Station 22

The place: Station 22 Cafe, in that hip little strip of downtown Provo, at 22 West Center Street, Provo, UT 84606

Contact info: online at http://www.station22cafe.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 607-1803

Reservations: No

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Sat / 11 – 10

About: At Station 22, we dig way down deep into our American roots to bring you fresh, reinvented versions of family recipes, classic dishes and some new flavors you never imagined. … Station 22 grew organically to become what it is today. Rather than bringing in an outside concept, the historic downtown brought this concept to us. We have tried to tailor this restaurant to the needs and wants of the community by listening closely to comments and critique. We adjust constantly and strive to improve our business every day. We hope it shows! Source: Station 22 website, http://station22cafe.com/our-roots/

Station 22

The ambiance: You get the sense that a lot of Provo hipsters are spending their time at places like Station 22. I’ll admit, the funky decor (large, artificial deer heads are apparently a hot commodity in Utah county — see also: The Awful Waffle), mismatched chairs, and twine-wrapped napkins made me a little worried that my friend and I would suddenly find ourselves in what appeared to be a food-serving concert for Iron & Wine. But, “judge not lest ye be not judged,” and it’s a welcoming, comfortable restaurant with a friendly staff.

Station 22

The Munch: Since I am the type of person who reads a menu and peruses Facebook photos beforehand, I knew I was going to order the Sage-Fried Chicken and Waffles, and I was genuinely hoping my friend would order the Southern Shrimp & Grits (she did, after my light “encouragement,” aka I think she saw my face and knew if she didn’t order it, our friendship would be on the rocks). Therefore, we ordered:

  • Sage-Fried Chicken and Waffles
  • Southern Shrimp & Grits
  • Cookies & Milk

Chicken and Waffles, Shrimp and Grits

I’ve spent years watching food trends like chicken and waffles come about, but I feel quite particularly about where I might consume said food trends. Even though IHOP features them prominently on their menu, I’m probably not going to try them there. However, I felt like Station 22 was probably going to be my best bet in terms of restaurant choices for chicken and waffles, and I’m so glad I tried them there.

The waffle was a little sweet and buttery, the fried chicken was perfectly crisp and delicious, without being greasy, and it stayed that way for the remainder of the meal, even after I dumped all the maple syrup (real) over it. The chicken was topped with two thick-cut slices of candied bacon, and fried sage, making for a sweet, salty, savory, hearty dish. If you question whether chicken and waffles are a good pair, you should stop right now and head straight to Station 22. This entree alone was delicious enough to make Station 22 my favorite restaurant in Utah county, bumping Pizzeria 712 to second place.

The shrimp and grits, however, were nothing to sneeze at. The grits were supremely cheesy and flavorful, with a good texture (not mushy). The shrimp was plump and meaty, which is a difficult thing to find in a landlocked state, and the spicy bbq sauce was both full of heat and sweetness, creating a well-rounded flavor. Served with your choice of a side, my friend and I decided upon the sweet potato wedges, which were crispy, perfectly salted, and served with a great dipping sauce.

To round out our meal, we decided upon the cookies and milk for dessert; two large, homemade cinnamon-sugar cookies, served with cardamom milk. The presentation of all the dishes was impeccable (chicken and waffles in a personal-size cast-iron skillet, fries in a paper-lined basket), and the dessert really took the cake (one bad pun per post, please). The milk was served in a small milk jug and was warm, a perfect accompaniment to the cookies. While I don’t particularly care for the flavor of cardamom, I found the combination rather comforting, and it paired well with the cookies. I would certainly order this again.

Cookies and Milk

The bill: $13.64 with tax and tip, although our server offered dessert for free because it took awhile to get to our table, so it would have been more along the lines of about $16 (since my friend and I were going to split the cost of the dessert down the middle). For the quality and quantity of food, Station 22’s prices are extremely reasonable, and it’s an excellent place to meet friends or have a nice date night.

