Dodo Restaurant, The
1355 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City ; 801-486-2473
The Dodo's reasonable prices and inviting surroundings are reasons to go, though it should improve many of its dishes and service.
Cuisine: American, Cafe
Hours: M-F, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; S, 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Su, 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 7
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Key lime pie, turkey sandwich with barbecue sauce.
November 3, 2010
But what about The Dodo’s food?
By Lesli J. Neilson
Explorers to the island of Mauritius discovered the flightless dodo in the 1600s. Utahns were introduced to The Dodo Restaurant in 1981 in the space that is now Café Trio at 680 E. 900 South, in Salt Lake City. Throughout its nearly 30 years in business, it has changed locations a few times, eventually landing in 2009 at what was most recently L’Avenue Bistro, just north of Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City.
On two recent visits, the place was packed. After tasting the food from the lunch and dinner menus, I’m perplexed. The place is crazy-noisy and the food — with the exception of a few menu items — isn’t that great. But the surroundings are inviting, the menus are concise and the prices are reasonable.
Take the smoked turkey sandwich with a side of barbecue sauce. Back in 2004, when The Tribune reviewed the restaurant, the ever-popular sandwich cost $7.95; today’s price is $8.99. Soup has inched up from $2.95 a cup to $3.29, and a bowl is only 4 cents more than it was six years ago. The lunch menu caps out at $10.99, while dinner entrées average around $15.
Lunchtime at The Dodo feels like a “churn-and-burn” affair. Servers rush by with trays laden with kitchy handled skillets carrying sandwiches in a half-dozen forms, including that turkey sandwich and a French dip sandwich special ($8.99) with tepid, though tender roast beef, and once-melted-but-resolidified Swiss cheese. The accompanying au jus was as cool as the Swiss but the cream of asparagus soup warmed things up.
On another visit, cream of mushroom soup held appetizing, meaty slices of mushroom but herbs overpowered it, while too much rosemary and disintegrated noodles ruined the creamy chicken noodle soup. A kid’s plateful of cheese tortellini and penne pasta ($5.99) with Alfredo sauce (or garlic butter) was also woefully overcooked.
Beyond sandwiches, there are six salads and an equal number of entrées to choose from, including a respectable house salad ($6.99, $8.99), with chopped romaine and parmesan cheese, which can be had with or without slivered almonds and bacon tossed in a lemon-garlic vinaigrette.
Casual salads and sandwiches also appear on the dinner menu, along with a dozen main-course options.
In addition to the turkey sandwich, the restaurant is known for its desserts, made expertly for eons by Pastry Chef Ramon Montelongo, and an appetizer of artichoke pie ($6.99), a combination of marinated artichoke hearts, cheddar cheese, onions and garlic that’s baked and served in a wedge with a lemon-spiked mayonnaise and store-bought crackers. Our slice was cold: warm with the mayo on the side and baguette slices or toast points would have done wonders for this dish. Another starter, two roasted tomato polenta cakes ($7.99), didn’t taste much like anything, save for the corniness of the polenta.
An order of a half-rack of house-smoked baby-back ribs ($16.99), though fall-off-the-bone tender, lacked seasoning and tasted as if it had just met a cold smear of barbecue sauce just prior to being served. The ribs arrived with a huge dollop of very well-crafted creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes and nothing else. Mashers also sided a tough filet mignon ($23.99), along with an unseasoned medley of broccoli, cauliflower and yellow and green squashes.
Chicken enchiladas ($14.99) had myriad issues. The shredded chicken tucked in flour tortillas was mealy, the accompanying black beans and cilantro rice were dry, and a garnish of guacamole looked unappealing and tasted nothing like guacamole. Portion size was an issue with the beef stroganoff ($13.99), which was big enough for a famished Grizzly Adams. The creamy mass sported tons of mushrooms, beef pieces and what seemed like a pound or two of fettuccine.
Shrimp “margarita” pasta ($16.99) sounded intriguing, but a garnish of coolish diced tomatoes and avocados was a weird contrast to the angel-hair pasta tossed with a spicy sauce of tequila, onions, garlic and cream encircled by tender shrimp.
No fewer than six desserts (all $6.99) are listed daily on the blackboard. Over the course of two visits, I sampled the lemon chess tart, key lime pie, caramel coconut coffee cake, banana cream cheese cake, caramel apple crumb pie, almond chocolate mousse cake and the signature Tollhouse pie. With its 3-inch browned meringue topping and tart filling, the key lime pie was my favorite.
As for service, on one visit our waitperson was very professional and accommodating, though on the other, our server lacked the basics of service, including clearing plates, filling water glasses and replacing silverware as needed.
So, you’re probably saying, the pasta’s overcooked. So what? The beef stroganoff could feed a family of four. Big deal. The sides of rice and beans on the chicken enchilada are drier than all get-out from a heat lamp. Who cares?
The kitchen and waitstaff should care. The Dodo has the reasonable prices and warm environs. It should want to make great food to match.
I want to like The Dodo, I really do. But the quality of the food and service needs improvement and the noise problem should be addressed. I don’t want this Sugar House neighborhood restaurant to become a thing of the past, like its flightless namesake.
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.
