Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper

Draper is the spitting image of suburbia, a land full of massive houses overrun by strip malls full of chain restaurants.  It’s a place that’s not exactly known to have good food.

Er, maybe I should say: Draper wasn’t known for having good food. Past-tense.

Then Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper opened its doors.  Yes, it’s in a strip mall.  Yes, it’s in the suburbs.  And—surprisingly—yes, it serves good food.

A chorizo pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Chorizo, mozzarella, asiago and onions.

The food is an eclectic mix of please-everyone favorites.  There’s a whole range of pizzas, a list of salads, entrees like spaghetti, roasted chicken and salmon; there’s Sriracha-honey wings and sandwiches and even sliders.  The menu is a undoubtedly all over the place, but that can be good news for indecisive groups who can’t pick a place to eat.

Even though the dishes don’t appear to be flavors you’d want to mix with each other across the board (nachos and salmon anyone?), the menu advises the small plates mentality of sharing everything among the table.  Luckily, majority of my friends went the pizza route so sharing our dishes was more than complementary, it was more like a pizza medley.

Pork and meatball sliders at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The pork sliders (left) and meatball sliders (right), served with fries.

The only pizza exception we ordered was the sliders.  The meat ball sliders ($11) are stuffed with a house-made ball of beef and pork, topped with fresh mozzarella, a few basil leaves and doused in tomato sauce—true meaty deliciousness.  The wood-oven pulled pork sliders ($10) are a bit sweeter, with a chipotle barbecue sauce dripping over the pulled pork, sweet and spicy coleslaw and onion strings.  The onion strings were soggy, not crunchy, but the coleslaw meshed the flavors well.

They also have a veggie slider ($10) with goat cheese, roasted beets, arugula and caramelized onions.  The fries were the real star of the sliders; crispy, crunchy and perfectly salty, they are served with a wonderful garlic aioli and an awesome Sriracha ketchup.  (Order them as a starter for $6.)

Baked goat cheese at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Baked goat cheese.

The meatballs are served sans bun in a starter dish ($10), where they are also topped with mozzarella, basil and tangy tomato sauce.  The tomato sauce and cheese combination also appears in the baked goat cheese appetizer ($9), served with a garlicky oak bread; a basic introduction to your meal.

Arugula and prosciutto pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The night’s special was an arugula- and prosciutto-topped pizza.

The pizzas are created on a thin-crust with the beautiful balance of crispy thinness and fluffy crust, with slightly blackened bits on the bottom for flavor.  They are a size larger than typical “personal pizzas” that could feed two people with sides.  The Doña Chaya (pictured at top, $12) is a meat-lovers dream, topped with chorizo, luscious globs of mozzarella, asiago cheese and caramelized onions.

The white pizza at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

The white pizza.

The White ($10) is a tomato sauce-less pie with a heaping of cheeses (mozzarella, Parmesan, asiago, ricotta) and garlic oil.  It was less flavorful than the special, a red sauce-based pie piled with arugula, prosciutto, parmesan and ricotta cheeses.  I love pizzas topped with salads, it’s like a side dish and main all in one!

Cookie and cream at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, Utah.

Cookie and cream.

Dessert options are much more refined, simplified into a Sweet Ricotta Dessert Pizza ($6) and Hot Cookie & Cream ($5).  The chocolate chip cookie arrives in a scalding skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream and drenched in bubbling-hot chocolate and caramel sauce.  It’s a sugar hit for sure, but not a bad burst of sugar to end your meal.

Go to Oak Wood Fire Kitchen for :: a casual meal of pizza (or a range of other dishes) and a glass of wine (or beer) in the far south end of the valley.  Notes :: Open Monday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am – 10 pm.  Closed Sundays.  Reservations are accepted for parties of 8 or more.

Oak Wood Fire Kitchen on Urbanspoon

La Barba by Charming Beard

There once was a time when coffee in Utah seemed like a contradiction.  But now that notion is long gone.  Today there are artisan coffee roasters and quaint coffee shops popping up all around Salt Lake City, making Utah’s coffee culture is so prominent that even the New York Times noticed.

