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Restaurant review: Honeycomb Grill satisfies heights of hunger

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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bill Jackson pulls a beer on tap at the small bar off the main dining room at the Honeycomb Grill at Solitude Mountain Resort.

By Anne Wilson

Special to the Tribune

First published Jul 09 2014 01:01AM
Updated Jul 10, 2014 10:08AM

Solitude • No matter what season, Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons are crowded with people testing their mettle against the mountains.

And that can lead to big appetites, which must be one of the reasons for the sizable portions at Honeycomb Grill at Solitude Mountain Resort.

If you’ve just scaled a peak by foot or bike, some of these hearty dishes would hit the spot. If not, then you’ve got something for lunch the next day.

Honeycomb — formerly Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro — is mountain rustic, from its décor to the menu. Wood encases the large windows that illuminate the dining space, and dark beams segment the domed ceiling. Upholstered chairs are large and comfy, but in the summer, the patio is the best place to take in the grandeur of the Wasatch Range.

If you’re lucky, as we were on both our visits, you’ll see moose and deer browsing in the bushes. And you can watch human animals ride mountain bikes, hike and play Frisbee as you peruse a menu that includes many standards, with a few surprises from chef Greg Neville, the former owner of Lugano, and his staff.

Neville took over as Solitude’s food and beverage director in September; since then, he has created new menus at Honeycomb and the five other food establishments at the resort, including St. Bernard’s, its fine-dining restaurant. It’s something of a return for Neville, who in 1996 opened Solitude’s Creekside restaurant, which later became Kimi’s.

One unexpected standout at Honeycomb is a bison sloppy joe ($15), a thick concoction that gets much of its smoky flavor from a variety of peppers that also contribute a mellow heat. It comes so neatly composed on a ciabatta roll it possibly could be eaten like a sandwich, although I was content to fork it. A generous portion of lightly battered, crunchy french fries rounded out the plate.

A bottle of Uinta’s Monkshine Belgian style ale was the perfect mate, one of a number of Utah-made brews on the menu. The wine selection is thoughtful and well-priced, offering mostly domestic vintages.

Less adventurous than the bison joe, but no less satisfying, was the mountain-size burger ($16), a juicy half-pound slab of ground Angus beef topped with grilled onions, white cheddar, bacon and a perky smear of tomato aioli. It comes with the same ciabatta roll, which the beef juice darn near overcame. That was a happy misfortune, as no one would forfeit that juiciness.

But the burger, sampled on a first visit, came with a rather ordinary french fry compared to the sloppy joe, ordered on a subsequent visit. We can only hope that the crunchier fry is a permanent upgrade.

A grilled hanger steak listed on the menu ($17) wasn’t available, but the kitchen offered a large New York instead. It came sliced on a too-big bed of greens and, while a flavorful cut, was slightly undercooked for the requested medium rare.

One oversized dish not worth the trouble of doggy-bagging was linguini and shrimp ($19). It was underseasoned to the point of blandness.

Spaghetti carbonara ($17) is a better choice: pasta that tasted homemade bathed in a rich egg sauce, with lovely house-cured guanciale Italian-style bacon and enough Parmesan that it could have been billed as mac and cheese.

Among the main dishes are several pizzas ($14-$15), including a four-cheese version, a traditional Margherita and a third with tomatoes, buratta cheese, sliced prosciutto and arugula. They’re made with the same light, crisp dough used in the hearth bread appetizer ($9), which was topped with sautéed onions, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and green olives. Cut into eight pieces, it’s big enough to share, although you might quarrel over who gets more of the toppers, because there wasn’t enough of them.

A baked fontina appetizer ($12) was rich and flavorful, but the bread that came with it was not its equal. Griddled shrimp cakes ($12) were also underwhelming because they were bland; the red pepper aioli added a dash of color but no zing.

Any salad on the menu can become a main dish with the addition of chicken or salmon ($7). Either one might help the Caesar salad ($11), a generous portion that needed more zip in the dressing. But the roasted beet salad ($9) was perfect on its own, a colorful composition of beets, radish, arugula and feta cheese.

We sampled one dessert (all $7), a traditional crème brulée that was done just right, creamy with a crunchy brown sugar top. Other offerings include bread pudding, apple crisp, chocolate buttermilk panna cotta and an espresso Frangelico float (for adults only).

In tune with Honeycomb’s casual vibe, servers wear shorts and T-shirts; overall, they were friendly and efficient.

Honeycomb Grill isn’t a dinner destination restaurant — some of the food needs work. But if you’re ever in the neighborhood, suffering from a high-altitude appetite, there’s enough good stuff on this menu to pull you through.

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