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South Salt Lake spot wants to change up your late-night munchies game

9-UP Night Market - braiased pork belly bao (Gastronomic SLC)

DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats. Three names that either inspire rage or immediate scrolling. Regardless of your stance on these culinary brokers, there’s no denying their popularity. Also see: massive consumer demand for convenience. Just sayin’.

In recent years, these platforms have supported several new business models – 9-UP Night market is one such venture – a quick-serve storefront operating out of a commissary kitchen in South Salt Lake (3232 400 E). Now roughly a year in business (and garnering some stellar reviews along the way) the compact menu is available Wednesday through Saturday, leading with South East Asian street food. Revelers might also want to note that 9-UP is open until midnight on Friday evenings.

Regardless of your mode of order – the first thing that hits is the attention to detail. The playful meme-driven packaging is attention-grabbing right from the furtive doorstep bag snatch. Unlike those traditionally soggy delivery bags, leaching grease, and upturned containers, 9-UP’s are thoughtfully provisioned and assembled.

9-UP Night Market - packaging (Gastronomic SLC)
9-UP Night Market – packaging (Gastronomic SLC)
9-UP Night Market - popcorn chicken (Gastronomic SLC)
9-UP Night Market – popcorn chicken (Gastronomic SLC)
9-UP Night Market - popcorn chicken (Gastronomic SLC)
9-UP Night Market – popcorn chicken (Gastronomic SLC)

Braised pork belly bao was the first item to seize my attention. The soft dough is pleasantly pliable, never straying into the rubbery, or god forbid, crunchy territory. Yes, I’ve had crunchy bao, don’t ask.

The pork itself was a smartly cut mix of fatty/meaty, sweetly lacquered in a soy-based sauce. According to the business it’s braised for hour upon hour. Offered in a variety of spice levels, I hedged it safe with medium. Thin rounds of vivacious red chili spike the wrap – birds eye I am guessing. The fierce flames pop up every other bite, quickly subsiding mind you. This ended up being plenty for me, an admitted capsaicin lover. In truth, any more would probably overwhelm the gentler pork.

Cooling cukes come next, as do cilantro and pickled mustard greens – the latter lending a funky vegetal tang. Crushed peanuts are rained on at the end for a textural pop. Two to an order, I’ll take these over late-night languid burgers in a bag any day.

A fifty-fifty mix of regular and sweet potato fries sadly didn’t arrive home with their required seasoning packet – to complete my jiggle fries order. If they did, finely ground dried nori seaweed, amongst other seasonings would be tossed into the bag, a furious quick shake completing the picture.

The Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken was the star of the show though, making up for any fry missteps. For anyone who’s reached for the phone once the sun goes down, a self-loathing scroll of fast food nightmares, this is your next pick. This is the apotheosis of the humble nugget.

Chunks of chicken breast receive a light crisp coating, as well as a bright dousing of a chili powder blend. I could hazard a guess at the components, but am happy for them to remain a mystery. For what it’s worth they slightly reminded me of the mala-spiked seasoning on the skewers over at Matchstick. An ample shower of chopped and fried basil leaves is the piece de resistance. The chicken is demonstrably poultry-based, and with the accompanying wooden skewers, it’s easy to pick through a bag (sans greasy fingers) in a brief few gluttonous minutes.

On their quartet of opening days, 9-UP is available for both in-person grab-and-go, as well as DoorDash deliveries. If you go with the latter, remember folks, act as you would in any restaurant – tip your delivery driver well…

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