For the sake of experimentation, on this visit I ordered the Pan Seared Salmon Bowl. It was good. Not great, but good. Appropriately, the salmon was the highlight of the dish but unfortunately everything else didn’t quite measure up. The vegetables, for example, were acceptable, but bland. I also went with brown rice, which, to my great disappointment, apparently meant white rice that was faintly brown. Note: the words “brown” and “white,” when describing rice, as supposed to indicate distinct flavors and textures. Still, I enjoyed my meal. It wasn’t good enough on its own to bring me back, but if (or when) I find myself at Guru’s again I won’t completely rule out an encore.
This visit reinforced my feeling that if I could only recommend one meal at Guru’s it would be a quesadilla. Specifically, I’d suggest the vegetarian Santa Cruz Quesadilla. It’s been a while since I had this particular dish, but it’s still the best thing I’ve ordered at Guru’s. Much more importantly, it’s one of the best quesadillas I’ve had (and indeed it was tempting to simply order it again on this most recent visit). Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way; Laura and I noticed that a large plurality of diners around us (including our friends) had also chosen one of the quesadillas. Though I haven’t tried them all, each one appears to be coming from the same culinary family, which also seems to be where the restaurant excels the most. Unfortunately none of the rice bowls or pasta dishes that I’ve had shared this distinction, all of them ultimately having been pleasant but bland and forgettable. (If you’re less hungry try stopping in for an order of sweet potato fries. This well-known and distinctive side-dish comes with a special house fry sauce and is probably one of the reasons Guru’s is still in business. They can make an odd combination with some of the dinners, but they’re definitely worth trying.)
If Guru’s food isn’t enough to make a repeat customer out of me, the ambiance is. To be honest, the décor of the restaurant has always bugged me, so I was surprised to find myself liking it so much this time. In the past I’ve felt like everything was loud and trying just a little too hard to be hip. I also questioned the tastefulness of the large Gandhi wallpaper in the corner. (Sure, its called “Guru’s,” which might imply some sort of India connection, but is it really appropriate to use Gandhi’s image to sell burritos?) This time however, the lighting was much lower, deemphasizing some of the venue’s incongruities. As an added bonus a jazz band was performing while we ate, which (to my pleasant surprise) radically altered the atmosphere, making it feel far more urban than anywhere else I’ve been lately in Utah County (yes, including Spark). If none of these changes are wholly original (even in a city like Salt Lake the bar might be terminally higher for a restaurant like Guru’s), they also helped the restaurant stand out in an area dominated by chains and family restaurants (like Brick Oven).
Guru’s is well worth a visit. The food isn’t the best in the world (or even in Provo), but the experience is unique and unrivaled by other local eateries. Between the menu and the décor Guru’s has managed to attract both the hip(ster) and mainstream crowds, and (to my surprise) I’m looking forward to my next visit.