- Alex Springer
Right about now, we're all aching for a taste of something that has the power to whisk us away to a sun-drenched island or vibrant beach community on the other side of the world. This is where the coconut-dusted lamingtons and golden brown meat pies of Sagato Bakery (44 W. 7200 South, 385-557-1728, sagatofoods.com) come in. This Midvale bakery has a menu that pulls liberally from the island cultures around Australia, New Zealand and Samoa, making it perfect grab-and-go summer soul food for times when a little bit of socially-responsible escape becomes a high priority—or when you just need to consume a huge pile of kalua pork.
We have Loi and Tualagi Sagato to thank for bringing these delicious flavors together under one roof. Along with their five children, the Sagatos made a name for themselves selling steamed buns and shortbread from a table in Kearns Park and setting up vendor stands at various festivals and markets around Salt Lake. Over the years, the family saved enough money to open the warm and welcoming storefront that has been serving the Midvale community for the past few years.
I had Instagram-stalked Sagato for a few months before they opened—images of gravy-filled meat pies and caramelized pani popo (a Samoan sweet roll made from coconut custard) lured me right in. Something about a lightly-browned pastry crust that gives way to a medley of meat and veggies has been integral to my happy place, so I was thrilled to give them a try once they opened.
Their selection of meat pies ($5.45-$5.78) is deliciously ample, from ground beef—or mincemeat, as New Zealanders would say—and cheddar cheese to chicken with potatoes, carrots and peas. You can't really go wrong with anything from this part of the menu, but if you're after true "grandma's buttery home cooking" bliss, the steak and mushroom pie is perfection. It throws the crowd-pleasing combo of steak and mushrooms in with a thick brown gravy, all of which melts in your mouth in a pleasant, Sunday dinner kind of way.
The sausage roll ($4.35) and the kekepua'a ($3.25) are variations on the theme of meat-stuffed pastry. Despite their unassuming appearances, these two pack a lot of filling flavor for under five bucks—consume with caution. Anyone familiar with pigs in a blanket will recognize the sausage roll's basic structure, but I'd be willing to bet you've never had a sausage quite like this one. It's a mixture of ground beef and pork, seasoned and linked in-house. Familiar notes of black pepper and garlic welcome your tongue to the party, but the more you eat, the more unique these sausages get. The kekepua'a is a steamed bun as big as your head, stuffed with marinated pork. This is the ultimate hike or picnic tagalong, since they come pre-packaged in plastic wrap and offer energy for days. Don't be surprised when you get full after getting halfway through one, however.
For those looking for something more akin to a feast than a quick lunch, Sagato is cooking up multi-meat combo platters ($9.35-$15.35) with rice and macaroni salad. These platters can be tuned up with kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef or all three if you're starving. All of the proteins are prepared and slow-roasted onsite, so the flavors are incredibly fresh—and they absolutely do not skimp on the portions. I've noticed a lot of Hawaiian grills popping up in the wake of Mo' Bettahs, but if that type of meat-and-macaroni cuisine is your jam, Sagato is definitely worth checking out.
Where Sagato's savory options are designed to deliver gut punches of buttery, slow-roasted goodness, their desserts are as light and fluffy as a tropical cloudbank. For a prime example of what I mean, try a slice of their haupia ($4.35), a coconut custard cake piled high with peaks of coconut cream. Each slice is gigantic, but once all those luscious layers convalesce into a feathery, slightly sweet embrace of coconut, it becomes frightfully evident that you could eat a whole cake without thinking twice. A worthy compatriot to the haupia is Sagato's pineapple pie ($3.85), a hand pie stuffed with a sweet and tart pineapple custard. It's filled with summery flavor, and its convenient shape makes it another grab-and-go favorite. Finally, the Hostess Sno Ball fan in me would be heartbroken if I didn't mention Sagato's famous lamington ($3.85), a sponge cake dipped in chocolate, topped with chocolate ganache and dusted with coconut flakes before getting overstuffed with cream filling. It's the rock star, and Sno Balls merely the cover band.
With a plethora of ways to place orders in our risk-level-orange pandemic climate, Sagato's food makes an ideal dining companion for this moment in history. Whether you need to mentally project yourself beachside with some tropical desserts, or you're longing for the comforting tastes of a simpler time, Sagato Bakery has you covered.