Bull ridin’, drinkin’ like you’re in college, and average pub fare at this country-style bar in SoNo
Over the summer I was invited—along with other area food writers and bloggers—to Johnny Utah’s in South Norwalk to sample their new menu of “BBQ,” Burgers, and Shakes. I was there that night to specifically write about their Super Shakes but wanted to share my food experience and talk about restaurant’s overall vibe as well, and right here on Food Dudes.
If you’ve never been, I would find that damn near impossible. You will inevitably end up there for something; football, dancing, live music, a high school reunion, or a bad decision at the end of a weekend night. No, seriously, even when it was Black Bear it was THAT place, it still is, and that’s not a bad thing, but we should all do things in moderation, right?
But still, if you REALLY HAVE NOT BEEN, the best way to describe it is…Texas. Think country western, with hot waitresses wearing booty shorts, and a mechanical bull that’s made for the sole purpose of throwing off drunkards daily. It’s fun to participate, but it’s funny as fuck to watch college kids with a bladder full of Miller Lite go airborne off this great beast. It’s an invention for the ages and that’s not even sarcastic. If you go with your friends, you’ll love it.
The food here is generally average with a few highlights, but overall it isn’t bad if you’re there or need something to pair with your Red Bull & vodka. For apps, you can’t go wrong with the sweet and equally spicy chili. I’ve had it twice and not everyone will agree but I dig it. If you need a crispy, greasy item, the Onion Tumbleweeds (more like onion strings) are a must. They’re addictive, best had with a beer, and they are some of my favorite deep fried onions around here.
When it was time to test some “BBQ,” that’s where things fell off a bit. The ribs aren’t smoked, instead they’re more like crock pot/slow cooked style, so I missed the smokiness and the crisp layer of bark achieved from the dry rub when cooked in a smoker. They’re tender, they practically fall off the bone, they’re covered in a tangy sauce, and if that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy them.
A bunch of burgers came out next and they were just OK. Some were cartoonishly big and could be tempting on a drunken night when calories don’t count. A few, however, like the mushroom & Swiss and the bacon, egg, and cheese burger have potential with a little more seasoning and a little less cooking time. For burger enthusiasts, medium rare to medium is ideal, but I understand that it was a busy night and there were a lot of media in the house.
The milkshakes are doable, and there’s an outside chance you could polish off solo if you’re into sweets like that. They’re also a bit extreme, and silly, but it’s tough to mess up a cookies & cream shake, even with all the frosting, whole cookies, and other bells and whistles. We were all stuffed by this point so a sip or two of each was all we could manage. The peanut buttery Payday candy bar shake was another hit shake with the group.
If you go to Johnny Utah’s, you’ll likely have a great time, but the food may not be spot-on perfect, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to be. They’re probably not seeking a Michelin Star, and if you go you shouldn’t be looking for one. Enjoy the atmosphere, the decent beer selection, and don’t forget to ride the bull.
80 Washington Street
Norwalk, CT 06854