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Now that it's officially fall, I bet you're craving the kind of food that will keep you fortified throughout a nail-biter of a football game stuff like pork schnitzel, chicken paprikash or a mustardy pork shank.
Fortunately, Trestle Tavern has just the sort of stout fare, along with craft brews, that will warm you during the cold, dark months ahead. And the price point spread is in your favor.
The owners of Trestle Tavern, Scott Evans (who also owns Pago, East Liberty Tap House, Finca, and Hub and Spoke) and Jameel Gaskins, envisioned a casual neighborhood bar with "Bohemian-inspired" food. They moved into the small space formerly occupied by Fresco and remodeled it with dark floors and wood tables. The name, according to the restaurant's website, pays homage to Utah's native trestle wood, while the menu stems from Evans' Czech heritage.
Evans and Gaskins figured they could satisfy the hitherto unknown secret craving in Salt Lake County for Eastern European cuisine, which isn't easy to find. The Bohemian Bar and Grill in Midvale offers some of the same dishes, but its menu is much broader than what you'll find at Trestle, which is more of a boutique Bohemian eatery. As with other members of the Pago Restaurant Group, there's an emphasis on locally sourced products.
The ingredients definitely are high quality, but you've got to have an appreciation for root vegetables and cabbage to really love this cuisine, although the menu is varied enough to allow you to avoid them. But why would you? Cabbage is good for you! It's low in calories and supplies almost half of your daily vitamin C requirement. And kohlrabi? It provides a whopping 140 percent.
I note this because the Trestle menu offers two variations on cabbage rolls ($6), one with meat, the other without. I tried the version with beef mixed with arborio rice and chopped carrot, dressed with dill cream (the meatless offers mushrooms). It was tasty enough, although the beef was rather scant and the cabbage around it was semi-crisp, which made it seem healthier than the limp boiled rolls of my youth.
The rolls are part of the small-plates menu, which also features a jar of brie chunks seasoned with roasted garlic, olive oil and a good amount of paprika ($6). It comes with a good amount of grilled rye bread that you can use as a base for your cheese or to dip in the seasoned oil. It's a nice dish to have with drinks, and hearty enough to share for up to four people.
My favorite small plate is the smoked trout cakes (three for $8). Inside the crisply fried exterior is a dense, moist filling with a delicate fish flavor, enhanced by strands of picked fennel and a spoonful of roasted pepper aoli. It's hearty enough for a light dinner when paired with a salad.
The beet and fennel salad ($9) is the best of the bunch, although I hoped to find more beets nestled among the kale. It's dressed with a subtly flavored hazelnut cream vinaigrette that complemented the vegetables well, although I wanted more of that, too. The cucumber salad ($7) wasn't a hit at my table because no one in the kitchen took the trouble to cut the cuke chunks into a manageable size. They required a lot of cutting, which distracted me from the surprise of mildly spicy pickled peppers, a nice contrast to the bland house cheese nestled among the cherry tomatoes.
The grilled romaine salad ($9) is also oversized, certainly enough for two unless you plan on making it a meal. I'm not a fan of grilled greens, but this salad won me over because the romaine was still crunchy enough to withstand a luscious gorgonzola vinaigrette. Potatoes, tomatoes and crispy rye crackers combine to make this a hearty vegetarian option.
Pierogies, small crescent-shaped dumplings that are a classic of Eastern European cuisine, come in four varieties here, three to an order. The pork and napa cabbage ($12) version was my favorite, tender outside and redolent with the smoky meat tucked inside. The potato and horseradish pierogies ($10) were unexpectedly bland, with just a hint of horseradish flavor. Still on my list to try are dumplings filled with farmer's cheese and sweet onion jam ($8), the only variation that is deep-fried as opposed to pan-fried.
Meal-sized fare consists of sandwiches and half a dozen entrées. I loved the pork schnitzel sandwich ($12) because it combined so many flavors: crisply fried flattened pork, ham, havarti cheese, dill pickles and mustard. The burger ($10) is also excellent, topped with romaine, tomato and a perky spread flavored by picked vegetables and dill. It's best cooked medium, as your server will likely suggest. We asked for medium rare, which came out on the raw side, but still edible.
All of the sandwiches (which also include a grilled sausage with sauerkraut for $10 and paprikash chicken for $12) come with very good house-cut french fries.
Dinner entrées, which are available only after 5 p.m., range from a chicken or mushroom paprikash ($16 and $15) to short ribs ($16), beef goulash ($14) and a pork shank ($14). They are served in reasonable portions that won't leave you feeling stuffed. The shank is a tender, bone-in cut, perched on a bed of sliced potatoes and cabbage, all of it soaking in a seed-studded mustard sauce. It was all the classic elements of this cuisine in one perfectly balanced package, even though the meat was a tad dry.
The goulash was almost its equal, although not as flavorful as the pork. But the kohlrabi-carrot slaw and seasoning were spot on and the spaetzle tender.
You're sure to find a craft beer among the menu of more than two dozen that will complement any dish, whether your taste runs to pilsner, ale or stout. There's even a cider on draft, although it wasn't available on one visit. Servers can be helpful in making a recommendation on beer or the 20 or so wines that are listed. If you bring your own, corkage is $10 per bottle.
Trestle Tavern also offers a small selection of cocktails, which are made in a small outbuilding dubbed the "Zion shack" after the so-called "Zion Curtain," which requires restaurants to mix cocktails out of sight of customers. The small cottage is adjacent to the patio, which is a lovely place to dine when the weather is fine.
A couple of things to know: Trestle Tavern does not take reservations, and since it's rather small, you might have to wait. And it can be exceedingly noisy. On a recent Thursday night, when the place was almost full, we could hardly converse with our server. I hope some soundproofing measures are in the works.
One thing I do know is in the works is weekend brunch, due to launch later this month. Check the restaurant website for an exact date and menu.
While I was sad to see Fresco go, Trestle Tavern is a different, fun alternative. I'm eager to go back and try some new things, or eat the burger or pork sandwich again.
Maybe before that next football game, especially if it's expected to be a nail-biter.
Food • HHhj
Mood • HH
Service • HHhj
Noise • bbbb
Trestle Tavern, which opened this summer in the space formerly occupied by Fresco, is a good fit for the 15th and 15th neighborhood. The menu offers classic Eastern European cuisine, from pierogies to goulash, in a casual setting. Best bets include the pork and cabbage pierogies, trout cakes, pork schnitzel sandwich and the pork shank. If it's available, try the Spanish cider on draft.
Location • 1513 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Online • trestletavern.com
Hours • Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; dinner nightly, 5-10
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$
Liquor • Beer, wine, limited cocktails
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes (enter from east side)
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Limited
Credit cards • Yes