In the beginning, there was Nomad Eatery. And it was good. Really good. Located near the Salt Lake City International Airport on West N. Temple, Chef/Owner Justin Soelberg’s hip cafe/diner served, among other things, outstanding pizzas, perfect French fries and a sandwich that I adored: fried mortadella.
Unfortunately, the location was a bit challenging – just far enough from downtown SLC to seem like it was in the boonies, although it was actually only a five minute or so drive away. And, I was bummed when I learned that Soelberg was closing up shop at Nomad Eatery.
But then the good news came: Nomad was reborn, this time as Nomad East in the cozy space that was formerly home to Eggs in the City, following that business’ move to Millcreek. Gone, sadly, is that scrumptious fried mortadella sandwich that I so loved, but there are plenty of other good things to be had.
Nomad East is a very inviting spot with bold colors blending with natural woods. There’s an outdoor patio as well as counter, booth, and table seating inside, all safely distanced of course. The eye is drawn to the well worn cookbook collection that resides above the exhibition kitchen. It’s an homage, I think, to Soelberg’s love of cooking and cooking traditions; he studied culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
One side of the Nomad East menu is taken up by pizzas. And that is as it ought to be, because the pizzas are outstanding. I tend to judge Neapolitan-style pizzas by trying the simplest ones first. That’s usually a Margherita pizza, which is nothing more than the dough base, tomato sauce (preferably made from San Marzanos), fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. I’d want to taste the Margherita before moving on to something more complicated like a Sa-Squash ($15) pizza at Nomad. That’s an intriguing pizza with squash sauce, mozzarella, fontina, sage, candied walnuts, Brussels sprouts and caramelized onions. It’s just one of many eclectic pizzas that include the Tommy-Tillo, Pretty in Pink, NYC Bagel, and Hawaii 5-0.
Well, the Margherita pizza ($13) is pretty damned perfect. The pizza dough is second to none – with little pockets of nice charring and a killer outer crust – made with high-quality toppings. Nothing more; nothing less. By the way, Soelberg and his crew use crushed Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes for the sauce – a great choice.
Another killer pizza at Nomad is the cleverly named Betty White. It’s called Betty White due to its garlic cream sauce with mozzarella and fontina cheeses. The non white part of the pizza is the abundant arugula topping with pickled golden raisins. You’re not going to find a Betty White at Domino’s.
Of course, man cannot live on pizza alone. So Nomad East offers entrees such as a bone-in pork chop with walnut/apple butter and pickled apple salad ($25) and a Mary’s one-half roasted chicken ($24) with burnt lemon and white BBQ sauce. There’s also a great Niman Ranch beef burger ($16) on the menu, as well as green curry mussels with squid salad and crostini ($25).
At a diminutive eatery like Nomad East there’s not a lot of space for storing wine bottles and such. So, the wine list is small but well-selected. There are a half-dozen or so reds, the same number of white wines, some bubbly, and an eclectic and appealing beer selection. If you want hot drinks such as coffee, you’ll head out to the parking lot where a beverage truck is set up to serve customers warm beverages.
Sides at Nomad include a charcuterie board ($25), marinated olives ($7), charred squash ($10), wedge salad ($10) and more. We really like the roasted fingerling potatoes ($9) served with scrumptious house-made mustard, grana padano cheese, and fresh herbs.
My wife’s favorite Nomad East item is listed as a “Side,” although it’s large enough to serve as an entree. It’s the excellent Smoked Salmon Salad ($13). Fresh greens are tossed with scrumptious slivers of smoked salmon, radishes, almonds, red onion slices, and smoked paprika dressing, then topped with shaved Manchego cheese and pickled golden raisins. It really is a sensational salad.
But you know what? I still can’t get those top-notch pizzas at Nomad out of my mind. Here is my absolute favorite: the Upper Crust ($16). Now, here’s the thing: I don’t normally like pepperoni, which is usually nasty and pooled with grease. So I was pleasantly surprised that I like the Upper Crust pizza so much, seeing as how it’s topped with pepperoni. It’s a high-quality, delicious pepperoni, however. The pizza has a tomato sauce base with mozzarella, topped with the aforementioned pepperoni slices, homemade Italian sausage, piparra peppers, minced scallions and fennel seeds. It’s a hot n’ spicy pizza that, for me, just checks all the right boxes.
Well, that’s the Nomad East story. Here’s some good news for you West-siders. This week, Nomad opened a new location on the west side of SLC at the Uinta Brewing Company facility. It replaces the Uinta pub that was there and will be serving bar fare such as spicy chicken sandwiches, white BBQ wings, smoked turkey sandwiches and such. Since they’re located in a bar, dine-in is for adults 21 and over. However, they’re also doing takeout if you’d like to bring something home to the youngsters.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” — Paul Prudhomme
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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.