Readers of this column frequently ask how I choose restaurants to review. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say to them. It’s not a very scientific or structured process, although one thing is certain: The more a PR/marketing person pesters me about visiting his or her great new restaurant, the less I am inclined to do so.
In general, though, I follow in the time-tested
footsteps of critics before me and
gravitate, naturally, toward the new and
noteworthy. But not always. Sometimes I
like to revisit an oldie-but-goodie to see
how it’s holding up—especially if there’s
been a significant chef, owner or menu
change, or maybe a remodel, such as the
recent overhaul of Ruth’s Diner.
I preface this review of Tin Roof Grill
in Sandy with these remarks because Tin
Roof is the type of place that causes me
to lose sleep at night: Should I review it?
Should I leave it alone? Am I adding any
significance to the local food-and-restaurant
“conversation” by writing about Tin
Roof Grill, or am I just clogging up the
I probably dine in more restaurants that you don’t hear about than those you do. Because often, I discover that a particular eatery—either good or bad—just isn’t that interesting to write or read about. And especially when it comes to small mom & pop joints; if they suck, what’s the point in spreading the news? They don’t have publicists telling me to come and review their business. So, for example, if I had loathed the food and service at Joni’s Deli, which I reviewed a few weeks ago [“Jason, Jimmy & Joni,” May 21, City Weekly], you simply wouldn’t have heard about it. Why bother? But I loved the little place, so I shared my enthusiasm with readers.
So I’m on the fence about Tin Roof Grill.
I’d love to be able to share my enthusiasm
for this one-off restaurant; I see a lot of
potential here. But when all is said and
done, there just seems to be something
missing from the place. And, frankly, I can’t
quite put my finger on what it is. I think it
has to do with the word unfocused.
The décor, for example, is a mix of
leftover leather banquets, tables and high-backed
leather chairs from the previous
tenants (Little Italy), along with some snazzy
new flat-screen TVs at the bar and some
color splashes on the walls. The dining
space is more open and airy than before
but still lacks coherence.
But then, so does the menu, which ranges
from crab cakes and pot stickers to barbecue
chicken wings, fettuccine Alfredo, pad Thai
and a garlic cheddar burger. I suppose
I could be generous and call the
menu eclectic. But to me, it just seems
confused. Or like perhaps these are
the dishes the chef is capable of executing,
so he put them all on the menu.
When I learned that Tin Roof Grill owners
include the former owners of Salt Lake
Pizza & Pasta and Fiddler’s Elbow, along
with a third front-of-the-house partner, it
started to make sense. Although there’s a
lot to like about both SLP&P and Fiddler’s,
I’ve always found their menus to be unfocused
and over-ambitious, as well.
On the bright side, I suppose you could
honestly say there’s something for everyone
at Tin Roof Grill. There are a dozen or
so “small plates/tapas” items to choose
from. The Spanish tortilla ($4.29) appeared
at our table so quickly it had to have been
pre-cooked and reheated. It was a generously
sized egg, onion and Yukon Gold
potato frittata, which came with a generic-tasting
spicy tomato sauce (from a jar, I
suspect) and garlic aioli. Unfortunately, I
couldn’t detect any Yukon Gold spuds in
my Spanish tortilla or much in the way of
onion, which made for a big, bland-tasting,
under-seasoned omelet on my plate.
Crab cakes ($9.99), supposedly made with
lump crab meat, were equally disappointing.
I couldn’t find a single lump of crab
anywhere in the trio of deep-fried cakes,
which were spiked with minced cilantro
and jalapeño, and served with an almost
tasteless chile lime aioli.
A much better tapa than either of
those were the Asian-style lettuce wraps
($8.99)—minced chicken seasoned with
Asian spices and, according to the menu,
served with “ice cold lettuce cups.” In
fact, the tasty minced chicken was served,
oddly, with cold (not ice cold) ribs of
Pesto linguine ($9.99 plus a $2.99 surcharge for shrimp) was slightly overcooked pasta with an oily pesto sauce—too few nuts and too much EVOO, I think. “Pizza” at Tin Roof Grill is actually flatbread with topping. The white bean and steak pizza ($7.49) is very good, and has the potential to be great: white bean purée and thin, tender slices of grilled steak with fresh basil, diced red onion and tomato. However, the kitchen was stingy with the bean purée, as if they suspect people in Sandy don’t really want pizza with bean purée instead of pizza sauce. And I’m sorry, but the Margherita pizza ($7.89) is not a Margherita pizza. At Tin Roof, it’s a nicely crispy piece of flatbread with a too-sharp and tangy house cheese blend, sprinkled with fresh diced, but under-ripe, tomatoes and fresh basil. A Margherita pizza made without San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella is not a Margherita.
Having said all that, Tin Roof Grill is
still a unique, locally owned dining option
in an area known for its fast-food and chain
restaurants. That’s why I reviewed it.
TIN ROOF GRILL
9284 S. 700 East