Red Butte Cafe
1414 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City ; 801-581-9498
Sandwiches, Southwestern dishes and desserts make this place a long-standing favorite among locals even if the food isn't memorable.
Cuisine: American, Eclectic
Hours: M, 11:30 a -8:30 p; T-Th, 11:30 a-9 p, F-S, 11:30 a-9:30 p; Su, 3-8:30 p
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 7.50
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: Fruit tart, chicken enchiladas, french onion soup, chocolate decadence cake,
December 8, 2010
A steady stand-by, Red Butte can be colorful
By Vanessa Chang
During the holidays, native sons and daughters return to Utah, re-connecting with friends and family. And, of course, it's always over food. I have two such friends who also happen to be brothers. One travels for work to places most of us fawn over in brochures. The other is the type to jaunt over to Turkey for a friend's Mediterranean wedding. When they're back home they always eat at Red Butte Café.
"We've eaten there since we were 12," they declared over a meal with me. "Even the server knows our name."
There are many who share their sentiment. For as long Red Butte Café has been around it has been a quiet, steady stand-by. It's casual enough for mid-week lunch but able to accommodate larger gatherings in the expansive dining areas that overlook the Foothill Village shopping center.
For many, it's a place of tradition. But I doubt it's because of the food. None of the meals I ate there recently were outright bad, they simply weren't memorable.
Southwestern inflections abound on the menu with oversized enchiladas ($7.50 to $9.50), which include generous spoonfuls of beans and rice. You hardly need to chew the overcooked mushy tortillas. Sandwiches, hot or cold, come with thin potato chips, salad and choice of pasta salad or over-sized cubes of fruit. Entrees venture into pastas and more substantial meat dishes.
Everything here, even the special entrees come supersized. Both the bacon burger ($8.75) and the chipotle barbecue pulled pork sandwich ($8.50) came on buns the size of salad plates. Fajitas ($9.25) and crunchy fish tacos ($8.95) come on platters that would feed a small village. In our value-hungry market, it's a popular attribute. But size rarely matters when it comes to taste.
As I said, Red Butte is a casual place. Often times, too casual when it comes to service. On my visits, I felt either incredibly rushed or abandoned. At the same time, the casual nature means the chef doesn't mind if there is a salt shaker on the table. And we were grateful for it. At each meal, we found ourselves needing to season dishes that -- given the presence of chiles and garlic -- should have been full of flavor.
Deep-fried and cheese-stuffed Anaheim chiles ($6.50) had a crunchy-tender texture but were missing the verdant heat of the large green chile. Likewise, hot, crunchy falafel ($6.50) needed salt to bring out the flavors of roasted red bell pepper, onions and aromatics in each fritter. In the roasted beet and fennel salad ($6.75), the lack of salt wasn't much of an issue.
Sweetness from the red beets and a faint anise note from the slightly caramelized fennel aren't meant to explode in your mouth like fireworks.
What's really memorable at Red Butte is dessert. A sizeable glass display of picture-perfect cakes and tarts of all heights, colors and flavors is what welcomes guests at the door. Dessert options ranging from decadent chocolate cakes to dainty fruit tarts, which contain more fruit than crust and are ideal for anyone plagued with holiday food anxiety ($4.50).
The pecan pie ($4.50) had a wonderfully golden and flaky crust and was filled with gilded pecan halves. While a seasonal pumpkin cheesecake ($4.75) had me wondering if I should forsake the traditional pie for this creamy option. Surprisingly, most of the offerings are not over-sugared so you get to taste the ingredients inside, whether it's fruit or cream cheese. The seasonal fruit poppy seed cake ($4.75) is a citrus infused, freckled cake layered with sliced kiwis, berries and a tangy cream cheese buttercream -- the favorite after a super-sized meal.
The most dramatic dessert is the hazelnut coffee marjolaine ($5.25). Calling this creation a "loaf cake" is like calling Uma Thurman "decent-looking." It's a massive, square-ish slice of alternating chocolate cake, coffee buttercream and hazelnut meringue.
