Plant-based Boltcutter heats up Salt Lake City with bold flavors, sophisticated street tacos and more

Review • Vegan restaurant packs quite the punch, especially with its sauce work.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Al Pastor tacos at Boltcutter, a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Salt Lake City.

Boltcutter, that’s like a hardware store, right? New metal band? Garage bar?

If those are your first thoughts about the name of the new Boltcutter restaurant in Salt Lake City, try again.

And if, after learning that it is an all plant-based restaurant, you think the name sounds more macho than its concept, definitely think again.

Because Boltcutter packs a punch.

The name — a nod to the tool that activists often use in the animal liberation movement — reflects the boldness of its gourmet street tacos and other Mexican- and Central American-inspired fare. As the owner puts it, Boltcutter is a strong name with a strong image to go with strong flavors.

Yet there’s also an ease about this seemingly simple, yet sophisticated vegan menu.

Take the house-made corn chips and guac ($8). Here, Boltcutter shows its expertise in achieving balance in flavor and texture in the guacamole that sits atop red cabbage. It’s creamy and bright, and a wonderful tribute to the avocado, despite the somewhat controversial addition of onion. The chips are thick and crisp — perfectly suited for dipping. There’s also chips and pico ($4) if you prefer.

You’ll find both on the lunch and dinner menus, which feature many of the same dishes, save for a few exceptions. Most notably, lunch offerings include a breakfast-style taco and burrito ($8 each), as well as bowls ($8).

We opted for tacos al pastor ($8 for three) and Sin Carne Burrito ($8), both made with two devilishly delicious versions of seitan, a wheat protein that has the look and texture of pork or beef.

The tacos al pastor took me by surprise. From the pickled onions and jalapeños to the ancho barbecue sauce and soy-based sour cream — the garnishes showed restraint while showcasing varying layers of spice. I hate to even register this complaint since it’s a signature element of the dish: The succulent pineapple was so sweet and disproportionately large compared with the other ingredients, it sometimes overpowered the rest of the taco.

Nothing seemed more satisfying at the time than the Sin Carne Burrito, a massive, flaky flour tortilla packed with asada seitan, refried beans, brown rice, pico de gallo, salsa verde, romaine and guacamole. This, perhaps more than any other item on the menu, more closely resembled and tasted like a traditional dish made with animal products. I found it especially comforting, filling that soul food hole in my stomach.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Boltcutter is a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Salt Lake City.

After lunch, Boltcutter transforms from a fast-casual eatery to a full-service restaurant with candlelight and cocktails.

Many cocktails hint at more tropical or south-of-the-border flavors, focusing heavily on fruity and floral components paired with various liquors. The Boltcutter Margarita ($9) seemed a natural pairing for our taco-heavy dinner. The refreshing mixed drink — on the rocks — emphasized its citrus notes, particularly from the spiced orange bitters.

You can’t leave without trying the buffalo cauliflower ($9), available only at dinner. The battered florets, coated in an habanero buffalo sauce and topped with an almond cilantro chimichurri, isn’t for mild taste buds. While a ranch dipping sauce helps offset some of the spice, the appetizer still brings the heat. Again, my only complaint: The cauliflower had been cut in such large pieces that it was cooked inconsistently, both tough and tender while the batter ranged from crispy to soggy.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Buffalo cauliflower at Boltcutter.

I’ll pause here to say how much I admire Boltcutter’s sauce work. Each — the ranch, habanero sauce, the sour cream and tartar sauce — feels so light but nuanced.

The latter two stood out in the Baja tacos ($7 for two) and Port Boy tacos ($7 for two), served on soft yet sturdy, locally made corn tortillas. The lemony tartar sauce perfectly accentuated a beer-battered, almost nutty tempeh on the Baja tacos. And the sour cream added creaminess to the wildly textured Port Boy tacos that include a toothsome battered portobello mushroom and crisp yet delicate sweet corn.

Boltcutter offers more than tacos. I’m kicking myself for not trying the nachos ($10) or stuffed quesadilla ($9.50), both of which feature a cheese sauce that everyone raves about.

While there’s no dessert menu, that shouldn’t stop you from getting sweet treats. The people behind Boltcutter (and Buds Sandwich Shop) also own Monkeywrench, a vegan ice cream shop, next door. Boltcutter will accommodate those who wish to order from Monkeywrench, but the staff strongly encourage a separate visit.

Because it’s a plant-based eatery, the menu will rotate at times. For example, the popular street corn ($6) was not available during our dinner service because it’s out of season. The staff also hope to introduce more fruit-based components like mango salsa.

That kind of thought and care permeates everything at Boltcutter. Co-owner Roxy Carlson said she and her business partner Alex Jamison want to change the minds of carnivorous-leaning eaters like me about what plant-based foods look and taste like.

And damned if they don’t succeed.

Twitter: @lbacontomato, or Instagram: @larrisabacontomato

BOLTCUTTER: ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★ STARS <br>This all-plant-based restaurant specializes in gourmet street tacos and other Mexican- and Central American-inspired food. Fun fact: The bolt cutter in the logo is positioned so it forms a V, for vegan.<br>Food • ★★★<br>Mood • ★★★<br>Service • ★★★<br>Noise • Music during dinner service can be a bit loud at times<br> Location • 57 Gallivan Ave., Salt Lake City<br> Online • http://bit.ly/2nTUMJ7 <br>Hours • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday<br> Children’s menu • No, but the restaurant can make accommodations<br> Prices • $-$$<br>Liquor • Yes<br>Reservations • No<br>Takeout • Yes, order in person<br>Wheelchair access • Yes<br>Outdoor dining • Yes<br>On-site parking • Street and paid garage across the street<br>Credit cards • Yes