SLACKWATER PIZZERIA & PUB

ADDRESS: 1895 Washington Boulevard, Ogden, UT 84401

After we finished gorging on the dozen donuts that we had bought from Madbrook Donut Company, Tina and I decided to head out and attempt to walk off those donuts on the Ogden River Parkway. The trail itself spanned over 17 miles, but we only tackled a small stretch that we picked up near their apartment. It also gave me the opportunity to break out the DSLR camera I had brought with me to capture some of the beautiful outdoor scenery in that area.

By the time that we finished our walk, it was pretty much getting close to lunchtime. We decided to stick to a nearby spot that both Tina and Mike had been to before: Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub. Pizza and beer, no matter where I’ve gone, always seems to be a winning combination.

Slackwater is situated in a pretty good location right by the main highway running through the town of Ogden, where it also borders the Ogden River Parkway trail that Tina and I had been on earlier. The restaurant has both an indoor and outdoor seating area; since the weather was really nice, we opted to sit outdoors, where you could also partially hear/see the river. I’m not sure if there was some initial confusion on who would be covering our table, since it seemed like a little while before anyone stopped by. But once our waitress came over and welcomed us, the service was smooth after that.

Naturally, one of this place’s specialties was their variety of pizzas, complete with creative names and intriguing ingredient combinations. We were hungry enough though that we decided to start off with their smoked pork nachos and follow that up with some pizzas. In an effort to manage my gout, I went with a vegetarian option and ordered the Piper Pesto, which consisted of a pesto cream sauce, roasted garlic, a mix of cheese, tomatoes, and pine nuts. They went with the Italian Job, loaded up with pepperoni, salami, capicola ham, and some pepperoncinis.

One of the unfortunate things that rather slipped my mind was to get a flight of beers to sample while at Slackwater. I usually like to try the variety, rather than commit myself to a whole pint if I hadn’t tried something yet. It wasn’t before long that our nachos arrived to get things started. A plate of tortilla chips topped with some house-smoked shredded pork, smoked poblano and Anaheim chilis, diced tomatillos, cilantro, a three-cheese blend, chimichurri, and pico de gallo, these nachos certainly pack on the flavor as well as the heat. You definitely get the smoky flavors coming on from a combination of the ingredients, and I think the tortilla chips were actually finished with a light sprinkle of paprika as well that complimented everything. It was certainly a good way to get the tastebuds going.

The kitchen was on top of cranking out the pizzas, because we didn’t actually get to finish all the nachos before they arrived at the table. The pizzas themselves were actually a relatively good size (even for a personal portion), about the same diameter as a large dinner plate. The aromas started to creep up from the pizzas; I didn’t need any more convincing to dive in for the first bite. The crust came out just the way I like it: a slight crisp on the outside with a chewy inside. I think they had the roasted garlic oil brushed on the pizza before they dropped the pesto cream sauce on there, because the way those flavors layered up was really nice. Even though the pine nuts provided a texture contrast to the rest of the pizza, I was a little ambivalent on having them added on there as a topping from a taste perspective. I did like that the feta cheese provided that flavor contrast from the rest of the ingredients as well.

With a nice, casual atmosphere and a wide selection of things to eat & drink, Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub is a great place to hit up whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal or relaxing on the weekend. I’m a person that definitely appreciates some crazy combinations when it comes to food, and quite a few of the other pizza options that were on Slackwater’s menu really sounded fascinating (I’m looking at you, Taste of Thai or Tikka Masala). The next time I come out to visit, a pizza sampler (coupled with a high amount of resulting leftover pizza) should definitely be on the agenda.

Let’s now take a look at the Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.

** Char-Tipped Smoked Pork Chili-Verde Nachos **
Shredded house-smoked pork, smoked poblano and Anaheim chilis, tomatillos, and cilantro over a plate of tortilla chips. Finished with a three-cheese blend, chimichurri, and pico de gallo.

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** Piper Pesto **
Pesto cream sauce and roasted garlic base, topped with a three-cheese blend, diced tomatoes, pine nuts, and feta cheese.

