- Ben Treasure
When someone mentions "eating near the airport"—Salt Lake City International Airport, that is—one place generally comes to mind: Red Iguana. Well, move over, because there's a new off-airport restaurant in town, and it's worth a drive west whether your journey is travel-related or not. In fact, given its easy access—about five minutes from downtown SLC—and plentiful free parking, Nomad Eatery is a terrific dining destination for any time and occasion. I think it's going to quickly become one of the hip new spots to chow down away from downtown.
Nomad chef/owner Justin Soelberg calls his eatery a "fast-casual diner," but you should immediately banish any preconceived notions you have about fast food before visiting. It couldn't be more un-franchise-like in ambiance and culinary offerings. The "fast" aspect is that customers order and pay in advance at the counter, and their food is delivered to their tables. Service is pretty quick, but all dishes are cooked to order—not sitting beneath a heat lamp.
Soelberg—who studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and more recently was executive chef at Avenues Proper and created Proper Burger—has crafted an eclectic menu in an eclectic space. The restaurant was formerly home to a place I reviewed a year or so ago, called Basilico. Aside from the original pizza oven, however, no trace of the former occupant exists. The once-dark space is now airy and inviting, with lots of reclaimed wood and a contemporary, but comfortable, look and feel. There's a bar on the right side where you can belly up for beer, wine or cocktails and a nosh.
Sandwiches and pizzas are the mainstays of the Nomad menu. I've tried most of them, and can proclaim them uniformly excellent. The pizzas start with a very good, rustic dough base and crust that is particularly highlighted in the simple Margherita ($10). A light tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, extra-virgin olive oil and Grana Padano cheese are all the components required to create an outstanding pizza. I also loved The Meats ($12) pizza, with housemade Italian sausage, caramelized onion, oregano, spicy Creminelli calabrese and Grana Padano.
One of my father's favorite foods was a fried bologna sandwich. I never quite developed a love for it, so it took a bit of arm-twisting and salesmanship by Nomad manager David Miller to get me to try the fried mortadella sandwich ($10). I'm glad he was persistent, because it's astonishingly satisfying, and has even become my petite wife's favorite sandwich. It's fried mortadella on a Kaiser-style bun with American cheese, French dressing, shredded lettuce, zucchini pickle and a side of really tasty salt-and-vinegar chips. The housemade potato chips are light and crispy, with a subtle dusting of malt vinegar powder; I could eats piles of them.
Ditto the french fries—double-fried, perfectly cooked, thin-cut fries (think McDonald's size) that are remarkable. Enjoy them with the excellent smoked turkey sandwich ($10), consisting of house-smoked turkey breast with zippy black bean hummus, Fritos (yep, the real things), Monterey Jack cheese, pickled red onion and bacon aioli on a wheat roll.
The incredibly talented Alexa Norlin is in charge of desserts and, along with her soft-serve ice cream and faultless ice cream sundae, you've gotta try her Choco Taco ($7)—Norlin's artisan cinnamon ice cream in a chocolate waffle cone.
For would-be nomads and other adventurers, Nomad Eatery justifies the call to "Go West, young man! (and woman)."