Neutral Ground, in New Orleans parlance, referred to the wide, grassy median that bridged the gap between the original First Municipality (now the French Quarter) and the Second Municipality, which was Anglo-American (now the Central Business District). Running right down the middle of Canal Street, it was the meeting place where two distinct districts that didn’t much get along could find literal common ground.
Now, it means any grassy median separating lanes of traffic in the city where you might meet up to watch a parade or play dominos with the neighbors—still a literal gathering place.
Salt Lake City now has its own Neutral Ground paying homage to the gathering places of New Orleans with an added tip of the hat to the Cajun and Creole food of NOLA.
You’ll find this decked-out restaurant and lounge on the west side heading towards the airport. The interiors are appropriately dressed in velvet and gold accented with classic purples, greens, and golds. Despite its bougie appearance, the space is cozy and feels intimate.
I visited twice and then chatted with Matt Sheridan, the General Manager, to get the scoop. “The owner, Nico, lived in New Orleans for nine years, and when he moved back to Utah, he realized that there’s no true Cajun, Creole, or Louisiana cuisine in the area,” said Matt. “So, being a business entrepreneur and restauranteur, he started on Neutral Ground Lounge.”
As we talked about the menu, Matt explained, “The menu currently is some traditional and some takes on traditional dishes. Sticking to those [New Orleans] roots of fried green tomatoes and alligator dishes like the tacos, and doing the gumbo, the cajun pasta, and the red beans and rice.” He added, “Making sure those very traditional dishes are made and prepared in traditional ways, like red beans and rice and the gumbo. It takes an entire day to cook, and then it steeps for a day, and we serve it on day three.”
Bar manager Michael Halloday created a mix of “traditional with a twist” cocktails, so you’ll find something to tickle your fancy. I loved the Applewood Smoked Old Fashioned, and the Sazerac variation had a hint of lavender that was interesting and bright. I also got the Mezcal Hibiscus cocktail with cucumber and lime. Because I will always order the cocktail with mezcal.
What to order at Neutral Ground
The Fried Green Tomatoes were delicious and crispy. I loved the cornmeal breading. The red pepper jelly added a hint of sweetness, and I’m always a sucker for spicy mayo.
It may sound crazy, but the Smoked Beets were one of my favorite things on the menu. They are roasted, smoked in a brick oven, and served with honey-whipped goat cheese. A drizzling of hot honey means you get smokey, tangy, sweet, and heat, plus the earthiness of the beets all in one dish.
The Crawfish Mac and Cheese looked terrific. We all drooled a little every time it passed the table. I will be ordering this the next time I’m in. Guaranteed.
On both visits, I got the flatbread. Again, baked in that brick-fired oven. “The brick oven is used for all of our flatbreads. Everything is rolled and baked to order,” said Matt. “So that [dough] specifically for our flatbreads, it’s made one day, and it takes a day for it to sit and change up the flavors. And then serve the next day. The brick oven does a lot. It makes our peach cobbler to order our smoked beets to order. That brick oven helps us get that nice, flame-broiled, open, flame-cooked taste in the food.”
The flatbread is perfect for sharing if you’re so inclined. The Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread is seasonal; with both goat cheese and manchego, it is toasty and tart with the champagne vinaigrette and arugula topping it off.
The Andouille White Flatbread had both sausage and chicken (well-blackened) and, of course, the New Orleans culinary trinity of onion, celery, and green pepper with a creamy white sauce and shaved fontina cheese.
When dining out, I try to go for something that I would never bother to make it home. And a classic burger is just one such thing. Which means the Slow Burn Burger caught my eye. The spicy barbecue sauce was out of this world. I was tempted to ask for a cup of it on the side. Add on jalapenos and chow-chow slaw with maple candied bacon, and you have something quite magical. Get this with the roasted beets, and you’ll walk away happy. I promise.
We can’t forget dessert. Again, something I’m not going to make it home. The Seasonal Cobbler is baked in the brick fire oven and served hot with ice cream melting all over it. Neutral Ground has managed to do something pretty out of this world— make beignets that are a solid reminder of the originals. Are they exactly like what you might get at Cafe du Monde? No. Those are unique, with things like humidity, altitude, and a particular time and place coming together to make the New Orleans-famous beignets. The Neutral Ground Beignets are delicious fluffy pockets that are airy instead of dense and served with a side of lemon curd and a vanilla dipping sauce. Both are delicious and add to the experience. I promise you will get powdered sugar all over your face in true New Orleans style. Let the good times roll!
“Some of the things on the horizon is our lunch menu,” said Matt, letting me in on upcoming plans. “Our lunch menu with our po’ boys. Then we’ll have etouffee, jambalaya and street cart-type food items. And that’s what we’ll lean into, including Boudin Balls.”
Boudin Balls are made with traditional pork and rice sausage that is particular to New Orleans. The casing is removed, and the sausage is rolled into balls, breaded, and deep-fried. I’ll be making a trip back just for these once they hit the menu.
Be sure to check the Neutral Ground website and social media for the launch of lunchtime hours and menus.
Ready to Visit Neutral Ground?
Tuesday – Thursday
4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday – Saturday
4 p.m. – 10 p.m. | Live Music from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday & Monday
2110 W N Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84116
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