A new bar brings Vietnamese-inspired cocktails and cuisine to central Salt Lake City

The Pearl looks to be part of an emerging entertainment district near 900 South.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jacob Hall and Tommy Nguyen at The Pearl, a bar in Salt Lake City, on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Jacob Hall grew up in his parents’ flower shop. So his initial concept for Alibi Bar & Place was an approachable neighborhood bar, filled with flowers.

Hall and partners Chase Worthen, Fernando Lazalde and Mike Askerlund eventually decided green plants were more practical. So when they opened in 2018, they went with snake plants instead of floral arrangements.

Hall and his partners had another plan that didn’t work out at the time: The location. “We wanted to be in the central part of the city, because we knew it was going to be a really up-and-coming area over the next few years,” Hall said.

Instead, they found a spot for Alibi at 369 Main St. in downtown Salt Lake City. But they bought another building, at 917 S. 200 West, with an eye on opening up another bar in the future.

That bar, The Pearl, is now open.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pearl, a bar in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Located between two apartment complexes (both constructed after the building was purchased), it’s in the midst of some of the buzziest bars and restaurants in the city — including Water Witch, Laziz Kitchen, Scion Cider Bar and Nohm. Blue Copper Coffee is right around the corner, and so is Central 9th Market.

The Pearl gained attention in February, when it received the only bar license the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued at its monthly meeting. DABC officials told frustrated applicants that another such license wouldn’t be available until May.

The Pearl’s kitchen manager, Tommy Nguyen, has worked previously at Takashi, Post Office Place and Rye. His menu is inspired by Vietnamese street food, and includes egg rolls made with pork, jicama and wood ear mushrooms; crispy glazed fish sauce wings with cilantro and garlic; yellow tail with glass noodles, steamed in a banana leaf, with ginger and garlic; shrimp cake grilled with sugar cane; chili coriander chicken with ginger turmeric rice and fried egg; and a house smash burger with shallot, jalapeño house pickles and cilantro.

His menu’s Vietnamese influences also inform the cocktails, which will be mixed with such ingredients as pho broth, lime, mint, ginger, condensed milk, lime leaf, cardamom, bean curd, and oyster sauce.

“This has been a concept of his for a while now, and we’ve always wanted to have him do what he wants to do and open up his own spot,” Hall said. “A lot of the style of the bar is going to be Vietnamese-focused. For example, the tile we have is hand-done in Vietnam. Our graphic designer is from Vietnam. She’s designing all of our murals.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pearl, a bar in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Hall emphasized that even though flavors are a big deal at The Pearl, it’s a bar with food, rather than a restaurant — “like Beer Bar.” The idea is to make it fun, approachable and very much a part of the neighborhood.

That won’t be hard with the 9th Station Apartments on either side. After they went up, Hall said, “the landlords, when people were moving in, gave them a heads up: ‘You know this is going to be a bar, right?’ But we were really excited to have this spot where people could walk down from their apartment and grab a bite to eat, have a drink and then walk back.”

The new apartments are just another sign that the neighborhood is more up than coming these days. Though it doesn’t have a nickname yet — it’s wedged between the Granary District to the west and Central 9th to the east — Hall said he sees the area as one of the most interesting entertainment districts in Salt Lake City right now.

“I’m really excited to have some of our closest friends as our neighbors, and to have all of this interesting cuisine, and different approaches to cocktails,” Hall said. “Everyone has the same attitude about the area — they want to build it up, and have a community. We’re excited to have block parties with everybody. We’re all of the opinion that the more bars and restaurants you have next to each other, the better everybody does, you know?”

The Pearl

Address • 919 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City.

Hours • Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.-1 a.m., expanding to Monday through Saturday later in March, and adding brunches on Saturdays and Sundays later this year.

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