Robin's Nest, The
311 S. Main St., Salt Lake City ; 801-466-6378
Well-prepared sandwiches such as the "Rooster Call" -- chicken salad with cashews and red grapes. Popular soups include the potato leek.
Hours: M-F, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Corkage: $ 0
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Rooster Call with chicken salad, cashews and red grapes.
Oct. 1, 2004
Paluso wings it on recipes, but her sandwiches soar at Robin's Nest
By Nancy Hobbs
Robin Paluso has always enjoyed cooking for friends and family, and for years they encouraged her to go public. The name would be a no-brainer: The Robin's Nest. Once she had the gumption and the bucks, making her business enterprise stand out was, once again, an easy decision. It's the only brick bungalow on 3300 South -- possibly in the whole valley -- painted a creamy, robin's egg blue.
Inside, Paluso and her small crew are busy building sandwiches and dishing up soup orders. Since opening last December, her business has clearly taken flight, with most tables in the small dining room occupied, as are both bistro-style tables on the porch, and several people are waiting to place orders or pick up those that were called or faxed in.
The menu offers a baker's dozen sandwich choices, including a toasted peanut butter and jam or grilled cheese for kids. Others to choose from include the Oinkity Doink (ham and swiss), The Madam (roasted turkey, bacon and cheese) and The Cha Cha (mortadella and provolone). The titles are actually pet names of family members, says Paluso, and each sandwich is that person's original favorite.
It's hard to have just one favorite, though, and so the menu has expanded. The Aloha Oink, for instance, is Black Forest ham and cheese, but with the somewhat exotic addition of Paluso's homemade pineapple salsa. The salsa is delicious -- not overly sweet as one might suspect; it is a perfect complement to the sandwich.
To the Average Joe -- Not! -- Paluso adds her own slightly spicy and smoky chipotle spread to roast beef and cheddar on sourdough bread.
The most popular sandwich, according to Paluso, is the Rooster Call: a classic chicken salad with cashews and red grapes, served on delicious ciabatta bread.
All of the sandwiches are a step above ordinary, and Paluso attributes that to her distinctive "squeak and bubble" bread. As a young child, she explained, her Italian family used to stall hungry appetites of Paluso and her siblings with a slice of bread, buttered and broiled until the butter bubbled and "squeaked."
That now is how she starts every Robin's Nest sandwich, though she has switched to a lower-fat butter substitute on different varieties of Curtell's breads.
"It's a little family thing, but it makes a big difference in how the sandwich tastes," Paluso says.
Soups at the Robin's Nest also are popular. The potato-leek and chicken-noodle were both hearty and delicious, despite the warm weather. But high temperatures and fresh produce combine to make Paluso's homemade gazpacho one of her most popular seasonal offerings. I didn't try it on a first visit, but heard some other customers raving about it as they left, even asking Paluso if she would part with her recipe.
I subsequently tried it and agree it is some of the best gazpacho I've ever had, but like the other customers, I'll have to enjoy it there. Besides not wanting to part with her kitchen magic, Paluso says, she cooks primarily by look, feel and taste. Recipes (though she realizes she should start making notes) are not a staple in her restaurant.
I got that sense of that while dining at The Robin's Nest, and wondered if my single disappointment was a slip of the spice bottle. The cherry vinaigrette, served with the beautiful Nutty Flora salad, suffered from a bit too much tarragon, which is one of those herbs that quickly moves from enhancing flavor to overwhelming it. On another day, with perhaps a pinch fewer leaves, it would probably be terrific.
The salad itself was a generous melange of baby greens, smoked gouda cheese, red grapes and candied walnuts, with no skimping on any of the ingredients.
Sandwiches, salads and soups can be ordered separately, in combination meals, or in pairs, as in a half sandwich and cup of soup or side salad. In any case, the most expensive choice on the menu is $6.95.
Desserts at The Robin's Nest are purchased from area bakeries and distributors, as the small cafe doesn't have ovens -- nor the room to add them. But what Paluso orders in, particularly the brownies, are delicious. And if you only want a bite -- as many of us do -- you can buy most of the desserts that way, in a mini portion for a mini price: 50 cents.
The Robin's Nest is a friendly, comfortable spot to roost for lunch, with plenty of terrific "squeak and bubble" sandwiches or hearty homemade soups from which to choose. The restaurant also has become a popular place to order box lunches for business meetings, and will deliver for a minimal charge.