by Joshua Jones
A lot of our readers have probably never heard of Duffy’s, a homey little tavern at 932 E. Main Street. It was just a year ago my partner and I first ventured in and, since then, we’ve been going back a couple times a month … so I could be a little biased. But I’m buttressed by a wide swath of family and friends we’ve introduced to the place who now also call it their favorite hole-in-the-wall.
The area may feel a bit gritty as you approach (neighbors include hookers, a homeless shelter and Uncle Bart’s Piss Palace), but the zombies stay out and once inside you’ll meet some of the best patrons, cocktail slingers and proprietors in the city.
Mark Phipps has owned the place since 1998 and his acceptance of gays and lesbians is terrific, but moreover, his disdain towards ignorance and bigotry is legendary. This teddy bear has a severe propensity against any kind of prejudice. Mark’s hire of newly wedded Pidge and Amy Fowler has also made the place a little more rainbowfied and a lot more sassy, sweet, and sexy.
But it’s what they’re doing in their cardboard box of a kitchen that will keep you coming back. In the space of about four feet, a one-man-band preps, assembles, toasts, and serves some incredible sandwiches; along with chili, wings and pizza.
No Duffy’s virgin should go without tasting the GLA sandwich. A fistful of pepperoni, ham, pastrami and mozzarella sits between a fresh ciabatta bun that has been spread liberally with balsamic aioli and then topped with house-made tapenade of finely chopped olives, garlic, onions, jalapenos, spices and a few secrets. It could be compared to a muffuletta, but with a little more spice and a lot more flavor. Considering you can only get The GLA at Duffy’s, and since it’s so healthy and low-fat, I’d suggest having it every day.
There are 18 more sandwiches to explore, including the Cheese Steak, which starts with a third of a pound of roast beef (Arby’s would spread that amount to approximately nine sandwiches) topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and an incredible amount of mozzarella all toasted together on a hoagie. It will require a knife and fork before you’re done as well as a side of willpower not to eat the whole thing in one sitting, as it could easily be two or three meals.
There are a few seasonal items that pop-up throughout the year for which you’ll want to take a special trip. During football season, sensational, buttery omelets with your choice of about 10 meats and cheeses are served until 3 p.m. Summer pig roasts are regular, and you’ll want to schedule some time now in November when they have a seasonal chili available. It’s thick, meaty and has a kick; and because everything at Duffy’s is so healthy, they’ll kindly bury a pork tamale in that chili for a just a couple more bucks and then drench it in cheese and diced onions. Around St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish Stew arrives for a limited time made with tender, braised lamb cooked overnight in a stout beer. The aroma makes the bar smell amazing, and with live bag pipes in the background and dark beer in front of us, we felt like we were in the old country.
Duffy’s Tavern has been in operation since 1978, a lifetime for Salt Lake bars. With serious attention to service, friendliness, and unforgettable sandwiches, this hidden little jewel box will be around a while, but head in soon, your diet can wait another day.
All the sandwiches are huge and clock in at around $9.00 with a choice of sides — my favorite being a uniquely light (by Duffy’s standards) homemade pasta salad.
Duffy’s is open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day. Q