Photo: Chris Gariety
Don’t let that pesky, little umlaut in the word “döner” freak you out—if you do, you’ll find yourself missing out on something that fills a previously unknown niche in Salt Lake’s downtown food scene. The culinary concept that Josh Hill and Tanner Slizeski have established with Spitz is combining Mediterranean street food with local craft beer to create a dining experience that is both exotic and familiar. Inspired by a friend who found success with four different Spitz locations in Los Angeles, Hill and Slizeski brought the menu and ambiance to Salt Lake City—and judging from the line of diners that extends out the front door around dinnertime, the results have been more than promising. Located next to such Utah cultural hubs as Gallivan Plaza and the Broadway Centre Cinemas, folks can easily pop into Spitz for a pre-movie meal or grab something quick to munch on while taking in the sights of downtown Salt Lake.
Nothing is better suited for eating on the go than the Döner. Pronounced “du-ner,” it’s a wonderful spiral of sliced cucumber, tomato, green peppers and onions wrapped around thin slices of meat. They offer beef, lamb and chicken, which have been prepared in the traditional style of Turkish street food. The meat is seasoned, minced and then slow cooked on a vertical broiler—a literal meat tornado—which allows the meat’s natural juices and flavor to caramelize on the surface. The mixture is then piled high on a sandwich or, depending on your preference, wrapped tightly in lavash, which is flatbread that is slightly thinner than a pita but is a bit chewier than a tortilla. Spitz boasts a wide variety of this Turkish street food, but their most famous iteration is simply called the Street Cart Döner ($7.50–$8.25). I opted for the beef and lamb combo, and my first bite hit me with a very pleasant balance of flavor and texture. In addition to the fresh and crunchy veggies, the döner is adorned with crisp lavash chips and garlic aioli. All of these additions provide great backup for the meat, which is juicy and packed with Mediterranean spices. Even though chicken is notorious for drying out, this particular preparation ensures that it remains delicious and moist.
For those who prefer a vegetarian option, the falafel at Spitz is a more-than-worthy döner filling. The Döner with Pommes ($8.25–$8.50) with falafel instead of meat, for example, is a great way to enjoy Spitz’s menu while making sure you get a full belly. The Döner with Pommes takes the Street Cart Döner and stuffs it with fries—regular or sweet potato—and their falafel portion is very generous. Often, falafel falls into the trap of being a forgettable ball of fried mush, but the falafel at Spitz packs a surprising amount of flavor. Overall, it’s a tasty wrap, though I found myself wishing for a bit more of the aioli to balance the dryness of the falafel.
Though their selection of wraps is enough to encourage repeat business, there are some other gems on the menu that deserve your immediate attention. First and foremost would be the Street Cart Fries ($6.95). It starts with a foundation of fries and ends with a generous portion of chopped onions, feta cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, olives, peperoncinis and chili sauce. I fully endorse spending the extra 2 bucks to get the fries with “the works,” which adds your choice of meat to the mix and increases the size of the dish so it has to be served in a loaf pan. I’ve long been a supporter of the “food pile” school of culinary thought, and the Street Cart Fries at Spitz are a prime example of this technique. Each bite offers something a little different from the last, but the base comes from those delicious fries. They’re cooked with that perfect ratio of a crispy outside and chewy inside, but when they get paired with piles of rich, buttery feta, fresh onions and marinated slices of meat, the fries manage to transcend their humble potato origins.
Another surprising appetizer was the Doquitos ($3.95–$6.95). Visually, these little beauties are somewhere between an eggroll and a taquito. They come smothered with the same flavorful mixture of feta and veggies that is found on the Street Cart Fries. The Doquitos come stuffed with minced lamb and beef, and the lavash has been fried to a crispy perfection. They come in orders of one or two, but one is definitely enough for two people to share.
For the salad fan, Spitz offers two hefty options. The Garden Bowl ($6.50–$8.25) is a straightforward entrée that consists of a wide variety of veggies topped with hummus and your choice of meat or falafel. The Döner Salad ($8.95–$9.50) takes the filling of the Street Cart Döner and adds crispy garbanzo beans and balsamic dressing. Both options look beautiful when they arrive, and the crisp veggies bring a lot of fresh flavor to the dishes.
For folks who are looking to expand their palates, Spitz is a great first stop. The food brings a wide variety of exotic flavors, but the casual dining environment and accessible menu make the experience of culinary exploration much less intimidating. Now that you know how to pronounce Spitz’s most famous dish, there’s nothing holding you back.