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** Italian Job **
Garlic infused olive oil and tomato sauce base with pepperoni, salami, capicola ham, and three-cheese blend, finished with pepperoncinis and a Parmesan herb vinaigrette drizzle.

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And finally, here are my rankings for Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub:

Food: 4.5 / 5

The plentiful selection of pizzas is sure to keep you occupied with eating through their menu for a while. On top of the wide range of options, the food tastes great as well.

Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5

The feel of the place is slightly different between the indoor and outdoor seating, but not by much. I found the outdoor seating to be pretty refreshing to enjoy the beautiful weather. They also set up live music and events inside the dining area as well.

Service: 4.25 / 5

Even though the initial waitstaff confusion led to us sitting around and waiting to put our drink orders in, after our waitress realized the issue, she made a point to periodically stop by and see how we were doing. The food also cranked out of the kitchen at a rapid pace as well.

Price: 4.25 / 5

The appetizer pricing might have been a little on the steep side, but I think that the pizza pricing wasn’t too bad, considering the larger quantity of ingredients that they were using to assemble their pizzas.

Overall:
17.25 / 20
(86%)

MADBROOK DONUT COMPANY

ADDRESS: 540 E 1700 S, Clearfield, UT 84015

No trip out to see my friends Mike and Tina is complete without finding something to quell our sweet tooth cravings. Saturday morning rolled around and I tagged along with Tina while she had an appointment at a local shop in downtown Ogden. On the way back to the apartment, we decided to take a slight detour and hit up Madbrook Donut Company to bring back some breakfast.

Once we walked into the shop, Tina did my already-waning diet no favors by saying that we were going to grab a dozen donuts. There was a glass display case situated right when you get into line, showing off all the fresh batches made that morning. When a type of donut in the display case ran out, there were mobile racks filled with trays of additional donuts, ready to swap out in a moment’s notice.

Featuring a mix of cake and yeast donuts, Madbrook certainly had quite a variety to choose from. Their signature style appeared to be the triangular shape of their yeast donuts, which was also represented on the store’s logo. Tina and I split up the selection duties: she loaded up the box with a half dozen original glazed and one maple glazed, while I finished it with a chocolate glazed, two blueberry cake, a sour cream cake, and a chocolate peanut butter cake. It certainly made for a very diverse sampler of the flavors Madbrook had to offer.

The ride back to the apartment was rough, since the smell of the donuts wafted its way around the inside of the car. Once we got back into the apartment though, everyone went to town. I took a knife out and starting cutting up some smaller pieces to sample; boy, were those original glazed donuts pretty spot-on. The inside texture was light and fluffy, exactly how you would want a yeast donut to be, with a thin layer of glaze on the outside that gave it just enough sweetness.

I switched over to sample one of the blueberry cake donuts and while it was still very flavorful, the cake texture certainly felt a little more dense. Now, I’m normally more of a cake donut type of guy, but in Madbrook’s case I think I preferred the delicate nature that they were able to execute the yeast donuts and turn them into little “pillows of sugar.” Experience definitely guided Tina’s choice of loading up the box with six of the original glazed donuts, and I’m definitely glad that she did. I think by the time that we had finished the first round of attack, only a little over half the donuts remained standing.

Whether you’re looking for a breakfast fix or happen to get a donut craving in the middle of the afternoon, you can’t go wrong with stopping by the Madbrook Donut Company. With such a wide variety of donuts to choose from, they’ll certainly have something to fit your mood. But don’t take just my word for it: Madbrook made it onto Food Network chef Alton Brown’s list as one of his 14 favorite donut shops in the country.

Let’s now take a look at the Madbrook Donut Company Donut Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended donuts.

** Chocolate glazed (top) **
** Chocolate peanut butter (top) **
** Original glazed (middle) **
** Blueberry (right) **
** Sour cream (middle right) **
** Maple glazed (bottom left) **

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And finally, here are my rankings for Madbrook Donut Company:

Food: 5 / 5

Those original glazed donuts are really the shining example of something so simple, but so good. With such a variety of donuts to choose from, you’ll be hard pressed to not find something that sounds delicious.

Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5

The storefront is a pretty open space, with high ceilings and a big floor footprint behind the counter. The display cases are consistently stocked with donuts, with the back-up racks kept nearby for quick tray swap-outs. There’s also an adjacent storefront space that looks like it was re-purposed to become a small dining area.

Service: 4.5 / 5

The shop staff were very welcoming and patient with us as we were looking around the display case making our decisions. With some donuts flying off the shelf, the racks got replaced quickly, helping expedite the line.

Price: 4.75 / 5

If I remember correctly, you could get each donut for about $1.50 or less. Given the consistent quality of all the donuts that we had, I don’t think that’s a price you can argue with.

Overall:
18.5 / 20
(93%)

THE REST

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.

** Bread Service **
Artisanal bread slices served with whipped garlic dill butter on the side.

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** Beer-battered Fried Chicken **
Beer-battered chicken thighs deep-fried and served over a bed of pimento mac & cheese.

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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.

Overall:
17.25 / 20
(86%)

UMAMI RESTAURANT & SUSHI BAR

ADDRESS: 3042 West New Haven Avenue, West Melbourne, FL 32904

Ever since moving down to Florida back in December, I had been on the hunt to find some good sushi. That search initially brought me to Seito Sushi up in Orlando, where it was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment. After that, I decided to turn my search closer to home and stick within the Melbourne area to see what I could find. Umami Restaurant and Sushi Bar popped up on the radar, with some relatively good reviews and nice looking pictures of sushi rolls (some of which were identical to the ones from my visit to Seito). My friend Shyam said he wanted to take a break from eating pizza for 4 consecutive days, so we headed over to give Umami a shot.

Located inside the Metro West shopping plaza, Umami is a few storefronts down from the Subway (I actually drove right by it the first time searching the plaza for the place). The dining area is relatively smaller, probably able to accommodate 25 – 30 people total. There’s the option to either sit at tables or at the sushi bar, located all the way at the back of the restaurant. The feel of the dining area still stayed relatively on the casual side, although the lighting was dimmed down a little bit and added a slightly intimate vibe to the atmosphere. Darkened front windows helped to filter out any bright lights from the exterior as well, preserving that atmosphere throughout the restaurant. For a Saturday evening, the crowd was pretty light, with only a handful of tables occupied when we got there. The hostess led us over to a table and gave us the menus, where we began to ponder over the sushi roll selection.

Like I mentioned above, I was certainly surprised to find a couple of identical sushi rolls at Umami that I had seen up at Seito Sushi in Orlando: the Distinguished Gentleman and Corona were two that jumped out on the list. I’m not sure if those rolls are a regional specialty, since I hadn’t heard of either until coming out to this area. Shyam and I wanted to give several different rolls a try, so we each ordered two apiece. I went with the Distinguished Gentleman and Boba Fett, while he went with the Bang Dang and Corona.

It probably helped that there was a light number of people in the restaurant eating at the time, because the sushi chefs were pretty efficient about getting our food out to us fast. Shyam had gotten an order of edamame to help tide over his hunger, and it was just as we were finishing off the last few pieces when both plates of sushi came. Shyam’s plate had a more elegant look, with the Corona Roll arranged diagonally across the whole plate and the Bang Dang Roll split up on each side. On my plate, the Boba Fett Roll was the more interesting plating arrangement of the two: all pieces were placed in a circular pattern, with a large mound of crab salad dropped right on top and garnished with some scallions.

The Distinguished Gentleman Roll was one I had tried at Seito Sushi and, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really that impressed. It was my hope that Umami could redeem my impression of the roll, and I think that it was successful in that regard. In almost a mini-interpretation of a “surf-and-turf,” the Distinguished Gentleman features a combination of Maine lobster and seared rare beef, complimented by avocado, masago, and scallions, finished with jalapeño slices, truffle salt, and wasabi aioli on top. The flavors of the jalapeño and wasabi combined well to contrast with some of the more subtle flavors from the other ingredients. I do think, however, that the wasabi aioli might have been too overpowering that it drowned out the more subtle flavor of the lobster.

