Plum Alley
111 E. Broadway, Ste. 190

Lunch: Monday - Friday
11:30 A.M. - 3:00 P.M.
Dinner: Sunday - Thursday
5:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.
Friday & Saturday
5:00 P.M. - 11:00 P.M.

After the rockin’ success of The Copper Onion, it came as no surprise when chef/owner Ryan Lowder and his superb staff branched out and around the corner with another restaurant. Plum Alley serves Southeast-Asian Fusion based on the same locally sourced, seasonal, simple and homey (yet excellent) cooking ethics. The restaurant has experienced a little upheaval in personnel and menu shifting as they found their stride, but it’s only gotten better at each turn.

Named for Salt Lake City’s long-ago demolished Chinatown, Plum Alley offers a hip yet undeniably elegant setting for equally hip and elegant food. The entire joint oozes with that perfect urban combination of industrial-rustic design topped off with just the right amount of shine, color and light—exposed wood and wire mesh with colorful paper lanterns and mirrors that reflect the light from the long, south-facing windows along Broadway. There’s seating at the bar and at small, two-person tables along the windows, but large communal tables take up much of the restaurant. While eating with strangers is not the norm in Utah, it is, apparently, not so unusual on the East Coast, where Lowder worked for many years.

While the hours at Plum Alley can be tricky, with no lunch served on the weekends (which throws me about half the time, but I just end up at their sister restaurant instead), they are open for weekday lunches featuring some dinner favorites, as well as $10 lunch specials: a choice of side with an entrée or small plate, such as the stir-fried house noodles or chilled chicken rice bowl with yellow curry.

My favorite of these dishes is the Steamed Buns ($8 as a plate) with sweet, cincalok-glazed pork belly. The meat is perfectly seared, and the fat quite literally melts on your tongue. The steamed buns are a delicious, flat, round bread, and the dish is served up like two small Asian tacos, with a vinegar, mint, coriander, peanut and radish garnish that tops the buns perfectly. Paired with the griddled cauliflower, which is seared but still crunchy and topped with aioli, pickled mustard greens and toasted sesame seeds ($5 à la carte) or the spicy, caramelized, palm sugar–sweetened green beans ($6), it’s a perfect lunch.

For a heartier lunch or for dinner, don’t miss the P.A. Ramen ($13), a large portion of soup built around a pork stock that is cooked for 20 hours, with thick noodles, bits of pulled pork, egg and the most delicious pieces of pork belly I’ve ever encountered (and given how much pork belly I’ve had at Lowder’s restaurants, that’s saying something!). The stock is thick with flavor. If you don’t finish it, take it home and have it the next day—it’s far too good to waste. Vegetarians can also get an equally tasty version of the ramen with a roasted mushroom stock ($11).