There has been a recent trend toward increasing the fun quotient in restaurants.
It would be difficult to find a restaurant more dedicated to having a good time than Johnny Utah's in South Norwalk, whose older sibling recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Rockefeller Center as the home of New York City's only mechanical bull. The first subtle sign of levity at Johnny Utah's might be the roaring crowd, cheering on whatever adventurous soul has taken to the broad back of the cantankerous mechanical beast — after signing various waivers, of course. Indeed, there's good fun there for all ages, with participants ranging from kids at a birthday party to serious would-be cowboys to young ladies putting on a sexy show. And the staff is attractive and friendly.
Curious about the cocktails, I tried a London Mule ($9), a Johnny Utah ($10) and, my favorite, a Bourbon Renewal ($10).
We decided to fortify ourselves with food before getting pitched around by a big ornery bovine appliance. With attractions like the mechanical bull and line dancing, an establishment probably could get away with mediocre fare. But Johnny Utah's did a fantastic job, bringing that same spirit of fun to its food. Philly egg rolls ($10.95), homemade beef chili ($5.95), onion tumbleweeds ($5.95), spinach salad ($8.95), mac and cheese ($4.95) and cornbread ($4.95) all hit the spot. Beware the higher spice levels on the delicious wings (6 for $7.95), especially the "Please Stop!"
There were good hamburgers (10-ounce, grass-fed, all-natural on brioche start at $5 plus add-ons), sandwiches ($11.95-$13.95) and barbecue plates ($11.50-$27.50). We chose to combine all of that in one giant creation called the Big Bucking Burger ($19.95), a 10-ounce patty pressed between twin grilled-cheese sandwiches with smoky pulled pork, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and Utah's kicking burger sauce, all held together by a steak knife.
Desserts got crazy too, in the form of Ultimate Supershakes ($10 nonalcoholic, $15 adulterated), which came in flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cherry Bomb, Blueberry Muffin, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla Bacon and were eye-poppingly studded with the advertised ingredients. They proved great for sharing.
For events like an all-day Honey Boo Boo-themed pig roast or Jell-o wrestling for charity, you don't have to travel to the Beehive State. You'll be bullish on Johnny Utah's!
Johnny Utah's, 80 Washington St., South Norwalk, is open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Friday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; 203-299-0711, johnnyutahssono.com.