French onion soup with house-made focaccia
Lemon pepper chicken wings
Crab cake salad
Italian meatloaf with onion demi-sauce
Balsamic braised short ribs with tarragon demi-sauce
Farfalle with chicken and spicy sausage
We’ve all either lived this story personally, or seen it played out on the TV or movie screen: two siblings, one flashy, flamboyant, loud and exciting, and the other stable, staid, quiet and, well, at times not so exciting. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!
The Salt Lake dining news tends to be dominated by sibling #1: new restaurants, tons of money put into stunning design, the flash, glitz and glamour of new, new, new.
But sibling #2 is the bedrock to the SLC dining scene. The Camry to our Teslas. These restaurants tend to be steady in their menu approach and not very interested in causing too many waves with their regulars via wholesale changes in menus or approach.
One of those dining mainstays in Salt Lake is Desert Edge Brewery, located in the upper level of Trolley Square. Desert Edge is owned by the same group that owns the Red Butte Cafe, Stella Grill, and Martine, and the pub has been around in one form or another since 1972, expanding into a full craft brewery in 1995.
The restaurant’s menu offers a wide selection. I remarked to my wife that this is a great place to bring family or large groups because everybody is bound to find something on the menu that interests their taste buds. For appetizers, you will find everything from bruschetta, crab cakes, and nachos, to spring rolls and asian chicken skewers. There is a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches, with the guajillo chile pulled pork sandwich and the grilled sirloin and gorgonzola sandwich both catching my eye. Sometimes when a menu covers that much ground, execution tends to suffer, but that isn’t the case at Desert Edge, according to my recent visit.
Those interested in salads can choose from a wide range, from the basic chef to an asian salmon salad, featuring a peanut-plum vinaigrette. On a recent visit I tried the crab cakes and avocado salad ($10.95), which were executed well, with just the right amount of spice.
Pasta salads are featured prominently on the menu, with their pasta made in-house (except the farfalle). These salads are accompanied by light and tasty house-made focaccia. The house “everyday” salad, featuring zucchini, yellow squash, feta, olives, and tomatoes, didn’t blow me away, but was a decent rendition.
The restaurant has recently rolled out a new rotating specials menu. They have given creative control over to their head chef, who sets a two week menu that features ingredients that are more seasonal in nature. Right now as we enter the cold winter their specials feature deliciously rich balsamic braised short ribs with a tarragon demi sauce ($16.95), an italian meatloaf with onion demi sauce, and a spicy pasta dish featuring chicken and spicy italian sausage ($11.95).
Of course, there is plenty of selection when it comes to alcohol. Pilsners, hefeweizens, pale ales, and stouts are all on offer. Many of these can be found as a nitro version, and some are available cask-aged as well. The brewery crafts their beers to be a bit more aggressive in terms of hops, but they try to maintain an appropriate balance for the many different styles of brews. There is also much deeper wine selection than is typically available at brew pubs, with Desert Edge offering a selection of cabernet, malbec, merlot, syrah, and a nice selection of whites (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, rose) as well. The servers know their stuff, so ask them and they will be happy to guide you in the right direction.
Prices, especially for the rotating menu specials, are beyond reasonable, in my opinion. I’m not sure where else you could find an herb-rubbed new york steak in a red-wine shallot pan sauce for $17.
We have been guided by the belief that we can do it our way, break some of the rules and give our customers a great experience. We are a ‘regulars’ establishment. We provide excellent food value by design. No corporate operation could sustain our high food costs. We just don’t have to answer to the bean counters, so we don’t. -Desert Edge website
I was struck by the high quality of ingredients, the care that went into the preparation and presentation of the food, the breadth of the menu, and the prices. In a day and age where the flashy, brash sibling gets all of the attention, sometimes it’s nice to get to know the low-key counterpart. Desert Edge may be low-key when it comes to marketing budget, but is definitely not low-key when it comes to food.
Located in Trolley Square, 551 S 600 E, Salt Lake City. (801) 521-8917.
Kitchen hours Monday through Thursday, 11am to 11pm; Saturday 11:30am to 11pm; Sunday 12pm to 10pm.
Disclaimer: I was treated to a complimentary dinner by Desert Edge in order to try their new rotating specials menu.