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Dining Out: In 'Beervana,' food comes second

Published April 14, 2009 6:00 pm

The Bayou is in a class of its own when it comes to hops, but menu lacks focus.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One step into The Bayou and you feel the energy immediately. There's a satisfying hum -- which becomes a roar in the later evening hours - that comes from conversant diners, quick-moving servers and jovial barkeeps, and live jazz music on many nights.

"Welcome to Beervana!" says the beer menu. Indeed. Wine and liquor are also available, but I can't imagine coming here and not taking advantage of a list of nearly 300 offerings.

Categorized by style, beers from around the world are represented. If you like pale and amber ales, choose from about 20 mainly American selections ($5-$9 a bottle). There are about the same number of Belgian-style beers ($5-$15 a bottle), while Pilsner-style lagers take up a large portion of the list. Here you'll find Corona, King Fisher, Pilsner Urquell and Red Stripe, among others ($3-$7 a bottle).

The surroundings are also meticulously thought-out. The owners revived the old building by highlighting the exposed brick and original wood rafters, and installed lighting that gives the place a real warmth. A long bar hugs one side of the expansive space, while most of the remainder is used for a couple of pool tables and dining space.

Like the voluminous beer menu, the Cajun-Southwestern-Italian themed menu - yes, you read that right, there are three cuisines - doesn't skimp on selections either; there are 64 items in all. It left me wondering why the 7-year-old restaurant doesn't stick to just one cuisine, pare down the menu and give the kitchen a chance to excel at the food, too?

Straightforward items were the most successful, including a garlic Bayou burger ($7.99) with caramelized onions, stout mustard and chipotle aioli, thin-cut sweet potato and French fries ($5.99) with more of that great aioli and side salads (included with entrees). Other dishes had flaws.

Entrees of jambalaya ($13.58), étouffée ($12.99) and Hoppin' John ($10.99) had nice spice levels and tasted good, but arrived lukewarm. Squeeky and metallic-tasting green beans detracted from a plate of chicken fried chicken ($12.99) and a "gaucho" steak ($16.99) with cilantro-laden chimichurri. (Is that a fourth cuisine?) Gumbo with chicken and sausage ($6.99, with crawfish, add $2.50) had an acrid and burned taste.

As for desserts, the bread pudding ($6.99) was a dense, unpleasant blob. Not even the bourbon sauce could save the texturally challenged dessert. And, I'm pretty sure there's nothing Cajun, Southwestern or Italian about chocolate-Kahlua cheesecake ($6.99), ginger snaps ($3.95, with ice cream, $5.99) or deep-fried Twinkies ($6.99), though the stout float ($6.99), made with vanilla ice cream and Guinness, does sound intriguing.

I look forward to returning to The Bayou, sticking with the uncomplicated menu items and ticking another beer off my list -- only 229 to go.

lneilson@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">lneilson@sltrib.com

The Bayou

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Food »

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Mood »

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Service »

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Noise »

Bottom line » An impressive beer list and groovy atmosphere make The Bayou a popular place. Now, if only the menu weren't so huge and unfocused.

Location » 645 S. State St., Salt Lake City; 801-961-8400

Online » http://www.utahbayou.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.utahbayou.com

Hours » Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Limited menu served until 12:30 a.m.; open until 1 a.m.)

Children's menu » No

Prices » $$

Liquor » Full bar

Corkage » $9

Reservations » No

Takeout » Yes

Wheelchair access » Yes

Outdoor dining » Yes

On-site parking » Yes

Credit cards » V, MC, AMEX, Discover

Membership » $5 temporary for 3 weeks (up to 7 people) until July 1.