Saturday, July 3, 2010

It Was Described…

as being a “hipster haven.”

I wish I had read that review of the Blue Plate Diner before we ate breakfast there.

“Established sometime around the turn of the century. ..(and) modeled after the mom and pop restaurants of a bygone era, the Blue Plate obtains much of its character from articles salvaged from such places. The authentic soda fountain, built in 1949, was reclaimed from the Olympic Club, located less than a mile away, while many of the tables and chairs and kitchen furnishings were procured from the Cowboy Cafe in Fillmore, Utah, formerly Utah’s state capitol…. The Blue Plate Diner was also featured on the Food Network's series, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Guy Fieri loved the Corn Beef Hash so much he called it ‘Money Hash!’...Voted City Weekly's, Salt Lake’s Best Breakfast 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.” (From the restaurant’s web site.)

Well, we found it. The diner that had replaced Ruth’s as serving Salt Lake City’s best breakfast. So how did it compare? In short, we went, we ate, we left unimpressed.

We entered via the front patio, which was furnished with colorful outdoor tables and chairs. Inside, you can choose to sit on a stool at the counter, in a booth, or at one of the many tables with their mismatched painted chairs. In one corner sits an old Wurlitzer juke box.

One of the two ceiling beams (near top of the second photo on the page) was decorated with someone’s collection of old postcards and the other beam was covered with postcards from customers. Numerous items of Elvis memorabilia decorate the walls. Posters from the Poster Art Gallery in Salt Lake City were hung on the wall next to our booth.

The menu looked promising. There was an extensive list of variations on Eggs Benedicts: The Traditional Bene (I told you they were hip) with tomatoes, Canadian bacon and hollandaise; The S.M.A. Bene with spinach, mushrooms, hollandaise and avocado; The Mexican Bene (that day’s breakfast special) with black beans, red salsa in place of hollandaise, sour cream and olives; The Greek Bene with spinach, tomato mushrooms, hollandaise and feta cheese; and The Veggie Bene with vegetarian sausage, hollandaise and tomato.

There also were eggs/potatoes/meat combos, omelets, French toast, pancakes, and House Specialties that included: Buttermilk Biscuits with country gravy; Buttermilk Biscuits with vegetarian gravy; Chicken Fried Steak with eggs and toast; Corned Beef Hash with eggs and toast; Breakfast Burritos; Tofu Vegetable Scramble with toast; Chicken Tamales with eggs; and Huevos Rancheros Lobiani (red salsa).

Chuck decided that he needed to break out of his breakfast burrito/pancake/French toast rut and decided to order the Chili Verde Omelette with black beans, cheddar cheese, and onions smothered with pork chili verde which came with a side of home fries and toast.

The diner’s web site states: “The Blue Plate Diner was founded on the axiom that it is better to give than to receive, and, therefore, prides itself in abundant portions and service that comes straight from the heart.” Well, portions were certainly abundant. The omelette was huge and was overstuffed with black beans and cheese and was drowned in a sea of very hot green chili. Chuck came away with the impression that, while the individual components tasted good (especially the pork chili verde), they never came together as a cohesive whole. And you might be surprised to learn the Mr. Potato didn’t finish his serving of skin-on home fries.

I love corned beef hash and knowing that Guy Fieri loved The Blue Plate Diner’s corned beef hash was all I needed to know. The restaurant cures and cooks the corned beef in house. The kitchen staff slice it ultra thin for the hash and mix these slices with their home fries and cheese for the final hash. As I always do, I asked that the hash be cooked crisp--and that may have been a mistake. With the ultra thin meat, cooking until crisp resulted in very dry corned beef. And why, why, why do restaurants insist on overdoing the cheese? I like cheese. I like cheese a lot. But I don’t want my food weighed down with cheese. Ever heard of “less is more?”

And one of my big diner gripes is having eggs cooked inside a ring so that you get a perfect circle of egg. I guess it doesn’t affect the flavour at all, but it just doesn’t look natural.

Spare me hip and trendy. When I eat breakfast I want "down home" and The Blue Plate Diner missed the mark and only earns a 3.0 Addie score.

So leaving The Blue Plate Diner disappointed, we vowed to return to Ruth’s Diner before leaving Salt Lake City. On the day of our return visit, there were even more cars parked in the lot and along the road and more people waiting in line. We were prepared for a long wait. But surprise, surprise. We were seated right away, since the parties waiting were all large groups and there were only the two of us.

Again, we started with the Mile High Biscuits (see yesterday’s blog) and again I ate the entire biscuit before my breakfast arrived. Chuck, wanting to stay with a good thing, repeated his order of Pecan Cinnamon Roll French Toast with a side of hash browns. He enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, the meal on our previous breakfast.

On this visit, I ordered the Eggs Florentine—two poached eggs on English muffins and covered with a mushroom, onion, and cheese sauce. With these came a side of hash browns that I ordered cooked crisp.

This was the breakfast entree I have been looking for since my grits casserole in Columbia Falls, MT, a year ago. The perfectly poached eggs were lightly covered with spinach and then smothered with a rich cheesy lemony sauce that contained small bits of mushrooms and onions. The sauce was rich, but not too rich, and I think it was the lemon that kept it from being cloying.

And the hash browns! Wow! They may look overdone to you, but to me they were perfect. And particularly perfect when sprinkled on the eggs and sauce. The soft eggs and crispy potatoes were a great contrast, and the toasted taste of the hash browns with the rich sauce was dynamite. Even after eating the giant biscuit, I had no trouble eating every speck of this meal. This was one of the best breakfasts that I have ever eaten.

Well, the new guy in town may be winning the awards these days, but I’ll take Ruth’s eighty years of tradition, and we are happy to award this special place the ultimate 5.0 Addie rating.

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