- Enrique Limón
It wasn't long after I became a lifelong fan of Buds and its creative lineup of plant-based deli sandwiches that I learned about owners Alex Jamison and Roxy Carlson's next conquest. In a nutshell, the pair had grand designs to open a vegan Mexican restaurant where they would combine the street-food charm of tacos al pastor with their talent for meatless mimicry. The concept became Boltcutter (57 E. Gallivan Ave.), which joined the business-lunch mecca of Gallivan Avenue in early 2017. Using hearty meat alternatives like tempeh, seitan and jackfruit, Boltcutter has redefined a food genre that was built on copious amounts of meat and cheese.
Like its neighborhood colleagues, Boltcutter's interior revels in the minimalist, metro-chic setting of Gallivan Avenue. It's a small space that typically fills up during lunch and dinner hours, but whether you get a booth, sit at the bar or pop a squat at the counter for some top-notch people-watching, there's not a bad seat in the house. Bar seating offers a closer look at Boltcutter's impressive array of whiskey, tequila and mezcal, which glitter in the sunlight like stained-glass windows in a Spanish mission. The interior design choices are very modern, and I found myself wondering why there isn't more color on the walls—Mexican food has a long and vibrant history, and I've come to expect restaurants that serve up such hallowed cuisine to do so with a bit more flair.
I knew this place takes its burritos seriously when I saw them carted out on what look like miniature cookie sheets. Short and stout—maybe around 6 inches long,—they are clearly stuffed to capacity. As carne asada has been a fixture of nearly every Mexican meal I've ever eaten, I thought starting off with the Sin Carne Burrito ($8) would be the best way to experience a meatless alternative. The layers within are spot on—each bite assembles a good ratio of brown rice, refried beans, pico and seasoned seitan. The romaine lettuce adds a bit of crunch, but felt overall superfluous. The real hero of this burrito is the seitan, which has the texture and seasoning of carne asada—though I do think the chefs could crank up the dial just a touch when it comes to spiciness. A bit of heat would do wonders here.
- Enrique Limón
In addition to the weighty burritos, Boltcutter has an arsenal of tacos that are meatless plays on classic interpretations. Curious about what plant-based chorizo and fish tacos ($8 for an order of three) taste like, I gravitated to the chorizo potato and the Baja tacos. Of the two, the chorizo potato was more successful—it's packed with a delicious tofu scramble, and the veggie chorizo performed admirably. While the look of the Baja taco was a near-perfect representation of a fish taco, the beer-battered tempeh lacked the deep-fried crunch that I was hoping for. Like the Sin Carne Burrito, the tacos' seasoning felt a bit too safe—getting a little crazy with some grilled corn or chipotle could really elevate some of these dishes.
As I have a long-standing commitment to nachos ($10, $12.50 to add barbacoa jackfruit), that was how I concluded my second visit to Boltcutter. As soon as this plate of housemade tortilla chips, pico, black beans and vegan cheese sauce hit the table, I had a feeling that I was in for something special. The toppings are all excellent—each one complements its counterpart well—but the foundational aspect of any good plate of nachos comes from the chips. These are made in-house, giving them the thickness needed to excavate each layer. They've also been hit with a kiss of lime, adding an unexpected bite of citrus every so often. The extra $2.50 for a scoop of barbacoa jackfruit is a bit steep, even if jackfruit happens to be my most beloved meat substitute.
Despite its proximity to several eclectic eateries on Gallivan Avenue, Boltcutter still has its own little niche. It's fast enough to get some tasty, plant-based Mexican favorites during your lunch break, but also hip and welcoming enough for those looking for a downtown destination. Score yet another victory for Utah's vegan and vegetarian community—along with those of us who just like good food.
AT A GLANCE
Open: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-11 p.m.,
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Best bet: Their monstrous meatless burritos
Can’t miss: nachos gigantes