Cortado with a ham and cheese croissant at La Barba by Charming Beard in Salt Lake City.

Cortado with a ham and cheese croissant.

Charming Beard Coffee is one of the newer coffee roasters to the Salt Lake City scene but has made a huge name for itself in the four short years since it started.  Even if you haven’t heard of them or seen their cute logo, you’ve probably tried it without even knowing.  If you’ve ordered a cup of java at Finca, Pago, Tulie Bakery or High West Saloon, you’ve had Charming Beard.

Charming Beard Coffee at La Barba in Salt Lake City.

Charming Beard Coffee at La Barba.

Anxious to serve coffee their way—as they intended it—Charming Beard owners Levi Rogers and Josh Rosenthal decided to open their own coffee shop.  And La Barba by Charming Beard was born.

Pour over coffee at La Barba by Charming Beard in Salt Lake City.

Pour-over coffee with La Barba’s custom-made ceramic mugs.

La Barba, which means “beard” in Spanish, sits inside Finca’s new downtown Salt Lake City location on 327 West 200 South.  In addiction to the famous Charming Beard coffee, the shop sells a variety of pastries made by Finca’s pastry chef, Courtney McDowell, and drinking chocolate by Mezzo Chocolate.

Churros and dipping sauce at La Barba in Salt Lake City.

A bunch of churros paired with three dipping sauces.

One of La Barba’s specialties is churros.  The fried pastries come in two ($4.25), four ($8.50) or six ($12.75) increments and are available with dipping sauces like spiced Mezzo chocolate, dulce de leche or guava ($1.50/each).  Paired with a cup of Mezzo drinking chocolate, the Spanish treat is a deliciously perfect way to end your meal at Finca—or anywhere else for that matter.  La Barba is open until midnight, perfect for your late night dessert craving.

Cortado and ham and cheese croissant at La Barba by Charming Beard.

Finca’s pastry chef, Courtney McDowell, brings her talents to La Barba.

The other pastries range from sweet, like the xuixo—filled with light orange cream, fried and rolled in sugar (yes, it is as good as it sounds)—and the almond brioche sticky bun ($4.25) to savory, like the jamon and mahon croissant (ham and cheese, $4.50).  They are perfect for a pick-me-up snack, a light breakfast or a sweet end to a meal.


Xuixo, a cream-filled pastry.

As you’d expect, the list of coffees covers everything from Americano ($2.25) to single drip ($3.25), plus the aforementioned Mezzo drinking chocolate in several flavors ($4.25), Tical Chocolate Tea ($2.75) and Queens’ Tea ($2.75).

La Barba by Charming Beard in Finca in Salt Lake City.

La Barba by Charming Beard.

La Barba by Charming Beard is both a great start to your day or a sweet end to a meal at Finca.  Or preferably even both.

Go to La Barba by Charming Beard for :: a relaxing cup of Charming Beard coffee and a pastry.  Notes :: Open Monday-Friday 7 am-midnight, Saturday-Sunday 8 am-midnight.

La Barba By Charming Beard Coffee on Urbanspoon

Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City

Bakeries have always felt a little like sanctuaries to me. They are so bright and cheery and everyone inside is always so happy–or maybe experiencing a sugar high.  As a child I never liked candy much, but I’d bet that the feeling a kid has in a candy store is the same feeling I get in a bakery.

Maybe it all comes down to my love of pastries, and bakeries are simply where pastries are found.

Lemon tart at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

A lemon tart is the key to my heart. Well, one of them.

But really, have you ever seen or even heard of someone being unhappy in a bakery? A coffee shop, maybe, but there is only happiness in the land of yeast, dough, cream and sugar.

Cupcake with butter cream frosting at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Cupcake with butter cream frosting.

Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City is no different.  Soaked in sunshine, the petite bakery’s wall of windows are welcoming to both the sun and the surrounding 9th and 9th neighborhood, whose residents stroll in with their dogs on Sunday walks or read the paper perched on the bar stools against the window. Couples chat on the community tables and families stop in for treats on the go.  It’s so picturesque it’d bug me if the pastries weren’t so good.

Lemon tart, cupcake and lemon bar at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Lemon tart, cupcake and lemon bar.

The pastry case is something out of my most coveted dreams—that is, when I arrive to Tulie at a decent time.  Tulie may be open from early morning until early evening (6 pm is closing time), but its goodies rarely share the same shelf life.  Arriving early is essential for the best selection of breakfast pastries, classic treats and savory goods.

Lemon bar at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Lemon bar topped with a dainty blueberry.

Tulie’s tarts and cakes take center stage, ranging in size from mini to personal size ($6.50-6.95) to full sized (tarts $38-40, cakes $29-62). Traditional savory goods frequent the glass case (like Gouyere Tart, $3.75, Savory Tart, $4.95) and macarons ($1.50), decadently rich chocolate bouchons ($2.75) and pan al chocolate ($4.75) complete the French-inspired selection.

Macarons at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

A rainbow of colorful macarons.

Besides the top notch pastries and their required sidekick of coffee (they serve local Charming Beard coffee), Tulie has sandwiches, soups and toasts, too. The grilled cheese ($9.50) is not your typical lazy lunch, made with rich gruyere, basil and thinly sliced tomatoes.  Paired with their housemade tomato soup ($5.50), a chunky version spiced up with onions, and it’s sure to brighten any rainy day (real or imagined).

Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

The cure for a rainy day: grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.

Other sandwiches vary depending on the day, with most consisting of jazzed-up version of classic sandwiches.  Take the Turkey/Brie/Avocado ($9.75) or Proscuitto/Gorgonzola/Fig ($7.75) or Pancetta/Tomato/Greens ($9.75) for instance; order it alongside the French Onion Soup ($5.50).

Lemon tarta at Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Lemon tart at Tulie.

Whether you’re grabbing treats to go or to enjoy on Tulie’s hidden patio; whether you’re indulging in sugary therapy by yourself or with friends, Tulie has the charm and the deliciousness to satisfy your craving.

Go to Tulie Bakery for :: a delicious pastry and cup of coffee. Notes :: Open Monday-Friday 7:30 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 8 am-5 pm.  Arrive early for the best selection.  Special orders and large quantities are available by calling 801-883-9741.

Tulie Bakery on Urbanspoon

Brunch at The Annex by Epic Brewing

Brunch is the perfect combination of both breakfast and lunch.  You get the amazing dishes of breakfast modified for midday eating so that drinking is acceptable.  Another awesome combo word?  Beermosa.  Yeah, it’s a mimosa made with beer.

Bloody Mary and Beermosa at the Annex by Epic Brewing.

Bloody Mary (with bacon!) and the Beermosa.

The beermosa is one of the cocktails available for brunch at The Annex by Epic Brewing, along with a menu full of both breakfast and lunch favorites.  The gastropub has been a staple in Sugarhouse for over a year now and, like the surrounding area, has recently undergone some changes.

The Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City.

The Annex by Epic Brewing.

While Sugarhouse continued its seemingly never-ending facelift, The Annex changed chefs, obtained a club license and updated its interior.  The new kitchen captain is Craig Gerome, a transplant from San Francisco.  The club license means that you can now enjoy Epic’s incredible beers at The Annex without ordering food (always a cause for celebration).  And thanks to that new license, the dreaded Zion Curtain was able to come down, opening up the restaurant a bit.

Breakfast poutine at The Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City.

Breakfast Poutine.

Anxious to try the updated Annex, my friend and I headed there for brunch.  The petite menu has plenty of familiar dishes, like eggs and hash browns (called “Annex Breakfast,” $11), French Toast ($11) and huevos caballeros ($11); plus some not-so-familiar ones, like brisket hash ($12), fried chicken ($15, unfortunately served sans waffle!) and hop-cured trout ($13).

