The Bodega & The Rest in Salt Lake City

Kentucky Maid cocktail.
The Kentucky Maid, my new favorite cocktail.

They always say not to judge a book by its cover.  After all, appearances can be deceiving.  Which is exactly the point of The Bodega, the new beer tavern and convenience store on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City.  There is much, much more than meets the eye.  In fact, The Rest of The Bodega is what all the fuss is about.

Update March 2014 :: The Bodega and The Rest now have a full liquor license, so no food is required to order drinks.  My updated review is here with more details. 

The Bodega Tavern serves beer daily at 5 p.m.
The Bodega Tavern serves beer daily at 5 p.m.

Behind The Bodega, or rather, underneath, is a speakeasy restaurant called The Rest.  You’d never know it’s there unless you’re looking for it.  Even the counter manager won’t tell you about it unless you specifically ask about it.  Then he’ll hand you a key that opens an inconspicuous door that reveals a dark staircase, which leads to a little restaurant with a handful of tables, a long bar and a library with a sitting room.

I was asked not to share photos of the interior of The Rest, so this is all you get until you see for yourself.
The owner asked me not to share photos of the interior of the restaurant, so you’ll have to wait to see The Rest for yourself.  

The Rest’s menu is in a file folder, giving off a sort of secret agent vibe, and has more drinks available than food items.  (Although, because it is a restaurant and not a bar under Utah’s liquor laws, you must order food with your drinks.)  The wine list continues the secretive vibe by not listing any names or types, just three price categories each per red, white and bubbly.  I’m not sure if I’m a fan of this system, even though the servers are happy to provide more information upon request.

The wine menu keeps the names and descriptions a secret.
Apparently the wine descriptions are a secret.

In contrast, the page-long beer list has descriptions for each of its items.  We got a kick out of the Coors Light description, which was something like “yellow, light, cheap.”

The Kentucky Maid, my new favorite cocktail.
The Kentucky Maid, my new favorite cocktail.

The cocktail list rivals the mixology creations of Bar X and has several whiskey-based libations, which means it automatically gets points in my book.  I tried the Kentucky Maid (bourbon, lime, cucumber, mint), a refreshing summer drink that I can’t wait to have again; the Folklore (rye, Fernet, b&b, bitters), heavy cocktail that is a Fernet-lover’s dream; and the Pudge (scotch, sweet vermouth, green chartreuse and absinthe), another great smokey drink.  All are $11/each.

House-made cornbread was dropped off at our table within moments of sitting down.
Cornbread was delivered within moments of sitting down.

The food menu is a little all over the place, allowing for a huge meal, small plates or a few bites.  It’s a mix between bar food and home cooking, with items like braised lamb shepherds pie (eggplant, tomato, kale, mozzarella, $16), smoked “hobo” trout (cauliflower, apple, brown butter, pickled raisins, $18) and sweet and sour wings ($10).

Only order when already drunk.
Only order when already drunk.

Warm Cornbread was brought to the table, deliciously dense with a slight sweetness to it.  We started with bacon cheddar french fries ($6), which sounded awesome but deflated my hopes pretty quickly.  The fries, one of the few menu items not made in-house, were topped with bacon bits and a sloppy heap of cheese and sour cream.

The Reuben, known as The 36, was the star of the show.
The Reuben, known as The 36, was the star of the show.

Then we went with “The 36″ (Reuben sandwich), with sour kraut, pickles and mustard ($16).  It seemed to be the pride of the restaurant, as several people told us it was braised for 36 hours.  And within a bite, we understood why :: it was a delicious sandwich.  Even the pickles and sour kraut had us gushing.

The beer can chicken arrives intact, then returns to the kitchen to be cut up.
The beer can chicken arrives intact, then returns to the kitchen to be cut up.

We finished with the Honey Glazed Beer Can Chicken, served whole with warm fingerling potato salad and warm mushrooms, asparagus and sour cream (serves two for $35).  Deliciously moist, slightly sweet and overall, wonderful.

The Rest is an experience I didn’t think I’d have in Salt Lake City anytime soon.  But beyond the fun, mysterious vibe it also has amazing cocktails, some good food and outstanding service.  It’s definitely a great addition to Main Street.

Go to The Rest for :: The speakeasy atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else in Salt Lake City and the incredible cocktails.  Notes :: Open from 6- 12 p.m., closed Tuesdays.  Reservations are highly recommended because seating is so limited.  Call 801-532-4452.  Walk-ins can go to the bar and library areas, if available.

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  • I’m wondering if you’ve checked out the speakeasy at Avenues Bistro on Third? If not, we should plan a visit. I’d love to hear how you think it compares. BTW – Avenues Bistro was the first to try to revive this atmosphere in SLC.

    • Hi Ricky,

      Every time I’ve been there (now a handful of times), the dress code seems to be pretty casual. I think anything from slightly dressed up to casual would be appropriate, but I’m always dressed up! :)

      – Kelli

  • Hi I am wondering if this would be a good place to bring a group of friends (around 10) for a bday dinner. I like places such as the bayou and squatters but I am looking for something nice and different.

    • Hey Israel, a group that large might be a challenge getting a table, but call them ahead and see if they can fit you guys. I’m not sure how they handle groups that size, but I think they may put you in the library (which is awesome). Let me know how it goes/how they did with your group!

      Thanks, Kelli

  • Really silly question, but I had a friend recommend The Rest to me, telling me how much she loved going there with her boyfriend, who was 28 but she was only 16 and no one carded her. Was this your impression, or is it very much enforced that you must be 21 to even walk in, regardless of whether you order drinks or not?

    • I think age is very much enforced and I’m really surprised that your friend was not carded. I have had to show my ID every time I’ve ever ordered drinks there, even before it was strictly a bar. Your friend must have gotten very lucky!

      • She didn’t order any drinks, which I think was part of it. Have you ever gone without ordering drinks and not had to show your ID? I only ask cause it sounds really good, and I don’t drink anyways and don’t plan on trying to drink. I’m just not sure if it’s one of those places where you can’t even sit down without being 21.

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