July 16, 2004
New owners bring The Dodo back from brink of extinction
By Nancy Hobbs
Savory artichoke pie and toll house pie for chocolate chip lovers, both recently threatened species as the Dodo fought for survival, are making strong comebacks. So, too, is smoked turkey, reports Byron Loveall, a new co-owner working to reintroduce the original Dodo back into Salt Lake society.
His reports confirm what personal inspections have shown: that the small eatery on the east border of The Gateway development, reopened at that site after the previous owners closed its doors two months earlier, is attracting crowds enough to keep the wait staff and kitchen busy.
For those unfamiliar with The Dodo Restaurant, it first opened on 900 East and 700 South in 1980 or '81. (It's hard to pin down, says Loveall, but he's also discovered that, coincidentally, the last dodo bird's demise preceded the restaurant by a similarly unsure 300 years: either 1680 or '81.)
In any case, the Dodo became a favorite dining spot for many, and eventually moved into a larger building 14 blocks east where, as sometimes inexplic- ably happens, it didn't fare as well. The restaurant closed, but reopened in Salt Lake's downtown Gateway development late last year. That, too, struggled, and it closed in March.
Just before that closing, Loveall and business partner Bryan O'Meara, owners of the Porcupine Pub & Grill, jumped in to buy it. Their intent, Loveall said, was to restore it to the Dodo as it was known to loyal customers on 900 East.
Having only dined once or twice at the original site, I'm not qualified to say how well they are meeting that goal. But friends who used to frequent the place tell me some of the most important elements are there. It's small and friendly, if somewhat noisy. And most importantly, it has revived the home-smoked turkey sandwich with a side of tangy barbecue sauce ($7.95).
That sandwich is terrific, and even if you didn't know about it before visiting The Dodo, it's likely the aroma as you walk in the door would lead in that direction. Turkey and ham are smoked on the premises, with the latter the basis for a generous ham and swiss sandwich ($7.95).
In fact, whatever entree you order at The Dodo, count on it being delivered in plentiful portions in deep-dish plates with unique handles.
The Dodo's artichoke pie is likewise a classic: The Salt Lake Tribune 's food section has been getting reader requests for the recipe for years, and for good reason. The rich "pie" is thick with 'choke hearts, served with crackers as an appetizer, though many order it as a main dish ($5.95). We ran out of crackers before the pie was gone, but that didn't stop us from finishing the pie by the forkful.
Other "appetizers" that work well as a main dish are the gravlax and cream cheese ($9.25), with delicious cured salmon adorned with lots of red onion, capers, tomatoes and toasted baguette slices, and the crab and asparagus cakes. The cakes are thick with moist, sweet crab, topped with a tarragon aioli that is a wonderful complement. The spring greens served with the cakes are almost as impressive, due to the luscious orange vinaigrette.
Most every meal comes with a choice of house salad or one of three soups offered every day, and that decision in itself can be a tough one. The crisp mixed green (mostly romaine) salad is tossed with a light, flavorful lemon and garlic dressing and toasted slivered almonds, then topped with shaved Parmesan. The soups are consistently good, particularly the summer staple, which is a slightly spicy gazpacho, thick with crunchy vegetables and fresh avocado.
In fact, a bowl or cup of soup ($2.95 and $4.95 respectively) and a side salad ($4.95) would make a very satisfying meal in themselves.
Besides the daily menu offerings, The Dodo always has a "specials" blackboard, with a couple of quiches, a grilled sandwich or two, and an impressive list of pastries. Unfortunately that blackboard isn't visible to diners at several of the tables near a small second tier, making it awkward, if not impossible, to see it even standing up.
Although most of the lunch menu is also available at dinner, the evening hours turn it up a notch, adding such special entrees as filet mignon ($22.50) and double-cut pork chops ($18.95) to the all-day items that include beef stroganoff paprika and the "house special" herbed chicken.
Don't leave The Dodo without trying the toll house pie, or at least one of the other dozen or so desserts listed. The toll house pie, however, is another classic -- so much so, you can even order a whole pie for takeout. It's like a giant, slightly undercooked chocolate chip cookie, still somewhat gooey in the middle, with a slight crust on the top. Also delicious is the chocolate polenta cake, which is dense and rich, served with whipped cream, strawberries and an incredible sabayon sauce.
The Dodo has been serving lunch and dinner since its most recent revival in late May; this weekend it adds Saturday and Sunday brunch to its repertoire, opening at 10 a.m. both days. It does get busy at peak times, and though no reservations are accepted, diners can call ahead and put their names on a waiting list. Be forewarned, however: If you're not there when your name is called, they skip to the next party.
Whether you're a fan of the old Dodo, or have never heard of the bird, the restaurant at Gateway is likely to please with its variety of sandwiches, nice assortment of appetizers, a blackboard of daily specials and incredible homemade desserts.
The Dodo Restaurant
Where: 152 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City; (801) 456-BIRD (2473).
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; open for brunch Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m., closes Saturday at 1 p.m., Sunday at 5 p.m.
Prices: Entrees from $8 to $14 for lunch; from $8 to $23 for dinner.
Liquor: Full liquor service
Reservations: No, but call ahead to put your name on the waiting list, particularly on weekend nights.
Child's menu: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Credit cards: All major