Eat half as dessert. Pack the rest up and savor it the next morning with coffee.
Then, your Red Butte Café experience will end on a high note.
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.
April 30, 1999
Red Butte Cafe Gets Bigger, Stays Better
By Anne Wilson
In the half-dozen years Red Butte Cafe has been open, it has not changed much. That's a good thing.
Loyal Red Butte customers can count on friendly service, a relaxed atmosphere and meals made from scratch. While the menu has a number of core items, chef Steve Hamburg mixes in new things on a regular basis, with delicious results.
The biggest news from Red Butte is that it has grown. Last year, the cafe expanded into adjacent space vacated by Raspberry Records. The new dining area looks as if it has always been there -- it "completes" the cafe, as owner Scott Hale says. Looks and comfort are important to Hale, who also owns the Desert Edge Brewery at the Pub in Trolley Square and his newest venture, Martine.
At Red Butte, the walls are painted a sage green and the rosy color of Utah's desert. Live plants and fresh flowers on the dark tables add splashes of color, echoed by bold, chevron-patterned upholstery.
While the muted walls convey a sense of calm, this neighborhood cafe can be noisy when full, thanks to floor tile. If you are looking for quiet time, try Red Butte on a Sunday evening. Dinner is when chef Hamburg really shines, with special appetizers and entrees that change every two months.
A recent starter concocted by Hamburg was shrimp cakes, accompanied by a tomatillo-studded salad and a zippy red pepper sauce ($4.75). The cakes were firm, full of chopped shrimp and kernels of corn. There was no doubt the shrimp was fresh, it was so wonderfully sweet. The salad featured chunks of cooked zucchini, red pepper and onion with roasted tomatillos on a bed of mixed spring greens.
While Hamburg's menu has a decided Southwest bent, he likes to experiment with other ethnic influences. His cheese quesadilla appetizer ($3.75), for example, is made with Italian sausage.
The Red Butte lunch menu has much in common with the pub at Trolley Square: the same cold sandwiches ($5.50 to $6.75), generously sized and accompanied by pasta salad, potato chips and a pickle. The pasta salads ($5.95 to $6.95) are different every day and represent an international smorgasbord: Szechwan chicken; a French-inspired nicoise; Italian with prosciutto; and Greek with spinach, feta cheese and olives.
There are lots of veggie salads, too, mixed with such things as trout, smoked turkey and chicken. Enchiladas are offered at lunch and dinner, and are served with black beans and a Southwest succotash.
Beyond those regular items are dishes that change with the seasons or Hamburg's whim.
Other specials featured during the latter part of April included a salmon fillet, roasted in a corn husk and served with a timbale of roasted corn, red beans and chiles, plus seasoned asparagus ($13.50). The salmon was a bit firmer than some of us like it, but it had a wonderful citrus flavor and was nicely paired with the colorful and carbo-loaded timbale.
The empanada, a pastry filled with leeks, potatoes and prickly-pear cactus leaves, was dressed with a sauce of green salsa and goat-cheese sauce ($9.50). It came with a warm chickpea salad, a grilled tomato and spring greens. The turnover filling was tender and flavorful, but some diners may find it has too much dough and not enough filling.
Dessert at Red Butte is a difficult choice: The display case at the restaurant's entrance is filled with a dazzling selection of cakes and pastries. You couldn't go wrong with any of them unless you are dieting. But if you are going to cheat, do it here.
Red Butte Cafe
1412 S. Foothill Drive (in Foothill Village), 581-9498
-- Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Reservations: Larger parties only
-- Prices: Inexpensive to moderate
-- Wheelchair Access: Yes
-- Credit Cards: Yes
-- Liquor: Beer and wine
-- Takeout: Yes
-- Child's Menu: Yes
August 18, 1995
Southwestern Menu Sizzles, But Steer Clear of Standard Cafe Fare
Whether your meal at the Red Butte Cafe is unique and flavorful or disappointingly bland depends on whether you order one of its trademark southwestern-style selections.
