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Pantry delights lovers of predictable, down-home cooking

SHARE Pantry delights lovers of predictable, down-home cooking

Brother Brigham would immediately abandon his traditional breakfast of cornmeal mush and codfish gravy if he could see the substantial fare now offered in the pantry of his former residence.

Historically speaking, the Lion House, designed by Salt Lake Temple architect Truman O. Angell and built in 1856, was an addition to the Beehive House and a home for several of Young's families. The lower or street level floor originally served as a dining room for up to 70 folks, a fruit and vegetable cellar, a milk room and even a school.After a number of renovations, the dining area opened as a social center and The Pantry lunch spot in 1968. Though the architectural integrity of the house remains, the working kitchens at the Pantry recently underwent a major update.

Gee willikers, that means supper service on Friday and Saturday nights and a leisurely Saturday morning brunch. Cafeteria line service prevails, possibly initiated by Brigham himself, in an attempt to efficiently feed his brood. Experienced diners beeline to their favorites and manage the trays with expedience, but newcomers carefully examine the multitude of choices, hence bogging down service with their indecision.

Regulars understand that menus vary from day to day but hinge on the beloved Lion House rolls and desserts. Saturday morning offerings adhere to the same policy - plenty of warm rolls and desserts.

Morning foods start the line ($8.95 for adults, $4.95 for children under 12 and children under 4 are free) with ample portions of scrambled eggs, bacon, slightly rubbery sausage, hash browns and crispy French toast. The potatoes arrive in two styles, a grated/ mashed concoction with a surprise of sogginess under the crispy exterior and a perfectly crunchy and browned batch of red potato chunks.

A feather-light scone steals the show, while unusually pasty-looking oatmeal may go better in the winter. A chicken-and-Swiss cheese roll and a surprisingly juicy and tender steamer round of roast beef anchored the hot service line (which, by the way, you may only pass through once).

The second section of the cafeteria line resembles a rerun of the weekday lunches with the regular salad assortment, slabs of pie and chocolate cream cake.

With a tray precariously full, you pass two additional serving stations, both offering unlimited opportunities for refills. That's lucky, because folks wouldn't have tray space otherwise.

A rather weary-looking collection of relish veggies and bland-looking melon cubes contrasts with the crispy mixed greens and the brightly accented pasta salad at the first station. The next table, however, displays a wealth of carbo-loading possibilities - Lion House rolls, cinnamon buns, orange-glazed rolls and a trio of mini-muffin choices.

So many choices may breed confusion to newcomers, but the traditional Mormon country cooking fare at the Pantry delights the diners who thrive on predictable, down-home cooking presented with a mixed delivery of plastic or silver trays but enjoyed in an unequaled historic setting, whether inside or outdoors in the exquisite gardens.