in the case of coconut cream, banana cream or their famous pecan pie, much earlier. But I'm easily consoled with a warm slice of strawberry-rhubarb served a la mode with a scoop of Blue Bunny premium vanilla bean ice cream ($3.25 per slice; $1 for ice cream). And if you're really into pie, you can order a whole one of your choice ($16) with a day's notice.
Why all the fuss? Each daily selection (of which there are at least five) is made fresh from scratch every morning by chef-owner Jeff Masten, who opened Left Fork in South Salt Lake about 18 months ago. That unbelievably flaky pie crust is his mother's recipe. And if I ever were to meet her, I would get her a gift certificate to a day spa, a strand of pearls or a box of Chocolatier Blue chocolates -- in other words, I would thank her heartily.
The double-crust fruit pies feature an unbelievably golden and flaky crust that envelops soft fruit, whether it's slices of peach, the honeyed taste of blueberries -- without the cream, mind you -- or whatever else Masten feels like making.
Yes, I just did spend all this time talking pie. But no, it isn't all that Left Fork Grill has to offer in terms of good food. When Masten took over the space, he inherited a bit of a diner legacy from Kramer's and The Lighthouse that inhabited the space. Before embarking on his solo venture, he worked throughout Utah's restaurant scene, most notably The Roof and Red Rock Brewing Co.
The Saratoga Springs, N.Y., native did a good thing by not turning his back on the diner juju. You sit at either the long countertop or one of the many tables and leather booths. Masten didn't muddle with familiar diner classics with high-fallutin', genre-bending stuff. Chopped iceberg lettuce is the foundation of the house salad ($2.99 or free with any lunch item) and there's an appropriate slick of grease on the bottom of your breakfast plate.
It's classic comforting diner fare that's executed exceptionally well. Left Fork is the sort of place where everyone from cubicle dwellers to truck drivers to retirees feel at ease with the bantering waitresses who always manage to get customers out lightning quick. But folks still feel like they have adequate time to savor their breakfast, tiny-diced corned beef hash ($7.99) with textbook-perfect poached eggs or their lunch of a fat Reuben with a side of house-made coleslaw ($7.99).
If their pies inspire competition from customers and spark near-riots when they're out, so should the daily specials. The fork-tender braised lamb shank ($11.99) sat in a complex, savory sauce that slathered the papardelle noodles and soaked into halved mushrooms. And the wienerschnitzel's ($11.99) crust -- the real deal made with veal -- was so crunchy and light and the fried flavor balanced with just enough lemon -- we were astonished we didn't have to pay more. Comparable dishes elsewhere would've cost double what it did at Left Fork.
There's more. Meatloaf comes in two incarnations -- a sandwich on ciabatta bread with a side (carrot chips, fries or slaw -- $7.99) and an entree ($8.99) with mashed potatoes and al dente haricots verts (read: slender green beans). It also features an addictive tart-sweet chili sauce from Masten's grandmother's recipe file. I believe Masten has some phenomenal women in his family. An open-face steak sandwich ($9.99) actually had a deliciously-prepared medium-rare steak that juiced into french fries. Masten's approach to food proves that when it's done well, people will come, eat it and come back. And with prices like these at this sort of quality, it's worth working your way through the lunch menu.
Oh, and remember to leave room for pie. That is, if there's any left.
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.