The mission to explore takeout dining during Utah’s COVID-19 restaurant closures and reopenings continues. This week, my wife and I enjoyed takeout dishes from one of SLC’s finest restaurants: HSL. In case you’ve forgotten or didn’t know, HSL (Handle Salt Lake) is the sister restaurant of Park City’s Handle. Both are the creation of a very talented trio and their equally talented staff: executive chef/partner Briar Handly, partner/creative director Melissa Gray, and Meagan Nash, who is a partner and handles operations.
Currently, the eye popping dining room and bar at HSL are closed. But, you can enjoy HSL’s killer cuisine via curbside takeout, Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Their phone lines are open from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and customers can pick up orders as late as 9 p.m. The staff at HSL converted their parking lot into a no-contact pickup zone with tables at each parking stall. A staff member simply drops your order at the table when you arrive and you grab it and go. The ordering process – online or by phone – is one of the smoothest I’ve encountered since I began focusing my reviews on takeout fare.
The “Cold” section of the HSL takeout menu features two sensational salads: There’s a Kale Salad ($10) with pine nuts, parmigiano-reggiano and Champagne vinaigrette that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and there’s the salad that we ordered. It was a jumbo-size salad of fresh chicories and broccolini with Medjool dates and Marcona almonds. There was so much salad that we indulged in leftovers for lunch the next couple days.
In the “Hot” part of the menu are much in-demand HSL staples like General Tso-style Cauliflower ($10) vegetarian mushroom “Bolognese” Pappardelle ($20), and the popular Happy Meal ($22) – an HSL Burger with a choice of fries or kale salad.
For my entree, I opted for the Fried Chicken ($20), already aware of how crazy good the fried chicken is at HSL. This was no exception. It was a generous airline chicken (boneless breast with drumette attached), breaded and fried, served with collard greens and a white bean and pork ragout. The chicken first bathes for up to 36 hours in a water/salt/sugar/garlic/onion/herb brine. Then it goes into a mix of buttermilk with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, lemon juice, eggs and more fresh herbs. Finally, it’s dredged in flour seasoned with Hungarian sweet paprika, Spanish smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powders, dried thyme, kosher salt and cornstarch. The end result is fried chicken perfection – unbelievably moist, tender and tasty. Even though our meal had to travel a half hour or so from HSL to home, the chicken was amazingly crisp and crunchy upon arrival. The fried chicken is also offered as an HSL Family Meal for 2 ($40), which also includes buttermilk biscuits and a choice of dessert.
I’ll tell you what: I really loved that chicken. But I loved just as much the comfort food side dish of white beans and pork sausage, which couldn’t have been more delicious. It reminded me of a mini-cassoulet, American style. It’s a side dish that I could easily enjoy as a main course.
Whatever main dishes you order, you’ll absolutely want to include a side of buttermilk biscuits with honey butter ($6), which is listed in the Provisions section of the takeout menu, along with HSL Sourdough bread ($10 half/loaf with salted butter), or a pint of Ice Cream or Sorbet ($10) – Belgian chocolate, black pepper, or vegan mango vanilla.
My wife’s entree was a complex Market Fish ($20) dish of seared Scottish salmon with a luscious onion-based Bechamel-style horseradish soubise sauce alongside, and served with roasted fennel and blistered shishito peppers. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered soubise served with fish before, but it was an excellent choice. As with all of the other dishes we ordered, the serving size was quite generous.
Dessert items include a Handle Bar, which is Normal salted maple ice cream, chocolate dip and brown butter powder ($6); a vegan and gluten-free Normal Almond Joy ($6) – coconut sorbet and dark chocolate dip; Whiskey Caramel Pudding ($10); and Chocolate Torte ($10). We opted for the Chocolate Torte since we figured it would travel better than the other desserts. I’m glad we did, because it was marvelous – a thick, decadent chocolate torte with orange crème anglaise, green apple coulis, and honeycomb on top.
In addition to food items, the HSL takeout menu also features beverages such as sparkling or still bottled water, bottled sodas, and premade cocktail mixes – you just add the booze. One of the mixes is for a drink called Revive, and the mix is made with green apple, tarragon and lemon, to be enjoyed with vodka or gin.
I’ll be thrilled when HSL finally reopens for in-house dining, in part because the decor and ambiance is so inviting but also because the staff is so professional but also super friendly. For now however, in the name of staying safe, I can highly recommend enjoying HSL’s uncommon cuisine in the confines of your own abode, or perhaps for a picnic.
Culinary quote of the week:
“Why is it that Swiss cheese has the holes when it’s Gorgonzola that needs the ventilation?” — David Frost
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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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