Total score: 10/10. Unquestionably the best restaurant I’ve been to in Utah county, more delicious than even Pizzeria 712 because it features a homey menu full of comfort foods. They use sustainable, organic ingredients where they can, and it shows.

Old Towne Grill

The place: Old Towne Grill, in a historic building in downtown Provo, one floor below the Madison, at 295 W. Center Street, Provo, UT 84601

Contact info: online at http://theoldtownegrill.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 375-2183

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Sat / 11 am – 10 pm
  • Breakfast: Sat / 8:00 am – 11 am

About: 

Our mission is to provide phenomenal food and superb service, at great prices. Because we believe you should eat well without having to spend a fortune.

Wherever possible, we are committed to using local, organic and sustainable products both in our food and throughout our restaurant. We will make every attempt to buy from local farms and to minimize waste wherever we can, thus lowering our “food print” in an effort to both save the environment and keep money in your wallet.

We care about providing fantastic food to the guests who dine with us, and we also know there are so many in our community who go without. Therefore we are committed to partnering with organizations to help put an end to hunger and poverty. Take a look at our blog or sign up for our e-newsletter to learn more about our charity partnerships and promotions.

Our goal is to be your neighborhood American Grill – a place you can relax, grab a bite, and enjoy a meal among friends. Source: Old Towne Grill website, http://theoldtownegrill.com/about-old-towne-grill/

Photo courtesy of Old Towne Grill on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/oldtownegrill/photos_stream

Photo courtesy of Old Towne Grill on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/oldtownegrill/photos_stream

The ambiance: Imagine if homey and lackluster got together and tried out a relationship. While there certainly is decor on the walls and mismatched dishes (like you’d find at home? At Grandma’s? I’m not sure why restaurants do this because I’ve never actually been to anyone’s home and had a different set of dishes than the host/hostess), there’s still a somewhat bleak austerity to the Old Towne Grill. Because it’s housed in a historic building and is below a night club (yeah, you heard me, a night club in Provo, Utah), the architecture is a little awkward for a restaurant, and space feels fairly limited. However, there are lovely, large windows for you to look out while you dine, and it seems like they did what they could with what they had.

The Munch: I went with a coworker who is a lighter eater than I, so we shared a salad and had our own entrees. We ordered:

  • grilled kale salad
  • center street tacos
  • madison chicken sandwich with a cup of cuban black bean soup with smoked ham

I typically don’t have much to say about servers, since I like to focus primarily on the food (unless, of course, they drop dishes and food on us). However, my coworker and I had such an awkward encounter with our server, that I can’t really shake it off. Having worked in the restaurant industry myself, it was pretty clear she was a first-time-ever server, which is perfectly fine (we all have to begin at the beginning, after all), but she was equal parts uncomfortable and pushy. She spent a little too much time at our table after we ordered, compelling us to come up with brief conversation, and she was quite insistent upon what my coworker order, which may have come from management, so I won’t hold that entirely against her. This isn’t to say she wasn’t kind or prompt, as she was both, but I hope in the future the management at Old Towne Grill trains their staff a little better — food service is a whole different ballgame than any other industry, and it requires a certain demeanor.

Moving onto the food.

The salad, which wasn’t actually something my coworker had wanted to order in the first place, turned out to be a pretty good prompt from our server. Primarily spinach-based, it had small bits of crispy, grilled kale, orange segments, toasted pepitas, seasoned breadcrumbs, and chopped dates, with a honey vinaigrette. I wished it came with far more kale than it did, since the name naturally implies you’re going to be getting a plate full of grilled kale, and the seasoned breadcrumbs were there for no apparent reason, but it was still delicious. The chopped dates added a wonderful sweetness and textural difference against the greens, and the orange segments (fresh, not canned mandarins) were refreshing and bright. The honey vinaigrette was quite wonderful — not too cloying, which can happen when you have a honey-based sauce.

Grilled Kale Salad

My coworker ended up full enough from the salad and took her street tacos and black beans home, but the presentation was lovely, and I have little doubt in my mind that they were tasty based upon their preparation and appearance. They topped the black beans with crumbled blue cheese, however, and I thought that a perfectly odd combination; I would have preferred something more authentic, like queso fresco.

