Before attending a show at the Eccles Theater in downtown SLC recently, my wife and I popped into one of our favorite neighborhood bistros for a bite to eat: Eva. Named for his great grandmother, Eva Coombs, Chef/Owner Charlie Perry opened Eva in early 2009 and it’s been a popular downtown dine-and-drink spot since Day 1. Perry has said that his passion for organic foods and cooking was inspired by his great grandmother.
One thing my wife and I – and I assume many other regular customers – love about Eva is the large selection of small plates on the menu, which allows us to graze and sample a number of dishes and a range of flavors without breaking the bank. And, the sharing of smaller plates encourages a communal style of dining that I like very much. We also adore the intimate, welcoming atmosphere and the stellar staff at Eva, who couldn’t be more friendly and accommodating. I get a warm family feel when I visit Eva, and it seems that the employees really enjoy working there, judging from their friendly, upbeat attitudes.
The Eva menu spans the culinary landscape from individual sized pizzas and flatbread ($12-$16), cheese board & crostini ($14), salads ($10-$12), warm olives & chorizo ($9), harissa carrots ($11), and sauteed Brussels sprouts ($8), to larger dishes such as togarashi fried chicken ($18), shrimp & grits ($15), and Eva’s Steak with chili-roasted fingerling potatoes and soy glaze ($19). BTW, where else can you find a restaurant steak for under 20 bucks?
About those sauteed Brussels sprouts: YOU WANT THEM. Thinly shaved Brussels sprouts are flash-sauteed and tossed with cider vinegar and toasted hazelnuts – so good that even kids will love them. Another killer veggie dish is the grilled asparagus ($13), which is a half-dozen or so charred asparagus spears on a bed of jalapeño aioli, topped with lightly grilled prosciutto, a perfect poached egg, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Other great veggie dishes at Eva include charred beets with whipped chevre, mint, pistachio and citrus oil ($10); the aforementioned harissa carrots with tahini yogurt, sesame dukkah and mint ($11); and fried cauliflower with whipped ricotta and caper-raisin vinaigrette ($12).
At Eva, even something as simple as an order of French fries ($6) is special – parmesan, rosemary and garlic spuds cooked to perfection. A person could be very happy stopping by Eva for those frites alone, perhaps with a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail from the very well-built beverage list. Some of my all-time favorite wines are on it, including Boutari Moschofilero from Greece, Oregon’s Elouan Pinot Noir Rosé, Trinafour Petite Syrah from Mendocino County, and Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape from France.
Like the French fries, the calamari ($13) at Eva is also cooked perfectly: lightly battered, fried ‘til nice and crispy, and served with seasonal fried veggies such as zucchini and herbs. The scrumptious sherry-cayenne pepper aioli that accompanies the calamari should be sold by the quart; I’d buy it! Other seafood options include lobster ravioli ($20) with wild mushrooms, shrimp and lobster; and crispy trout with pickled Fresno chiles, haricot verts, and tamarind sauce ($17).
Here’s something you won’t find on many restaurant menus in 2023: Cabbage rolls. To me, cabbage rolls are throwback comfort food at its best and I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie Perry didn’t get Eva’s cabbage roll recipe from his great grandmother. In this case, it’s tender cabbage leaves stuffed and rolled with pork, smothered in homemade tomato sauce, and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and freshly chopped herbs ($15).
With the sad demise of small plates/tapas-style eateries like Zola, Meditrina, Martine and others, I’m grateful that a stellar small plates bistro like Eva has hung in there for some 15 years and, judging from business on a recent Friday night, seems to be thriving. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more menus with prices like Eva’s, where outstanding, from-scratch cuisine doesn’t have to be expensive and nothing on the menu is priced over 20 dollars.
Culinary quote of the week: “Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” – Bethenny Frankel
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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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.