As for the other roll that I ordered, the Boba Fett, I think that I preferred that one over the Distinguished Gentleman. At the base, it was a California Roll wrapped in avocado, topped with crab salad, baked scallop chunks, masago, and finished with some eel sauce and scallions. What I liked about it though, was that the spicy and savory flavors of the crab salad accentuated the California Roll (avocado and crab stick) really well, with the eel sauce adding some sharper contrast from the other flavors. The sushi chefs were pretty generous with the crab salad when they were plating the roll, which definitely helped me to load it up when I was constructing each bite.

In the search for quality sushi in the Melbourne area, I was able to find a winner in Umami Restaurant and Sushi Bar. With a wide selection of signature rolls, eclectic flavor combinations, and reasonable prices, Umami checked all the boxes for what I was looking for when I set out on my sushi restaurant quest. Even though the restaurant might be tucked away in a sea of other storefronts in the shopping plaza, be sure not to miss it. I know I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to stop by and try some more sushi rolls.

Let’s now take a look at the Umami Restaurant & Sushi Bar Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.

** The Distinguished Gentleman — pictured left **
Maine lobster and avocado on the inside, layered with seared rare beef and jalapeño slices on top, finished with masago, truffle salt, and wasabi aioli

** The Boba Fett — pictured right **
California Roll wrapped with avocado and topped with crab salad, baked scallops, masago, and eel sauce

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** The Bang Dang — pictured left and right **
Tempura coconut shrimp, mango, and cream cheese on the inside, topped with tuna, blue crab salad, and eel sauce

The Corona — pictured middle
Grilled shrimp, tempura asparagus, and cucumber inside, wrapped with avocado and topped with blue crab, pico de gallo, and cilantro

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The Atkins
Tuna, salmon, white fish, yellowtail, and avocado, all wrapped with cucumber and served in a ponzu sauce

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** The Godfather — pictured top and bottom **
Fried lobster tail with cream cheese and asparagus on the inside, topped with salmon, tuna, masago, and garnished with eel sauce

** The Trinity — pictured middle **
Salmon, tuna, and yellowtail on the inside, topped with avocado and sliced lemon, garnished with puffed rice cracker, cilantro, and yuzu tobiko

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** The Cajun Salmon **
Spicy blue crab salad, avocado, and asparagus on the inside, topped with torched salmon, lemon dill aioli, and tobiko

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And finally, here are my rankings for Umami Restaurant & Sushi Bar:

Food: 5 / 5

Diversity in flavors is key here, as there are quite a few signature rolls to choose from. Each roll I tried brought a different flavor combination to the table, while still maintaining a fresh taste from all the ingredients.

Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5

Our waitress was pleasant and checked back with us frequently during the course of the meal. The sushi chefs didn’t keep us waiting too long either, with all four rolls arriving expeditiously.

Service: 4.25 / 5

With the smaller seating capacity and dimmed lighting, the dining area does seem to give off a semi-intimate feel. Black dining furniture tie in well with the light-colored walls and decorations.

Price: 4.5 / 5

I thought the price points for the various rolls was pretty reasonable, especially given some of the more premium ingredients used. For the quality of the rolls that I got, I’d certainly pay those prices again.

Overall:
18 / 20
(90%)

EL INDIO MEXICAN RESTAURANT

ADDRESS: 1369 South Babcock Street, Melbourne, FL 32901

The very first time I had Mexican food, my dad took me and my brother to a place near our house called Juanito’s. It was there that I first experienced the chimichanga, a deep-fried burrito, and that dish served as my “litmus test” for other Mexican restaurants for quite some time. It wasn’t until early last year that my friends Mike and Tina opened my eyes to the magic of carnitas (cooked extra crispy) which then took on the mantle as my new Mexican restaurant test dish.

I’ve moved down here to Florida for roughly four months already, and I was starting to crave some authentic Mexican cooking. Sure, I had hit up the local Chipotle on a bi-weekly basis, but it just wasn’t cutting it, so I took a look around online to see what the local Mexican restaurant scene was like. El Indio popped up as a place that seemed favorable with local diners, and it also wasn’t too far a drive from work. So during one of our lunch breaks, my friend Rich and I decided to take a trip and check the place out.

