Peckish? four new eateries, four quick meals

Busy weeks, they generally conspire to prevent happy healthy eating. You know those weeks when there isn’t enough time to shop, or let alone cook, and not even enough time to sit down in a restaurant for an hour or two. This week was our busy week. Quickly realising that we may be in for an unhealthy festival of burgers-fries-tacos and whatnot, we decided to try a few new places we had heard about. The mandate was clear, our choices had to be quick, fairly inexpensive, and if it was somewhat healthy, well that would be a bonus too.

O’ Falafel Etc.
790 E 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84139
(801) 487-7747

O’ Falafel Etc. sits in the spot of many a failed restaurant. It takes a brave (or maybe savvy?) restaurateur to take the site of so many unsuccessful establishments and open their own. The spot couldn’t be more ideal, sitting right on 2100 South with a billion eyeballs passing every hour.

We have driven past a number of times since their opening and there always seems to be a few people sitting inside. On the night of our visit, take out was our goal. As we entered, the friendly girl at the counter asked if we had been in before. We let her know we wanted to grab our food and run, so we sat at a table and browsed the menu.

What’s in a name? In the case of O’ Falafel etc., well, falafel, so we had to give their Falafel appetizer ($5.49) a go:

o falafel falafel appetizer

Personally, I found these a little too hard, dry, and crunchy. Wendi on the other hand expressed considerable happiness with them and their accompanying sauce. I guess maybe I’m not a falafel guy. She reckoned these were some of the best she had tried in a while. I decided to order the Grilled Kifteh with Basmati Rice ($9.95):

o falafel kifteh and rice

Grilled Kifteh (seasoned ground beef) was served with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, steamed veggies and a big side of rice pilaf. A hearty meal for the price. The kifteh were surprisingly tasty, but I wasn’t overly taken with the tomato/veggie side, it seemed a little bland to me. The rice was cooked well enough. I’d definitely go back, but try something different next time.

Wendi chose the Vegetarian Okra ($9.95):

o falafel vegetarian okra

Sauteed Okra with garlic and onions in a ‘Mediterranean red sauce’ served with couscous pilaf. Wendi was fairly indifferent to the dish. The cous cous was cooked well but she felt the red sauce could have done with a little kick of herbs.

Dessert was a delicious baklava-like pastry, but we cannot for the life of us remember what it was called. An especially nice touch was the care and effort taken to detail reheating instructions on the side of the box:

o falafel dessert instructions

o falafel dessert

A mixed bag from our first visit to be sure. I think we would both go back, but perhaps try some alternate selections. The dining space is clean and vibrant, I could see it as an ideal spot for a quick lunch.

Little Taste of Britain
1095 N Main St, Layton, UT 84041
(801) 543-5707

This week featured my first trip to Layton. An exciting destination to be sure, but when I had heard that an English ex-pat was cooking up some authentic Brit-style fish and chips, I was duty bound to pop in for a bite. Authentic fish and chips? Forget tired, old and bland halibut, throw out your breadcrumb coatings and instead rejoice in the deep-fried heavy, artery-clogging batter, wrapped around a juicy piece of cod. This my friends is how you get your fish in the UK. But in terms of authenticity how does Little Taste of Britain stack up.

Not too bad actually, on my recent visit we decided to share an order of the Fish and Chips ($7.50) to get a feel for the place:

little taste of britain fish and chips

Just as I hoped, deliciously thick batter coated the real deal, cod. The fish was perfectly moist and flavoursome, something that halibut often goes wanting for in the Americanized version. The side of chips weren’t amazing to my mind, certainly not exactly like a taste of home, but passable.

And that green pile of slop on the side of the plate? Mushy peas! For a full description see the Wikipedia entry on mushy peas here. Suffice to say, these are the things genuine fish and chip meals in the Uk are made of. What with ‘battered sausage’ and ‘pineapple fritters’ on the menu, I give them a thumbs up for authenticity.

The restaurant itself is an extension of an existing UK goods import store. A simple diner affair, pay at the counter, wait for a few moments and your food is brought out to you quickly with accompanying plastic knives/forks. The owner/operators (Nick & Mandy Island) were both present on this visit; both are very friendly and quick to offer any advice and tips you might want on their food.

Au Naturale
880 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84106
(801) 466-8888

Given its prominent location on 2100 South, I am sure a lot of people have noticed this new eatery in last few weeks. Au Naturale, which opened last week, is a very ambitious idea, and a laudable one too. Fast tasty food, and most importantly healthy fast tasty food. Located in the building of a former bank, then Christian book store, Au Naturale offers dine in, take out and even drive through. The menu is quite extensive ranging from salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers through to items like sushi and baked oven fries.

The Au Naturale website even handily provides nutritional information. This is just one little detail that shows a lot of effort has gone into this place. We tried Au Naturale twice this week, both times taking the drive through option (Hey, if something healthy is going to replace our gyro/taco “bad days” then it had better be drive through…you know the days I’m talking about..). Our first visit happened to be on their first day in business, so understandably, they were working through a few tweaks, like menu items which were gone by the time we got there. That’s to be understood though.

Wendi was intrigued by the Normandy Flat Bread Pizza ($8.99):

au naturale normandy pizza

The pizza was comprised of caramelized onions, mushrooms, asparagus, goat cheese and thyme on a whole wheat flat bread. Wendi noted that this much-healthier option could never replace a gooey cheesy thick-crust pizza, but that said it certainly fit the bill if you’re looking for something fresher, lighter and considerably healthier.

