The craft beer landscape in Utah today is markedly different than it was in 2011. That’s when Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub opened a modest 30-seat restaurant in Ogden. It specialized in innovative pizzas and a craft beer list that touched triple digits.
Since then, as the craft-beer boom swept through the state, the original Slackwater’s expanded its seating eightfold and more than doubled its beer offerings. Also in that time, it’s become a destination for craft beer enthusiasts in Weber County and beyond.
“As you’re walking around the floor and talking to the guests, you start to realize that everyone who has (out-of-town visitors), they bring them to Slackwater,” says Blake Hirschi, the restaurant’s general manager. “For people to think of us as a way to represent their town like that is truly humbling. Honestly, it’s something we really appreciate and we try to make it part of our mantra.”
And now, for folks in the Salt Lake area who might not make frequent trips to Ogden, Slackwater Sandy is hoping to bring the same vibe to the south end of the valley.
Slackwater Pub & Pizzeria: In Their Own Words
Bonus: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to our conversation with Blake Hirschi, general manager of Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub and point person on the Slackwater Sandy expansion. We discuss the company’s story, as well as what South Valley craft beer enthusiasts can expect when the new location opens in early November 2019.
Slackwater Sandy: A ‘Victory Beer’ Destination
The outdoors are ingrained in Slackwater’s DNA. The original location sits on the Ogden River Parkway, a stone’s throw from hiking and biking trails. It’s not unheard of for folks to float the river, dock their raft on the bank, and grab a beer before continuing on their journey.
For Slackwater Sandy, which gives patio-dwellers a clear view into Little Cottonwood Canyon, it seeks weekend warriors, afternoon adventurers, or anyone else with an accomplishment to celebrate.
“We love to get outside and we love to bring that vibe into our restaurant,” says Hirschi, who’s running point on the expansion project. “We hope that everybody would select Slackwater as their No. 1 choice for their victory beers after their experiences.”
Utah Beer News visited Slackwater Sandy as it hit the final stretch of what turned out to be a monumental transformation. The one-time steakhouse situated on the west side of State Street featured compartmentalized booths, short ceilings, and dark interiors.
Not anymore. Now, the 7,000-square-foot space is open and airy, with massive windows and views for days. A few notes:
- The bar area (21+, though the rest of the restaurant is family-friendly) features two walls of tap handles — eight on one and 20 on another
- A back-loading cooler stores cans/bottles for 225+ brands, making it easy to rotate stock
- The restaurant seats about 225. That number jumps to 320 when adding in two patios (which include fire pits reminiscent of the original Slackawater)
- A massive pizza oven can cook 48 pizzas at a time
- An accent wall behind a stage will showcase artwork by local artists on a rotating basis
Serving the South Valley
Though Salt Lake’s experienced the most beer-related growth in Utah in recent years, the capital city’s not the only one experiencing a booming beer scene. From Heber to St. George to Lehi to Cedar City, towns across the state are welcoming new breweries into their communities.
But for Sandy, a city of nearly 100,000 residents, it doesn’t feature much in the way of beer-centric establishments. Midvale — Sandy’s neighbor to the north — is home to Bohemian Brewery, Hoppers Grill & Brewing, and 2 Row Brewing, to name a few. And The Garage Grill, in neighboring Draper, is serving up beers from Salt Flats Brewing.
Sandy’s seated in the middle and lacking many craft beer options.
“Sandy’s a changing demographic,” Hirschi says. “There’s an influx of people moving to the South Valley. People are looking for great restaurants. We’re hoping to be something in the south end of the valley that will be an option for those seeking out wonderful local craft beer.”
Hirschi isn’t entirely sure what to expect from the South Valley beer-drinking crowd, but he knows one thing: “We think craft beer is growing down here. We want to be a part of that change and a part of helping educate those who are just discovering craft beer.”
And if that means helping the clientele expand their horizons and learn more about the wonderful world of craft beer, all the better. As is the case in Ogden, each of Slackwater Sandy’s servers will be Cicerone® Certified Beer Servers.
Pizza & Beer: A Match Made in Heaven
In addition to offering hundreds of different craft beers, Slackwater’s also made a name for itself by crafting innovative pizzas. That’s a legacy the Sandy location expects to embrace.
“We like to think of the pizza dough as this blank canvas,” Hirschi says. “We can paint any kind of food picture we want on it.”
Perhaps Slackwater’s most popular pie is its Tikka Masala. It’s an Indian-inspired pizza that uses Tikka Masala sauce as the base and is “dressed with marinated, spiced chicken, tender basmati rice, and red onions, then finished with our three cheese blend.”
One new addition Hirschi’s especially excited about is The Gyro Trip, a pizza topped with shaved lamb that blends flavors typically found in the Greek sandwich.
The Sandy menu will mirror that of Ogden, with salads, sandwiches, and, of course, pizzas. Slight modifications are in store for the Sandy opening, however.
‘Promote Local Craft Beer First and Foremost’
Hirschi grew up in Utah and his life’s work has been in the restaurant business (he has a self-diagnosed “obsession with flavors”). In a previous position, he traveled the country opening restaurants in cities big and small. Through it all, he learned each market is unique. He also recognized the importance of building beer lists on a foundation of local brews.
“We will always promote local craft beer first and foremost,” Hirschi says. “We try to have something from every local brewery available at our restaurants.”
To that end, Slackwater’s developed strong relationships with many of the state’s local breweries. It’s worked with some breweries since the day they opened their doors.
So beer selection isn’t a worry. Neither is matching the food quality characteristic of Slackwater in Ogden. Rather, one aspect that weighs in every decision: how Slackwater Sandy can replicate the culture that originated 50 miles to the north and that’s helped the brand succeed.
“Producing great pizza and selling great craft beer, these are lower-hanging fruit,” Hirschi says. “Reproducing the (Ogden Slackwater) culture inside the building is going to be the tough part. But that’s the goal — to bring the same vibe and feeling to Sandy.”
If the goal’s achieved, Slackwater Sandy is well-positioned to continue the legacy that began in Ogden eight years earlier.
About Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub
Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub opened in Ogden in 2011. It began as a 30-seat restaurant with about 100 beers. Now, a northern Utah craft-beer destination, Slackwater seats more than 200 and features nearly 250 different craft beers.
The Sandy location, which is scheduled to open in early November 2019, is more than twice the size of the original Ogden restaurant. The 7,000 square-foot space includes two patios and can accommodate about 320 people. Slackwater Sandy will feature 28 tap handles and stock more than 225 cans/bottles. Its pizza oven can cook 48 pizzas at once.
- Opened: 2011 (Ogden); Nov. 4, 2019 (Sandy)
- Address: 1895 Washington Blvd, Ogden • 10290 South State Street, Sandy
- Notable: The original Slackwater opened in Ogden in 2011 with just 30 seats. It’s since expanded significantly. Slackwater Sandy, a 7,000-square-foot space that can accommodate about 320 people, features 28 taps and more than 225 cans/bottles.
- Website: https://slackwaterpizzeria.com/
- Social Media: Facebook (Ogden, Sandy); Instagram (Ogden, Sandy)