Street Tacos

My sandwich was very good but also provided for me something of a letdown. I’ll admit that I am a pathological menu reader; once I know where I’m eating, I always peruse the online menu to decide whatever it is I’m going to order so as to speed up the entire process of going out to eat and also to avoid the awkward, over-asked question of, “What would you recommend?” When you really think about it, the last person on earth you should be asking meal advice from is a perfect stranger who most likely has a completely different palate and set of tastebuds than you. On both the online menu and the physical menu, it says the sandwich has: grilled chicken on a ciabatta roll, green chiles, roasted red pepper, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and chipotle mayo. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I ordered this sandwich was for the roasted red pepper, so you can imagine my disappointment when my sandwich arrived, beautiful, delicious, flavorful, but without any red pepper to be found. It was also served with what tasted a lot like swiss cheese, rather than pepper jack. The sandwich was still very good – all the flavors mixed well together, and I can understand why it won Best sandwich of the Taste of the Valley 2012, but I would have loved roasted red pepper. There was also menu discrepancy with my coworker’s meal; the menu clearly states you will get four tacos, and she only got three. Hopefully they will align their menu more closely to what they are actually serving, so there isn’t any confusion.

Madison Chicken sandwich

The soup was probably the highlight of the meal for me, although, again, another letdown because both my coworker and I were hoping for the salmon chowder, and it wasn’t going to be ready for consumption for about 20-30 minutes after we arrived. Since we were there around 11:40, and the restaurant opened at 11:00, I anticipated all the menu items would be ready to order, and I was disappointed to discover the salmon chowder (which appears to be a soup they offer every day, based upon their Facebook page) wasn’t. However, the Cuban black bean was incredibly rich and flavorful, with a light broth and topped with tortilla strips. The ham added a good smokey flavor without being too salty. I would certainly recommend it to future diners, when it is available.

The bill: I did not pay, but I believe it hovered somewhere around $27-$30 with tax and tip. Their prices are extremely reasonable, particularly for the amount of food you get, but if you want to make sure you keep it inexpensive, go for lunch rather than dinner (a good tip at generally any restaurant that doesn’t share a lunch and dinner menu).

Total score: 7/10. This restaurant was certainly above average; I ate some really delicious things and would definitely return to try other menu items (plus, I love to support local businesses and the fact that it’s in a historic building is novel). However, the uncomfortable service and discrepancies between menu and what was served did tarnish my first visit, leaving me less inclined to return sooner than later.

The Awful Waffle

The place: The Awful Waffle, in an odd apartment community smack in the middle of houses built in the 30s and 40s, at 602 E 600 N, Provo, UT 84604

Contact info: online at http://www.theawfulwaffleshop.blogspot.com/, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 655-4110

Reservations: No

Hours: 

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Thurs / 8:30 am – 11 pm
  • Lunch/Dinner:  Fri & Sat / 8:30 am – 12 midnight

About: We are a young couple with a love for all things Belgium. We’ve brought home century old recipes, gourmet recipes, and genuine Belgian equipment – all to make a lovely little Waffle and Crepe shop, tucked in a corner down by BYU. We’ve been working hard for months to make this place amazing. Please, come down and taste a little piece of Europe! Source: The Awful Waffle website, http://www.theawfulwaffleshop.blogspot.com

Sometimes I take my own pictures.

Sometimes I take my own pictures.

The ambiance: I missed out on seeing The Awful Waffle’s first location in Campus Plaza, so I don’t have anything to compare their new location to. The new location, which I find to be oddly centered in an apartment community for students who apparently never want to venture out into the real world, with no street parking to speak of, has a fun, funky interior. Brightly colored chairs, lights strung around (although that might be a just holidays thing — we’ll find out later), chalkboard menus, and a weird alcove of groceries (again, they’ll never have to venture). There are also comfy looking couches in one corner, ready and waiting for larger groups to spend quality time together. And, pleasingly, there is outdoor seating when the weather isn’t frigid. It’s industrial and hip and looks like it belongs in a city rather than a college town.

