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Eat & Drink » Wine

Layton Place

Three new eateries offer franchise respite in South Davis Country



In recent years, Layton has become a dining destination. That is, if you favor feasting on franchise fare from Chili’s, Applebee’s, McGrath’s Fish House, Garcia’s, Red Robin, Fuddruckers, Outback Steakhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Tony Roma’s, Olive Garden … you get the idea. For every La Choi’s Noodle Parlor, Greek Villa or Gabor Brothers Grill in Layton, there are a dozen Domino’s, Wendy’s and Quiznos to choose from. As in much of America’s suburbia, the independent restaurant is a vanishing breed in Layton.

How, then, do we explain the nearly simultaneous recent opening of not one, not two, but three very good independently owned restaurants operating on the same block in Layton? Well, the very high-tech Davis Conference Center, with over 32,000 square feet of meeting turf'is bound to bring hungry visitors and the restaurants that feed them to Layton. And in the middle of this booming and vital business scene are the all-new Corbin’s Grille, MacCool’s Public House and Roosters Brewing Company. Yes, there is already a MacCool’s in Salt Lake City and the original Roosters in Ogden. But I wouldn’t exactly call the second coming of both of these eateries a “franchise” just yet. And Layton’s Corbin’s Grille'directly adjacent to the new Roosters'is a one-off restaurant.

Judging by the throngs at all three of these new businesses, there’s clearly an untapped audience in and around Layton for food and service that reaches beyond what restaurant chains can offer. On recent weekends, for example, Corbin’s Grille has had an hour wait for a table. And it’s hard to tell if it’s the good suds that are bringing people by the truckloads to MacCool’s and Roosters, or the food, or both. But those places are going like gangbusters as well.

Since I’ve already written in these pages about MacCool’s and Roosters, I’ll simply remind you of the terrific upscale pub fare, friendly service and impressive imbibing options you’ll find at the new 2.0 versions of those excellent gathering places. As for Corbin’s Grille … well, I just wish I owned stock in the place. Granted, there isn’t really any competition. But I’m inclined to speculate that Corbin’s will quickly become the fine-dining destination in Davis County. Not that it’s an intimidating or exclusive place'far from it. It’s simply that there’s an aura and look of professionalism and attention to detail at Corbin’s Grille that you won’t find at your neighborhood Outback.

Corbin’s Grille is owner Jake Garn’s baby all the way. But the young restaurateur was wise enough to surround himself with seasoned pros like general manager Jefrey Dukes and executive chef Ross Siragusa. Both bring a boatload of restaurant experience to Corbin’s and provide the practical know-how necessary to help achieve Garn’s vision.

With his first venture into the restaurant biz, Garn hasn’t just jumped in halfway. Corbin’s is a gorgeous eatery complete with beautiful custom-made tables and chairs, lovely artwork, enticing contemporary lighting and design and an eye-catching, glassed-in waterfall smack dab in the center of the restaurant. The place reminds me more of restaurants I visit in Vegas than most of what Utah offers.

The big question about Corbin’s, I suppose'despite its early success'is whether or not the good citizens of Layton, who’ve been pummeled with franchise food and pricing, will keep coming back to Corbin’s Grill for its $29 ribeye or $20 rack of ribs? I believe they will. Yes, Corbin’s is expensive compared to most Davis County restaurants. But by Salt Lake City and Park City standards, the place is a bargain.

Last week, I had a first-rate wood-grilled'all steaks at Corbin’s are currently being grilled on an oak-wood fire'bone-in ribeye steak ($29) which was among the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. Chef Siragusa gets his beef solely from Stock Yards of Chicago, purveyors of USDA prime meats, poultry and seafood. And, although steaks at Corbin’s can be had with an optional ($2.50 extra) choice of the chef’s signature steak sauces (béarnaise, balsamic red-wine reduction, gorgonzola cream or wild-mushroom bordelaise), I preferred my juicy rare ribeye plain, with just a touch of salt. And by the way, steaks at Corbin’s are served with a choice of house salad, small Caesar salad (a very good choice) or soup, along with either garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, baked potato or shoestring fries. So you can enjoy a USDA-prime top sirloin and side dishes for a mere $16. Unfortunately, the shoestring fries that came with my steak were limp and soggy, either pulled from the fryer too soon or cooked at too low a temperature.

Although someone needs to proofread the menu, other Corbin’s highlights include an artichoke-spinach dip appetizer ($7). Until my visit to Corbin’s, I’d never been especially fond of artichoke dip. But this version'served with thin-sliced crostini and a crusty melted cheese topping'was superb. And breaded-then-fried brie ($10) with roasted garlic on a bed of “pommodoro” (sic) sauce was a nice slant on the ubiquitous fried mozzarella stick. The seafood risotto ($19) at Corbin’s was brimming with large, tender Gulf shrimp, chunks of lobster and crab, and grilled asparagus'but it could have been a tad creamier. The menu’s glaring off-note to me was the chicken “picatta” (sic) which, for some reason, involved vine-ripened tomatoes. I’ve never encountered tomatoes'vine-ripened or otherwise'in a piccata dish and don’t plan to start now.

Are Corbin’s Grille, MacCool’s and Roosters reason to relocate to Layton? Not likely. But at least the denizens of Davis County now have some home-spun dining options next to the multiplex.