The French Omelet at The Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City.

The French Omelet was the day’s favorite.

Lunch-focused entrees are available, too, like a BELT (that’s Bacon, fried Egg, Lettuce and Tomato to you, $11), lamb burger from the dinner menu ($15) and the Annex Burger ($14).  Additional brunch specials that change per Chef Craig’s whim add to the mix, like Saturday’s French Omelette ($9) with Casatica Buffalo Cheese and arugula—a deliciously rich (thanks to the cheese) yet light (due to omelet and arugula) start to the day.

Breakfast poutine at The Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City.

Fries, brisket, cheese curds and gravy topped with an egg = breakfast poutine.

Annex regulars will rejoice that the famous poutine from dinner makes an appearance on the brunch menu as breakfast poutine ($13), this time served with an egg on top.  For poutine first-timers: fries are sprinkled with cheese curd and a heap of beef brisket, then topped with gravy and an egg.  Miraculously, the fries stayed crunchy despite the gravy, which was a little on the salty side.

Crab eggs benedict at The Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City.

Crab Eggs Benedict.

The crab benedict ($15) is crafted on a house-made English muffin stacked with crab cake and a poached egg, then finished off with Hollandaise sauce.  The massive portion was a little overwhelming and I wished it came with a side of hash browns (available separately as a side for $4), but otherwise was a satisfying benedict.

And, don’t forget that The Annex serves 40 beers, including 8 on draft.  The beers are available in a sample taster, single glass or full bottle, so you can build-your-own beer flight–even for brunch.

Go to The Annex for brunch for :: beer-themed breakfast food paired with your favorite Epic beer.  Notes :: Open for brunch at 10 am on weekends.  Lunch and dinner hours are Sunday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday 11 am-11 pm and Saturday 10 am-11 pm.

Related :: The full review on The Annex by Epic Brewing

Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to this meal by The Annex by Epic Brewing.  As always, all opinions are my own. 
The Annex by Epic Brewing on Urbanspoon

Provisions in Salt Lake City

There’s a saying that when one door closes, another one opens.  In the restaurant world, it often goes that when one restaurant closes, another one opens in the same space.  Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes it’s a lose.  Either way, the revolving door of restaurants is a constant carousal ride that keeps the culinary world interesting.

The Lions Tail cocktail at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The Lions Tail Cocktail with Maker’s Mark, homemade allspice syrup and lime.

Provisions in Salt Lake City is the newest restaurant on the carousal ride, opening a few months ago in the former Lugano space on 2300 East (3365 South).  Focused on regional, organic and sustainable ingredients, chef and owner Tyler Stokes creates small plates dishes in tune with the season.

Pumpkin tortelli at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The pumpkin tortelli is incredibly rich but perfect for winter.

The space is truly a breath of fresh air; the revamped restaurant is bright and welcoming, with a bold orangey-red accent wall contrasted with white flowers and white trim, with an open kitchen surrounded by a high-top bar.  If the address wasn’t the same as Lugano, I would have had no idea that Provisions was the same space.

Wood roasted mushrooms at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The wood-roasted mushrooms were a great side dish.

The menu is divided into several sections: snacks (bites like wood-roasted shishito peppers, $6, and chicken liver mousse, $7), raw (trout roe, $10, wagyu beef carpaccio, $14), small plates (kale salad, $9, wood-roasted mushrooms with a slow-poached egg, $7), pizzas, large plates and, delightfully, desserts.  Having the dessert options front and center is a good way to pace yourself for the finale (although we still over-ate before that phase!).

Spice fried quail at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The spicy green papaya pasta was the highlight of the spice fried quail.

For the most part, the small plates were relatively the same size as the large plates with the only drastic difference being price.  (Small plates range from $7-14, large from $17-27.)  The spice-fried quail ($14) with green papaya salad was enjoyable, especially the surprising spiciness of the salad.  It really had some heat!

Steamed buns at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The steamed buns are available with pork belly or mushrooms.

Steamed buns ($10) with hoisin and pickled cucumber come stuffed with either kurobuta pork belly or mushrooms.  Although I’m a sucker for pork belly, the mushrooms boasted more flavor.  Provisions must have a knack with the shrooms—the wood-roasted mushrooms (pictured above, $7) with slow poached egg and rosemary were a hit around the table.

The Utah Salumi Pizza at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The Utah Salumi Pizza is not your regular pizza!

Another surprising delight was the Utah Salumi pizza ($17), a medium-sized pie with delicious slices of speck, salami and blue cheese sprinkled with olives and arugula.  Simple, but perfect.

Caramelized black cod at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

The caramelized black is on the lighter side, with gnocchi, chard and shiitake in a carrot-ginger broth.

As far as large plates go, the pumpkin tortelli (pictured at top, $19) with butternut squash, brown butter, cider, pecans and sage was a rich dish with beautiful texture, although this one is worth splitting thanks to its heaviness.  Pair it with the caramelized black cod ($27), an extremely light fish that was perfectly cooked to maintain juiciness, although the gnocchi, chard and shiitake sides (in carrot-ginger broth) weren’t as memorable.

Apple and Caramel dessert at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

Toffee cake with cream cheese ice cream, caramel apple ice cream and pecan streusel.

The apple caramel toffee cake ($8) with cream cheese ice cream and pecan streusel and the flourless manjari chocolate cake (below, $8) with candied peanuts and coconut sorbet were both great dessert dishes, but the saffron panna cotta ($8) really took the cake with its unique flavor.  Topped with espresso crumbs and served in a cup, the panna cotta was a little firmer than others I’ve had (which I was a total fan of).

Chocolate cake at Provisions in Salt Lake City.

Flourless chocolate cake with coconut sorbet, candied peanuts and dried apricot sorbet.

Provisions is a refreshing take on small plates done delightfully well.  And, being outside of downtown, it’s just what was needed in the Holladay area.  It’s one open door I’ll gladly accept after the previous one closed.

Go to Provisions for :: a nice dinner of delicious small plates that are familiar enough to be comforting and unique enough to be exciting.  Notes :: Open Tuesday-Sunday 5 pm-10pm (closed Mondays).  Reservations are available online here.  Follow them on twitter and Instagram at @slcprovisions.

Provisions on Urbanspoon

Toys for Tater Tots

The holiday season is a time for giving.  It’s also a time for eating.  (Seriously, when was the last time you went to a holiday gathering where there wasn’t food?)  In true holiday spirit, Yelp has combined the two holiday themes and called it Toys for Tater Tots.

What is Toys for Tater Tots?
Toys for Tater Tots is a toy drive to benefit kids in need with the help of Yelp.  In exchange for new unwrapped toys, three Salt Lake City restaurants will give you tater tots on designated days.  All donations go to Toys for Tots in Salt Lake City.

Toys for Tater Tots

You, too, can be as happy as these dancing tots when you donate toys for delicious tater tots.

When and where is Toys for Tater Tots taking place?
Three restaurants are helping Yelp out for the toy drive: Flatbread Pizza, The Annex by Epic Brewing and Wasatch Brew Pub on three separate days in December:

Flatbread Pizza :: Thursday, December 4th
The Annex by Epic :: Wednesday, December 10th
Wasatch Brew Pub :: Tuesday, December 16th

Come in any time during the designated day to exchange the new unwrapped toys for tater tots.  The first 25 people to come in from 6-9 pm on each day will get Yelp pint glasses and Yelp flasks (unfortunately empty).

:: ::
Toys for Tater Tots is a win-win situation, plus you could get a flask to survive the rest of your holiday gatherings.  (Er, I mean help you enjoy them.)  What’s not to love?  See more information on Yelp here.

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