Rich Shellene deploys the personal touch at his downtown dining spot, Rich's Mighty Fine Burgers and Grub.
He greets customers, joking with them as they dine, and jovially trains his staff: "OK, let's get those napkin dispensers filled!" "Always keep this area clean. Always!"
This ease with the public is perhaps natural considering how Rich's got started, as a cart serving up specialty burgers to hungry downtown lunch crowds. The restaurant is basically an extension of the cart's quick and casual ethic, except that customers can dine comfortably on site while enjoying photos depicting old-timey Salt Lake City and Rich's days working the cart.
But I haven't even mentioned the burgers yet, and that is a real oversight, considering their quality and sheer fabulousness. Readers of this column know that I have been as thrilled as anyone with the proliferation of burger restaurants in Utah, and Rich's takes a place near the top of the short list that comprises my favorite places to get a burger.
When my husband, son and I had lunch at Rich's on a recent weekday, the place was hopping the whole time we were there, adding to the restaurant's fresh and energetic vibe.
My husband, who had visited Rich's before, considered the steak sandwich and the cheesesteak, both favorites of his, but he just couldn't stop himself from ordering the bacon cheeseburger, generously topped with cheese, thick-cut bacon and "Rich's sauce," and served in perhaps the finest bun I have ever had with a burger: firm, flavorful, but not intrusive, it was a perfect foil for the goodness contained between its two halves.
I had the Maui BBQ burger, topped with grilled pineapple, bacon and Rich's own spicy barbecue sauce. It took me right back to my February vacation in Hawaii, where I ate a very similar burger at a restaurant overlooking the ocean in Lahaina, Maui.
There were two major differences between that burger and the one at Rich's. I ate the first burger in paradise, and despite that, the burger at Rich's was better: better meat more nicely seared, thicker pineapple, higher-quality bacon and wonderful, finger-licking sauce.
Watching me, my husband said, "You must really like that!" because I ate so fast and, I admit it, so much.
After all, I had my burger in a combo meal, so it came with some of Rich's excellent skin-on French fries. Besides that, I couldn't resist trying the sautéed zucchini, tender pieces of squash gently browned and liberally seasoned with a spicy kick.
Frankly, it's hard to say no to any of Rich's sides, which also include fried green beans and coleslaw.
There's no kids' meal as such, but our son was happy with his meal of three huge, amazingly tender and flavorful pieces of crisp-breaded chicken breast, served with fries and dipping sauce. It was a big portion, so he shared it with his sisters later.
For dessert, we shared a couple of enormous, sweet and cakey chocolate brownies with nice chewy edges.
Burgers and sandwiches $6.45-$7.45, baskets and other entrees $3.50-$7.95, sides $1.85-$2.95, desserts $2-$3.65.
Rich's Mighty Fine Burgers and Grub
Where: 30 E. 300 South
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; closed Sunday
Also: Lunch delivery available 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; catering available
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. e-mail: email@example.com