- Alex Springer
Over the past few months, The Gateway has become an example of taking risky life choices and seeing how they pay off. Nothing embodies this devil-may-care attitude quite like the types of restaurants that have taken up residence at the downtown shopping center. As fascinating as these new eateries have been to observe, the jury is still out on their overall staying power. The Gateway is having a moment, and only time will tell how that moment plays out. For a first-hand look at its sleek new stable of eateries, my family and I went to HallPass (153 S. Rio Grande St., Ste. 107, 801-415-9886), which has built up some solid buzz for itself as Utah's very first food hall, which is a lot like a neighborhood food truck night without the lingering smell of exhaust in the air.
The entire concept is anchored by a restaurant called SkinnyFATS (skinnyfats.com) a trendy Las Vegas-based eatery that has been making a name for itself in the fast-casual circuit. At the moment, HallPass includes eight concepts including a SkinnyFATS location. Each features smaller, focused menus that center around a particular dish or type of food. For example, Blaze of Thunder serves up Nashville hot chicken sandwiches and Raining Ramen offers a variety of the popular Japanese noodle soup.
Upon entering HallPass for the first time, the dizzying architecture evokes a very Vegas feel—it's very easy to become lost as you navigate the maze-like food hall. Not that getting lost here is a bad thing. Exploring its nooks and crannies offers plenty of time to plan out the perfect menu. When we visited, I had a serious hankering for a lobster roll, so we did the rounds and ended up at Colossal Lobster. They serve up both Maine and Connecticut lobster rolls ($15)—the Connecticut variety serves its lobster warmed up and slathered in clarified butter while the Maine selection is cool and mayo-based.
Once you've placed an order, you get a restaurant-specific pager that'll go off when it's ready. While waiting for the lobster-y goodness that was in store, we also decided to try out something from SkinnyFATS's pun-laden menu. Their More Cow Bowl ($12.95) consists of teriyaki filet mignon, cauliflower, Portobello mushrooms and peppers atop a layer of egg fried rice. Next on the list was to find something for our two-year-old, which was actually a bit of a struggle. The side mac and cheese ($4) from Blaze of Thunder ended up being the best option.
When our respective pagers went off, we collected our bounty and snagged a spot near the entrance. I've been trying to get my daughter into lobster rolls, but it'll surely take her some time to warm up to the idea. When she's ready to take that journey, I wouldn't hesitate to bring her back. Salt Lake has only recently been introduced to these coastal favorites, and our smattering of lobster rollers have set the bar pretty damn high. That said, I'd wager any lobster roll aficionado would be happy with the offerings that Colossal is throwing down. Visually, this is a textbook presentation. A toasted, buttery bun overstuffed with perfectly cooked lobster, claw meat poking out of each end much like a Christmas present. The meat and mayo ratio is spot on, and there's just enough citrus flavor to make everything stand up and sing.
SkinnyFATS' More Cow Bowl is a good representation of what they're trying to do—the menu is supposed to be half healthy, half not so much. Our choice came from the latter side of the menu, but I appreciated the plethora of veggies that were partying with the teriyaki-bathed filet mignon. At the end of the day, this is a rice bowl like unto other fast-casual offerings, but it does start off stronger than its food pile cousins. The filet is tasty, and the veggies add a pop of freshness, so there's no griping with the quality of ingredients. Toward the end of the bowl, however, the liberal dose of teriyaki sauce starts to overwhelm the whole dish.
Though Blaze's mac and cheese was good enough for me to steal a few bites—creamy and melty with just the right amount of salt to keep things grounded—it's surprising that HallPass isn't a bit more family-friendly.
Building on its buzz, now would be a good time for its eateries to expand their menus and offer a few more options for the budding gourmand. The cool thing about HalPass is that it's constantly evolving, so chances are it's in the cards. It's the kind of place that warrants repeat visits for several different reasons, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this place uses its platform to expand and bring new and exciting flavors to the downtown area.