Diversion in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade neighborhood takes a detour from traditional fast-casual eateries

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Gorg, bacon gorgonzola, sautéed onion, lettuce, tomato, and Chipotle Mayo at Diversion: A Social Eatery is a new restaurant in Salt Lake City's Marmalade District, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

When planning their new Salt Lake City restaurant, Ryan Peterson and Jennifer Stone hoped to take a detour from the usual fast-casual eatery.

They came up with Diversion.

Located in the transforming Marmalade neighborhood, it has all-American fare such as hamburgers, tacos and pizza — but no deep fryers, said Stone. “Everything is baked.”

During the past year, the couple — both Salt Lake County natives — have lost a combined 100-plus pounds by creating healthier versions of some of their favorite foods.

They’ve re-created those at Diversion, making the menu adaptable to whatever eating preferences their diners may have — be it ketogenic, low-carb, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian.

“We wanted people to be able to adapt and enjoy the food,” Stone said, “but still meet their own personal needs.”

Perhaps the most intriguing item on the menu is the burger bowl, a ground beef patty, shaped into a bowl, baked and then filled with a choice of traditional burger toppings like sauteed mushrooms, onions and even a little bacon. Vegans and vegetarians can opt for the version with a portobello mushroom as the bowl.

Main entrees cost $8 to $10, while side dishes — like sweet potato fries, chicken wings and guacamole and chips — are in the $5 range.

Diversion also has a full-service liquor license, which allows it to sell beer, wine and spirits. It has its own Diversion Pilsner, produced by Salt Flats Brewery.

Stone said the couple had considered buying into an established franchise like Jimmy John’s or Smashburger — two places Peterson previously has worked — but decided to develop a new concept they really believed in.

The two also set up in one of their favorite Salt Lake City neighborhoods. Once a neglected area, Marmalade is experiencing a renaissance with a new library, scores of new apartments and condominiums under construction, and many older homes being renovated.

Bars and restaurants have followed the growth. In the past 18 months, The HandleBar and Blue Copper Coffee have opened.

Stone said Diversion’s subtitle is “a social eatery,” which means customer are encouraged to hang out, play one of the board games on hand or launch a discussion with fellow diners using one of the conversation starters on the wall.

Life can be difficult, she said. “We want people to go where it’s not hard, get good food and take a timeout for a while.”

Diversion: A Social Eatery • 535 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City; (801) 657-7326 or diversioneatery.com. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.