Located just off Bulldog Boulevard in Provo, Cubby's Chicago Beef is side-by-side with a Little Caesar's Pizza joint, which sort of seems like the fast food equivalent of hanging a Renoir next to a gum wrapper at an art gallery. Not to denigrate Cubby's by calling it fast food, but the service is friendly and, given that everything is made from scratch, orders are filled with impressive speed.
Cubby's has more of a bistro feel than your average grab-and-go chain outlet and, at least for now, the restaurant is one-of-a-kind -- there's a better-than-good chance that owner Cubby James will take your order at the counter and call your name when your food is ready. If, on the other hand, the hustle and bustle we saw on our Friday afternoon visit is any indication, then Cubby could probably open a second store tomorrow and there'd still be long lines during the lunchtime rush.
I have no memory of who or what leased the storefront before Cubby's showed up, but the space has been impressively and atmospherically renovated. There's distinctive wood trim everywhere and a larger-than-life menu on the wall alongside a massive chalk rendering of the distinctive Cubby's logo, a butcher-ready bovine.
We showed up at the perfect moment to snag a table for four, but seating is limited, so you may want to be flexible as to whether your dine on the spot or take your order to go.
Nobody is ever going to ask, "Where's the beef?" about Cubby's. There's cow meat in almost all of the salads and sandwiches, and lots of it. And while there is a Macey's supermarket at the other end of the parking lot, don't expect to see Cubby or his employees running over to restock. The restaurant takes pride in using grass-fed, hormone-and-antibiotic-free local beef (and, for that matter, organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables -- when in season -- and free-range hormone-and-antibiotic-free chicken).
The food is worthy of all that attention to the quality of the ingredients. The centerpiece of the menu is the Mr. Beef, which is named for the beloved Chicago eatery where Cubby discovered it. It comes stuffed with thin-sliced roast beef and giardiniera, a vegetable-rich Italian relish, and a footlong Mr. Beef packs enough of a wallop to satisfy two hungry diners.
We also tried the Rip City Tri Tip, a steak sandwich to appease even the meatiest of cravings with its combination of tri-tip steak and smoked bacon, garnished with caramelized onions, barbecue sauce and garlic butter. You can order the Tri Tip a couple of different ways, and we tried it Cali Style, with avocado and cheddar cheese, which is possibly the only way it could have been improved.
There are menu items called Heart Attack and Hoarder -- there's also a Cockadoodledoo grilled chicken-wich if beef and sausage are not your thing -- but we opted to round out our Cubby's experience with the Dragonslayer bleu cheese burger, which comes slathered in buffalo sauce and garnished with bacon, greens, grilled onions and tomato slices. My only regret about the Dragonslayer is that I shared it with my wife. Not that I don't love her, of course, but the Dragonslayer is a burger among burgers.
If the thought of bleu cheese and buffalo sauce is enticing, then be sure to try the Bleu Cheese Buffalo Fries, and also grab plenty of napkins. The undressed Rosemary Peppered Fries are also excellent, more than good enough to be eaten without being dipped in anything so vulgar as ketchup, which is equally true of the crispy, crinkle-cut Sweet Potato Fries.
I should also say a word about the salads, and if I had to pick just one, it would be: Yum! We tried the Tri Tip Steak Salad -- every bit as tasty as its cousin the sandwich -- but there's also a chicken salad, and a couple of meatless salads, that made my mouth water just reading their names. Seriously, who wouldn't want to try an Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, or a Pineapple Jicama Salad?
Even if you prefer vegetarian cuisine altogether, and not just when it comes to salads, Cubby has you covered: We tried both the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese sandwich (Pepper Jack, Swiss and cheddar) and The Portabella (marinated and grilled portabella mushroom) and found both delectable.
Whether you already love Windy City sandwiches, or you're about to experience them for the first time, Cubby's Chicago Beef will make you feel right at home.