I went with the BBQ Pulled-pork Sandwich ($7.49):

au naturale pulled pork sandwich 1

au naturale pulled pork sandwich

The house smoked pork topped some fresh coleslaw and was slathered in BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce was a smidgeon too sweet for me personally, but overall I really enjoyed the sandwich. The pork was very tasty and equally tender. In fact I had to fight off Wendi several times to protect my sandwich, which proved the hit of our two choices.

Our second visit this weekend was for lunch. Inside the restaurant, it seemed to be consistently busy, as it has since opening. Their operation had seemed to find it’s feet and the drive through process for a busy weekend lunch was smooth and easy.

I went with their Angus Beef burger ($6.99):

au naturale burger 1

au naturale burger 2

As well as the burger patty and whole grain bun (a nice tasty and healthy change), the burger featured grilled onions, romaine lettuce, tomato, pickles, choice of cheese and house-made ketchup. Sadly, by the time the burger got home, it was a little cold, so I wasn’t overly thrilled. I’m not sure if that’s my fault or the packaging fault. Suffices to say, I think our next visit is going to have to be an eat in attempt, to see how the food fares straight from the kitchen to table.

After her first flat bread pizza earlier in the week, Wendi wanted to try the Tuscan Chicken Pizza ($8.99):

au naturale tuscan chicken pizza

Wendi found this version to again be a nice flavourful alternative to heavy pizza, albeit on the dry side. Of the two pizzas Wendi preferred this second chicken version. We also decided to share an order of the Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries ($2.99):

au naturale oven roasted sweet potato fries

Again, by the time we got home (5 minutes) they had become a little soggy and cold. Nonetheless, Wendi really enjoyed them and the house-make ketchup was a big hit.

Over on our foodie discussion forum this restaurant has been the subject of some discussion, plus a review by someone else.

Rib Cage
3165 S 1300 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
(801) 638-2708‎

If your heading down 1300 East and see this man cooking up a storm, you might want to pull over and grab a bite:

rib cage mark

His name is Mark and he cooks up some mean baby back ribs at his new venture, The Rib Cage. Right now the Rib Cage is operating out of the same building as Tony’s (the bar opposite Harmons on 1300 East and about 3100 South).

On this particular evening, I had a drinking date at a local bar, and I needed some bar friendly food to soak up my intended tipple, Cutthroat Pale Ale. After hearing raves about the Rib Cage from several people, an order of 1/2 rack of Baby Back Ribs ($9) seemed the perfect bar food to take along:

rib cage ribs

The ribs also came with two tiny pots of beans and potato salad. The ribs were oh-so-wonderfully tender. It says something that the meat was so fall off the bone soft that I managed to eat the whole 1/2 rack with the provided plastic fork and knife, in a dimly lit bar, surrounded by eager onlookers. My guess is that these ribs are slow cooked during the day and then finished off with a home-made sauce on the grill when ordering. Not the normal slow smoking of most SLC BBQ joints.

As I greedily chugged down my ribs, it seemed like half the bar wandered over to comment. Every last person mentioned how great they smelled. I could only reply with, “They taste even better”. In addition to those tender ribs, Mark also cooks up chicken, hot links and a number of combo orders. I can’t comment on those, but I certainly enjoyed my ribs. The sides were decent enough, but only an afterthought, the star here is the ribs.

Mark’s present operation is the definition of a hole in the wall joint, it’s a one man operation, it’s a cash only affair, and I am told he also happily delivers to the local neighbourhood. If you plan on eating there, he only has a few outdoor plastic tables and chairs, if your lucky, we might still have the odd warm day left in the year. If you plan on take out, it’s worth calling your order in, so he can have it ready on arrival.

*Phew* so that was our week of dining on the run. Hope we gave you some good ideas for your next to busy to eat day. And, we’d love to hear about your go-to place for quick cheap bites.

Come and discuss this post and other Salt Lake City restaurants on our new foodie discussion forum here.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Stuart: Thanks for dropping by the Gourmand Syndrome. I am so glad to see your review of Au Naturale. We have been curious to check it out but admittedly hesitant given the range of items on the menu. Your photos helped to inspire confidence…and curiosity to try the sweet potato fries! – Katie

  2. Don’t bother. Service was ok but the food was icky. Don’t think that the cooks know that health food can be good

  3. My husband and I went to OFalafel tonight and it was a great experience. Our food was delicious and the service was very good. I enjoyed it and we both liked our Falafel sandwiches.

  4. Concerning Au Naturale, don’t bother. My wife and I are both vegan and we were excited to try this place based on the “healthy” bent of their advertising. Sadly, the menu offers very little in regard to vegan fare, or even vegetarian for that matter. How are you going to have a name like that and offer burgers and pork sandwiches? Rediculous. The two times we did give them a shot the staff was clueless as to our requests (how difficult is “no cheese, please”?) and the food was bland, boring and the portions were quite small for the price. A veggie burger for $11.99? I’ll cook at home, thanks. Every salad on the menu has either meat or cheese in it. Disappointing.

  5. Jesse: As a fellow person with a no-cheese preference I feel your pain with the cheese mixup. For me that means I literally can’t eat the dish.

    Whilst I will agree the prices tend to be on the higher end of the scale (for what is fast food), their listed price for a Veggie burger is $6.99, not $11.99.

  6. Thanks for the correction, Stu. I must have read the menu incorrectly.
    I actually wrote to Au Naturale detailing my experience and was quite pleased to receive a concerned response from Doug that went above and beyond my expectations. That’s good business. We’ll definately give them another shot.

  7. Jesse: That’s one thing I have seen consistently from those guys, great, invested management. They are really keen to get their concept nailed down. I personally think they will crack it and be a roaring success.

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