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.

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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.

Tucanos

The place: Tucanos Brazilian Grill, in the Shops at Riverwoods (across the way from La Jolla Groves), at 4801 North University Avenue #790, Provo, UT 84604

Contact info: online at http://tucanos.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 224-4774

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Thurs / 11 – 10
  • Lunch/Dinner:  Fri & Sat / 11 – 11

About: Come to Tucanos Brazilian Grill, where a dining experience rich in flavor and heritage awaits you. The Brazilian tradition of grilling, or CHURRASCO (shoe-HAS-ko), is a fusion of South American and European cultures. From its birth in the Pampas or grasslands of Brazil, to the sparkling beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Tucanos now extends this festive tradition to you. At Tucanos, meats and vegetables are carefully selected to ensure that only the freshest cuisine is served. Our meats are tastefully seasoned and cooked on skewers over open-flame grills. The skewers are then brought to your table where sizzling portions are sliced onto your plate. You may choose as many different flavors and cuts as you like. The Salad Festival features both Brazilian and American specialties, providing a fusion of distinct flavors, textures and colors. Festival selections include the Tucanos House Salad, hearts of palm, shrimp, seasonal fruit selections, fresh mozzarella, quail eggs and many other items. Hot selections such as seasoned rice, pastas, potatoes, stroganoff, feijoada (a traditional black bean stew) and freshly made soups including lobster bisque are also available on the salad festival to accompany the meat selections. New Salad festival selections are continually added to ensure freshness and variety. Source: Tucanos website, http://tucanos.com

Photo courtesy of Tucanos on Facebook,
https://www.facebook.com/tucanosprovo

The ambiance: Bright, colorful, a little loud (depending upon what time of day you dine), and full of enthusiastic servers and employees ready to assist as you delve into the deep, dark world of sinful gluttony. The restaurant is set up a little like a maze, with the Salad Festival housed not quite in the center, and there is a large grill/rotisserie at which all the meats, vegetables, and pineapple are cooking, waiting for your arrival. You’ll receive a red, yellow, and green cue, which will let your meat servers know whether you want them to keep coming by or to stop for the time being (or permanently because you’ve had to embarrassingly undo the top button of your pants).

The Munch: Since it’s all you can eat (both the meat and the salad bar), your culinary experience can be different every single time you go. This review will go a little differently than others because of this, and, not to toot my own horn, but *toot toot* I am something of a Tucanos master.

First, there has to be a method to your madness. I once sat back and watched a young woman on an awkward first (or second) date who’d never stepped foot inside Tucanos and decided to opt for a very large plate of salad and a dinner roll. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you could see the growing terror in her eyes as her small meat plate kept getting fuller and fuller, till it was a small hill of beef, chicken, and pork. This is not to say you can’t go the churrasco and salad bar route simultaneously; you just have to be smart about it.

My favorite meats are the garlic sirloin, teriyaki beef (served only at dinner), brown sugar ham (generally only served at lunchtime), mango cod, and the pork loin (served only at dinner). It was a fairly difficult task, narrowing down my favorites since, at any given time, you might see up to 18 different meat/vegetable options, but these generally stand out from the rest. But don’t limit yourself to partaking of only these few — each time you visit, try something new or do what I do — try them all in one sitting and then feel like dying. It’s worth it in the end. The grilled pineapple is, I’m sure, everyone’s favorite, and it’s sweet, juicy, extremely flavorful, and very much like a dessert. Paired with any of the meats, it’s a delicious taste treat, or you can gobble it up on its own.

A good example of what happens when you focus more on Instagram than your plate. I see seven types of meat and one vegetable.

When it comes to the Salad Festival, don’t get too ambitious and try everything out there. There’s really no reason why you should even put together a green salad — it’s a waste of stomach space and eating time because, after all, you can get a green salad at essentially any restaurant. The salad bar is very fresh, but it’s also not particularly special. When you slide around to the hot foods, you’ll want to try the mashed potatoes (creamy, buttery, garlicky, and smothered in melted cheddar cheese) and the beans and rice. The collard greens are delicious if you like your collard greens a little on the bitter side, and the fried bananas are an easy target for overconsumption. If you’re not particularly in the mood to try the entire farm and would, in fact, rather stick with salads and soup, then check out the Tucanos Citrus Salad (spinach, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges) and the Tuna Pasta Salad. The Wasabi Shrimp Salad is good and not too spicy, although it’s something you’ll want to avoid if you’re not fond of the flavor of horseradish. And, this should be obvious, go ahead and skip the sushi altogether. You’ll be able to find better sushi at one of the many Japanese restaurants in the county, and again, you’ll be wasting precious belly room with it.

