Best of Utah 2016 | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2016

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Best Vegan Doughnut Shop
The Big O Doughnuts
Featuring big flavors and fluffy yeast doughnuts, The Big O Doughnuts is a family-run business. "Our vegan doughnuts are delicious," exclaims Zak Farrington, part owner and marketing manager. "They're handcrafted and dipped in unique housemade glazes like blueberry lavender, orange cardamom and peanut butter and jelly." Utah's premier vegan doughnut shop is dedicated to using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, making their doughnuts as gorgeous as they are delicious. They typically sell out by late morning, so be sure to get there early for your vegan doughnut fix. (AR)
171 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 385-770-7024, TheBigODoughnuts.com

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Best New Hipster Cocktail Bar
Good Grammar
With colorful posters depicting iconic musicians adorning its walls, classic rock playing in the background and an interchangeable menu of crafty cocktails with quirky names, 7-month-young Good Grammar has already earned its keep among downtown's bustling nightlife. The only basic thing about it is the name of the cocktail I tried. Ironically, I went out of my comfort zone in ordering what they call The Basic Bi$h ($10)—a concoction of rye bourbon, fernet, pumpkin spice and bitters, sprinkled with freshly ground cinnamon in a coup glass, which, as expert bartender Joshua Edwards informs me, allows you to fully intake its "bouquet of flavors." I wouldn't consider myself a pumpkin spice-loving basic bitch, but for this fresh-tasting creation I'm willing to convert. (AH)
69 E. Gallivan Ave., Salt Lake City, 385-415-5002 GoodGrammar.bar

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Best Tongue Action
Tacos de Lengua at El Paisa
I thought I was hot shit the first time I ate at one of the taco stands that have sprung up along the small stretch of State Street that spans 800 and 900 South. After several trips to these small and incredibly affordable lunch spots, I decided to up my game a bit and try out a taco made with beef tongue. Of all the tongue tacos that I tried, El Paisa does it best—not only do they smother their tacos ($3-$4) with pinto beans and cheese, but their particular interpretation of beef tongue tastes more like mom's pot roast than, well, beef tongue. (AS)
900 S. State, Salt Lake City

Best Wurst Name for a Sandwich
Der Kommissar at Ice Haus
Leave it to Dave Morris, the witty owner of Ice Haus, to come up with delightfully bad pun for his German-influenced wrap. "Well, it's a wrap and it's German. The only German rap I know is Der Kommissar by Falco," he says. At $9, the Der Kommissar is a flavorful and filling combination of diced vegan Kielbasa grilled with onions, peppers, mushrooms and melted vegan cheese topped with sauerkraut and German mustard and neatly wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Served with fries, tots or a side salad, it's a tasty way to eat your veggies—but just try and get Falco out of your head afterward. (AR)
7 E. 4800 South, Murray, 801-266-2127, IceHausBar.com

Best Balls
Moochie's Meatballs & More
Although Philly native Joanne Rendi is best known for her excellent cheesesteaks served at Moochie's Meatballs & More, those in-the-know also adore her marvelous meatballs. In fact, Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri was impressed byMoochie's meatball sub enough to remark that it will "knock your head off." The jumbo-sized, handmade meatballs are sensational in Moochie's standard meatball sub, with housemade marinara and provolone cheese. But you can also enjoy those meaty balls on a Mediterranean salad with spaghetti, or in the jalapeño-spiked "Atomic Meatball" sub. (TS)
Multiple locations, MoochiesMeatballs.com

Best Place to Exacerbate your Emotional Eating Problem
Ruby Snap
Ruby Snap really knows their clientele. Fat guys are lonely. When we can't cuddle up to a sweet-spirited young woman with cascading curls and a pleasing scent, we substitute food—like soft, delicious cookies that also smell awesome. So Ruby Snap goes and gives all their cookies female names like Nina and Vivianna. That's just sinister. They're preying on the weaknesses of the hungry and lonely. And there's only one cookie named for a dude. I'm strangely attracted to Thomas, with his crisp exterior, soft interior and maple-bacon-chocolate-sea salt musk. Er ... anyway ... check your privilege, Ruby Snap, and serve the whole community with new menu items like the Enrique Limón and the John Sea-Saltas. And how about one for ol' Randito? (RH)
770 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City, 801-834-6111, RubySnap.com

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Best Answered Prayers
Chicken IN Waffle at Penny Ann's
Yes, they capitalize the word IN and for good reason. You gotta hand it to Penny Ann's Café; it'd be easy to rest on their "heavenly pancakes" laurels, but this recent addition to their menu (only about two weeks old as of press time), really takes the cake. Imagine, if you will, a golden-brown waffle infused with actual pieces of fried boneless chicken in its batter. For added wow factor, they then dust it with powdered sugar and top it with hearty schmear of real butter. Take a moment to let that sink in. Hell, lick the picture if you're so inclined. No judgement here. (EL)
Multiple locations, PennyAnnsCafe.com

