Like some immigrants or refugees, Avenues Bistro on Third has had a tumultuous past. Avenuians could not wrap their head around a true neighborhood café and bar, which led to legal complications with said neighbors, and then the city and state governments got involved. But, hey, like many refugees, we don’t want to dwell on the past… now, under new ownership, the future is so much brighter!
The mildly remodeled space is both urban and homey. Books on the window sills and kitschy wallpaper are juxtaposed with steel countertops and a vibrant open kitchen. It is warm and comfortable, and it made us want to linger longer.
Chef Steven Garner, who we have followed around through the Utah foodscape, was helming the kitchen each of the three times we went in the last month. How he does it, we have no idea. More importantly, why he does it, is even more baffling. In a place with such abundance, our community has very little respect for what these chefs are doing. This restaurant is not only sourcing local (someone really needs to start a rating system on these catchphrases, bandied readily like politicians promises), but it’s also incredibly seasonal. As in, so seasonal that within those three visits the menu changed each time. So, use this review as a guide, don’t expect the beef marrow to be there tomorrow.
Speaking of beef marrow, it’s one of those dishes that has unfortunately gone out of style. The last time we saw it on a menu was at Copper Common, probably six years ago. It’s like kidney and liver plates that our grandfather ate: a lot of nutrients, but flavors that are a bit funky. Cooked properly, as at Avenues Bistro on Third, bone marrow becomes buttery and nutty. Poke it through the bone, spread it on bread, and you are in the old world, feeling like a king.
Want something a little more familiar? Order the Bistro Burger. Perfectly cooked Akaushi (American) Wagyu is served medium with a caramelized crust and salt and pepper. It’s topped with a bounty of sweet caramelized onions, gooey Beehive Cheddar, lettuce, and tomato. On the side, a basket of (OMG) homemade fries with aioli. Yes, it’s $19, and worth every penny: this is one of the best burgers we’ve ever had.
I always chastise Steve for ordering Mac and Cheese when we are out. His Mac and Cheese is the best bar none. When we order it out, this overtly uncomplicated dish seems to exasperate talented chefs. “And yet, he persisted.” I think part of it is his own competitiveness — wanting to make sure his M&C is the best. Well, Avenues Bistro on Third gives Steve’s recipe a run for its money. It’s certainly the best attempt outside our home. Elbow macaroni meets Beehive Cheddar, garano padano, and garlic cream — simple. Mac and Cheese should be luscious and fill your spirits — this rendering does just that.
We (unfortunately) did not try the frog legs (how often do you see that on a Utah menu). Luckily, a friend ordered the Olympia Provisions Frankfurter Corn Dog. Um, out of place, strange, and intriguing? Yes, yes, yes. Order as a starter, or even dessert, but definitely order this strange homemade corn dog served over a bit of arugula (merely for color) and served with a honey grain mustard dipping sauce. A crunchy corn breading coats a local wiener. (There has to be a joke in there). It was wonderful, it was familiar, it tasted like childhood. Only better.
We’ve been reviewing restaurants for a few years now, and this is one of the best offerings we have written about. Please visit them this fall, enjoy the patio embraced with tall sunflowers, or inside with the glow and smells of the kitchen at your back. Relax refugee, you are home.