Regular visitors to downtown Salt Lake City are probably familiar with the revolving number of restaurants that have occupied the space on the ground floor of the Peery Hotel during the past few years.
The current resident is Carnegie’s Public House — a pub-inspired place that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to hotel guests and the public.
Carnegie’s assumed the design and menu created by its immediate predecessor, the short-lived Oak Wood Fire Kitchen — which has a successful Draper location. But so far it has failed — with a few exceptions —to make a name for itself due to inconsistent service and menu execution.
Upon entering Carnegie’s, the interior design suggests a sophisticated dining destination accented with light colors and sleek lines, yet the shuffleboard table and huge flatscreen TVs mounted on each wall say sports bar, and Carnegie’s has the slow and uninformed service to match.
The one bright spot is the restaurant’s wood-fired oven — installed by the previous restaurant — that yields a generous selection of pizzas and a handful of wood-fired dinner entrées. The kitchen makes use of this cooking method in a generally positive way.
The boneless half chicken ($16.99) was not boneless, but thankfully the bones and the herb marinade resulted in juicy bites of meat that were complemented with cheesy Parmesan mashed potatoes and slightly sweet Madeira jus.
Similarly, steak medallions ($19.99) were perfectly prepared at medium rare, but the plate included four slices of beef over a stingy serving of roasted onion jus. It came with tangy Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and earthy sautéed spinach.
Pizzas are the bulk of the restaurant’s offerings at lunch and dinner, and it’s a positive sign that the kitchen has nearly mastered the art of preparing them in the wood-fired oven.
Look for familiar offerings like the Margherita ($8.99) and pepperoni ($10.99) or more creative versions such as the namesake Carnegie’s ($13.99) with roast beef, jalapeños, caramelized onions and chipotle crema drizzle.
The carbonara ($11.99) with prosciutto, egg, caramelized onion, peas and Parmesan earns points for its thoughtful interpretation of an Italian pasta classic, but the crust was slightly overcharred and dominated the delicate flavors of cheese and egg.
When chef David Kimball ran Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, the baked goat cheese and wood-fired bread ($8.99) appetizer included the highest-quality ingredients. Unfortunately, Carnegie’s has skimped on tomatoes and herbs — producing a watered-down red sauce that is served with overly chewy wood-fired bread triangles.
Other menu items were hit and miss, too.
The lunchtime French dip ($13.99) was inedible, delivered on a rock-hard baguette, with bone-dry roast beef slices topped with caramelized onions and melted Swiss. Although it was advertised as being served au jus, I had to ask for it after my sandwich arrived and received a look of confusion from my server — who eventually returned with watery, lukewarm beef broth that did nothing to salvage the sandwich.
A cup of Irish spring-onion potato soup ($4 cup/$6 bowl) was not piping hot when it arrived, but the thick, creamy cup of pureed potatoes could be a comforting and filling winter staple.
A fully successful dish was the pan-seared cod ($17.99) on the dinner menu. Two juicy cod filets breaded and seared to a crispy golden brown rested atop a kicky roasted red pepper sauce. Fresh green beans and potatoes supported the tender white fish elegantly.
We ended our evening with the sharable wood-fired banana split ($5.99). Bananas baked with brandy and brown sugar came out bubbling and were topped with chopped nuts, fresh raspberries and vanilla bean ice cream. The brandy-laced bananas were a nice balanced to the sweet flourishes of chocolate and caramel sauces plus whipped cream.
Overall, Carnegie’s is a hotel restaurant trying to be all things to all people without doing anything particularly well. As a hotel guest I might be persuaded to dine at the restaurant for convenience, but as a local diner, I’ll look for wood-fired specialties elsewhere, where flavors and atmosphere come together as one cohesive offering.
Heather L. King also writes for www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Carnegie’s Public House
Food • *1/2
Mood • *1/2
Service • *1/2
While this pub-inspired restaurant inside Salt Lake City’s Peery Hotel has a vast menu, diners should stick with the wood-fired oven pizzas and entrees.
Location • 110 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 385-259-0574
Online • www.peeryhotel.com
Hours • Open Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Children’s menu • No
Prices • $-$$$
Liquor • Yes
Reservations • Yes, for groups of 8 or more
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Street and pay parking nearby
Credit cards • All major