ADDRESS: 331 Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
A few weekends ago, I got the chance to visit my friends Mike and Tina out in the Salt Lake City area. It was certainly shocking to think that nine months had already gone by since the last time that I saw them, but great friendships always pick up right where they left off. This also marked my first visit to the state of Utah, so I didn’t really have any expectations on how things would be. With the Wasatch Mountains providing a constant scenic backdrop, I really enjoyed the area and was impressed at a rather vibrant food scene as well.
Mike and Tina told me that had been chilling out at a bar called Bodega in downtown Salt Lake City and at some point, the bartender asked them if they were there for the food or just for drinks. When they said they were interested in food, another bartender led them downstairs to this hidden dining area where you could order from a full-service kitchen and separate bar. Normally, the only way you can access the downstairs restaurant, called The Rest, is to make a reservation ahead of time. So not too long after I had set the weekend I was going to visit, Tina called to lock in our reservation at The Rest.
When you first walk into Bodega, with the bar on the left and standing floor space to fit maybe 20 – 25 people comfortably, you’d have no inkling that there was a restaurant deeper inside the building. But after checking in with someone at the back of bar, she led us through a door towards the restrooms, down a set of stairs, and through another door which served at the entrance to The Rest.
Quiet and dimly lit by various lantern fixtures around the room, the dining area had a serious speakeasy-esque vibe. Some taxidermy animal heads adorned the walls and vinyl lounge chairs were set up in a corner near the entrance. Seating options were either four-person booths or right at the bar, but we opted to go for the booth. Our waiter stopped by soon after we got settled to pass out some menus for us to look over.
You’ll be hard pressed to find out what kind of food The Rest offers, because they don’t publicize their menu, whether that be online or posted somewhere in Bodega. From how our waiter described the menu, it also sounded like there were a few seasonal dishes that they rotate out periodically. Since Mike and Tina had been to the place before, they had a few pointers about dishes to go for and what to avoid. In the end, we decided to start things off with a bread plate, while I got the fried chicken for an entrée and they both got the steak.
I can safely say that this was a very unique dining atmosphere that I hadn’t been to before. Even though the space started to fill up with more people as the night went on (it was a Friday night, after all), it never felt like the place was crowded. The bar served up an assortment of cocktails that each sounded like an intriguing combination. I’m not sure whether or not these drinks also mirrored what was served upstairs at Bodega.
It didn’t take long for our first plate of food to arrive, which was our bread appetizer. Slices of artisanal bread baked in-house, served on the side with some whipped garlic dill butter, this plate was enough to stave off our initial hunger. The bread was nice and soft, and the butter added a nice, savory flavor to compliment the natural taste of the bread. In the end, I think all the bread pieces were gone by the time that our entrées arrived.
My dish was plated rather elegantly, with the two fried chicken thighs crossed over a bed of pimento mac & cheese. I took my first bite out of the chicken and was impressed with how moist and tender the meat was. The breading, however, was a little on the soggy side, and pulled off the chicken rather easily. I think it could have been attributed to plating the chicken over the piping hot mac & cheese, and the rising steam kept flowing over the breading. As for the mac & cheese, I thought that it had great taste, with the pimento cheese imparting its signature savory and spicy flavor combination. The pasta was also cooked al dente and helped to provide a texture contrast between the pasta and cheese sauce.
If I had to name one thing that you should check out The Rest for, it would have to be the atmosphere. With that slight sense of exclusivity of where people upstairs in Bodega might or might not know the place even existed, it was certainly cool to get the chance to experience dining at The Rest. Funny enough, up in the bar area, there is a green neon sign hanging on the wall for “The Restrooms,” with only “The Rest” lit up. Some people might just chalk it up to a broken sign, but the people who’ve dined downstairs know what it’s really all about.
Let’s now take a look at The Rest Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for The Rest:
Food: 4 / 5
Overall, the food had pretty good flavor and the menu selection was diverse enough to cater to what you might be in the mood for. We certainly felt pretty stuffed leaving the restaurant.
Atmosphere: 5 / 5
Not sure that I can really say anything more about how unique the feel is in this dining atmosphere. From the speakeasy nature of getting in to the lounge-y ambiance, it’s something you’d have to experience for yourself.
Service: 4.75 / 5
Our waiter, Matty, was very attentive to us throughout the entire meal, checking in to see how our food was and refilling our drinks. He was very personable as well as knowledgeable about both the food and drink menus when we asked for some recommendations.
Price: 3.5 / 5
It’s certainly no small chunk of change to dine here. You’ll be paying a bit of a premium for dining in downtown Salt Lake City as well as the unique atmosphere that The Rest offers. For the quality of the food though, I’m a little unsure if I’d be as willing to pay those higher prices.