Restaurant review: Menu misses at The Annex in Sugar House
The much-awaited Annex by Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City's Sugar House neighborhood is the latest in Epic Brewing's growing empire of award-winning, high-point beer endeavors. Given the depth and range of Epic's beer rÃ©sumÃ©, I expected this restaurant to be nothing short of, well, epic. Sadly, it wasn't.
For a gastropub, there are some obvious missing pieces to The Annex's menu. To start, let's talk about the actual organization of the menu, which is divided by Epic Brewing's different lines of beers Classic, Elevated and Exponential. We were informed on our first visit that beers from those lines aren't necessarily recommended with the dishes in the respective section and, in fact, only represent the kitchen's increasing creativity with the food. Somewhat confusing if you are an Epic beer lover but a logical explanation notwithstanding.
Unforgivable, though, is that nary a beer pairing note can be found on the entire menu and neither of my servers was interested in offering suggestions when asked. Having attended a multitude of beer pairing dinners featuring Epic beers, and checking out the brewery's website, the painstaking work has already been done to determine what goes best with Epic's beers, and Chef Robert Angelilli most certainly has the cooking chops to elevate the diverse brews, so why not enlighten restaurant patrons and make our experience the best it can be?
The menu is designed to offer small plates at the top of each section, moving toward larger, entrÃ©e-size options at the bottom. Plenty of shareable starters include the Korean double fried chicken wings ($10) bathed in a spicy garlic sauce and a small side of spicy, sour kimchee or poutine ($10). One of the few poutines I've seen in Utah, The Annex's version involves hot skin-on fries covered in crispy beef brisket, cheese curds and saucy mushroom gravy. The poutine portion is generous, so sharing is encouraged, or you can simply upgrade the side of fries that comes with the burgers and sandwiches to poutine fries for $3.
For main dishes, you'll see pub staples including fish and chips ($9), three standard but well-seasoned cod strips delivered hot with a delectably creamy malt vinegar mayonnaise and fries; tacos ($10); and bratwurst ($13). Other, more interesting meal-size entrees are the pork schnitzel ($12) with spÃ¤tzle with the same mushroom gravy as on the poutine, and crispy skinned Utah trout ($15) with fried fennel.
The happy beef burger ($11) was of the thin, pressed-form variety with little taste and an even drier consistency. The lamb burger ($14) also could have used more seasoning but was correctly cooked-to-order by temperature. Topped with a watery cucumber sauce, it was unlike the advertised tzatziki I expected. Both burgers as well as the beer-braised brisket sandwich ($13) overwhelmed with pungent greens are served on spent-grain buns made with Epic's leftover grains a great use of mash byproduct.
Several items at The Annex change daily based on the chef's whim. The arancini ($7) offered a crispy panko crust surrounding a mushroom risottoesque rice ball served with a cold tomato dipping sauce that tasted better separately than together. The soup of the day ($3 or as a substitute for fries) one evening was a bold beef and tomato base, which I tasted before my beef bourguignon entrÃ©e ($14). If the bourguignon had had any of the wine-braised beef depth of the soup, I would have declared it my favorite of the night.
Desserts are some of the best offerings at The Annex not surprising as Chef Angelilli was the former executive pastry chef at The Grand America. The spicy chocolate pot de crÃ¨me ($5) was a creamy, pillowy cup of whipped dark chocolate garnished with a cayenne cigarillo that had quite a peppery finish. The warm porter gingerbread ($5) was even more impressive as the spicy holiday cake highlighted the Big Bad Baptist caramel and cool whipped cream.
Beer is, of course, one of the primary purposes of visiting The Annex, which offers most if not all of the 39 or more Epic Brewing options. Each can be served by the bottle in logoed snifter glasses. If beer isn't your beverage of choice, you'll find four cocktails ($9) featuring gin, tequila, vodka and High West whiskey, respectively. For wine, bring your own, as there is no corkage fee and only a house red and white ($7 a glass) available for purchase.
With a few customer-centric changes to the menu primarily pairing suggestions and more focus on well-seasoned foods that elevate Epic Brewing's beer, The Annex is destined to become a Sugar House favorite for bites and beer the likes of which Salt Lake is always hungry for.
The Annex by Epic Brewing
Food • Hhj
Mood • HH
Service • HH
Noise • bb
The Annex by Epic Brewing features the brewery's high-point craft beers along with pub fare that could use a bit more kick.
Location • 1048 E. 2100 South, Suite 110, Salt Lake City; 801-742-5490
Online • http://www.theannexbyepicbrewing.com
Hours • Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Children's menu • No
Prices • $-$$
Liquor • Yes
Corkage • Free
Reservations • No
Takeout • No
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • No
Credit cards • All