Plant-Based Posh | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Plant-Based Posh 

The Grand America's Gibson Lounge cultivates a plant-forward perspective on nighttime dining.

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  • Alex Springer

It's been a little bit since I've checked in with Utah's plant-based scene, which has really done nothing but impress me to this point. We've got everything from diner-style comfort food to traditional French cuisine to desserts and ice cream; it's definitely a broad spectrum to explore. When I heard about some of the new autumn-inspired changes to The Gibson Lounge in the Grand America Hotel (555 S. Main Street, 801-258-6000,, I was surprised to see so many plant-based options on the menu.

I've checked out the dining options at The Grand America a few times in recent years, and thus far they've got an excellent track record. Laurel, which I wrote about previously, impressed me with its fancy European menu that doesn't once break the $30 cap for an entrée. My first few visits to the Gibson Lounge were for afternoon tea with my wife and daughter, which is always a memorable experience. For this visit, I sought out the Gibson Girl Lounge, the demure and slightly secluded counterpart of the Gibson, which welcomes guests directly adjacent to the lobby.

The Gibson Girl Lounge maintains a quirky speakeasy kind of vibe. Instead of windows, the wall space is dominated by paintings, sculptures and other swank decorations. Seating is intimate, lighting is low, and it's an excellent foil to the hustle and bustle of the lobby lounge. Since both lounges share the same menu, you can plan your trip accordingly; the Gibson is perfect for a giggly visit where you can gawk at the lovely chandeliers, but the Gibson Girl is where you want to go to get away from it all.

Regardless of which lounge earns your favor, you can see that half of the menu—that includes desserts—is plant-based. Not only that, but they're plant-based versions of some classic gastropub fare. You've got some cauliflower wings ($13) tossed in spicy Buffalo sauce and served with vegan blue cheese dressing, there's an Impossible cheeseburger ($21) with all the trimmings, and—my personal favorite—the oyster mushroom calamari ($15).

As a guy who eats pretty much anything, I really like seeing plant-based interpretations of dishes traditionally served with meat, so I was impressed when these deep-fried oyster mushrooms arrived. They definitely looked the part—the mushrooms were cut into tiny rings and served with some creamy aioli and sliced lemons on the side. At first glance, it would be impossible to tell the difference between this plate of food and the fried calamari from your favorite Italian joint. The crispy fried exterior and chewy interior were also dead ringers for the meat-based dish, especially when you hit them with some lemon juice and give them a dunk in the aioli.

While I admire the novelty of turning a meat-based dish into plant-based one, I also don't think its merit should be based on how well it recreates—it's got to stand on its own. This is happily the case with the plant-based menu at Gibson. Their menu is tasty, creative and full of surprises.

Diners of all stripes will be happy with the plant-based menu, but there are also plenty of options for fans of meat-based cuisine. The Reuben ($21) and the raclette cheeseburger ($21) are excellent options for lunch or dinner, but the dish that really caught my attention was the pappardelle and short ribs ($21). The short ribs have been braised and incorporated into a lovely ragu, which tops a generous pile of wide pappardelle noodles. Add a little sprinkle of pecorino cheese and you've got a rustic baller of a dish that warms you up from the inside out.

For dessert, the plant-based recommendation is the lemon tart ($9) with its toasted meringue—it's packed with citrusy flavor and is a great way to cut through the richness of the menu's savory side. Those that want to add richness to their plate will want to saunter over to the not-plant-based chocolate cake ($12). Sure, it's got an unassuming name, but when a slab of devil's food cake made with cacao-forward Guanaja chocolate topped with a chocolate fudge frosting hits your table, you sit up and take note.

From my initial impressions, the Gibson Lounge is continuing the tradition of reasonably-priced fine dining that the Grand America is known for. Pair that with a friendly atmosphere and some truly gorgeous furnishings, and you've got a spot that will suffice for a quick dinner with friends before hitting the town or for a relaxed evening filled with small plates and drinks. On a larger perspective, it's also adding some more diversity to Utah's already stellar plant-based food scene—in addition to all of the great local joints offering plant-based menus, a hip nightspot inside Utah's most prestigious hotel is a big win for plant-based food fans.

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