Location is obviously more important to a restaurant's success than the glowing words of a restaurant critic. Within the past few years of a volatile restaurant marketplace, I have praised places that closed in part because the dining public could not find them - El Patio, the only Salvadoran place in town; Sagano, an extension in Bountiful of the wonderful Kyoto; and Brazilian Brothers, another one-of-a-kind eatery smothered on Salt Lake's Main Street.
I was also saddened when the Restaurant Newport in Foothill Village closed this past year, perhaps due, in part, to its location above the block of stores at the south end of one of the city's most unusual parking lots - part maze and part concrete ski run.When we noticed that the new tenant, Dean's Hungry I, was opening a second location in addition to its less upscale but successful site on South State, I wondered how a medium-priced Greek restaurant would survive with neighbors as diverse as JB's and the Upper Crust, both considerably easier to find.
Based on our recent weekend dinner, the Hungry I is definitely worth a visit The atmosphere is relaxed with a certain sophisticated informality. Large watercolors hang about the pastel interior; an ebony baby grand piano anchors one side of the dining room. Tables and raised booths afford comfortable seating.
The menu reflects a similar vein. While the Greek specialties, including souvlaki kabobs and gyros, are familiar though at first glance, somewhat pricy (the gyro platter is $7.95), diners soon recognize that this is hardly eat-and-run fare. Included with the Hungry I plate, along with either a hefty gyro with cucumber sauce or a souvlaki of juicy charbroiled chunks of marinated pork and vegetables, are a rich Greek minestrone soup, dinner salad, sauteed vegetables and choice of curly fries, homemade onion rings or Greek-style red potatoes. We also appreciated an order of Pierre's crusty French bread, served with an herb dunking sauce of olive oil, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.
Two of the other entrees were also impressive. One of the nightly specials ($13.95), Greek pasta covered with an asiago cheese sauce loaded with chunks of scallops, king crab legs (still in the shell to distinguish it from the ersatz "krab"), crunchy vegetables and sauteed mushrooms, was nicely prepared and redolent with herbs.
Other specials included tenderloin steak with sweet and sour shrimp ($14.95) and sole with pesto sauce.
A regularly offered dinner entree gave us more of a sense of the roots of the kitchen. The Greek Combo ($11.95) included four meat-filled dolmathes, a tasty though somewhat soggy spanakopita, and slices of leg of lamb covered with a mild augolemono (lemon and egg) sauce. A medley of sauteed green and yellow zucchini along with the wonderful Greek-style red potatoes completed the platter.
We also appreciated the care taken with the dinner salad, served in a large bowl for the four of us. It consisted of green leaf lettuce, chunks of sweet Bermuda onion, tiny bay shrimp, Greek olives, green and sweet peppers, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, bits of feta, all tossed with a sprightly herb vinaigrette.
Other dinner selections include Zeus's platter ($9.95 or $10.95) with a combination of souvlaki and gyro; Mykonos pasta ($11.95), tossed with chicken breast, scallops, fresh basil, garlic, zucchini, with lemon juice and olive oil; Seafood Homer, fresh catch of the day with augolemono sauce; Steak Athenian ($12.95), rib-eye steak marinated in garlic and olive oil and mesquite grilled with onions and peppers; Prime rib ($13.95), slow cooked Iowa beef; leg of lamb ($10.95); El Greco pizza ($8.95), topped with Greek sausage, artichoke hearts, feta and saganaki cheese; baby back ribs; chicken kabobs ($8.95); and either Greek style baked chicken or Southern style barbecue ($8.95).
Other specialties include calamari, marithes (pan-fried smelts), cheese and steak, pastrami, or cornbeef sandwiches. Early bird specials, served between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. include some of the above entrees, each a complete dinner for $9.95.
Dean's Hungry I offers diners some of the festive and colorful cuisine of Greece; perhaps, despite its locale and the accolades of at least one reviewer, it will survive and prosper.
Rating: * * * *
Dean's Hungry I, 1440 Foothill Blvd., 582-8600; also located at 2700 S. State, 467-5714. Open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; open at 10 a.m. on Sunday. State Street location opens at 7:30 a.m. weekdays. Accepts major credit cards and check with guarantee card. Reservations accepted for parties of 6 or more.