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.

Chef’s Table

The place: Chef’s Table, right off State Street between Provo and Orem, at 2005 South State Street, Orem, UT 84097

Contact info: online at http://chefstable.net/, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 235-9111

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Fri / 11 – 2, 5 – 10
  • Dinner:  Sat / 5 – 10

About: Fresh, creative, local, energetic, passionate — this is how we would describe the feel of Chef’s Table. Come and see what we mean. Source: Chef’s Table website, http://chefstable.net/fine-dining/owners/, edited by author.

The ambiance: This is fine dining at, well, its finest. The exterior is fairly misleading, and you’ll probably end up surprised at how large and roomy it is once you enter. The tables are all set with linens and water goblets, and there is a lovely view of Provo from one of the back rooms. It’s clear the entire staff has been well trained on how to provide for each diner an excellent experience, and they are both attentive and stay out of the way; you never feel hovered over nor do you feel neglected.

Photo courtesy of Chef's Table on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/chefstableutah/photos_stream

Photo courtesy of Chef’s Table on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/chefstableutah/photos_stream

The Munch: Because we went on Valentine’s Day, there was a prix fixe menu, so the offerings might not be what you’ll find if you visit on a regular weeknight. There were five courses, including a sparkling cider toast (during which Husband and I toasted to not killing each other by now), all of which were better than the last. We had:

  • hand made cheese straws with marinated olives
  • fresh baked “stone ground” rolls and Chef’s Table herb butter
  • sparkling cider toast
  • wild mushroom crostini
  • roasted potato bisque
  • tuscan romaine wedge salad
  • mesquite grilled “Ballard Farms” pork rib eye
  • Alaskan halibut with rock shrimp risotto
  • macadamia crusted baby cheesecake
  • chocolate brownie mousse cake

The cheese straws and marinated olives were only okay, but that’s largely because I abhor olives in their many forms, and I’m still fairly unsure as to what their definition of cheese straws actually is. I assumed they’d be made entirely of cheese, but their texture led me to believe otherwise. The rolls were some of the most delicious dinner rolls I’ve ever had in my life, and I was sad when I wasn’t able to lure the young woman back over and steal the entire breadbasket.

The amuse bouche (wild mushroom crostini) was the epitome of a perfect bite of food. Your teeth would sink into the tender mushrooms and basil roast tomato, then meet the satisfying crunch of the crostini, and the goat cheese foam was perfectly balanced — just a little salty and a wonderful texture to offset the rest of the ingredients. It was an eye closer for me, and I rarely have those during a meal.

Wild Mushroom Crostini

Since we were dining together and are more than happy to share our offerings, my husband and I always choose as many options as we can. He ordered the salad, and I ordered the soup, and I was more willing to share mine with his because I am a better person. The potato bisque was velvety smooth and not grainy at all, which can easily happen with such a starchy base. It was topped with crisp bacon, leeks, and a lemon oil, and the flavors melded together really well. The lemon oil added a nice, fresh brightness to the earthy soup, and the bacon and leeks were good, rich additions as well. The romaine wedge salad was also really excellent; the lettuce was crisp and came with a bruschetta vinaigrette, mozzarella, and some of the best aged balsamic I’ve ever tasted. It was equal parts tangy and sweet, and is something I would certainly order if offered.

Tuscan Romaine WedgeRoasted Potato Bisque

There were six entree selections to choose from, and I decided that we should have gone out with two other couples so I could have tasted each. However, neither of us were disappointed with our decisions, as they were remarkably delicious. Husband opted for the pork rib eye, which was served with a BBQ cherry demi-glace, glazed onions, candied sweet potatoes, and roasted broccolini. The portion was quite sizable, but it was still tender and perfectly cooked; the demi-glace was a little smoky and sweet and paired very well with the pork and onions. We gobbled up the candied sweet potatoes before anything else, and the roasted broccolini was also delicious and well cooked — neither burnt nor mushy.

Mesquite Grilled Ballard Farms Pork Loin

My seared halibut was probably some of the most well-prepared fish I’ve had the pleasure of ordering out, which is saying something since I come from the Pacific NW and have eaten at several oceanside restaurants. Halibut is probably my favorite fish, so long as it is prepared correctly, because when it is the flavor is mild and the texture is firm but flaky. It was served atop risotto with rock shrimp and fresh herbs, which was creamy and flavorful, and also came with baby asparagus spears with a hint of lemon. I rarely order asparagus at restaurants because it is often overcooked and thusly mushy (I live in fear of mushy food, as you can probably tell), but this asparagus was fresh and crisp and had a wonderful flavor.

Seared Halibut with Rock Shrimp Risotto

For dessert, there were four options, but I believe we ordered the two best offerings. The cheesecake had an almost ethereal texture, and the macadamia nut crust was a nice departure from regular graham cracker. It was served with a berry compote and sweet cream, both of which were perfect accoutrements to the delicious cheesecake. The chocolate brownie mousse cake had a double brownie base topped with a classic dark chocolate mousse, and the pairing of the rich flavors and differing textures was perfect. I savored each bite and was sad when my plate was empty.

Macadamia Crusted Baby CheesecakeDouble Brownie Mousse cake

The bill: $123.77, including tax and tip. For a five-course meal in a fine dining establishment (particularly one that offered up reasonable portions rather than a few bites of food that forced you to go through the drive-thru on your way home), this felt like a steal. If ordering from the everyday menus, however, expect to pay somewhere around $20 a person for lunch and $40 a person for dinner, although that price can fluctuate depending upon whether you opt for appetizers, salads, soups, and/or desserts.

Total score: 10/10. This is only the second perfect score I have issued to a restaurant in Utah county, but I found no fault in the ambiance, service, or food at Chef’s Table. It was a perfect dining experience, and I look forward to joining them again.

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.