A very small sample of the many foods you can try from the Salad Festival. Keep the portions small and you’ll enjoy your night much more

My kryptonite is the Brazilian lemonade. With the option to have it flavored with one of their many fresh squeezed fruit juices (pineapple, raspberry, and guava to name a few) and with unlimited refills, you’ll want to try it at least once. Traditionally made with whole limes and sweetened condensed milk, it’s a beverage you won’t find anywhere else. Expect to get yourself full on the lemonade alone. The desserts are pretty subpar, which makes sense — they spend the majority of their time perfecting the meat to be the star of the show, so you should treat it thusly. Skip an appetizer, take it easy at the Salad Festival, and eat till you get the meat sweats.

I’ll try to avoid using terms like “meat sweats” in restaurant reviews in the future, I promise. But once you go to Tucanos, you’ll understand.

The bill: There are a variety of ways to get around paying a full bill at Tucanos (about $25 with tax and tip at lunch and $55 with tax and tip at dinner, no drinks or desserts during either meal). They often provide free Brazilian lemonade coupons in the mail (up to six at a time) and they have a Birthday Club, which allows you a free meal (lunch or dinner, and trust me when I say you should definitely go at dinnertime) during your birthday month. You can also arrive at the restaurant around 3:30 or 3:45 to pay lunch prices (as dinner begins promptly at 4:00 pm) and then still try all the dinner meats. Unfortunately, while this seems like a foolproof method, it’s not. The lunch meats are probably going to be a little on the “sitting out too long” side and there won’t be many patrons, meaning the meat servers will be hitting your table with only about 30 second breaks. This can get you feeling really overwhelmed (although you can request slower service) and far too full. The best time to go is usually right before or after peak time; there are still enough other customers to keep the meat service rotation at a regular pace, but the meats and vegetables are still very fresh. For all you receive, however, the prices are quite reasonable.

Total score: 7/10. You kind of hit a point (at about your 10th or 11th visit) when Tucanos starts to lose its appeal a little. After all, you’re bound to find your favorites and then, regardless of the fact that you can do otherwise, have the same thing every time. Sometimes the servers (who really only bring you beverages and take your plates on rare occasion) are not particularly attentive, and sometimes the meat servers are a little too enthusiastic for my liking (at my most recent visit to the Salt Lake location, which is actually lower in quality than Provo, the first meat server told me I could call him “Little Parker.” I did not.) If you find yourself with a less than ideal server but really excellent meat servers, you can tip them separately with cash, which I am more apt to do the more often I visit. Tucanos is a fun, novel restaurant with good food and generally good service, and you’ll want to try it at least once before you leave the county.

Black Sheep Cafe

The Place: Black Sheep Cafe, at 19 North University Avenue, Provo, UT 84606

Contact info: online at http://blacksheepmenu.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 607 2485

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch: Mon – Thurs / 11 – 4
  • Dinner:  Mon – Thurs / 5 – 9
  • Lunch: Fri & Sat / 11 – 4
  • Dinner:  Fri & Sat / 5 – 10

About: Located in downtown Provo, Black Sheep Cafe is a contemporary take on traditional Native American cuisine. Drawing on not only the Native American foods from the Navajo, Hidatsa, Hopi, and Mandan tribes but also internationally from Guatemala, Mexico, Italy and France. Owned and operated by Bleu Adams and her sister Jovanna Mason with their brother Chef Mark Mason along with their mother, Alberta Mason, creating the best frybread in Utah and their father, Winston Mason, operating as a silversmith with beautiful jewelry and crafts.

Producing delicious comfort food has been a staple to the Mason family since they were young and would visit the administrative buildings on the Navajo Reservation passing out many different variations of their frybread. After operating many booths from North Dakota to New Mexico and resettling in Provo they decided to open a restaurant to establish a permanent place to offer their delicious frybread, as well as many other dishes conjured up from their food experiences. Source: Black  Sheep Cafe website, http://blacksheepmenu.com/about

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

The ambiance: The space is small but well utilized. While I’m fairly certain the kitchen takes up more than half the entire restaurant, there are several tables inside and two outside during warm weather. They’ve kept it somewhat austere, with Native American artwork on the walls, and a small alcove with homemade jewelry. When you first walk in, you are welcomed by a server or host/hostess and the warm, rich smells of Southwestern cuisine.

