By way of disclaimer, I should acknowledge that some of the folks at Red Rock Brewing Company have had issues with me in the past. I never quite understood why, since almost everything I’ve written about Red Rock has been positive. I think they felt that I just didn’t write about them enough. At any rate, it makes it tough on a restaurant reviewer when his subject already feels that he has some sort of agenda, which I don’t. The truth is that I’ve always liked Red Rock, dating back to when the original Salt Lake City location opened in 1994; I’ve enjoyed the food and beer there. And the service, almost without exception, has been excellent.
But my job is to be impartial: to be as objective as possible and write truthfully and accurately about my restaurant experiences. And when it comes to the new Red Rock at Fashion Place Mall, those experiences were very mixed—particularly the service, which hit both highs and lows.
Arriving on a Sunday evening, I was impressed by the sprawling new Red Rock at Fashion Place Mall, with its inviting combination of warm wood décor and contemporary styling; it’s modern, yet comfy—and very roomy. The restaurant/pub was sparsely populated with customers on that Sunday, so I was a little puzzled when my wife and I were immediately seated by the hostess in the bar area, at high tables with tall chairs. I wondered why we didn’t warrant a table in the regular dining space. There were lots of tables available. In fact, I posed that question to my wife and was overheard by our server, Kim, who also was doubling as bartender that evening. Kim explained that the hostess was just trying to parse the clientele out to all the servers, and there was nobody sitting in the bar. She offered us a seat in the dining room, if we’d prefer. “No problem,” I said, and appreciated the explanation. Kim, it turned out, was an excellent server and bartender—top-notch, in fact. I just wish I had such positive remarks about the entire Red Rock staff.
We kicked off dinner with fried green tomatoes ($7.99), which aren’t for everybody. But, if you like fried green tomatoes like I do, you’ll like these: fried with a light, crispy breading and served with a tasty aioli and cocktail sauce. Less appealing was the baked Italian cheese-dip appetizer ($8.49). Actually, the dip was pretty good—a mélange of Jack, cream and cheddar cheeses along with minced green onion, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. But it was served with tepid, mushy “beer” bread, which tasted like something frozen and reheated. We found that dipping the fried green tomatoes into the Italian cheese dip was a better formula.
Munching on our appetizers and sipping a Red Rock Elephino Double IPA, which was delicious and ultra-hoppy, I couldn’t help but notice the folks seated at the bar adjacent to us. Let’s see … there was what appeared to be the manager of the restaurant, who was doing paperwork and having a drink. And he was joined by other employees, including servers and kitchen staff (all male) who still had their aprons on. At one point, we counted five employees at the bar, all drinking alcoholic beverages, which seemed very unprofessional to me. “Who is supervising the staff?” I kept wondering, as the manager lingered at the bar throughout our entire visit. It was as if most of the staff had already checked out on that Sunday evening, even though the restaurant was open until 10 p.m. Thankfully, Kim was on top of things—running the bar for the entire restaurant, in addition to serving the customers in the bar area.
Macadamia-crusted wild salmon ($17.99) was delectable and perfectly cooked. An herb-seasoned rotisserie half-chicken was also delicious—very tender and juicy—in fact, one of the best roasted chickens I’ve had in Zion. The sides seemed to be an afterthought, though: big, unappetizing orbs of bland cauliflower and broccoli and mealy steak fries. Next time, I’ll choose the horseradish mashers over the fries. Portions were large, so we declined dessert. Having paid our bill, friendly Kim thanked us and wished us a good night. Meanwhile, at the entrance, the hostess—her feet propped up on a chair—had nothing to say to us on our way out the door.
A follow-up visit to Red Rock, on a Saturday, proved as different as is night from day. Service was professional, courteous and attentive—no problems whatsoever, a very pleasant dining experience, indeed.
Red Rock is one of the few places I know that offers an old-fashioned fried seafood platter ($17.99), and I love it. I’ve always thought the fish & chips ($17.49) at Red Rock were superb, and the combo platter of deep-fried Alaskan halibut, calamari, scallops and shrimp was spot-on. The fish and shellfish were perfectly cooked—so often, fried seafood is overcooked—with a gorgeous, golden, crispy beer-batter crust. I don’t know any place that does fried food better than Red Rock. And the fish & chips and fried seafood platter both taste even better with a pint of Red Rock’s top-fermented Bavarian Weisse beer or their Belgian Wit alongside.
The wood-fired pizzas at Red Rock are consistently some of the best around. The pear and walnut pizza ($9.99) is an upscale option, with caramelized onions, pear slices, candied walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese and rosemary oil. My favorite, though, is a classic Italian sausage pizza ($9.99), made with homemade spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. The pizzas all have an appealing, slightly chewy, medium-thick, crispy crust.
So, I suggest avoiding Sundays at the new Red Rock. Try to schedule your visits when employees like Kim or beloved longtime SLC bartender/server Erika Palmer are on duty. It’s then that Red Rock really rocks.
RED ROCK FASHION PLACE
Fashion Place Mall
6227 S. State, Murray