I have to say that the concept and the mission of Vessel Kitchen – a portion of which is hung on a wall of the restaurant – appeals to me. Among other things, the folks behind Vessel Kitchen say they’re committed to sourcing produce and such from “growers and partners we know and trust”. Sounds good to me. These partners include Strong Vertical Gardens in Heber, SLC’s New Roots Farms, Gold Creek Farms in Woodland, Park City’s Red Bicycle Breadworks, Suss Cookies from Midway, and others.
And, Vessel Kitchen states as part of their mission that “We believe in a dining experience that leaves you feeling better on the way out the door than you did on the way in”. So, how did we feel on the way out the door? Does Vessel Kitchen succeed in its mission? Read on.
Vessel Kitchen, self-described as a Food Forward Eatery, is not all that different than Subway, Chipotle or a hundred other fast-service restaurants in one way: Customers line up and order cafeteria-style pre-cooked food that sits awaiting in warmers. Then you pay at the “Finish Here” station and collect your tray of food from the “Pickup Here” counter. Granted, Park City’s Vessel Kitchen and the newer one in Midvale look a lot nicer than most of the cafeterias I’ve eaten in. They are sleek, modern and attractive … but there’s still that cafeteria vibe.
Since my wife and I ate at Vessel Kitchen earlier this summer, the menus have changed some; and I credit the Kitchen for staying seasonal. So for example, the roasted potatoes my wife chose as a side dish don’t seem to be available anymore, replaced by sweet potato hash and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes. Which is OK, since the roasted potatoes that came with my wife’s fish left much to be desired and weren’t particularly appealing either to look at or to eat.
Vessel Kitchen offers a number of Signature Bowls (Poke Tuna, Chicken + Grains, etc.); and Salads (Soy Ginger Tuna, Cream + Honey, and so on) along with sandwiches, tacos, and soups. But the most popular item seems to be the “Build Your Own Market Plate” in which customers 1) choose a protein, 2) select two seasonal side dishes. There are also Family Meals which serve 4 with a choice of three side dishes.
The Market Plate protein choices run from $11 (for Falafel) to $15 for Miso Steelhead trout. There’s also Roasted Chicken, Adobo Chicken, Braised Beef, Yellowfin Tuna and Pulled Pork.
I chose the Roasted Chicken ($11.50) which consisted of a smallish leg and thigh with two sides. The chicken itself had good flavor, but as I said, seemed kinda skimpy for $11.50 (plus extra for beverages). A side dish of orzo and beluga lentils was (except for the cilantro) the best part of my Vessel Kitchen meal. Macaroni and cheese made with aged cheddar was … meh. Next time – if there is a next time – I’d probably opt for the charred corn esquites or maybe basmati with quinoa side dishes.
For a quick meal of food that at least seems healthier than typical fast food, I suppose Vessel Kitchen is a sensible option. And yet, I left the place feeling nonplussed. The food I tasted was only a little more flavorful than most airplane meals; there wasn’t really anything that made me want to come back and try any of the other dishes.
Perhaps the Fresno pork with Napa slaw, mango slaw, Fresno crema, and micro kale is phenomenal. But I don’t think I’ll ever find out. Because frankly, for the price of lunch for two with beverages at cafeteria-style Vessel Kitchen, I could have had a full-service dinner in many restaurants with food cooked to order. And that’s how I felt on my way out the door.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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