Salt Lake City’s Foodie and Sweetie Market is a ‘real’ Chinese restaurant — mostly

(Kathy Stephenson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Steamed pork dumplings, called Xiao Long Bao, are one of the specialties at Salt Lake City's Foodie & Sweetie D Market.

Despite its name, Foodie and Sweetie D Market doesn’t look like a grocery store where neighbors could run in and buy a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread or some dish soap.

But the Salt Lake City business — on the corner of D Street and 2nd Avenue — doesn’t have a sign that says restaurant, bistro or cafe, either.

So, most people can’t help but wonder, “What is it?”

The answer is a minimalist Chinese restaurant, with a few shelves of Asian sundries, owned by 28-year-old Felix Liu — aka “Foodie” — and his 24-year-old wife and “Sweetie,” Leijing Chen.

The couple are just starting out in the culinary world, said Chen, and they “want to keep it simple.”

The menu has a dozen items the couple know how to make well, like tonkotsu ramen ($11.95) and the Szechuan beef noodle soup ($12.95). The latter has two red chili peppers next to it on the menu, so it can be spicy. But Liu, who prepares the simmering soup broths each day, will tone down the heat if asked.

The chalkboard menu behind the register — written in English and Chinese — also lists two rice/curry dishes ($9.95), wonton soups ($10.95), boba tea and smoothies ($4.70-$5.70), and small bites like pot stickers, pan-fried pork buns and a stuffed snack called xie ke huang ($5-$10).

The signature appetizer, though, is the steamed dumplings known as xiao long bao. Initially, they weren’t on the menu, said Chen, but the juicy, perfectly pleated pillows — filled with pork and a bit of broth — have become a favorite and soon will move from an occasional special to a permanent fixture.

Liu, a native of China’s Sichuan province, came to Salt Lake City six years ago to attend the University of Utah and has been homesick for the flavors of his native land ever since.

He met and married Chen, who moved to Utah from Las Vegas.

Earlier this year, Liu said, they decided to combine their culinary skills “and bring real Chinese food to Salt Lake City.”

The were drawn to the vacant Avenues building — once an Indian market with a small kitchen. Like the Foodie and Sweetie menu, the decor has a minimalist feel with cream-colored walls and a handful of tables.

The Salt Lake City corner is zoned for a market, Chen said. To abide by city regulations, they kept it in the name and set up shelves with 3-D paper puzzles of well-known Chinese landmarks; ceramic teapots and cups; and a mix of Asian-inspired treats and snacks like Hi-Chews and Pocky.

The knickknacks are pretense, though. Chinese noodles and steamed dumplings are the reason to step inside.

Foodie and Sweetie D Market • 89 D St., Salt Lake City, 385-528-8329. Open daily (except Tuesday) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.