Not long ago, Salt Lake’s rich nightlife scene was sanctioned to Main Street’s busy sidewalks and the surrounding downtown area. Now, cocktail connoisseurs and certified foodies are venturing further south to the Central Ninth neighborhood. The thriving district boasts acclaimed spots like Water Witch, Nohm, Laziz Kitchen, Scion Cider Bar, Central 9th Market and Milk+. The most recent addition to Central Ninth’s roster is The Pearl, a hip space serving craft cocktails and Vietnamese street food.
Conceived by the same minds behind downtown hot spot Alibi Bar, The Pearl is owned by Tommy Nguyen, Jacob Sloan Hall, Michael Askerlund, Chase Worthen and Oliver Shea Lewis. “The Pearl has been a dream of ours for several years now,” says Hall. “We’ve built a great family at Alibi, and creating another community in the 9th South area was a no-brainer for us.” But instead of recreating the Alibi blueprint, the group wanted to pursue the culinary focus that has become a defining feature of the Central Ninth area. “Every one of these businesses have their own unique experience and approach to food,” says Hall. “We’re excited to fill a different niche.”
So what exactly does The Pearl bring to the table? Enter Chef Nguyen, whose Vietnamese heritage has inspired a street food-style menu with items like banh mi sandwiches, caramel pork belly and chicken pho. “I’ve always wanted to pay homage to the food I grew up with,” says Nguyen. “Learning how to cook with my mom are some of my best memories.” Each item is crafted with care, and best paired with a cocktail made by the knowledgeable bartenders. Try the Roundabout Whale, a citrusy concoction featuring yuzu, lemongrass-chili syrup and gin, or the Saigon Sling that highlights all the pleasant feelings of a beach cocktail. My personal favorite way to experience a new spot—leaving your fate in the hands of bartenders as they craft a one-of-a-kind drink suited to your taste.
Vietnamese motifs showcased in the menu extend throughout The Pearl, which was fashioned after Southeast Asian restaurants and bars. Sleek industrial furnishings and a finished concrete floor serve as contrast to the wood ceiling panels and cool-toned accents. Hand-painted tile imported from Vietnam adorns one side of the space, and on the other is a mural designed by Vietnamese artist Quynhhuong Nguyen and painted by Shley Kinser. The nautical wall-art embraces the bar’s namesake symbols, featuring two pearl divers and a giant clam pearl. Of course the space is also filled with potted plants and handcrafted wood surfaces—an Alibi favorite.
The Pearl’s light-filled interior is perfect for enjoying a sunny afternoon, and reveling in a little daytime fun (and day drinking) is exactly what the owners intended for the bar. “We’ll host events at the Pearl,” says Hall. “But they will be more focused on daytime activities on our patio—brunch during the weekend, community fundraisers and holiday parties.” Of course The Pearl also caters to the late-night crowd, offering their satisfying dishes to anyone in search of a good meal after 10 p.m.
Welcoming The Pearl to the Central Ninth neighborhood is just another sign of the area’s up and coming status as Salt Lake’s latest hotspot. So stop by the next time you’re in the mood for a boozy libation and savory snack. Open Tuesday–Saturday.
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