Evening dinner review
With every passing year, it seems living in Utah becomes a little more like living any where else in the Western World. Slowly but surely, the state’s bizarro liquor laws are beginning to erode away. Now don’t get me wrong (I can almost hear the cries of “Go live somewhere else if you don’t like it!”), I actually kinda enjoy some of Utah’s quirkiness, but the private club laws were always the height of insanity as far as I was concerned. With these finally kicked to the curb, we ventured back on down to Fiddler’s Ebow for the first time in well over a year. Fiddler’s Elbow had been, for a time, a haunt of ours when we craved a drink and “something quick and easy” for dinner to go along with it. When they became a private club we kinda stopped going almost overnight.
First up, an essential tip for any Fiddler’s Elbow newbies. Check your sports calendar. If any local teams are playing, think twice about going, or go early. This place occupies a barn of a space, it seats probably 2 million, give or take, and offers endless parking out back. However, when any popular sports are on the myriad of TV’s, the place can get packed to the tall rafters.
Next up, Fiddler’s has plenty of booze. Sure the liquor menu has wine, spirits, and cocktails, but you came here for the beer right? Right? Providing you have, you can select from a host of local options, boring stuff like Budweiser, and some imports, like Guinness ($5.25 for a 20 oz pint, $16 for a pitcher), which is how we began our recent visit:
With Guinness firmly in hand we perused the menu. It hadn’t changed much from our last visit. The menu is as you would expect from a bar/restaurant, centered around typical bar food items like burgers and wings. But, thrown into this mix is an array of chicken, fish, pork, and steak entrees. There are also Italian and Mexican dishes to be had. The menu isn’t particular cohesive, but it does mean when dining in large groups, there’s something for everyone. Even the veggies.
A pile of Nachos ($7.95) almost broke our table as it arrived:
A tasty enough rendition of the bar menu classic. Wendi gave the plate her all, but failed to make any kind of appreciable dent. As Wendi resigned herself to having LOTS to snack on later at home, we saw a couple behind us sharing one order, such was it’s mass.
I opted for a long time favourite, the Halibut and Chips ($13.95):
Maybe my memory is fading, but the portion size of this plate struck me as quite diminished since we last ate at Fiddler’s Elbow. The skin on, house made fries, were pleasing enough, but I’d have liked to see an extra handful on the plate. There also seemed to be considerably less halibut, although the portion I recall from the past was obscenely huge, so this is perhaps not a totally awful change (my coronary arteries thank Fiddler’s I’m sure). It’s always nice to see proper malt vinegar served up on the side as well.
The halibut was coated in a rewarding crunchy fry, as good as ever. Halibut as a whole is a bit bland for my own tastes, but splashed in the side of tartare sauce it went down a treat. I finished every last bite, avoiding the so-so accompanying slaw.
We both saved enough room for the Carrot Cake, oddly enough a favourite of ours:
Wendi loves the frosting, which is a cream cheese frosting, thus the oddly enough part of it being a favourite of mine. I think I might like it because I get to pretend I’m being healthy; hey it is carrot cake after all, and carrots are good for you! We finished up our dessert and Guinness and headed home. The final bill after tax and tip was, as I always think here, very reasonable indeed.
I almost didn’t want to review Fiddler’s Elbow. For every person who likes the place, there seems to be another who can’t stand it. I’m going to put my neck on the line and say I like the place, mileage may vary, you may not. Sometimes service is really sketchy, and other times, it’s downright great. I can attest, having spent most of the 2006 World Cup entrenched there, that during that time we received nothing but impeccable service, regardless of my football hooligan-esque ranting towards the big screens. Our server on this visit seemed a bit distant and spaced out, but hey, it was a Sunday, and we aren’t demanding diners.
The food too can be hit and miss on occasion, so you do need to order with a modicum of care. The menu is all over the place in terms of food. I’ve never had much success with their more traditional entrees, yet their bar food works for me every time. Their burgers always do the trick, as do their sandwiches.
When all is said and done, I like the place, I can’t say for sure exactly why, it’s not one thing, it’s a confluence of many that add up to the intangible. I suppose its like a pair of old shoes, familiar and comfortable. I can wander in on a hot summer Sunday afternoon, take in a game, a few beers, chow down on a burger and fries. I can hang out well after my meals over and maybe have a few more beers and shoot some pool. The prices work for me too, I virtually almost always walk out full and surprised I paid so little.
And if you do happen to find service isn’t great on your own visit, relax and order another beer, especially now that you don’t need a special card to do so.
1063 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.