Chang of Subject

Today we are going to talk about the renovation of University Mall. I have a lot of caffeine in my system, though, so the ideas may not flow smoothly.

If you go to University Mall, the first thing you will see is a million teen-age girls, all of them talking on cellphones. Pardon me for turning into Grumpy Old Man Snider, but what in tarnation does a teen-age girl need a cellphone for? My theory is that since they are genetically programmed to talk 24 hours a day regardless of whether anyone is there to listen to them, they prop the cellphones against their faces so they won’t look crazy.

But I have already gotten off-topic, for teen-age girls are not a renovation at all. They have been there for ages.

Aside from that, University Mall has really turned itself around, at least in terms of places to eat. The stores themselves, yeah, they’re all still aimed at 15-year-olds, which is also whom they employ as sales clerks. But the restaurants! My, they’re nice.

First there was Rodizio Grill, which opened 18 months ago and has been stuffing patrons full of meat ever since. I was in love with Rodizio for a while, and then I ran out of money. Also, Rodizio is the place where I once ate the world’s bloodiest steak, an incident now known as The Steakmata. But generally, you can’t go wrong with a place that lets you sit down and have meats brought to you like you’re the Mayor of Meattown.

Then, earlier this year, Carrabba’s Italian Grill opened in the mall parking lot. It’s not cheap, but the food is fantastic. Is it better than Fazoli’s, a fast-food place just around the corner? Yes. But does Carrabba’s bring you all the buttery breadsticks you can eat like Fazoli’s does? No. I figure if Fazoli’s brought breadsticks at the rate of 1,000 per hour, I would eat 1,000 of them during the hour I was there. I can’t say no to them. I believe they have crack in them.

Finally, June 10 was the grand opening of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Fun-Time Restaurant and Chopstickery. There’s been a Chang’s in Salt Lake City for a long time, and it’s one of my favorite places to wait endlessly for a table and wish I could eat at. Now there’s one at the mall.

Before the official opening, there was a trial run where mall employees and their guests were invited to eat, and I was lucky enough to be a guest. (A guest of a 15-year-old, apparently, if my earlier generalization of mall employees is adhered to. I hate when my stereotyping catches up with me.)

So I was at Chang’s with the one non-15-year-old mall employee, and we enjoyed the attentive service of a very enthusiastic wait staff. Which is a polite way of saying they smothered us so much that we all went home smelling like each other. It was probably because it was opening night, but there was one waiter — Lurky McStandsaround, we named him — who did not have tables of his own, but who prowled around and eyed patrons. When our waitress asked if we knew how to operate the lettuce wraps and we indicated we could probably figure it out, it was Lurky who piped in with, “It’s just like a lettuce taco.” (I don’t like food with instructions, by the way. As long as it’s going in your mouth and only your mouth, I don’t think there’s really a “wrong” way to eat anything.)

Is P.F. Chang’s appreciably better than Panda Express, the fast-food Chinese place across the street? Yes. But does P.F. Chang’s have the word “panda” in its name? Not that I know of, no.

This column should give fuel to the people who think I'm not a good writer. Those people should try writing a column while hopped up on artificial stimulants (doughnuts, mostly) and see how it goes.