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Home / Articles / Food / Restaurant Reviews /  Dining | No Intimidation Required: Baxter’s takes off from the ashes of a fallen Butterfly
Restaurant Reviews

Dining | No Intimidation Required: Baxter’s takes off from the ashes of a fallen Butterfly

Posted // May 28,2008 - When Chris Vanocur speaks, I listen. So when I bumped into the ABC 4 newsman at a City Weekly party and he pulled me aside to bend my ear about Baxter’s, I knew it was time to make like a bakery truck and haul buns to the Gateway’s newest eating establishment.

I was the only local critic—and judging from their lack of success, maybe the only customer—who actually liked Butterfly, the restaurant that preceded Baxter’s American. I’m not sure why Butterfly didn’t succeed, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve overestimated the local appetite for innovative, even daring, dining experiences. Apparently, not everyone expected to see a fish face staring back at them when they ordered the Thai snapper. The most common adjective I heard from others describing Butterfly was “intimidating.”

With Baxter’s American Restaurant, the owners/partners/management—which includes Peter Burke and Tad Dugan, holdovers from the original Butterfly—have bent over backwards to insure that their restaurant does not intimidate. Prices are a little lower. The ambiance is more comfy and less trendy. The food is updated American comfort cooking. In four visits over the course of two weeks, I wasn’t intimidated at Baxter’s once.

Like Butterfly, Baxter’s has lots of pop and eye appeal. It’s a gorgeous dining space with an inviting bar area that includes sofa seating and ought to become the default location for après-work cocktails in the area. For diners, there are booths, standard tables and a couple of four-tops with Barcalounger-size overstuffed chairs and cushions. The latter brings a whole new meaning to the notion of comfort food.

In the corner just to the left of the bar is a small table with a dog bowl on it. That’s Baxter’s table. Who is Baxter? Well, Baxter might be a dog … or he might not be. It’s what Baxter’s executive chef Joseph Davis calls a conundrum—a term, incidentally, that I’ve never heard another chef utter. Whatever or whomever Baxter actually is, well, that’s all part of the playfulness of Baxter’s, the restaurant. This is a place where you can order “Bad Hair Day” halibut, “Not Your Mother’s” meatloaf and “A Very Large” hamburger.

Start off, though, with Davis’ crispy calamari plate ($11.25), a big pile of battered and deep-fried squid rings and tentacles spiked with pickled jalapeños and served with a trio of home-style sauces: tartar, brava and Utah fry sauce. If you prefer your seafood “cooked” in lime and served chilled, try the layered ceviche ($8.95): chunks of calamari, halibut, shrimp and scallops steeped in a fresh and zippy lime-yuzu marinade with tomato and green chilies. I also enjoyed Baxter’s twist on the Caprese salad: A stacked tower of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil ($11.75) topped off with bright green pesto.

One of the best bargains around is Baxter’s three-course express lunch. In addition to its regular lunch menu, Baxter’s offers the express lunch for a mere $9.95. It includes a cup of silky tomato soup with Shepherd’s Farm chèvre and basil oil or a salad, plus daily sandwich or wrap options and a choice of cheesecake, apple pie or brownie for dessert, along with iced tea or soda. That’s quite a deal, and the tarragon chicken salad sandwich with avocado relish is an especially tasty sandwich choice.

But then, I haven’t had a Baxter’s sandwich yet that I didn’t like. The grilled ham and cheese ($7.95) is scrumptiously simple, served on crispy Texas toast “waffles” with a cup of tomato soup. The grilled meatloaf sandwich ($8.25) is meatloaf slices served on rectangular flatbread with caramelized onion, Swiss cheese, chipotle-tomato catsup and twice-cooked French fries—the best fries in Salt Lake City, by the way. Then there’s Joseph’s cheesesteak sandwich ($8.25), which is a modernist take on the Philly cheesesteak. It’s served open-faced on a square of flatbread about the size of an 8-inch-by-8-inch flooring tile, topped with tender hanger steak slices, melted smoked Gouda, peppers, frizzled onions, roasted tomatoes and greens. If you’re looking for classic cheesesteak, go to Moochie’s, but Joe’s updated version is delicious indeed.

