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Vessel Kitchen offers healthy options at Station Park

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 18, 2023
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Vessel Kitchen partners Nick Gradinger, Brian Reeder and Roe'e Levy sit for a photo at the opening of their sixth location, at Station Park in Farmington.
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One of Vessel Kitchen's signature dishes is Hash Hash — braised shredded beef hash with roasted, diced sweet potato hash.

The name "Vessel Kitchen" comes from the idea "that your body is a vessel for everything you do, and it needs good food for you to thrive," said Nick Gradinger, co-founder of the restaurant that opened Jan. 13 at Station Park in Farmington. "We only have one vessel taking us through the voyage that is our lives. If you have good fuel, it can take you to even better places."

The fast-casual eatery specializes in made-from-scratch meals, many with a trendy "health" buzz -- poke tuna bowl, kale Caesar salad, coconut rice-quinoa and spicy cauliflower. But there are also comfort classics like braised beef, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

From the beginning, the founders didn't want to be pigeonholed into only serving "healthy" food. They call their dishes "healthy" and "healthy-ish."

Gradinger, with partners Brian Reeder and Roe'e Levy, opened the first Vessel Kitchen in 2016 at Kimball Junction near Park City. Based on that initial success, they opened four more in the Salt Lake/Sandy area. Station Park (at 320 Central Ave., next to Costa Vida) is the sixth location, and the only one north of Salt Lake City.

All three partners had experience in restaurants and the hospitality industry. Reeder was the senior assistant director of finance for Montage Hotels & Resorts and had been Montage Deer Valley's restaurant director before becoming Vessel Kitchen's culinary director.

Chef Levy is from Israel and was attracted to Utah for the skiing. His resume includes chef at the Homestead and Zermatt resorts in Midway and executive chef at Park City's luxury Promontory Club.

Originally from San Diego, Gradinger had worked in restaurants in his college years on the East Coast. He had moved to Park City and was working in marketing when he came up with the Vessel Kitchen concept. He wanted something higher quality than fast food, but less expensive than Park City's high-end restaurants.

"I took a look around and saw a need for something better," Gradinger said. "It seemed we could serve quality food at an affordable price in a beautiful setting."

Although entrepreneurial ventures, especially restaurants, can be risky, "We had conviction that this niche could be filled, and that intuition was correct," Gradinger said. "We learned people were clamoring for quality food at an affordable price point."

The restaurant's signature item is Hash Hash -- braised shredded beef over diced, roasted sweet potato "hash," drizzled with horseradish crema, crumbled feta, and topped with pickled onion.

"It's got a lot of flavor and a hearty, healthy starch with the sweet potatoes," Gradinger said. "It's part of the way we stack flavors. For whatever reason, people can't get enough of it."

It was the first dish that Levy created for the restaurant. And although the restaurant changes its menu seasonally three to four times a year, Hash Hash has never been removed due to its popularity.

"We're known for customization. We have so many options that you can choose your own adventure and change up your own plate every day," Gradinger said.

Customers move through an assembly line counter where they can mix-and-match their order from a range of proteins and side dishes. Proteins on the current menu include falafel, chickpea stew, shredded chicken, pulled pork, roasted chicken breast, steelhead trout or raw yellowfin tuna. Side dishes include sweet potato hash, mashed potatoes, coconut rice with quinoa, macaroni and cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, Fresno pepper-spiced cauliflower, pita strips, Thai-spiced carrots, miso-sesame couscous, lemon mint kale slaw, hummus, smashed avocado, cashew Caesar broccoli, and grapefruit and feta beets.

After hearing that Utes quarterback Cam Rising was a frequent Vessel Kitchen customer, the restaurant partnered with him to offer a signature dish called Rising Tide, said Gradinger. It's a combo of shredded chicken and sweet potato hash, topped with Peruvian green sauce and Israeli pico (chopped tomatoes flavored with a Middle Eastern herb and spice blend called za'atar).

For every Rising Tide dish sold, a portion of the proceeds goes to the 22 Forever Foundation honoring fallen Utes players Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.

The menu is allergy-friendly, with each item marked as vegan, vegetarian, served raw or noting if it contains gluten, nuts, dairy or soy.

"We want to be a safe haven for people with celiac, or who are dairy intolerant," Gradinger said.

They have options that meet most diets, such as Mediterranean, Keto or Paleo. Gradinger said that it's Utah's only restaurant approved by the Whole30 diet plan, which advocates whole foods and no sugar, alcohol, grains or dairy. Items that are "Whole30 Approved" are marked as "W30" on the menu.

"An insightful revelation is when a wife convinces her husband to go to Vessel on a Friday night, and he thinks it will all be 'rabbit food,'" said Gradinger. "But, he's able to get a braised beef plate with mashed potatoes, and his wife can get something she wants, so it's an elevated date night. Instead of spending $150 with drinks, they can get out the door for $35. And if you bring your kids, we have tasty food for them too."


IF YOU GO

Vessel Kitchen

Location: 320 N. Central Ave., Station Park in Farmington. Also five other locations in Park City, Salt Lake, Sandy, East Sandy and Midvale.

Contact: https://www.vesselkitchen.com, 385-220-6700

Price range: Entrees, $10-$17

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

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