Five Star BBQ Company

The place: Five Star BBQ, in an old white house, at 70 N Geneva Rd, Orem, UT 84057

Contact info: online at http://5starbbqcompany.com/, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 225-2685

Reservations: No

Hours: 

  • Lunch: Mon – Thurs / 11 – 3
  • Lunch/Dinner:  Fri / 11 – 9
  • Lunch/Dinner: Sat / 12 – 9

About: It’s true, JT has a heart as big as all outdoors and a big, big love of family and friends. That’s why he’s spent years experimenting, tasting, studying, and getting the flavors and meals “just right” for everyone he loves. But you’ve probably figured out that JT LOVES BBQ too! If you ask him what he had for breakfast, 9 times out of 10 he’s sure to tell you “Pork Sandwich with a side of Chicken.” His new Five-Star BBQ and Catering Company is JT’s lifelong dream… something he’s envisioned for years… BBQ 24/7. What could be better? (source: Five Star BBQ website, http://5starbbqcompany.com/aboutus.html)

Photo courtesy of Five Star BBQ on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Five Star BBQ on Facebook

The ambiance: The first time I ever drove by Five Star, on our way to a large recycling plant, I mentioned to Husband, “Look at that placce — it’s a big, old house. It’s gotta be amazing.” Because for whatever reason, restaurants that look campy on the outside (not to be mistaken for dirty or old or not well-kept up) tend to have really delicious food inside. We continued to drive by and finally decided to enter its doors for lunch. It’s a fairly stark interior with tile floor, one large menu on the wall, vintage art, and red/white checked tablecloth-covered tables with folding chairs. Despite our arriving around 1:00 pm to miss the lunch rush, there were still quite a few full tables and diners continuing to come through the front doors during our entire meal. The first thing we noticed was the SOLD OUT sign over the Smoked Sausage — any time a place runs out of food, that’s a really excellent sign. Although BBQ is notoriously messy food to eat, the entire restaurant was pleasantly clean with freshly wiped down tables and not a lot of mess on the floor.

I didn't actually ask if I could take his photo, but he seemed pretty unperturbed.

I didn’t actually ask if I could take his photo, but he seemed pretty unperturbed.

Although I don’t mention service very often, I have to say theirs was impeccable. The gentleman who helped us was extremely knowledgeable about all the food he was serving up, with excellent recommendations for each customer, and a willingness to answer any questions people might have. When I gave them kudos for such delicious food, they were all very gracious about it, despite the fact that I’m sure they realize they’re the best BBQ restaurant in Utah.

The Munch: Husband insists that he’s not much of a BBQ fan, and I’m not quite sure as to why that may be, so it actually took some prodding to get him there in the first place — he just never “felt like it.” When we first walked in, however, we were greeted and immediately offered up samples of each meat since we were first-timers. BBQ restaurants are always touting their “melt in your mouth” meat, but their brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken transcended even that description. It was extremely tender, with an almost buttery texture, and a deep, rich flavor. They have several delicious looking sides, as well, which are prepared fresh. We ordered:

  • The Brisket Plate with creamed corn, smoked beans, and cornbread with honey butter
  • The Pulled Pork Plate with mac & cheese, coleslaw, and cornbread

The portions were enormous — since I’m not much of a food weigher, I can’t say whether we each got 1/4 lb. or 1/2 lb. of meat, and the sides were plentiful. Husband’s coleslaw, sauced only once it was served to keep the cabbage fresh and crisp, took up half his plate alone, and I was unable to finish my smoked beans. As aforementioned, the meat was remarkably tender, the type you could eat with just a fork or even your fingers because it fell apart so easily.

 

Their house BBQ sauce was rich and delicious with a tangy kick — not too cloying nor smoky. I overheard a customer asking if the sauce could be purchased, and I couldn’t blame him — if I were to bring a bottle home for myself, I’d eat it on everything. Cardboard. Paper. Dry cat food. They have several other sauces available, all made in-house, like smoky chili, Carolina, and JT’s Alabama, which we were told was a peppery, horseradish-based white sauce. I ate my meal too quickly to be able to try the other sauces, so I’ll need to try them when we return.

Photo courtesy of Five Star BBQ on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Five Star BBQ on Facebook

I’m a sucker for creamed corn, purchasing it bulk at the grocery store, and I always order it at restaurants when I can because Husband doesn’t eat corn (I know). Theirs is a popular option with diners, and I understand why. It’s very creamy, well-flavored, made with corn fresh off the cob in a slightly cheesy sauce. I gobbled that right up and will probably order it every time I go. The smoked beans were rich, flavorful, and deep, and you could taste the molasses and brown sugar in them. I’ve had negative experiences at BBQ places in the past because the baked/smoked beans were in a base that clashed with the BBQ sauce, but that was not the case at Five Star — the complemented each other very well.

Brisket Plate

I initially shied away from ordering the coleslaw because it wasn’t pre-sauced — although I understood why they’d want to keep it fresh and crisp, I was worried the flavors wouldn’t have melded well together, and I was incorrect. It had a great, well-mixed flavor, a little on the vinegary side, and their method did keep the cabbage so fresh that it remained a star in the dish. His mac & cheese was also very delicious — cheesy, creamy, and smooth, although he made the good point that mac & cheese is pretty difficult to ruin. I’m excited to try the other sides, such as Brunswick Stew, Applesauce, Homemade Chips, and more. The cornbread was good; the honey butter made it great.