Located in the Melbourne Shopping Center strip mall, El Indio is tucked away between the Boost Mobile store and a nail salon. The interior of the restaurant is very modest, with only a small number of pictures or ribbons hung up on the walls. Seating is a mix between tables and booths, and the place can probably accommodate around 50 people at the most. A waitress came out front from the kitchen to greet us, motioned for us to sit anywhere, and set down some menus. Rich must have been hungry, because when the waitress came back to ask what we wanted for food, he decided on the Burrito Supremo. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking to order: a plate of carnitas, cooked extra crispy. Got to keep it consistent with my test dish!

The turnaround from the kitchen was extremely quick. Even though they had given us complimentary tortilla chips and salsa while we were waiting, I’d say our food came out in about 15 minutes or so. The waitress set down our plates of food, and I could already tell that these carnitas were definitely on point. A nice pile of good-sized chunks, the carnitas had the great balance of crispy on the outside but still moist on the inside. The plate also included three tortillas (I went with corn), which gave me an opportunity to build tacos using everything on the plate: carnitas, refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, and some salsa verde. Talk about a great combination of savory and spicy flavors. Before I knew it, all the tortillas were gone, but I continued plowing through the rest of the carnitas on the plate, enjoying every bite. I could tell Rich enjoyed his food too, because he ended up finishing that giant burrito and refried beans before I got through my plate!

What started off as a search for Mexican food to fulfill a craving ended up leading to El Indio, and I’m certainly glad that it did. I think “low-key” is an appropriate adjective to use for the place, as the restaurant might not be readily apparent driving by on the roads. Even on the inside, the decorations might be more muted, but the food certainly speaks volumes. It’s packed with flavor and has that authentic home-cooked feel to it that I think just makes it taste better. I’m already salivating just thinking about that plate of carnitas again.

Let’s now take a look at the El Indio Mexican Restaurant Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.

** Carnitas (Extra Crispy) **
Chunks of slow-cooked pork, served with refried beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, and tortillas.

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** Burrito Supremo **
Burrito filled with rice and choice of beef or chicken, covered with sauce, melted cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. Refried beans served on the side.

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And finally, here are my rankings for El Indio:

Food: 4.5 / 5

Hearty plates of food that have that home-cooked feel certainly make for a satisfying meal. Quite a few options to choose from between burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, or other dishes featuring chicken, pork, or steak.

Atmosphere: 4 / 5

El Indio prefers to keep the décor more toned down, with nothing really too crazy to make things feel too “busy.” Even with several other tables occupied, it never got too noisy in the dining area.

Service: 4.25 / 5

The kitchen was very expeditious about getting out the plates of food; our hungry selves were certainly not kept waiting for too long. Several waitresses also came back to make sure that we had everything we needed during the meal.

Price: 4.25 / 5

Given the amount of food that each plate comes with, I think the pricing is set at a pretty fair rate. I could probably make two meals out of just one order of food!

Overall:
17 / 20
(85%)

El Indio Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BOLAY

ADDRESS: 250 N. State Road 7, Suite #100, Royal Palm Beach, FL 33414

A few weekends ago, I was on the phone with my parents when the conversation took an interesting turn. “Did you know that your uncle Alex just bought a house in Florida?” Well, that was certainly a surprise. “It’s actually two hours south of where you live!” As it turns out, my uncle had closed on a house in the West Palm Beach area and asked if I would be up for visiting over the weekend. My cousin Stanley was also going to be flying into the area to see the new house, so he was certainly surprised to see me when my uncle and I rolled up to the airport’s arrivals area. It turned out to be a very nice and relaxing weekend that I could catch up with some family members I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

Stanley had been eating as a vegetarian for a little while, so when we were trying to look for a place to eat that night as we left the airport, we narrowed down the search a bit. Perusing through Yelp, we stumbled across Bolay, a place with some positive reviews and tasty-looking food photos. After a little bit of discussion, we decided to give it a shot, and ended up stumbling across a restaurant that far exceeded our expectations.

