Sunday, July 4, 2010

Provo Dining Guide

Like many BYU Freshmen, I began my college career in the dorms called "Heleman Halls."  I didn't have a car, so I exhausted the on-campus dining options rather quickly and naturally and gravely underestimated the culinary wonder that one can find in this little college town.  Here are seven of my favorite restaurants that I've discovered over the years:

Bombay House
Location: University and 400N (west side of intersection)
Price:  $15-$30

A friend of mine invited me to go out to celebrate with a string quartet after their concert (neither of us were in said quartet), and they chose this place.  I have been grateful ever since.  Fantastic Indian food, fantastic specialty drinks.  The atmosphere is enchanting, what with all the turbaned waiters, draped fabric and candle-light.  I recommend getting the appetizer sample platter, the Saag Shorba, garlic Naan, and then anything lamb or chicken.  They have three levels of spiciness for the entrées.  Their rice is phenomenal.  (Side note, "India Palace" is a less impressive clone of the Bombay House.  One of their cooks left and uses the exact same menu.  Atmosphere isn't as nice, prices are the same, but it's often less crowded.  So if you can't get into the Bombay House, there's a substitute.)

Brick Oven Pizza
Location: Southwest corner of BYU campus
Price:  Comparable to other pizza establishments--depends on the number of fellow diners

I actually knew about this place before I even started going to BYU.  It used to be called "Heaps 'A Pizza," and my mom spent a few years of her childhood living in the basement of a house that was where their parking lot is now.  It has been a beloved haunt of BYU students for generations.  They make their own root beer which is a mellow brew with a piney twist.  It's quite good by itself and even better with their pizza.  I recommend their "Supreme Heaps 'A Pizza," which is the standard deluxe.  Their mushrooms are incredible.

Location: University and 100N (Northeast corner)
Price: Depends, but you could easily spend $40 per person

When it comes to fine dining in Utah county, "communal" is the champion--hands down.  The atmosphere is so pleasing and unpretentious with all the design and carpentry done by the owners themselves.  The waiters and cooks are unbelievably pleasant and well mannered, and the food is out of this world.  Their menu is constantly changing (daily, it seems) to fit what's in season as well as what new innovation they've cooked up that week.  communal's specialty is preparing a seemingly hum-drum dish like pot roast better than it has ever been done before.  I am convinced that mortal hands simply cannot cook a traditional chicken breast better than how they do it at communal.  It is cooked just long enough so that it's bursting with juices and flavored to perfection.  The same is true for their steak.  You think you've had good steak until you've tried theirs.  (This place can get pricey, but the steak is actually one of the cheapest items, because it's honestly not the greatest cut of meat, but I promise you won't notice.)  Oh, and I've failed to mention the significance of the name.  It's designed so that you order the appetizers, salads, entrées and sides separately, and then everybody shares.  I recommend going with about eight people and ordering everything on the menu.  Also, go there for lunch some time.  It's cheaper, and the menu is quite unique--they make their own ketchup, which is better than any ketchup you've ever tried.

Four Seasons Hot Pot & Dumplings
Location: Northeast side of University and 200N
Price ~$18

If you've never had "Hot Pot" before, then this place is a must--especially in Provo's obnoxiously persistant Winter.  Hot Pot (Huo Guo) is an eating experience that comes to us from Northern China.  In this, as in many Hot Pot establishments, there's a buffet with a plethora of raw veggies, mushrooms, meats, noodles, seafood (shrimp, fish, mussels and crab) and assorted varieties of tofu.  You take a plate to the buffet, load it down with what you want, and then dump it in the flaming-hot pot at your table.  You pull it out and enjoy when it's cooked!  There's also a freezer full of ice cream treats that come with the meal. I recommend getting a pot that is half-spicy, half-miso (like the picture above); that way, you can sample multiple flavor combinations.  Warning: the spicy may be too spicy for some of the locals.  But at the same time, it's a different kind of spicy than what they're used to.  Give it a shot.  Also, you can only get dumplings if you order them at least a day in advance.  I recommend the pork and chive dumplings either boiled or fried.  They are the best in Provo, without anything close to a rival.  Even and especially if you think you don't like Chinese food, you need to pay a visit to "Four Seasons Hot Pot & Dumplings."

El Gallo Giro
Location: East side of University, between 300 & 400N
Price: Cheap

This is my favorite Mexican establishment.  For starters, they have a cinnamon horchata that will blow your mind--don't even bother with the fountain drinks.  Next up, you cannot go there without ordering guacamole.  They prepare it fresh and table-side in a stone basin.  Their tacos are world class, and their smothered steak burrito is simply to die for.

J Dawgs
Location: Southeast corner of BYU campus
Price: ~$5

J Dawgs is a local favorite.  It's a hot dog stand (and recently they've opened a restaurant adjacent to the original stand) with really high quality dogs and an infamous special sauce.  They have polish dogs or standard hot dogs.  They add all the traditional "fixin's" free of charge, and they also have drinks and chips for a little extra.  I've heard from fairly reputable sources that this was started by a guy who went to Toronto on his mission and fell in love with the quality hot dog stands in that city.  Having also lived in Toronto, and having sampled the stand-food of several of the world's great cities, I have to say his establishment measures up.

Pizzeria 712 (pronounced "seven-twelve")
Location: State St. in Orem, in the back of those huge, unfinished condos.
Price: ~$15

Don't let the name deceive you.  It's not just a pizza joint.  They have pizza, but it's really innovative and gourmet and wonderful.  This place is owned by the same people who run "communal," and it actually predates the latter.  Like communal, the menu is constantly in flux, but with a few standards remaining constant.  For appetizers, I strongly recommend the short rib.  (I failed to mention this in my review of communal, but they've started slaughtering their own pork, which made a good thing even greater.  They do phenomenal stuff with bacon.)  Their cobblers are also always top-notch, and all their chocolate desserts are made with chocolate from the local Amano masters.  And this place is an insanely good deal.  They could easily charge two to three times what they do, and I would happily pay it.  Also, the menu is totally different for lunch: they have a triumphant assortment of panini sandwiches.  

It may be impossible to leave this place disappointed. Everything is so masterfully done--the pizzas are fired in a real brick oven, the desserts are bursting with freshness, and the atmosphere is down-right charming.  These people know how to do food, and have mastered the art of the restauranteer.


  1. Wow, quite the connoisseur. This make me really want to go to the Bombay House... and Brick Oven... and Communal. mmm. Hungry now.

  2. Did I take you to Bombay House? Or was that another friend with another random string quartet connection? I can't remember! Have you tried Rooster Dumpling & Noodle Bar in Provo? Have you tried The Chocolate in Orem? I see a foody night on the horizon...

  3. You did indeed take me to Bombay House. Gracias.

    Also, I did go to Rooster. I had a really bad experience, but I guess it could have just been that one night, or I ordered poorly or something. I was pretty surprised, because I genuinely liked "Dew" (the same owner's previous restaurant)--best Pho in town.

  4. Thanks for taking me to the Bombay house for my birthday. I was always craving lamb saag when I was pregnant with Jane, probably because of you! haha

    Hey, you forgot the Chef's Table! That place is at least $50/plate. It's on the Provo-Orem hill. Very tastey. They give you a palate-cleanser to start off, haha.

    Also, this is in Orem, but I recommend Mama Chu's. It's a Mexican place at a gas station. You go like you're going up the canyon, and then turn left before you do, and it's at the gas station on your right. They have good fajitas and are not too expensive.