Dining out: Tin Roof Grill

Published: Friday, Jan. 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

They're trying to do something really fine at Tin Roof Grill, and they're succeeding.

This newish gem in the Salt Lake Valley restaurant scene is practically miraculous, considering the superb handmade quality of the food, the knowledgeable and enthusiastic service and the fact that no item on the tapas-rich menu costs more than $10.

I don't know how they're doing it, but I know this: This restaurant should be packed every day, at all hours.

We took our kids for dinner at Tin Roof Grill on a quiet weeknight and enjoyed the open dining space with two huge, cushy red banquettes in opposing corners, four flat-screen TVs over the bar and an appealing mix of music from the past 40 years playing in the background.

Tapas, better known to many of us as appetizers or "small plates" of various shareable foods, is a nice choice for family dining — or for groups of grown-ups — because you can just buy a bunch of dishes and let everybody graze.

That's what we did. We all liked the chewy housemade flat bread, crisped on the outside and served with fresh, earthy basil pesto, tangy-bitter olive tapenade and mellow white bean puree for dipping.

Even better was the little dish of six meatballs, made with beef, pork and pine nuts and resting steamy-hot under layers of marinara and melted cheese; and the beautifully authentic pot stickers with soy-ginger sauce and a little pile of crunchy, aromatic Asian coleslaw.

We also had patatas bravas, Tin Roof's version of French fries: potato wedges with delicious, frites-like crispness on the outside and tenderness within. They came with housemade garlic aioli and slightly spicy tomato sauce.

The kids gobbled every bit of tapas and were still hungry, so they shared a meat pizza, a crisp-crusted oblong of tomato sauce, cheese, meatballs, sausage and pepperoni. It was surprisingly large considering its modest $7.99 price tag, and we took four pieces home to eat later.

My husband had one of the night's specials, the pasta carbonara. It wasn't, strictly speaking, true carbonara — that's bacon pieces cooked and poured hot over pasta, into which eggs are then cracked and mixed, forming a sauce.

But the rich, milky Alfredo sauce over orecchiette pasta with lots of ham and mushrooms was in the spirit of the original and deliciously enjoyable.

I had the other special, a sampler plate of two chicken and rosemary croquettes, two flamenquines of rolled pork and two chicken wings, with Asian slaw on the side. The tender croquettes, coated in super-crisp panko breadcrumbs, were mellow and nicely herbed, and the flamenquines, similarly breaded, were rich and meaty without being overbearing.

But the wings were my biggest surprise. I don't like most wings, and I ordered this meal in spite of them. But these were real wings — the whole thing, from shoulder to tip, smoked in-house, grilled and coated in dark, spicy barbecue sauce. They looked beautiful, and they tasted even better.

For dessert we shared two housemade cheesecakes, a beautiful basic New York and another slice with chocolate swirled through it. But my favorite dessert was the warm chocolate cake, firm on the outside and steamy-soft inside, barely sweet and deeply chocolatey and topped with a generous ladle of melted ganache.

Tapas and small plates $2.99-$9.99, salads $2.79-$9.29, sandwiches $5.79-$8.79, pasta and noodles $4.99-$9.99, pizza $5.69-$7.99, dessert about $3-$4.

Rating: ★★★1/2

Where: 9284 S. 700 East, Sandy

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 566-5226

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., showing NFL Sunday Ticket in season.

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-MAIL: skratz@desnews.com

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