Long before phrases such as molecular gastronomy invaded menus, back when local taverns were more common than bars staffed by muddler-wielding mixologists, that’s when diners peppered the landscape. Such restaurants would plate up unapologetically humble and hearty cuisine for folks seeking an affordable meal, with nary an heirloom tomato in sight.
Times and trends move on, but demand for dependable local cuisine is as welcome a sight today as it was 60 years ago — possibly more so in a contemporary world of global franchises. Certainly that’s what co-owners Amy Britt and Jen Gilroy of Pig and a Jelly Jar are banking on. And who would bet against the restauranteurs’ pedigree, the popular Meditrina, near the Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Pig And A Jelly Jar is located in the bustling Liberty Park area, and aims to serve a from-scratch menu with a unique twist on comfort food, with house-made items ranging sausages and jams to waffles and ham hash. The restaurant also relies on other stalwarts to bolster the local angle, from tapping Salt Lake Roasting Company to brew up a house special blend, while Stoneground Bakery buns wrap burgers and grinders.
The restaurant’s aesthetic is a modern one, and the place appears clean, contemporary and airy. Half the space is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, with the background radio playing an ever-so-slightly hipster soundtrack. Stylized pictures of cartoonish-porcine lined one wall, identifying the location of every cut of delicious pork.
And if you long for simple, smoke hazed diners of yesteryear with a surly waitress calling you “Hon,” you won’t find that here. However, even though the restaurant is unabashedly 21st century in its appeal, the service here is as chatty as you’d like. On each visit, my coffee cup ($2.50/unlimited refills) never went unfilled for more than a brief moment — exactly what you need on those can’t-quite-get-going days.
The first item of the menu is perhaps the most iconic of the format the Pig seeks to follow in the steps of, a classic breakfast plate ($8.00). Your choice of two eggs comes with house sausage (breakfast, spicy italian, or chicken apricot rosemary), bacon, or ham and cottage fries but, oddly, no toast. Eggs were cooked spot-on, and the lone breakfast sausage patty tasted better than fine. Cottage fries arrived as a scant six rounds of sliced fried potato, disappointingly served way too hard. The plate as a whole was modest at best, and on a hungrier day, I could easily see myself needing to order a few extras, such as toast and additional protein.
The same undercooked cottage fries came as a side with a kitchen-sink frittata ($9) I sampled. The kitchen sink is one of six options, including French-, Mexican- and Italian-inspired variations ($8-$10). As the name implies, the kitchen-sink frittata packs in a lot: sausage, bacon, tomato, onion, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, provolone. Flavor-wise, everything was great, while portion-size again skewed towards the small.
Redemption was found in the most delicious item I sampled from the breakfast menu; chicken and waffles ($10). While not exactly common around these parts, it’s a dish I could eat for breakfast, noon and dinner daily. According to our server, buttermilk was the secret to the fabulously juicy and crunchy chicken breast, served atop a plate-sized waffle, while a side of maple syrup completed the picture. I was completely giddy devouring a dish that mixed savory and sweet with soft and crunchy all in one, feeling like a naughty kid who’d thrown their vegetables under the table and sneaked a helping of dessert instead.
Lunch items are broadly divided into burgers and grinders. The pig burger ($9) was the fanciest of three options, loaded with a 1/3 lb beef patty, bacon onion jam, bleu cheese and romaine. For all the modernity of the restaurant I would have enjoyed being asked a temperature on the burger, which ended up coming out a tad dry. The Stoneground bun also failed to hold up to the weight of toppings, unwinding into a soggy mess, requiring a knife and fork to tackle.
Both the Italian grinder ($9.00) and chicken grinder ($10) were sturdier, the former piling onions, peppers, mushroom, marinara and provolone onto a lip-tingling, juicy Italian sausage. The latter sandwich was a zingy, zesty mouthful of chicken-apricot-rosemary sausage, brie, caramelized onions and lemon aioli.
Sandwiches come with either hand-cut fries or cottage cheese. The fries were far superior to the sad breakfast spuds, as these were perfectly solid examples of skin-on, from-scratch french fries. Daily blue-plate specials ($9) are offered after 11 a.m., focusing on comfort food classics, such as fish and chips, pot pie or meatloaf. During lunch one day, I snagged a buffalo chicken sandwich topped with lettuce, cheddar, bacon, onion, tomato, an enjoyable sandwich that was loaded with the brow-moistening buffalo sauce.
The restaurant isn’t open for dinner, except Sunday evenings when it serves up Sunday Suppers, three courses served family-style for $20 a head, with the menu changing weekly. Drop by between 5 and 8:30 p.m. and you might be able to choose from selections such as Italian antipasti, ratatouille lasagna and apple streudel, or a field greens salad with peppercorn dressing, bacon-wrapped meatloaf with country gravy mashed potatoes and summer squash, topped with an ice cream sundae.
Tribune restaurant reviewer Stuart Melling blogs at gastronomicslc.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pig and a Jelly Jar
Food • HH
Mood • HH
Service • HH
Noise • bb
The classic American diner comes to the streets of Liberty Park. The 21st-century twists include a clean contemporary space with a menu trying to push burgers and fries and breakfast a little bit further.
Location • 401 East 900 South, Suite A, Salt Lake City; 385-202-7366
Online • www.pigandajellyjar.com
Hours • Open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday supper served 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Children’s menu • No
Prices • $$
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • No
Wheelchair access • No
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Street parking
Credit cards • All major