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Hotel Utah
500 4th Street/Bryant, SF, CA
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Pretrial hearing at our table
12/11/01

Turner

It's not often that you'll find the Füd Court judges in a bar, but when you do, you can expect them to be hankering for some grub. Luckily, The Hotel Utah is serving it up. I think The Hotel Utah is actually a hotel, in some way, but mostly it's a fine old saloon and nightclub.

But now you can get some REAL GOOD bar food there. Not that you couldn't before, but now it's better. Gourmet bar food, if you will. Pretty much worthy of a trip there in and of itself.

We ordered a bunch of stuff to share, which fulfilled our fat gram requirements for about a week. But it was tasty. We had the Bona Fide French Fries ($3), which were good, perhaps not as crispy as I prefer. And then there were the "Meeting House" biscuits and gravy ($3), which were real, real good. Super buttery, greasy, little biscuits, and nice cream gravy with sausage bits. Almost as good as my mom's. And the Beer-Battered Fried Green Beans ($5), which rocked, were Tempura-style crispy sweet treats. Get those, for sure.

We also got the Macaroni and Cheese ($5), which was good, but frankly a little lacking in cheesy gooey goodness. Still, it was nice, with the pasta shells and the bread crumbs and various cheeses, which seemed to settle toward the bottom. Finally, we split up the Niman Ranch Burger with the cheese and the bacon ($7.50). Real proper burger, there, on a tasty bun with gourmet lettuces and so forth. Top-notch.

About the best bar food I've had outside of the righteous fish and chips, so I recommend it. The addition of serious gourmet bar food makes The Hotel Utah twice as attractive as it was before.

 

Vardigan

In the culinarily challenging South of Market, the Hotel Utah's revamped menu has given a spark to the lunch scene. What I wasn't sure about was dinner. Whether they serve it at all, I mean. I kept the other judges in suspense until finally using the telephone to find out. "We serve dinner as late as people want to eat it," I was told. "That's quite a pleasing answer," I replied.

And dinner pleased the judges. The Ute is a fine watering hole to begin with, especially in the saloon-starved SOMA area. Their addition of classy bar füd kicks it up another notch. The new eats are overseen by Ask Andy's old boss from the Meeting House, a respected high-end restaurant far from South of Market. You can taste this in items like the Niman Ranch Beef Burger, which checks in at six bucks, seven with bacon. Applewood smoked bacon, to be precise, and I suggest you add it. I would gladly eat my sock with that bacon on it. Or inside it. The burger was great.

French fries, three bucks, were not as good as the batch I had at lunch, but they were quite tasty anyway. If you get the famous Meeting House biscuits (Ask Andy how they make them) with gravy, you can dip the fries in the gravy. Wet fries. Hell yes. I suggest you go there after work. Soon. One warning: If there's music that night, you may be asked to pay. We had to bring down the gavels a bit early and leave the room in order to slip the cover charge. So, maybe call ahead, or be sure you don't linger too long over drinks before getting on with the füd.

 

McClure

At the Utah you'll find pub grub at its finest. Nothing overly fancy but some nice surprises. The atmosphere is casual. You order at the bar and either eat there or they will hunt you down and serve you at a table. We decided to order a mess of vittles and share the lot, something we don't often do. It definitely made for a nice variety to sample. So here we go...

You want something deep fried of course, so you must try the beer-battered fried green beans with lemon mayonnaise for dippin'($5). Not something you find every day and they almost seem healthy somehow. The bona fide french fries ($3) are great, fresh-cut potatoes, fried to perfection. The macaroni and cheese was nothing special, not cheesy enough for my liking and nothing remarkable about the cheese flavor-wise. A real treat was "The Meetinghouse" biscuits and sausage gravy ($3). What a bargain, four small biscuits with a really delicious gravy, creamy-smooth with nice bits of sausage, perfect for dipping the fried foods in.

Finally, the burger, a nice-sized Niman Ranch beef burger ($6) with Utah special sauce (to be honest, never did figure out what that was). Add some cheese ($.50) and while you're at it slap on some Applewood smoked bacon ($1). Altogether it comes out to one mighty fine tasting burger. All the items seemed to be freshly prepared and made it to the table piping hot. The Utah is not big on "restaurant" service. While the folks are friendly, once you get your meal you probably won't see them again until you track 'em down at the bar to pay your bill. Also, be sure you get there before the cover charge hits for the band that may be playing, unless of course that's why you're headed there in the first place. I recommend you pop into the Hotel Utah for a snack or a meal, grab a beer and enjoy.

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