Most restaurants have some personality, but too often it's overlaid by a corporate blandness, as if the heavy hand of a restaurant designer had swept over the place, blurring distinctiveness and style.
Luckily, there are places like the delightful Tin Angel Cafe, whose personality seems as organic as its baby salad greens.
Tin Angel it's in the little 400 South structure that once housed Wild Mushroom Pizza wears its heart on its sleeve, earnestly claiming on the menu to "seek out local and/or organic products whenever possible. Many of our suppliers are right in the neighborhood or a short bike ride away" (and, to be sure, there was a basketed bike parked out back).
Our server told me a local metalworker made the tin angels adorning the restaurant's sign and, in a bit of metal-saving thriftiness, used the same sheet for the smaller versions that adorn many tables. The grassroots mentality extends to music acts and visual artists, the former performing weekly at Tin Angel and the latter showing their work in the restaurant's funky, colorful inside rooms. (Up now, Justin Angelos' small-scale "100 Pieces in 100 Days"; coming soon, Cat Palmer's photography.)
The food, too, is approachable, despite the fine-dining accoutrements. We started with the organic-chicken skewers, simple and delicious with meat marinated in herbs, garlic and olive oil, with rich lemon aioli for dipping.
It's not on the menu, but five bucks will buy the kids Tin Angel cheese pizza or plates of pasta dressed with butter or cheese. Two of our daughters had noodles, while the other chose from the regular menu the spinach-and-fontina soup, a bright-green and creamy brew in which the spinach lent bracing bitterness to the rich cheese.
Incidentally, children are made welcome at Tin Angel, which has cool metal-mesh high chairs, lidded cups and servers who seem to think kids are fun. The menu also contains items, such as the chicken skewers and a three-cheese baguette, that could be shared among a couple of small ones.
We sat at a long table on the outdoor patio, which is covered with a corrugated metal awning that made me think it would be fun to eat there on a rainy evening.
My husband had the special, a barbecued-beef sandwich with piles of shredded meat and caramelized onions cemented to a baguette with provolone cheese. With it, he had the excellent potato salad, big pieces of red-skin potato in a dijon-mustard dressing.
I wanted the sage-and-roast chicken pasta, but considering the hot day went instead for the refreshing vegetarian-mushroom baguette. This squooshy sandwich featured roasted crimini mushrooms and red peppers spread with fresh, tangy goat cheese that acted sort of like mayonnaise, plus fresh arugula on top. On the side I had Tin Angel's house salad, organic spring greens with more goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries and aromatic blackberry vinaigrette.Comment on this story
For dessert, we hoovered up a mild, chocolate-coated torte in a pool of berry puree, plus (my favorite) a chocolate bread pudding, with chunks of solid chocolate lurking within the tender bread pieces and a sweetly caramelized top.Appetizers $6-$9, salads $4-$8, sandwiches (available 11 a.m.-3 p.m.) $7-$10, soup $4-$6, entrees (available 5-9 p.m.) $16-$19, pasta $9-$14, kids' meals $5, dessert $5.
Rating: *** 1/2
Where: 365 W. 400 South
Hours: Monday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday (including Saturday brunch) 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 5-9 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org