Good servers are hard to find, and Baxter’s expert management staff has lured a crew of experienced, professional workers into the fold. Not that there wasn’t a glitch or two, but overall, I was very pleased with table service at Baxter’s, from the reservation process onward. I did think, however, that the wine list could use improvement. There simply aren’t enough wine-by-the-glass options, and I’m surprised that a restaurant called Baxter’s American doesn’t feature American wines exclusively. There’s a perfect opportunity here for someone to design a wine list offering unique, off-the-beaten-path American wines which would set Baxter’s apart.

But let’s get back to the food. If you visit Baxter’s, make sure someone at your table orders Halibut Has a Bad Hair Day ($19.50). In essence, this is nothing more than fried fish and chips, but without the chips (there’s vegetable couscous instead). You just can’t help but be tickled when this hefty portion of Alaskan halibut, coated and deep-fried in a crust of shredded phyllo, arrives at your table. It just looks silly. Oh yeah, it’s absolutely delicious.

I wish I could say the same for the chipotle-glazed baby-back ribs ($14.50 half rack/$27.95 full). My half rack was dry and chewy. In fact, the ribs I ordered tasted suspiciously like reheated leftovers from the day before (or maybe lunch). However, having sampled most of Baxter’s menu items, the ribs were the only disappointment, quickly remedied by biting into Chef Joe’s homemade sugar and cinnamon-dusted donuts, which transported me back to Mom’s donuts of my childhood. That’s a pretty good batting average, and one that hopefully will keep Baxter’s on the ground longer than Butterfly.

BAXTER’S AMERICAN RESTAURANT 400 W. South Temple, The Gateway, 456-8999, BaxtersAmerican.com. Lunch Monday-Friday, Dinner Monday-Sunday, Sunday brunch.

 

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 13,2008 at 10:04 I was recently pleased to find a restaurant here in Salt Lake City that my family could all enjoy. That place is Baxter’s American at the Gateway Mall. There was something for everyone. I love meat and potatoes and my wife is a big seafood fan, and they have it all. Even a kids menu that was reasonably priced with plenty of kid favorites. I started with the beer battered onion rings ( perfectly fried and crunchy) and Susan had the ceviche ( fresh scallops, calamari and Halibut). I followed with the filet mignon, cooked to perfect medium rare and a mere $21.95, and she had the salmon with pesto sauce, also prepared just right. The server was very helpful with any questions, not that we had many because we recognized everything on the menu but she was always close by to help if needed. My son had a corn dog with fries and you should have seen his face when it arrived. Truly a foot long. We were all plenty full by then, but out server suggested we try the house made doughnuts, and boy I’m glad she did. Steaming hot, right out of the kitchen with 3 different sauces, chocolate, raspberry and honey butter. I don’t know which one I liked best. The room was very comfortable and the backround music was at just the right level. We will be going back as soon as possible now that it is our favorate restaurant in town.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 30,2008 at 18:53 It doesn’t get any better than Baxter’s. No matter how hurried my day is when I walk in there for lunch I feel like I’m Norm at Cheers. The staff is friendly and the Lunch bartender Kurt makes me feel right at home. I miss the mushroom cheese appetizer which has disappeard from the menu, but just the though of the Philly Cheese makes my mouth water, and the lamb shank is unbelievable. I was even invited to sit at Baxter’s table once but unfortunately he was called away on business before I could meet him! :)

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 28,2008 at 18:35 I have had the pleasure of eating at Baxter’s 6 or 7 times since it opened as I travel to SLC quite often to visit family.nnEach meal has been better than the last and I particulary enjoyed the pasta with shrimp in a lemon sauce from their new spring menu!nnThe service and friendly atmosphere are very welcoming!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 28,2008 at 13:44 Baxter’s is really a good restaurant. especially in this town. I have eaten there a lot because my office and my house are close. these guys do a great job and the service is good and professional. The fries are the best I have ever had. no kidding the best and rest of the menu is awesome. Shout out to A.J. at the bar and Bree the server. you guys rock.

 

 
 
 
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