Dining out: Hires Big H

Published: Friday, Feb. 20 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

MIDVALE — The one bad thing about Valentine's Day, in the view of a person with three young daughters, is its unfortunate placement — smack-dab in the middle of cold-and-flu season.

When these two events come together, as they did last week for our family, there is no dining out on Valentine's Day. Instead, there's heating up frozen pot pies, scrounging for leftovers and wondering if the supply of Kleenex will hold out.

By Monday night, with the kids a bit better but still contagious, and my husband and I so dazed by lack of sleep that we didn't trust ourselves around the stove, things had reached a desperate condition. Get a baby-sitter, you say? Not a chance. Drop the kids off at grandma and grandpa's? Can't. They don't live within a 1,000-mile radius.

So, we chose a cross between dinner at Mom's, dining out and takeout: Carhop service at Hires Big H.

Many valley residents take Hires for granted. Like Mom's house, Hires is always glad to see us, and there's always something good to eat. There are reasons Hires has attained this place in our hearts, and they were on display Monday.

First, there's the service. Whether you dine in or go carhop, the service is generally swift, cheerful and thorough. Appearing less than a minute after we pulled up, our carhop took our order for dinner and dessert but said she'd hold off bringing dessert until we flashed our headlights. As soon as we did, she was there with our freshly made shakes and banana split.

Then there's the food. It's just great. Pick any burger on the menu, and you'll receive a hot, well-cooked patty of chuck that is ground fresh on the premises. The beef is bonded to the soft and floury buns — procured from a local bakery — with melted cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and additional toppings that range from bacon and ham to pastrami and Roquefort dressing.

My husband had the Big H, a quarter-pound patty with lettuce, tomato, cheese and "Super Sauce," a thick and tangy version of fry sauce. A wonderful alchemy occurs with a really good burger, in which it becomes much more than the sum of its parts. You'll reach this nirvana biting into a Big H.

Even if you don't like burgers, Hires has you covered. I tried the cranberry oven-roasted turkey sandwich, which, despite its Thanksgiving ingredients, tasted sweet and summery. Like most of Hires' offerings, it's simple: cold sliced turkey, lettuce, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce. And, again like everything else, the quality of the ingredients makes it shine.

I've enjoyed other goodies from the non-burger side of the menu: hot dogs split lengthwise, grilled and topped with spicy chili and cheese; meaty, crispy deep-fried halibut; a great BLT.

Whatever you get, you must have fries with it. They're the standard by which I measure all others: skin-on, hand-cut and fried to a brown crispness. They're salty and tender and just greasy enough to be sinfully delicious.

There are other delights to be had. Batter-dipped onion rings, creamy-spicy root beer, thick-and-creamy shakes and flavored sodas. The root beer floats are delectable, and you can get caffeine-free Coke off the fountain.

I did try one new thing Monday night — the banana split. It's a large, sweet banana, split lengthwise, heaped with vanilla ice cream and slathered with my choice of toppings, which on this night were strawberry, hot fudge and caramel sauces, finished off with whipped cream, sliced almonds and maraschino cherries. It was a fine sight, and, like everything else on the menu at Hires Big H, tasted as good as it looked.

Burgers, $1.85-$4.95; sandwiches, $2.55-$4.75; soups, $2.55-$3.45; salads, $2.95-$4.95; entrees, $6.05-$6.45; kids' meals, $3.25; desserts, 65 cents-$3.65.


Rating: *** 1/2

Where: 425 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City (364-4582);

835 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale (561-2171);

2900 W. 4700 South, West Valley City (965-1010)

Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (open until 11 p.m. June-August); closed Sunday

Payment: In-state checks, credit cards

Reservations: None

Web: www.hiresbigh.com


Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News.

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