January 4, 2012
Red Rock solid but a bit pricey
By Stuart Melling
Special to The Tribune
Murray Red Rock Brewing Co. is a familiar name to many. Since hitting the downtown restaurant scene in 1994, the brew pub has become a Salt Lake City institution. The operation now serves its award-winning and food at three full-service restaurants. The newest arrival (in addition to the original downtown and newer Park City locations) is part of the bustling revamp at Fashion Place Mall.
As a fan of Red Rock, I jumped at the chance to run the rule over Red Rocks latest outpost. Whether hosting out-of-town guests, celebrating or suffering an indecisive evening, Ive relied on Red Rock as a solid restaurant for years. The dining flexibility comes from Red Rocks expansive menu, built around common brew pub dishes with plenty of nods to Italian and Southwestern flavors. The menu combines sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and plenty of entrées with a few unexpected twists along the way.
A fun way to begin a meal at Red Rock is to share an appetizer or two. A bowl of the Cajun rock shrimp ($9.99) provides two fistfuls of breaded and fried shrimp, which come with copious amounts garlicky aioli and cocktail sauce. Buffalo wings ($9.99) make a wonderfully messy plate to share with friends. They are served simply with celery, carrots and blue cheese dressing and, all importantly, dont shy away from bringing the heat.
If you order those incendiary wings, be sure to sample one of Red Rocks excellent beers to temper the burn. Heck, you should probably do so either way, given the quality and selection on offer. Mind you, understanding the selection on hand can be tricky. With availability of beers changing often and seasonally, there isnt a standard menu as such. Along the walls of the industrial space you will spy boards outlining beers presently on tap, but in the dimly lit space they can be difficult to read. Dont be afraid to pick your servers brain; across all my visits the staff expertly offered advice on the house brews, never steering me wrong. In fact, one tip led me to Red Rocks Secale ($6.50/500-ml. bottle) a German style double bock finished off in High West Distillerys rye whiskey barrels. The potent 8.5 percent brew was a delicious swirl of caramel and toffee, with a sublimely smooth whiskey-esque finish.
Back to the appetizers: A baked Italian cheese dip ($8.49) was again ideal for sharing. Rounds of beer bread circled a bowl of cheesy dip, formed from jack, cheddar and cream cheeses. Mushrooms, onions and sun-dried tomatoes rounded out the creamy dip with texture. The stuffed portobello mushroom ($7.99) also was a pleasant surprise. The eyes of my dining companions opened wide as a gigantic portobello mushroom arrived to our table. The monster mushroom had been stuffed with cream cheese and mozzarella, before being breaded, fried and topped with a zesty marinara sauce. The crunchy exterior and gooey interior was a pleasure to devour.
That same marinara was the bed for a grilled slab of Parmesan polenta ($9.99) topped with wild mushrooms and melted mozzarella. It was a hearty comfort-food hit on a cold winter evening.
For meat lovers, a 12-ounce New York steak ($25.99) ticked several boxes. The hunk of meat was well marbled and cooked to the requested doneness, coming to the table seared and hot from the grill with great smoky char. Béarnaise butter and sautéed mushrooms finished it. Delicious as it was, I couldnt shake the feeling that the dish was just too pricey.
Fish and chips ($17.49) at Red Rock have been a favorite of mine for more than a decade, but they too seemed overpriced. Three pieces of deep-fried halibut with a side of sadly limp steak fries and forgettable slaw, didnt feel like a great value. In fairness, on a subsequent trip, I spotted a special using cod instead of halibut, which seemed a better value at around $13.
While on the subject of specials, do keep your eyes peeled for the LCD screens dotted about the restaurant, detailing the days specials. On each visit our server failed to volunteer any info on specials, leaving us to our own investigations. Invariably, I missed items I would have liked to try, only discovering them while headed to the exit.
Entrées, pizzas and pastas come with a choice of steak fries, horseradish mashed potatoes or rice. For a little extra you can add soup or salad ($2.25), or fabulously crunchy onion rings ($2.99), which I recommend you order.
Sandwiches can throw a few surprises into the works; be sure to read the menu descriptions in detail. Many, including the burger ($8.99), come in a pita pocket, which cause many a curious expression. A more traditional sandwich was the Reuben ($9.99) corned beef, sauerkraut, provolone, Russian dressing all piled into grilled rye. It was a decent, but not a mind-blowing rendition.
Desserts tend towards the heavy side, so consider sharing. Three slabs of caramel sauce-layered bread pudding ($6.49) delighted both a bread pudding novice and expert, while a slice of carrot cake ($5.99) came with a thick topping of cream cheese frosting. Another item I consider the star of the sweets is peach cobbler ($6.99). Red Rock Places offering was as reliable as ever. Served a la mode, the piping hot cobbler quickly becomes a fruity, creamy mélange, of which I promise you will finish every bite.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.