Restaurant Review: The Rest is Main Street’s hidden speakeasy
The secret is out. Below the Bodega, a convenience store/tavern on Salt Lake City’s Main Street, you’ll find The Rest, a new speakeasy.
To begin your dining experience, enter an unmarked door with a special key. Walk down a flight of stairs and go through another door.
A brown file folder serves as the menu — most of which describes cocktails, overseen by Caleb Cannon, and beer. Vague descriptions of red, white or bubbly wines weren’t enticing enough to order.
Take some time with your drink selection as you peruse a full page of cocktails, all $11. Creations include the Loophole (rye, St. Germain, lime, honey and lavender bitters); the Kentucky Maid (bourbon, lime, cucumber, mint); the Folklore (rye, Fernet, b&b, bitters) and the Pudge (scotch, sweet vermouth, green chartreuse and absinthe). My husband was happy to see Bitburger on the beer menu and Squatters is brewing an IPA just for Bodega called El Borracho — the drunkard.
The food choices are on the final page. While the dishes and descriptions might initially seem to be familiar comfort food, expect the unexpected.
We’ll start with dessert because there is only one but it’s the best representation of beignets ($7) I’ve found in the valley. Get them first or save room for them. These pillows of pastry are filled with sweet blueberry compote and a side of fresh whipped cream for a delightful sweet evening treat.
If you’re primarily headed to The Rest for drinks and want just a few bites to go with your cocktails, you’ll find both sweet and savory snacks for munching. Try the generous serving of warm marinated olives ($6) for a nice salty bite or the barbecue caramel popcorn ($4) for a sweeter crunch. Pickled onion rings ($6) were a surprise hit at my table. A crunchy, fried outer coating revealed tangy onions served alongside a spicy aioli for dipping.
For a more filling options, the meatloaf terrine ($12) comes with a house-made mashed tomato ketchup — a savory but slightly sweet tomato marmalade — and toast points.
Unfortunately, the vague description of anchovy, Parmesan, pork belly and frisée on the bacon & eggs ($10) dish lead my party to believe that we would get something entirely different than three deviled eggs served atop greens with overly crispy pork belly “bacon.”
While you can sample much of The Rest’s menu as shared small plates, there is a section that offers heavier items suitable for individual entrees.
My favorite was The 36. A version of a Reuben without the rye, The 36 features piles of pastrami, tart sauerkraut and melted cheese. Our server explained that it gets its numerical name because the pastrami is brined and braised for 36 hours. As much as I loved the taste however, for $16 I would expect more than potato chips and a pickle to accompany it.
The honey-glazed beer can chicken — a whole fryer, cooked over a can of PBR — serves two for $35 and comes with warm potato salad and an asparagus side. This item will take approximately 40 minutes to prepare, so sit back and enjoy the tunes spinning from the record player. When ready, your chicken will be presented to the table whole — a nice touch — and then returned to the kitchen to be portioned.
Pass on the braised lamb shepherd’s pie ($16) which was dry and overpowered by fresh mint. Ditto for the Kraft Dinner ($14) entrée, which I’m guessing is an attempt at a gourmet tuna casserole. While each ingredient of this dish was delicious, putting sushi-grade seared tuna over al dente spaghetti in cheddar sauce with English peas and then covering it with fresh watercress is a head scratcher. I’d rather have the tuna as an appetizer and forget the rest.
Instead, order the smoked “hobo” trout ($18) delivered in a tinfoil swan — be assured, it’s fish and not fowl inside. The trout was moist and flavorful to the last bite. Brown butter cauliflower, apples and pickled raisins really elevated this entrée from it’s simple campfire cookout roots.
To keep from revealing all the mystery of The Rest, you’ll likely want to explore owner Sara Lund’s vision of a New York speakeasy yourself. Once you arrive, take the time to follow the story of local artist Jake Buntjer’s dioramas behind the bar or relax in the library while enjoying a craft cocktail. The Rest is an experience you won’t come across every day.