It's hard to see how a place like Front End Grill can make it, but I hope it does — and the completion of the new viaduct over the railroad tracks at North Temple will help a lot.
Right now, Front End Grill is the very definition of off the beaten path: To get there from downtown, a diner has to drive up to 600 North, turn west, and make a couple more turns to come to the modest diner on the ground floor of a small office building directly west of the railroad tracks.
Don't even get me started on how we got back with a train blocking the tracks — suffice it to say, it involved a few trips through parking lots and finding ourselves on I-15 South.
However, once the viaduct is finished, things will be a lot easier: Diners can sail over from the south and come straight up 500 or 600 West. Then, it will be much easier to enjoy Front End Grill's simple, straightforward and tasty American diner classics.
The decor at Front End Grill is just what you'd expect at a diner — lots of cars, red Naugahyde booths, spinning red-topped barstools and an expanse of stainless steel sheeting with that cool quilted effect. Incidentally, it's also amazingly cheap, spotlessly clean and, aside from the TV playing at a low volume on one wall, nice and quiet.
The menu continues the theme: The dishes have names like "57 Chevy" (a Denver omelet), White Walls (two scones) and the like. I particularly enjoyed the names of the Internal Combustion (stuffed jalapeños) and the Backfire Burger, which is topped with chili.
We showed up less than an hour from closing time, when the place was essentially being run by one guy. I worried that, between our group of three and the half-dozen other customers in the diner at the time, we'd never see our food.
But through some miracle, he took orders, rushed back to the kitchen and produced the food with a wait only slightly longer than I'd normally have expected.
We started with a plate of onion rings to share, a great portion size for two or three diners to get their appetites going without getting too full.
Good rings, too: lightly breaded, well-crisped and sweetly tender inside.
My husband had the Dipstick Sandwich, a French dip with lean sliced roast beef bonded to a substantial sub roll with melted Swiss cheese, with a pot of savory au jus for dipping. With it, he had fries that looked and tasted just like McDonalds' — that's a compliment. I've always thought McD's fries tasted of crisped potato, salt and nothing else.
Our little boy took a while mulling over the kids menu, which features several breakfast selections plus a nice long list of kid favorites like corn dogs, chicken and burgers. He went with the silver dollar pancakes, a steal at three bucks, especially once they arrived and were more the diameter of softballs. He got a lot of good eating out of those pancakes, and so did his dad.
I went with the breakfast side of the menu, ordering up a 57 Chevy. It arrived nicely sized and plump with fillings of cubed grilled ham, onions and green peppers, plus lashings of shredded cheddar cheese.
On the side, I had country potatoes, grilled to what Alton Brown calls "golden brown and delicious" with lots of salt and spices. I don't know where you come down with regard to hash browns, but I like mine best with lots of onions, and these had none. However, they were tasty, despite that minor flaw. I also had a plate of sourdough toast, thick-cut and well-buttered, with grape jelly.
We planned to have a shake for dessert, but we were too full, and time was going by, and we really didn't have any idea exactly how we'd get back to my husband's office. We'll have to save it for next time, and I look forward to it.
Breakfast items $3.25-$7.25, breakfast sides 99 cents-$2.95, appetizers
$3.50, lunch items $5.25-$7.50, soups and salad $3.25-$6.50, desserts
$1.20-$3.50, kids' breakfast $3-$3.75, kids' lunch $2.85-$5.75.
Front End Grill
Where: 510 W. 200 North, Salt Lake City
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Sunday
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Accessible
Also: Breakfast available all day; plans to expand to dinner service soon