Seafood is going “fast casual” with a chain called Slapfish. When Utah’s first location opened in Lehi a few months ago, I made a mental note that I would have to check it out the next time I was in Utah County.
By the time I was able to visit, Slapfish had apparently already gained a following, because on a Saturday afternoon there was a nice-sized waiting line, and most of the indoor tables were taken. It’s located at 3320 N. Digital Drive — apparently the Traverse Mountain/Thanksgiving Point area has become the fast casual capital of the world, with so many chains setting up locations there.
Typical of fast casual restaurants, you order at the counter. The rustic ambience reminded me of some of the lobster shacks I’ve visited in New England, and the menu offers traditional lobster rolls, clam “chowdah” and crispy french fries. But Slapfish has also taken a lot of ideas from the West Coast, with items like fish tacos, shrimp burritos and lobster taquitos.
Sustainable seafood is one of Slapfish’s selling points. Founder Andrew Gruel had spent some time cooking in a Maine lobster house, and ran a sustainable seafood program with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., to connect chefs with fishermen. He could see a gap with seafood restaurants between fine dining and fast-food fish ‘n’ chips; there wasn’t a lot in between. So he set out to be the fast-casual “Chipotle” of seafood, starting in 2011 with just one food truck in Huntington Beach. Now, according to the list on the Slapfish website, it’s moved into six more states, plus locations in London and South Korea.
Given that seafood is the starring protein, prices are more steep than your usual fast-casual lunch. For instance, the “market price” that day for a lobster roll — chunks of lobster, tossed in a mayo-type sauce and served on a split-top bun, was $25. That’s not a terrible price when you consider that along the New England Coast where lobsters are plentiful, you’re likely to pay $17-25 for a lobster roll (I know from experience, having eaten lobster every day that we were in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts last year.) And that’s not counting the cost of a plane ticket. (As a comparison, Freshie’s Lobster Rolls in Park City, offers a 5-ounce lobster roll for $25, and a 1/4 pound roll for $20.)
Still, $25 was beyond my lunch budget, so I settled for a lobster grinder, full of meaty chunks of shrimp, lobster and crab, piled into a split-top bun, for $15. The price included a generous serving of fries —wonderfully crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. I liked the warm split bun, which helped to soak up some of the generously applied, gooey sauce. I advise several napkins for this one!
Next time I’m in Utah County, I may try the Clobster Grilled Cheese — a sandwich with half crab, half lobster melted with cheese; or the Surf ‘n’ Turf burger — a beef patty topped with lobster. Or when I’m feeling more diet-y, I would go for the daily fresh fish, griddled and served over baby lettuces with honey-lime vinaigrette, for about $12. Oh, I could go on….
It’s probably a good thing my hometown is an hour away from this place. It could become addicting.