The main focus of each order was on the bowl (restaurant stylized as “bol”), where you can customize all the different ingredients that go into your meal. Two large boards were mounted on the high side of the wall next to the counter and caught our eye as we were walking up. One gave you a small tutorial about how to construct your order and the other detailed the vast array of options available to choose from. I certainly got vibes of the Chipotle “fast-casual” concept, where you’d progress down the counter as the restaurant staff helped you craft the perfect bowl of food.

Indecisive people, beware: you might want to take a look at the menu before heading out to the restaurant to narrow down what you want to get. I don’t normally consider myself an indecisive person, and I think I still spent five minutes standing up in front of the menu board, contemplating what to get.

There are five lists to progress through during the course of constructing your meal: bases, veggies, proteins, toppings, and sauces. All three of us ended up going for the “large bol,” which gave us the option of getting two bases, two veggies, two proteins, unlimited toppings, and one sauce. Get ready, because here comes the long, run-on sentence of my Bolay order: Peruvian quinoa and Moroccan basmati rice, topped with smoky cauliflower, balsamic mushrooms, Caribbean-spiced steak, and BBQ chicken, garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and spicy Thai peanut sauce. (That’s the same description I’ll be using in my Dish Spotlight, don’t you worry.) With eight major components stacked up in my bowl, I was certainly very anxious to give it the first bite.

Have you ever had a bite of food that took you aback by just how unexpectedly delicious it was? Well, this was one of those moments for me. All of the flavors just complemented each other so well that I kept diving into the bowl, excited for the next bite. The rice, quinoa, and mushrooms brought a great earthy element to the dish, while the cauliflower brought some light, smoky notes. The steak was cooked just how I liked it (medium-rare to medium), with some light Caribbean jerk seasoning that gave it a bit of punch. The chicken was grilled well, moist, and really locked in a lot of that BBQ flavor (probably from a marinade). The cilantro mixed with the spicy Thai sauce rounded out the whole bowl with a savory kick, coupled with some subtle peanut flavors. I tell you, it was so good that I probably could have devoured a whole second bowl with no effort at all.

What started as a search for a vegetarian-friendly restaurant ended up being one of the more flavorful meals that I’ve had in a little while. Even as the fast-casual restaurant concept is starting to get adopted more and more these days, Bolay does a great job of keeping things fresh by bringing out the best of the ingredients they use. All the flavors inside my food complimented each other seamlessly for a really complete and satisfying meal. Although I’m a little sad inside that there are no Bolay locations closer to Melbourne, I am certainly looking forward to my next opportunity at stopping in for some delicious food.

Let’s now take a look at the Bolay Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended combinations.

** Caribbean Spiced Steak & BBQ Chicken Large Bowl **
Peruvian quinoa and Moroccan basmati rice, topped with smoky cauliflower, balsamic mushrooms, Caribbean-spiced steak, and BBQ chicken, garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and spicy Thai peanut sauce.

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And finally, here are my rankings for Bolay:

Food: 5 / 5

Bolay’s food certainly epitomizes the “fresh” and “bold” characteristics from its restaurant slogan. With such an eclectic array of options on the menu, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a combination you don’t like. I could eat here every day and be a happy camper.

Atmosphere: 4 / 5

The dining area of the place was a pretty good size, with a combination of tables and booths. Ample lighting provided a nice, bright environment, which are aided by the full-sized glass windows that comprise of the front of the restaurant. The open kitchen in the back also allowed for aromas from the grill to drift around the dining area.

Service: 4.5 / 5

The restaurant staff was very accommodating to our first time being at the restaurant and happily answered any questions we had as we were pondering what to get. Even after we finished our bowls and lingered at the table chatting,  a staff member came by the table and asked if she could help dispose of our finished containers.

Price: 5 / 5

I really think that both the hearty amount of food coupled with the diverse flavor profiles that you could customize together offers a real bang for your buck. A large bowl normally runs you $10, but since I had upgraded to a “premium protein” (the Caribbean spiced steak), that added an extra $2. Absolutely did not regret that decision one bit.

Overall:
18.5 / 20
(93%)

Bolay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato