Perhaps the late, great Dead Goat Saloon would qualify, but one thing missing from Utah culture was a legit rockin’ roadhouse, so Bob McCarthy decided to create one. He did so by turning what was the Jimax Lounge on State Highway 89 in North Salt Lake into the Garage on Beck, which has become a treasured piece of Americana in an unlikely spot – surrounded by a junkyard and oil refineries.
Juke Joint Feel
With it’s funky, juke joint feel and made-from-scraps vibe, you couldn’t get much further from McCarthy’s other business: Stoneground Italian Kitchen, which is eye-popping gorgeous. But then, the Garage is gorgeous in its own way, too. It’s a beautiful thing for anyone who enjoys a lively bar atmosphere, terrific music, and much better than average pub fare.
My wife and I popped into the Garage on Beck on a recent Sunday evening when one of our favorite musical couples – Michelle Moonshine and Andrew Wiscombe, AKA Turtle Dovin’ – were performing. Frankly, we knew the music would be great, but we were also happily surprised at how good the food was.
As tempted as we were by Funeral Potatoes ($8) – Idaho spuds with cheddar cheese, green onions, jalapeño, bacon and cornflake crust – we opted instead for Golden Spike Onion Rings ($7). The onion rings arrived stacked vertically on a big spike – thick slices of delicious, tempura-battered and fried onion rings with a choice of ranch, blue cheese, or fry sauce for dipping. Naturally, this being Utah, we went with fry sauce. Next time, I want to get my lips around the Garage’s Southwestern Poutine ($9). The kitchen takes the Canadian classic and spices it up with Cajun-spiked cheese curds that are battered and deep fried, then smothered in green chile gravy. How deelish does that sound!
I still remember the outstanding Chicken & Waffle ($13) I enjoyed at the Garage a few years ago when Titan of the Telecaster Bill Kirchen played live there. And, if you ever have the opportunity to catch Kirchen live at the Garage or elsewhere, DO NOT miss it. I always like to remind him that it was my uncle, Charlie Ryan, who wrote and recorded the original version of the song Hot Rod Lincoln (with The Timberline Riders), that helped to pay for Bill’s house. The Chicken Pot Pie (($12) at the Garage is damned good too, as is the highly addictive Beehive Chipotle Mac n’ Cheese ($11) made with Beehive Promontory Cheddar.
The sandwiches I’ve tried at the Garage have been outstanding. While listening to Turtle Dovin’ I loved my Reuben ($11), which came with a side of perfect French fries. The Reuben features tender house-made corned beef, tangy pickled purple cabbage, Swiss cheese, and horseradish dressing on rye bread. A side salad is an option if you’d prefer that over fries.
There are few things I like more than a plate of fish & chips; it’s the perfect comfort food. Well, it’s hard to beat the quality of the Fish & Chips at the Garage. Beer battered Alaskan pollock is deep-fried to perfection, served with equally perfect house-cut, double-cooked fries and fresh-made tartar sauce.
But of all the really great comfort food I’ve enjoyed at the Garage on Beck, I think my favorite is the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich ($12). It’s a zippy and spicy battered and fried chicken breast served on a soft roll with house slaw and pickles – just perfect.
And Drinks …
Of course, the Garage is first and foremost a bar … let’s not forget that. So along with a good beer selection, there are also cocktails aplenty, such as my favorite: the Raspberry Gin Rickey.
Tempting cocktails and brews, first-rate music, excellent bar food, a roadhouse vibe, and an uber-friendly staff make Bob McCarthy’s Garage on Beck a can’t-miss proposition for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch.
Culinary quote of the week:
My pappy said, “Son, you’re gonna’ drive me to drinkin’
If you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln”. — Charlie Ryan
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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