The Munch: I’d been once and ordered the traditional Navajo taco and decided on my second visit to expand my horizons (with a side of frybread, of course. While I’m no connoisseur of frybread, theirs is pretty amazing.) The menu is somewhat compact but offers a wide variety that will suit nearly any palate or craving. I ordered:

  • frybread
  • pork chop sandwich
  • sweet potato fries
  • cactus pear lemonade

The frybread is served warm with a light sprinkling of sea salt, which adds depth and flavor without overpowering everything that is good about frybread. It is crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside, with a good chew. I am always tempted to stop at Black Sheep Cafe on the way home to get some frybread to munch on back to Orem.

The pork chop sandwich with sweet potato fries was actually a little disappointing. Housed inside warm nanniskadii (Navajo flatbread), you are served up a generous pork chop with a fire roasted red bell pepper, mixed greens, tomato, and adobo mayo. When I first saw it, I was certain it was going to be the most delicious sandwich I’d ever eaten, but the results were mixed. The pork chop was very heavily seasoned; almost to the point where you could taste little else, and it was overcooked to the point that I had to use the sharp knife provided for me. Rather than using lettuce, I’m pretty sure they used the organic mixed greens from Costco, and the radicchio was too bitter and contrasted too sharply with the seasonings. However, the fire roasted pepper and adobo mayo were very delicious — probably the best part of the entire sandwich. The nanniskadii was fairly nondescript and got soggy the longer it took me to eat.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Wickes on Urbanspoon

I am something of a sweet potato fry connoisseur. I’ve ordered them everywhere, from fast food joints to fine dining establishments to BBQ restaurants, and unfortunately Black Sheep Cafe’s did not deliver. They were far too thick cut, and rather than being crispy (as I like them), they were more like stick-shaped pieces of, well, plain old sweet potato. Again, the spices were so  overwhelming, I could have probably been served up any root vegetable and not known the difference.

The other high point of the meal, aside from the frybread of course, was the lemonade, which almost transcends all other lemonade. It’s fresh squeezed and they use fresh cactus pear that’s shipped from the Southwest. The flavor is just tart enough to taste like lemonade should, but the flavor isn’t cloying at all. Just pure refreshment.

Photo courtesy of Black Sheep Cafe on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/blacksheepcafe

The bill: ~$24.00 including tax and tip. As it was a business lunch, and the other person ordered a Navajo taco, I’m guesstimating on the total. It is certainly one of the more wallet-friendly restaurants in the area, and you can cut down on cost further by not ordering the frybread ($4.00) or the lemonade ($4.00 for a carafe that will provide for you about four glasses worth).

Total score: 5/10. Although the frybread and lemonade were phenomenal — quite possibly the best I’ve had of either variety — that wasn’t quite enough to compensate for my flavor-blasted sandwich and fries. However, this doesn’t really deter me — the overall experience I’ve had both times has been very pleasant. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable (one is an extreme food enthusiast) and it’s a great place to sit down at, enjoy a meal with a friend, and chat for awhile. Just … maybe don’t order the pork chop sandwich.

UPDATE: After discussing Black Sheep Cafe with a coworker, and reading a Tweet that was in major disagreement with my score, I’ve decided to amend my total score, for the pork chop sandwich visit, to 7/10. The frybread really is quite delicious, and perhaps they were having a bad day when they overcooked the pork to a dry piece of near cardboard. It happens — I overcook pork all the time, after all. Thank you, @jimmycdii, for helping me rethink things.

La Jolla Groves

The Place: La Jolla Groves, in the Shops at Riverwoods, at 4801 N University Ave #610, Provo, UT 84604

Contact info: online at http://lajollagroves.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 224-5111

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

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

About: Our first inspiration for La Jolla Groves came to us, late one evening, while visiting the Isle of Capri. We found ourselves dining under the canopy of a lemon grove, drinking garden-fresh lemonade made from the very trees we sat under.

Upon returning home, we longed to again visit that magical place, enjoying the vibrant tastes and alluring atmosphere of Capri. It was then that we determined to create such a place of our own. We partnered with a world-class chef and started on the adventure of building La Jolla Groves.

We worked tirelessly to achieve INSANELY GOOD FOOD using HEALTHIER INGREDIENTS, all at an affordable price. With our garden-fresh, wholesome food, kind staff & charming atmosphere among a grove of lemon trees, we’ve created a dining experience that transplants you to a starry night-out on the Isle of Capri. Source: La Jolla Groves website, http://lajollagroves.com/about.html

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

The ambiance: Sitting underneath a grove of lemon trees (artificial, of course) is actually a really lovely dining experience. It makes things feel a little more al fresco, a little more intimate. Everything about La Jolla Groves, from the flooring to the menus, indicates it will provide for you an excellent fine dining experience. I’ve been twice; the first time underneath those lovely trees, the second time in a back room without lemon trees (I preferred the first visit for a number of reasons). The back room admittedly felt a little like Olive Garden or Romano’s Macaroni Grill, since it didn’t have the personalized, unique touch of the front dining area.