Pulled Pork Plate

The bill: $25.90 with tax and tip. For the portion sizes, their prices are verging on ridiculous (but don’t tell them that). Not only is it one of the most delicious restaurants at which I’ve dined, it was also one of the most reasonably priced.

Total score: 10/10. This will remain the best BBQ I’ve ever eaten (and trust me, I’ve had a lot of it, from Oregon to Utah). In fact, he mentioned that sometimes customers from Texas will come in and mention that it’s better than what they can get at home. I’m apt to believe them. If we’re going to get really nitpicky, the only complaint I have is their usage of styrofoam cups, which aren’t very environmentally friendly (when I complain about cups, you know it’s good). I look forward to making it a regular date night spot for us.

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.

Cravings Bistro

The place: Cravings Bistro, next to a funky little boutique, at 63 East Main Street, American Fork, UT 84003

Contact info: On Facebook, by phone at (801) 756-3333

Hours:

  • Lunch/Dinner: Mon – Thurs / 11 – 7
  • Lunch/Dinner: Fri / 11 – 9
  • Lunch/Dinner: Sat / 11 – 8:30

About: Gourmet Grilled Cheeses for Grown Ups! Source: Cravings Bistro on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cravings-bistro/171917332895886?sk=info

The ambiance: Cravings is a funky little bistro with only a handful of tables, with mismatched chairs, and a homey, warm, welcoming feel. You’ll find the menu written fancifully on chalkboards on the wall and sandwich boards, with full descriptions of each sandwich, soup, entree, and dessert. The only downside I found to the entire restaurant was the several grammatical errors popping up all over the menus — I believe I found about four iterations of the word “avocado,” and only one of them was actually correct. But this is the Creative Writing major/grammar snob in me, and I should state that if that’s the only thing I can find wrong with an entire establishment, then you really have nothing to worry about.

The Munch: I am a real sucker for grilled cheese sandwiches. (Indulge me for a second): when my nephew ended up having emergency plastic surgery this summer, my brother-in-law insisted the hospital cafeteria’s grilled cheese sandwiches were actually pretty good, and I have to say he was right. I had two that weekend, just to make sure.

But Cravings doesn’t serve up anything even sort of like a hospital cafeteria grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, I am quite certain Cravings’s sammies would point and laugh at those hospital sandwiches if they weren’t so gosh darn nice. A friend and I each ordered our own, then shared half with the other. Those two were so delicious, I naturally had to then get a third half. I ordered:

  • the abc — granny smith apple, candied bacon, and cheddar on french bread
  • the tba — fresh turkey, candied bacon, avocado, tomato, and cheddar with a caramelized red onion mayo on french bread
  • the french dip grilled cheese — homemade pot roast, swiss cheese, sauteed, grilled onions, and mayo on french bread with a side of au jus

In writing the description of each sandwich, I feel as though I could simply close this blog post right here, and that would be entirely sufficient. These are not the grilled cheese sandwiches you will ever be able to make at home. Oh, you can try. You can buy yourself a cast iron skillet (I’m speculating that’s what they use at Cravings) and a sandwich press. You can purchase all the ingredients and make yourself a pot roast and a roasted turkey in the oven or crockpot, and you can try to put together all the things that make these sandwiches so idyllic. But you won’t quite get it right, and you won’t know why.

Of the three, the TBA takes the cake for me. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it was about that particular sandwich that was so sky-high delicious to me, more than the others. The turkey was fresh, not sliced or deli meat, and it was piled on. The cheese melted perfectly, and if you haven’t eaten candied bacon, you will want to start this afternoon. The avocado was smooth and creamy, the tomato was a perfect, acidic accoutrement, and the caramelized red onion mayo was slathered on just enough to add a good, rich flavor without overpowering the rest of the sandwich.

The french dip grilled cheese, too, proved to be a near perfect sandwich. The pot roast was remarkably tender and juicy, and had they said, “Oh dear, we’re out of cheese and bread,” I probably would have settled for it just fine. The swiss cheese was a perfect culinary decision on the owner’s part — cheddar would have been too sharp and would have taken away from the flavors melding in that sandwich, but the swiss cheese added just enough bite and good flavor to simply enhance. I love sauteed, grilled onions, and they, too, were exactly what the sandwich called for. The au jus was rich and dark and delicious, and was not, as with many others I’ve had in the past, too salty.

While I will admit to the ABC being my least favorite of the three, I am in no way indicating that it was not a completely delicious sandwich. It just fell a little short of the other two, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves food. While granny smith apples are relatively difficult to eat on their own, thanks to their especially tart properties, they pair very nicely with cheddar cheese. Add to that the candied bacon, for extra sweetness, and you have a well-balanced marriage of sweet and tart and savory and salty. I would absolutely order this (or any) sandwich again.

The bill: Because my friend had a buy one, get one free coupon via text, the total for my one and a half sandwiches totaled around $7. Their prices are extremely reasonable, and if you follow them on Facebook or join their text club, you can manage getting out of there only spending a few dollars at a time.

Total score: 9/10 — you’ll want to go hungry and wear loose-fitting pants because the selection of grilled cheeses is vast and the cupcakes and cookies for dessert looked divine (although I was too stuffed to even try one).