Ginger Street

 

Let’s get a few things established right off the bat.

  1. There is a disco ball, posters of Saved by The Bell, and a DJ station at Ginger Street
  2. There is a lot of neon
  3. The servers wear fanny packs
  4. This is not a place I will take my mother in law, who thinks the Red Iguana experience is a bit “out there”
  5. The food in incredible

In the food blogger/writer world these days, unfortunately the trend is that it’s more about speed and less about quality. She or he with the first review rules the world. I tend to shy away from that approach. Not for any reason other than I don’t like opening week crowds and I like to give the front and back of the house a little time to settle in. But Melissa and I found ourselves with an extra hour or two after a wedding reception sans kids, so we decided to pop over to Ginger Street for a quick second lunch to see what all of the fuss is about. 

The first tip: the entrance is on the 3rd South side of the building. We tried entering from the porch, but the door was locked. Then we walked along State Street. No dice. Then we found the hard-to-miss pink “red carpet” that welcomes you to the large space with tall ceilings and plenty of room. You’re greeted by a host or hostess and given a menu, and you place your initial order with them. Once paid, they then will give you a number and help you choose a table. Ours happened to be made out of an old bowling alley lane. I say “initial” order, because the intent of Ginger Street is that this is “hawker style.” Hawker stalls are prevalent in Singapore, and the idea of them is sort of like a food court where you order from the various vendors and then sit down and enjoy the varying dishes. A bit of a conundrum at Ginger Street, since there’s only one purveyor, so I’m not totally convinced they really get what hawker stalls are about. But it does follow along the hawker model in that the intent is that you order numerous different plates of dishes to share (or not) throughout your stay. I wasn’t a huge fan of feeling the pressure of walking in and feeling like you had to make a quick decision since there’s a line of people behind you, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that feels that way. I’d much rather be able to sit down and settle in before deciding on what I want to eat. Maybe their intent is to help turn tables by eliminating that initial 10 minute “settling in” period. I don’t know. I’m curious to know if they stick with that approach or not. I’m hopeful they don’t.

Even at 2 pm, the dining room was steadily busy. Michael McHenry, one of the owners of Ginger Street, mentioned that within the first day or two of them opening, they had a line of 140 people waiting for lunch. I’d say there’s a bit of hype with this one. And after our meal, I’d say the hype is very well justified.

Varying textures are prevalent throughout your experience at Ginger Street. Textures in music (yes, they have a DJ booth and a disco ball), décor (they have posters featuring Saved By The Bell and pillows with a distinct Indian flair), and tastes. I have a feeling that this spot will be a bit of a chameleon as the day and week progresses. Downtown white collar workers will find it suited well for a quick lunch, but as the night progresses and the bar crowd emerges, I have a hunch that this place will get a bit crazy. In a good way. But maybe not a 40-year-old-with-two-kids-in-diapers good way. I’ll likely stick to lunchtime or early dinner.

Ginger Street is in a good location, centrally located between the Main Street bar scene, Gallivan, and Broadway theater. They are also in the late stages of opening a walk-up dessert and small bites window, where you will be able to order a quick bowl of rotating soft serve flavors, ice cream sandwiches, and on late nights during the weekend, small hot bites of pork buns and other items. The window is expected to open in the next two weeks. I find it interesting that two similar concepts (walk-up Asian-inspired food) are launching at nearly the exact same time, within a block of each other. Ginger Street’s window, and Ryan Lowder’s latest idea: a walk-up window named @hotbunsnfun on the side of Copper Common, where you can get noodle dishes as well as various steamed buns.

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Future Dessert and Hot Bites Walk-Up Window

We ordered a starter of pork dumplings, perfectly cooked and filled with napa cabbage, garlic chive, and accompanied by a very nice chili soy sauce. The Crispy Fish Cha Ca La Vong was a standout dish: pieces of white fish breaded in their version of a panko coating with a hint of citrus, laid on a bed of cold rice vermicelli, peanuts, scallion, and topped by a hearty helping of dill. The fish was accompanied by the best sauce I’ve had in a while: a pineapple nam prik, laced with bird’s eye chili for a bit of heat. This dish had sweet, sour, warm, cold, crunchy, soft. Chef Tyler Stokes understands textures and contrasts.

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Ginger Noodles

The Ginger Noodles dish was perhaps my favorite dish. It’s a simple dish, and screams “humble,” but it was so good in so many ways. Ramen noodles are accompanied with a salty scallion relish as wells as pickled cucumbers and sauteed baby spinach and topped with peanuts. The dish had great balance and the noodles were perfectly cooked. Just an all-around great dish, and a bargain at $13. 

At this point in our lunch I was spotted by Ginger Street co-owner Michael McHenry. McHenry, who has formerly worked at Blue Lemon, cofounded Even Stevens sandwiches, and recently took over Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, has a track record of establishing unique concepts backed by solid operations and excellent service. After speaking with him, you begin to understand how each of his concepts are able to execute his vision so well, and each one so uniquely. He gets it, and is passionate about bringing a new type of culinary experience to Salt Lake. McHenry sent out a few other dishes for us to try. The steamed Snake River Farms pork belly buns were pillowy soft, and the hoisin, pickled cucumbers, and scallions provided a nice counter balance to the rich pork. 

 

The crispy duck rolls were a hit. Tender duck is wrapped up and fried, then wrapped with Thai basil and finally an outer casing of rice paper to provide the perfect contrast of crunchy and soft. Wrapping the basil outside of the cooked portion of the roll allows the basil to really shine through and retain its texture and punch. 

The green curry has the right amount of spice (if you’re more brave than I with spice, get the red curry). The sauce features charred eggplant, cauliflower, red bell pepper and basil. Again, a steal at $10. Other items I can’t wait to come back and try include the fried spicy chicken sandwich and the caramelized lemongrass shrimp. 

There is an extensive drink menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We had the Naam Manao, a fresh-squeezed Thai limeade that was tart and punchy in all of the right ways. Desserts are provided by Jane Anne, formerly of Vinto, Stanza, and Normal Ice Cream. Ginger Street features a rotating menu of soft serve flavors, and we tried the curry vanilla, which was rich and delicious, and had just the right amount of curry flavor to get the point across but not make you feel weird about eating curry for dessert. An ice cream sandwich with a cocoa almond crust and passionfruit ice cream, as well as a rich “G Bar” with a gingersnap crust, were both top-notch delicious. 

I really like Ginger Street. I like that they’re trying something different that what we’re used to. They’re bringing a level of quirkiness and character that the city doesn’t have enough of. But it’s not a gimmick, either. They’re backing this innovation up with a solid menu and excellent execution from the kitchen. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish, and am optimistic that they’ll do very well.

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Alamexo Cantina Closing Its Doors

After 18 months, Alamexo Cantina, the sister project of Matt Lake’s Alamexo downtown, is shutting its doors. I am personally very sad about this, since I admire Matt’s passion to create a neighborhood gathering place and his devotion to innovative dishes, and scratch cooking using only the best ingredients. Sadly, it seemed like the Cantina could never gain the traction necessary to succeed.

Their announcement, posted to Instagram, says in part: “With the months of upcoming construction that will surround our restaurant and the tight margin that all restauranteurs operate on, we can no longer continue on in this space. We have made every accommodation to insure the jobs of our staff members, who are like family, and they will all be joining us at our location on 268 South State.”

RIP, Alamexo Cantina.

 

SLC Eatery

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There’s something really cool happening in an old stucco’d building at 10th South and Main Street. The building that houses newly-opened SLC Eatery was formerly a rock shop. Apparently you could go in and buy rocks of all shapes and sizes, in varying colors, and from pretty basic to very fancy. Who knew.

The building is situated right between a motel and a used car dealership, in a (what should I call it) unique part of town for a restaurant. The area is slowly filling in with dining and drinking options, such as Proper Burger, Tinwell, and Fisher Brewery, but there is a way to go before this area is thought of as a culinary stronghold in SLC. At the restaurant there isn’t much in the way of parking (just plan to park on the street) and the restaurant’s website isn’t even done yet. Yet this quirky little spot has managed to generate more buzz in the few short weeks it’s been open that just about any other restaurant in my recent memory. And for good reason, because co-chefs and business partners Paul Chamberlain and Logan Crew are putting out some of the most unique, boundary-pushing food that we’ve seen in the city since the going-away of Forage. And did I mention they have a dim sum cart?

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Santo Tacos

Santo Tacos sits in a nondescript building with strip-mall vibes. It’s in an odd part of town: north of the fair park, and right off the 1000 North exit of I-15. If you’re not looking for it, you’d likely miss it, camouflaged in with the barber shop, smoke shop, and quick stop convenience store.

The interior is light and bright, and is set up quick-service style. Signs point diners to the various locations along the line to order (“tacos order here,” “nachos order here,” etc.). The staff is busy, grilling various meats and building orders. Their menu states “tortillas recien hechas” (fresh-made tortillas), and that isn’t just lip-service: one employee stays busy full-time making the masa, putting it into the tortilla press, and bagging up for service.

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Valentine’s Day Dining

Hoof & Vine is offering a dinner for two for $100, which includes a starter to share, salad course, a steak flight featuring a 44 Farms bavette, C.A.B. tenderloin, and Piedmontese top sirloin. Dessert is a chocolate caramel tart. Optional wine pairing is $50 per guest. Give them a call at (801) 569-4645 or online at hoofandvine.com

Tin Angel is offering a four course dinner, with one of the courses served in the dark. This special menu will run 2/14-2/16 and is $50 per person and $25 for a four-course specialty wine and cocktail pairing.

Pago is offering an $85 per person tasting menu, with an optional $40 wine pairing. Tax and gratuity not included. See menu below.

pago vday 2019

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Delivery Throwdown

 

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From L-R: Crumbl, Chip, and Goodly

“Ok, I’m going to go curl up in a corner and die,” I said to my wife. We had just consumed the equivalent of a VW Beetle, but in cookies. And that was just the cookie from Goodly. We had two more to go. And we did it all for you, dear reader. You see, there’s been a surge of late-night cookie delivery businesses in Salt Lake City. Yes, you read that right: you can now order cookies without even leaving your couch, and they will be delivered to your door within an hour, piping hot and ready for you to drown your sorrows in a warm pile of butter, sugar, and chocolate.

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Super Bowl Dining

Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t have to be exclusively fueled by delivery pizza or chicken wings. Restaurants and shops in Salt Lake and Park City are offering a wide variety of meals and snacks for the big game this Sunday.

Salt Lake City

Caputo’s Market is offering a wide variety of cheeseboards, charcuterie, and other dining options. To get more ideas, swing by their shop or call and chat with their catering specialists. Caputos.com

Dog Haus Dogs is offering a special of 20 sliders for $30. Pre-orders must be done today (Friday Feb. 2nd). Doghaus.com

Beltex Meats is offering a wide selection of bratwursts and other sausages, all made in-house. Instagram post

Copper Common is offering several specials. Any pizza plus 10 wings for $20. Additionally, their sister restaurant in Holladay, Copper Kitchen, is offering a special of 36 wings with fries and mac & cheese for $48. You can order online and schedule pickup between 2-4pm this Sunday. Wing flavors include Thai Chili and Yuzu, Tamarind Barbeque, and Traditional Buffalo with house buttermilk dressing.

Park City and Deer Valley

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BILLY BLANCO’S

This playful, modern cantina offering Mexican eats, burgers, wings and a full bar featuring Park City’s “best margarita” for 4 years running, voted on by Park City locals, is open daily. Watch the game from any seat in the house. For reservations and more information, call 435-575-0846

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My Cuisine Wishlist for Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City continues to broaden its culinary chops, offering a wide variety of cuisines from around the globe. However, we still have a ways to go. Often we only have one or two restaurants offering a particular cuisine, and to use baseball parlance, I’d love to see us have a deeper bench. In no particular order, here’s my list of cuisines I would like to see in the city.

Cuban

We desperately need a solid Cuban food restaurant. And I’m not just talking about the sandwich. We need a place that offers ceviche, plantains, yucca fries, empanadas, vaca frita, and roasted pork. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a solid Cuban sandwich, head over to Beltex Meats early on Saturday mornings to pick up one of their Cubans. They only make a small amount of these sandwiches on Saturdays, and always sell out. And it’s no wonder they are so popular, since the sandwich features their in-house smoked ham, roast mojo pork loin, house-brined pickles, Weber’s mustard, Swiss cheese, fennel marmalade, and Red Bicycle bread. It’s the best Cuban I’ve tasted anywhere.

Beltex Meats November 2016
Prepping the Cubans at Beltex

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Hearth and Hill Restaurant

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Tucked away towards the back of a Kimball Junction shopping area, between the Best Buy and Jupiter Lanes bowling alley, you will find the newly-opened Hearth and Hill restaurant. This smartly-designed restaurant seeks to be a local-centric, community-focused restaurant. A place where you would be comfortable hanging with your friends, go on a first date, or hang out with your grandparents. A lot of time, attention, and money was spent on the interior of the restaurant, which I would call industrial-chic. Large-pane windows showcase the bright white kitchen—kind of a different take on the open kitchen concept—and I like it. Make sure you spend some time at the gorgeous bar, and enjoy a cocktail or mocktail as you pre-game dinner. During the warmer months, live music will be featured on their large patio. 

The bar at Hearth and Hill restaurant in Park City, Utah

Brooks Kirchheimer, proprietor of Hearth and Hill, has restaurants in his blood. As a child his very first Christmas present he recalls asking Santa for was a cash register, and he would routinely drive his sisters crazy asking them to “play restaurant” with him (his restaurant’s name was Sharky’s). 

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Restaurant Specials during Sundance

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While many restaurant owners in Park City rent out their space and high-tail it to the Caribbean during the craziness of Sundance, many others drink an extra espresso or two and dive head first into the Sundance craziness.

Here’s a list of Park City and Salt Lake City restaurants that will be open, as well as applicable specials.

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