illustration of a chef moving from las vegas to salt lake city on a map

Vegas to SLC: The Restaurant Transplants Sparking a Culinary Renaissance

Food: Interviews & Features

Several popular Las Vegas eateries have expanded to Salt Lake City and Park City in recent years, bringing a touch of Vegas flair to Utah’s capital. Drawn in by Utah’s growing population and vibrant dining scene, restaurants such as Carson Kitchen, Chop Shop Park City, HallPass, Flanker and more have found immense success in their new home.

So, what’s behind this Vegas-to-Utah restaurant trend? Proximity plays a role, as Salt Lake City is an easy, one-hour flight from Vegas. Several restaurateurs said they can manage their Vegas operations while living in Utah. Beyond convenience, these businesses also saw genuine opportunity in northern Utah.

“Everyone loves a good comeback story, and The Gateway has lots of love and people rooting for it.”

Carson Kitchen’s owner Cory Harwell noted SLC’s “up-and-coming food and beverage scene” while Chop Shop’s owners John and Paige Courtney say the appeal derives from “ … growing and getting away from being a tourist spot. Locals and the like have pushed to receive more than mountain ski–breaks or Après.” In other words, as Utah’s population and tastes grow more cosmopolitan, successful out-of-state restaurants believe they can flourish here. Locals are hungry for diverse, high-quality dining options in their backyards rather than looking to other cities.

One of the most high-profile moves was made by entrepreneur Reed Allen Slobusky, who opened his 11,000-square-foot–innovative food hall HallPass at The Gateway in 2019. HallPass houses six of Slobusky’s successful Vegas restaurants all under one roof, including tacos, pizza, barbecue, burgers, salads and Asian fusion. Slobusky was drawn to SLC’s potential, explaining, “We heard good things and wanted to get out of Vegas.” He saw an opportunity in The Gateway, noting “Everyone loves a good comeback story, and The Gateway has lots of love and people rooting for it.”

Indeed, Hallpass has helped spearhead a The Gateway renaissance. The open-air shopping and dining complex fell on hard times. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, The Gateway’s occupancy rate dropped from 96% in 2010 to 78% in 2015. But luckily, The Gateway is now experiencing a rebirth as new tenants revive the space. HallPass brings consistent crowds with its diversity of dining options, benefiting nearby businesses. Upscale fitness studio TruFusion, LLC is one of the latest additions, joining long-standing favorites such as Wiseguys Comedy Club. Developer Vestar recently acquired The Gateway, and, according to an interview with City Weekly, has big plans to transform it into a community hub. The arrival of HallPass kickstarted that renewal, putting The Gateway back on locals’ radars. Slobusky credits his success to the mall’s heavy foot traffic and SLC’s welcoming locals.

“Locals and the like have pushed to receive more than mountain ski–breaks or Après.”

Other Vegas-based restaurants have also expanded to Utah. Carson Kitchen, known for its farm-to-table gastropub fare in downtown Vegas, opened in Park City in 2018. Harwell was drawn to the “diversity of the customer base” in the area and wanted to capitalize on tourists and locals alike. Bryan Bass, Chief Marketing Officer for Carver Road Hospitality of Flanker at The Gateway, says the food scene in Utah is ever improving, adding that Utah’s “… most impressive surprise has been the excellent craft beer scene.”

Chop Shop Park City, a butcher shop and eatery, moved from Vegas to Park City in 2020. John Courtney cites Park City’s outdoor recreation, schools and sense of community as reasons for relocating. He says locals helped his business thrive even during the busy ski season tourist influx.

The rise of new eateries has created a virtuous cycle where more variety attracts more patrons, which in turn draws more restaurants. Slobusky encourages other businesses to join the mix, remarking, “The more the merrier.” Bass notes that being able to fine tune Flanker in Utah has allowed it to expand back to Vegas, with its third location having just opened in Mandalay Bay.

With its confluence of homegrown talent and ambitious out-of-state imports, Salt Lake City’s restaurant scene has nowhere to go but up. The Las Vegas transplants doubling down on SLC prove the city has arrived as a true culinary contender.

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