The Munch: My husband and I went to La Jolla Groves with my parents; I’d been one other time and was so pleased with the experience that I felt certain my family would enjoy it just as much as I had. Knowing the pasta dishes and desserts were remarkably tasty, I stuck with that. For this review, I’ll extrapolate on all four orders, since I was lucky enough to taste each. We ordered:

  • balsamic marinated stuffed mushrooms
  • mushroom soup
  • cheese tortellini with bacon and garden peas
  • pair of beef tenderloin and chicken marsala sandwiches
  • chicken pot pie
  • lemon roasted chicken

We’re not really a family who orders appetizers, but when it comes to stuffed mushrooms, we’re generally more than happy to make an exception. While most stuffed mushrooms are smallish and filled with some sort of seasoned pork sausage, these were vegetarian-friendly, literally stuffed with fresh herbs, oodles of gorgonzola cheese that oozed with every bite, and served atop fresh greens tossed in a pesto oil, balsamic vinaigrette. These were the stuffed mushrooms to beat all other stuffed mushrooms. The cheese to mushroom ratio was probably about 2:1, which is entirely appropriate when it comes to … food, and the pesto oil, balsamic vinaigrette was light, fresh, and provided just enough sweetness to cut through the salty cheese and herbs.

Unfortunately, for the cost, we weren’t really provided with enough appetizer to feel anything short of slightly robbed. For $7.95, we got three stuffed mushrooms, and for that priced I’d hoped for at least four (since there were four of us) or, say, eight.

The mushroom soup was undeniably delicious and could probably make a believer out of any mushroom hater; it was thick, luxurious, and had an excellent mushroom taste. It was garnished with a basil oil, which added a good richness, and to top it all off, it was served in the most delightful little porcelain pot with a lid. If I return, I’ll order the mushroom soup.

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

All of the entrees were very good, although some were far better than others. The lemon roasted chicken, ordered by my father, was everyone’s favorite. The lemon sauce was nice and bright, clearly made with fresh lemon juice, but it wasn’t so acidic that you were left puckering your lips. The tender, succulent chicken was served atop some of the creamiest whipped potatoes I’ve ever had and alongside steamed vegetables. I think by the end of the night, the rest of us wished we’d ordered the exact same thing.

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

The chicken pot pie was less of a pie and more of a creamy chicken and vegetable filling topped with star-shaped phyllo dough cut-outs and came with a side salad. The filling was very homey and comforting, and the phyllo was crisp and light. The salad was fairly non-descript, but it was a side salad, so we didn’t expect much.

My cheese tortellini left something to be desired. My first few bites seemed extremely delicious; the applewood smoked bacon paired nicely with the sharp, salty fresh parmesan and the fresh garden peas, but the creamy tomato sauce had an odd aftertaste, and the cheese tortellini was akin to something you might buy out of the refrigerated case at the grocery store. I ate everything but wished I’d ordered something different (like, say, the lemon roasted chicken).

Husband ordered the sandwiches, which were the equivalent of fine dining sliders, and the flavors were intense and delicious. They came with a side of crispy, well seasoned hand-cut fries, which were probably the highlight of the entire meal. Sliders are, after all, just sliders.

For dessert we shared two; the orange creme brulee and the chocolate bundt cake. Admittedly, I’d eaten the chocolate bundt cake before, and it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. With a dark, rich molten center and a few drops of sweet (but not cloying) vanilla sauce on the side, it is the epitome of dessert perfection. The orange creme brulee had a sweet, citrus flavor and smooth, creamy texture. Both are must haves if you eat at La Jolla Groves.

Unfortunately, one thing overshadowed the deliciousness of the meal and the enjoyment of the ambiance: our server dropped a couple plates on my father’s arm. That, in and of itself, wasn’t too problematic (although salad dressing ended up all over his shirt sleeves and lettuce all over his side of the table). What left a bad taste in our mouths afterward was the lack of compensation. No discount on dinner, no free dessert, no certificate for a return visit. Although the server was extremely apologetic and attended to the situation very quickly, it didn’t entirely make up for what Husband and I considered to be bad customer service. If you drop dishes on one of us, we’d like a free dessert at the least. I don’t think this is unreasonable or out of the ordinary; I daresay most people would expect something similar.

The bill: Undisclosed to Husband and me, although I believe with tax and tip it hovered around $100. To cut down on costs, you can skip the appetizer and only order one dessert to split.

Total score: This is two-part for me. Had the evening gone flawlessly, I would have given them an 8/10, but given the accident, I have to rate them at around 6/10. I am undecided as to whether I will return.