(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Garlic the Goliath, a double burger at Homies Burgers & Shakes, a casual restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City.
The burgers are a great place to start. Each begins with a ¼-pound seasoned chuck patty served on a soft, buttery bun with grilled onions.
The Garlic the Goliath ($10.50) is a double burger with a kicky garlic spread, while the bacon cheeseburger ($10) sports smoked bacon and cheese over its double quarter-pounders. The Homies Jr. ($7) seemed right-sized for lunch, with just one meaty patty and slices of ham and cheese.
Sides failed to live up to the quality burgers, with freezer-burned tots not worth the $1 upgrade over the mealy steak fries that come standard with each burger. Hand-battered onion rings for an additional $1.50 are better, with a good batter-to-onion ratio and crunch.
Homies’ shakes are less milkshake and more vanilla ice cream loaded with more than a dozen flavor and mix-in options and delivered twice as high as the cup rim. A banana cream pie shake ($4.60) was spot on in taste, with nibbles of vanilla cookie in most bites, while a peach version ($4) was reminiscent of the options along northern Utah’s Fruitway, and a mint chocolate chip ($4.60) rendition took me back to summer evenings at the Iceberg Drive Inn.
The surprise at Homies is its prowess with Asian offerings. The Korean lunch special includes choice of salmon, beef or pork bulgogi or galbi short ribs with fried rice, a memorable kimchi, fries and a salad for $9. The beef bulgogi is a mountain of thinly sliced meat nicely marinated and seared — all served in a large bento box.
Similarly impressive was the teriyaki beef bowl with choice of rice or noodles and filled with grilled beef, fresh mushrooms, carrots and onions and a side of housemade teriyaki sauce that balanced sweet and salty.
The Asian influences come back around on the wing side of the menu with two Korean barbecue sauce options in mild or "double spicy." These are two of the seven sauces available on the wings, which come in regular and boneless and in orders of three to 16 ($5 to $19).
The seafood section of the menu features fried cod or halibut for a decent fish-and-chips plate. Order with the English chips for an extra $1.50.
Unfortunately, these good menu items are countered with equally poor selections, such as the spicy chicken sandwich ($8.50) that was nearly inedible with a sad, previously frozen breaded chicken patty wasted on a good bun that was advertised on the menu as French bread.
It’s these missteps, along with some billing mishaps, that left me unsure about becoming a Homies regular. On each of my three visits, I was charged for something I shouldn’t have been — like the side salad I never received, the first flavor in my shake or the free drink that was part of the daily special. Servers were helpful and friendly in resolving the issues, but every meal felt like I’d been nickeled and dimed.
While the downtown location and large shaded patio with a setback view of State Street are appealing, the interior of the restaurant could use a good scrubbing and a bit of updating from its time as a Wingers location.
With enough bright spots on the menu, perhaps Homies will find its home with the right set of downtown customers hungry for burgers, shakes and Asian highlights.
Heather L. King also writes for www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches