Shopping malls are not historically known as centers of culinary excellence. Amidst a sea of Sbarro, Orange Julius and Auntie Anne’s, your average multi-chain food court is rarely a spot for interesting local cuisine. However, the gateway defies expectations. The mall-turned-entertainment complex now boasts a growing list of unique restaurants and bars in an unlikely dining hub.
These new (or new) restaurants are part of the larger revitalization of The Gateway. The Gateway opened in 2001 with the Winter Olympics on the horizon and retail still dominated by brick-and-mortar malls. In its tumultuous second decade, however, The Gateway’s fate changed. The $1.5 billion City Creek Center opened in 2012 and snapped up many of its big-name stores, online shopping was sapping revenue at malls across the country, and the Rio Grande area was riddled with high crime and a bad reputation . In the late 2010s, steppe runners blew through the once-busy corridors.
Now, in 2022, The Gateway still won’t beat City Creek at traditional mall, but do we really need more malls? The gateway, as business people say, had to twist and get creative with its generous downtown space. From hosting the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival to regular events during the pandemic like flea markets, art walks and yoga and beer, The Gateway is all about experiences, culture, food and fun. Remember when Kanye stopped by for an impromptu Sunday service in 2019? Was that a dream?
The Gateway 2.0 wants you to hang out with a beer, throw a party or treat the family to a unique dinner (often at the same restaurant). This social, best experienced model can be complicated as new variants seem to keep popping up and threatening our good times. But if you do venture out again, The Gateway is worth a revisit.
Located on the site of the short-lived Punch Bowl Social, this new concept bills itself as a kitchen and “sports club.” What does that mean exactly? In the case of Flanker, that means the massive space — 17,500 square feet — has enough scope to be a bit of a sports bar, a bit of a nightclub (they threw a New Year’s Eve party with Lil’ Jon), and a bit of an entertainment venue, with a parlor and bowling alley, private karaoke rooms and a golf simulator. Their menu ranges somewhere between fine pub grub and casual steakhouse. For starters, there are Greek-inspired taverna tots with tzatziki and a Mediterranean twist on pico de gallo, grill-your-own chicken wings, and, if you have a seafood sweet tooth, funnel cake lobster fritters. The brisket tacos with grilled cheese tortillas are delicious. For dessert, there’s a golden fried cherry pie — basically a turnover — or a birthday cake milkshake topped with (deep breath) a cupcake, biscuit, marshmallow, whipped cream AND candy. It looks as outrageous as it sounds.
A first in Utah, this food hall (not a court) is from owner Reed Slobusky and chef Marc Marrone. Marrone designed the menus for several small fast-casual restaurants under the same roof, leaving room for experimentation with new ideas. SkinnyFats splits the menu evenly between “happy” and “healthy” (although the buffalo cauliflower I tried didn’t taste like particularly “unhappy” health food). At Graffiti Bao, an Asian street food-inspired menu features kung pao chicken bao rolls and Vietnamese spring rolls, and is influenced by Marrone’s cooking time in Singapore and Vietnam. CodSpeed and Colossal Lobster sell fish and chips and lobster rolls. The draft room Beer Zombies offers local craft brew on tap. And because rotisserie chicken is a must these days, Blaze of Thunder offers a staple – Nashville Hot Chicken. (A manager has promised me a seasoning beyond “Utah hot.”) Marrone has an impressive command of a variety of cuisines — all menus are brought together through people-friendly, affordable, accessible dishes full of flavor. And thank goodness it’s open until after 10pm on weekends.
Alongside HallPass, Marrone is developing another new venue for The Gateway, a sit-down restaurant inspired by his Italian-American background. Marrone will update local favorites from his childhood, including handmade pasta, lamb stewed in red wine and salmon crudo on polenta. Marrone hopes to open Italian Graffiti later this year.
Perfect for a quiet nightcap, this cozy (read: tiny) bar on the Gateway’s upper level is a downtown hangout that feels a world away from the crowds on nearby Main Street. The menu is simple — a few snacks, a small selection of craft cocktails (the old-fashioned mezcal for the traditional whiskey), and homemade mixers to go. Perhaps best of all is Seabird’s massive vinyl collection, because everything tastes better with a side of Fleetwood Mac.
Hungry for more at Gateway?
At Mr. Shabu, try shabu shabu, a Japanese stew that literally means swish swish. For dessert, there are mochi donuts (glazed sweets made from rice flour and tapioca) at Momi or ice cream rolled in a “taco cone” at Sweet Rolled Tacos. If you’re craving something a little more upscale, The Gateway also has Utah’s only Fleming location.
For more information, see Salt Lake City Restaurants. Or subscribe Salt lake.