The Munch: I went with a coworker friend, and we somehow decided between arriving at the Awful Waffle and getting ourselves seated that we would share everything. We’re friends, after all, and friends share things (a valuable lesson I have learned, even as an only child — it can only result in good things). I ordered:

  • the brussels waffle with vanilla whipped cream and raspberries
  • the frites with house sauce
That much whipped cream really did happen.

That much whipped cream really did happen.

She ordered:

  • the liege pumpkin pie waffle (a seasonal special)
  • a crepe with roasted chicken, spinach, pesto cream sauce, and other delicious things (I was so entranced by the food I failed to write it all down)
Oh, did I mention all the tables are chalkboards? Because they are.

Oh, did I mention all the tables are chalkboards? Because they are.

I cannot think of a single negative thing to write about either waffle or the crepe. Nothing. My brussels waffle, deliciously cinnamony and crisp, with fresh raspberries and probably about a cup of whipped cream, was food perfection. Although I was hoping for creme fraiche to make an appearance on their menu, I assure you, the whipped cream doesn’t fall short at all. It’s a house recipe and has a perfect balance of sweetness, so every bite will be delicious and not cloying. I look forward to trying the other fruit options with these waffles in the future. The liege pumpkin pie waffle is a must-have, so you’ll want to pop in before it’s gone. The difference between the liege and the brussels is the cinnamon — if you’re not particularly fond of cinnamon, you’ll definitely want to stick with the liege, which is equally crisp and delicious. I tasted pumpkin pie filling, pumpkin pie spice, some caramel syrup perhaps?, and, of course, that heavenly whipped cream.

We call this the quadrant of food. From bottom left: savory chicken crepe, pumpkin pie waffle, frites, and brussels waffle

We call this the quadrant of food. From bottom left: savory chicken crepe, pumpkin pie waffle, frites, and brussels waffle

I love to pair sweet with savory, so I’m glad we ventured to the savory crepe and frites. The crepe was perfectly cooked – thin (not fragile) and filled (stuffed) with tender chicken, fresh spinach, cheese, the aforementioned other delicious things, all topped off with a pesto sauce I could probably eat on a piece of cardboard. Even as full as I felt, I kept returning to that crepe till at least all the sauce was gone.

The only part of our meal that didn’t make me feel ecstatic were the frites. By definition, frites are what all french fries should hope to become; double fried. And, having done my fair share of frying and double-frying, anything that falls under that umbrella should be ridiculously crispy. And, unfortunately, they weren’t. This isn’t to say they weren’t tasty (and that sauce was so good, I considered taking it home), but I had hoped for a better texture than tender all around. This might be due to the fact that they don’t fry them long enough the second time or the thickness of the potato, but I’ll probably pass on them in the future.

This, of course, did not stop me from eating nearly all of them.

The bill: Mine alone came to $9.03 with tax and tip (always tip counter service, people. Always.) For as much food as I got, this was a real bargain. I believe my friend’s total came to around $11 or $12, which meant the two of us could stuff ourselves silly, leaving a pretty good amount of leftovers, for less than $20 altogether. Their pricing is reasonable, and when it comes to the waffles, generally up to you. The base price for each waffle is $2.95, and the additional toppings are price as marked. If you want to keep it simple and inexpensive, you could just order the waffle plain and be pretty satisfied. If you add the whipped cream, it’s a mere 95 cents (don’t tell them how much they’re undercharging people for what is probably a pint of heavy whipping cream), and my fruit was 75 cents. You can walk away, really satisfied, for around $5, and you’ll rest easy knowing it was all fresh.

Total score: 9.5/10 — I’m sorry to say the frites kind of bummed me out, but the rest certainly compensated. Had I not ordered them, Awful would be getting a 10. It’s a definite must-eat-at hotspot in Provo, and chances are, you’ll see me there.