Red Butte Cafe is known for its creative variations on mainstays of southwestern cuisine, and deservedly so. However, by padding its menu with more standard restaurant fare, Red Butte has made the quality of its patrons' dining experience slightly haphazard, since its nod at typical cafe fare falls short. Its menu is more than varied enough to do without these items, and its patrons would do well to avoid them.
The appetizers, all of which are southwestern in influence, are uniformly inventive and well prepared. The tortilla chips would be pretty standard, but they are enlivened by spicy black bean, avocado, and tomato salsas ($2.95). The roasted pepper, Red Butte sausage and cheese quesadillas, served with sour cream and tomato salsa, are some of the best quesadillas we've had ($3.50). The tostadas, made with shrimp, poblano pepper, sun-dried tomato sauce, jack cheese, and guacamole, are also good ($3.50).
Red Butte is also known for its interesting salads. Besides unique variations on the garden salad (with avocado, tomato, and basil potatoes, $5.95) and several types of grilled chicken salad ($6.25), Red Butte's menu offers a grilled fresh halibut salad (with tomatoes, peppers, basil potatoes, egg, green beans, olives, and red onion -- $7.95), and a smoked turkey and tortellini salad (with bacon, avocado, corn salsa, egg and tomato, $6.75). Red Butte also has special dinner salads that vary each night ($3.95); the one we tried was excellent.
The soups, however, are part of Red Butte's misguided reach at traditional cafe fare. The French onion, while adequate, was nothing special ($2.95) and the clam chowder was watery and bland ($2.95). Likewise, Red Butte's cold sandwiches are a serious disappointment ($5.95). The Pub Club and the turkey and avocado sandwiches are damaged by the use of processed-tasting turkey. For that reason, we've avoided trying the third sandwich with turkey (smoked turkey, fontina and tomato). The rare roast beef and swiss sandwich was better, but not particularly interesting.
The grilled sandwiches, which are far more creative, are also better executed ($6.25). The blackened chicken breast with creole relish is spicy and flavorful, as is the cajun cornmeal breaded snapper with grilled onions and jalapeno mayonnaise. The snapper tastes fresh and light, as has all the seafood we've tried at Red Butte. Eggplant fans can order a sandwich with eggplant, sweet onion, fontina, tomato, roasted pepper, and basil mayonnaise ($6.25), which is reputedly quite good.
Red Butte's southwestern-style burger is excellent. Prepared with guacamole, Mexican pepper relish and jack cheese, it is one of the better burgers we've had lately ($5.95). Two other types of chicken sandwiches (chicken breast with sweet onion, prosciutto and swiss, and herbed chicken breast with roasted bell pepper and fontina) also are available.
Red Butte also serves an enchilada (beef, chicken, or cheese -- $6.95) and several pizza selections with interesting ingredients: three cheese with fresh tomatoes and basil -- $7.50; chicken, Red Butte sausage, roasted peppers, and jack cheese -- $8.50; and artichoke hearts, tomato, mushrooms, peppers, spicy herb oil and provolone -- $8.25.
Dinner specials vary bi-weekly, with constant revisions to both menus. The pork medallions on this week's menu are incredibly tender and flavorful. Prepared with red chile, cinnamon, and chutney, they are served with a yam and potato timbale (yam and potatoes mashed together), and grilled zucchini ($11.50). The beef medallions, served with wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and herbed potatoes, come highly recommended ($12.50) by Red Butte's staff. And the trout special we had last week, though it has now been temporarily discontinued, featured such fresh-tasting trout that we hope it is back on the menu soon. Chicken and salmon specials are also available.
Red Butte also is known for its desserts. The orange chocolate mousse cake we had was superb: rich, but not cloyingly sweet. If it is representative of the other options in Red Butte's enormous dessert case, Red Butte's reputation for great desserts is more than justified.
The decor at Red Butte is nondescript, but service outdoors on the deck is a definite asset, as is the prompt and efficient service.
Red Butte Cafe
-- 1412 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, 581-199498
-- Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
-- Reservations: No
-- Entrees: Dinner: $5.95-$12.50
-- Liquor: Full Service
-- Wheelchair accessible: Yes
-- Children's menu: No
-- Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa