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Dining out: Mimi's Cafe

Published: Friday, June 23 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

MURRAY — The best thing about our recent family dinner at Mimi's Cafe — and, believe me, this is saying a lot — happened after something went wrong.
As we munched appetizers and waited for our meals, a manager approached. She explained that there was something amiss with the chicken pot pie my husband ordered. She offered to make another one, but told us it would take half an hour and explained that my entree was ready and waiting. She offered to substitute anything else on the menu. He decided on the pot roast, and it — and my meal — arrived moments later.
We ate our meals, my husband remarking several times as he forked in the meltingly tender beef, gently savory smashed potatoes and sauteed veggies that probably he should just have ordered this meal in the first place. We had dessert and were just leaning back, thinking seriously of some belt-loosening, when our waitress arrived with the bill, which had $0.00 listed as the amount due.
"We made a mistake, so it's all on us," she explained.
In looking back at our dinner at Mimi's, I don't know which strikes me more: the superlative customer service embodied in the staff's response to our problem, or the fact that it's so rare at restaurants of any kind these days.
But that's not all Mimi's has going for it.
The New Orleans-themed restaurant, which recently revamped its menu and opened its 100th store, is not your typical chain. There's loving attention paid both to the food and to the diners. It's clean. It's got a cozy, chatty, almost European vibe. It's got an excellent kids' menu. It is, in short, the best a person has a right to expect from a mid-priced restaurant — and, in many ways, Mimi's puts more "upscale" places to shame.
On being seated, we quickly received our drinks and a basket of sweet, dark fruit bread and a crusty mini-baguette. We also had the "jazz fest," a combo appetizer consisting of rich, oozy spinach-and-artichoke dip with bread and tortilla chips; panko-breaded chicken tenders with ranch and buffalo sauces; and long planks of deep-fried but firm and juicy zucchini coated with parmesan.
I also had to try a cup of the French-market onion soup, which arrived with a thick, melted drape of cheese on top of toasted bread, with a silky beef broth full of sweet, translucent sliced onions.
The kids had more than a dozen choices but went with the "oodles of noodles," which they had both plain and with chunky, housemade marinara sauce.
Then there were our meals. My husband's pot roast was so good I would have been sad I hadn't ordered it if I wasn't so enjoying my own meal, the jumbo spinach tortellini. This seasonal item is veggie heaven, huge, tender tortellini in a light basil pesto cream sauce, heaped with sauteed asparagus, yellow squash and artichoke hearts, with fresh diced tomatoes and romano cheese on top.
We both had garden salads, which were fresh and topped with a variety of veggies, though not quite up to the standard of the rest of the meal.
For dessert the kids had "worms in dirt" pudding cups that came with their meals, while my husband, Mr. "It's Not Dessert If It's Not Chocolate," had the triple-chocolate brownie. This is an overwhelming dessert, more than big enough for two (or three) people to share, with two six-inch wedges of firm brownie standing guard over a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a pool of caramel and chocolate sauces. Needless to say, one brownie wedge went home with us.
I had the bananas-foster mud pie, a wonderful fusion of these two classic Southern desserts. It's a giant slice of creamy, rich banana-vanilla swirl ice cream studded with pockets of soft caramel and candied pecans on a firm but crumbly graham-cracker crust. It's topped with an explosion of whipped cream, with sliced fresh bananas and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Like the rest of the meal, just plain yummy — and I'd say so even if I had had to pay for it!
Appetizers $5.99-$9.99, small bites $4.29-$7.99, sandwiches and burgers $5.99-$8.99, salads and wraps $6.99-$12.99, entrees $9.59-$14.99, kids' meals $3.99-$4.59, desserts $4.99.

Rating: *** 1/2
Where: 5223 S. State, Murray (other locations in Sandy, Layton and Orem)
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Payment: checks, major credit cards accepted
Reservations: accepted
Phone: 261-0266
Web: www.mimiscafe.com
Wheelchair access: easy (some parts of the dining room are more crowded than others)


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News.


E-mail: skratz@desnews.com

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