Best Ice Cream that Comes in a Bucket
BJ Buckets
Despite the famous sing-songy rhyme, I have never screamed for ice cream. That is, not until BJ Buckets. I know what you're thinking, so let me just stop you right there. You're asking yourself, "How could any ice cream be that good?" Well, I'll answer your question with another question: Have you ever gotten a BJ Bucket full of Mother Lode? I didn't think so, buddy. BJ Buckets offers a slew of flavors and styles, including "notorious" handmade shakes and sumptuous sundaes with "creamy ice cream and warm, gooey sauce." When it comes to delectable dairy delights, there's no better place in Utah to blow your wad (of cash). (RC)
55 W. Center St., Ste. 3, Logan, 435-535-3076, BJBucketsLogan.com

Best Bucket-List Food Pilgrimage
Hell's Backbone Grill
There's something magical going on in Boulder, Utah (population 222), with the enchantment epicenter sited squarely at Hell's Backbone Grill. Famous for its intentional isolation, Boulder serves as host to one of Utah's consistently highest rated restaurants run by chef/owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding. Sure, the food is pretty damn delightful and annually gains applause from state, national and international critics, but the true character of Hell's Backbone Grill shines directly from Castle and Spalding's immersion in this simultaneously hard-scrabble and spectacular place as both inspiration for and source of many of their ingredients. Sit your road-weary ass down in the sunny dining room and get ready to settle into one of the finest meals you'll have in the lower 48. (DD)
20 N. Highway 12, Boulder, 435-335-7464, HellsBackboneGrill.com

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Best Serenading and Sandwiches
Feldman's Deli
You've no doubt heard of singing for your supper, but at Feldman's Deli, the proprietor actually sings to you during your supper. Yes, that right: On Friday nights, Michael Feldman can be heard pounding out ballads and blues on his guitar while greeting and thanking customers as they pass by. Dang, he's good! You have to wonder how the kitchen can produce such divinely inspired New York deli-style sandwiches and soups while he's crooning at the mic. Maybe his "silent" partner and wife, Janet, has something to do with it? Together, they make beautiful music in and out of the kitchen. (JW)
2005 E. 2700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-906-0369, FeldmansDeli.com

Best Sunday Afternoon Dim Sum
Red Maple Chinese
Weekends were made for dim sum. Nothing beats a leisurely brunch at the Red Maple on any given Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The service is prompt and efficient, and the tasty dishes will have you wanting more in weeks to come. Sit back and await a parade of carts to stop at your table and tempt you with chive dumplings, deep-fried shumai, and, for the brave: fried chicken feet. Leave room for sesame balls for dessert. (JW)
2882 W. 4700 South, Taylorsville, 801-747-2888, RedMapleChinese.com

Best Outdoor Dining at "The Crik"
The Hive
Centennial Park, a decades-old breakaway from the FLDS, resides literally across the border from the dusty streets and uncompleted houses of Warren Jeffs' onetime stronghold. Centennial's leaders are far more savvy and accommodating when it comes to business with the outside world. Their supermarket, Bees Marketplace, stocks wine and beer and next door to it is the only place currently in what's collectively and affectionately called "The Crik," where you can dine al fresco. The Hive is but a humble shack, but it serves up delicious haddock and chips, burgers and coffees. While you munch away, gaze upon the breathtaking red-rock landscape around you under the beautiful wide, blue sky, and you'll realize that as far as views go, The Hive is absolutely unsurpassed. (SD)
1725 South Central St., Centennial, AZ, 928-875-2323, Facebook.com/BeesMarketPlace

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Best Home-Cooked Gas Station Food
Kevin's Fried Chicken
Near the corner of Century Drive and 4500 South lies a trifecta of gas stops that live up to the filling station title. There's the ritzy Texaco, where you can load up on some premium and fare from its Green Chile Grill and the neighboring Chevron where you can leave with both a tank full of Plus (with Techron®) and a belly full of extra-long cheeseburgers from their in-house Burger King. The real gangster of the neighborhood however, is the Exxon station, where you can fill up on some downhome regular unleaded and a hand-crafted meal not usually equated with such environs. An underground staple for 14 years, Kevin's Fried Chicken has perfected the game with their family dinner deals, individual sandwiches and combo meals so good they'd make Colonel Sanders turn over in his grave, resuscitate and then apply for a kitchen mentorship in zombie form. Please don't bite me, walker Sanders. Bite into a two-piece combo meal—which comes with a deep-fried thigh and drumstick, plus a salad, biscuit, three "potato logs" and a drink for a measly $6.75—instead. (EL)
524 W. 4500 South, Murray, 801-293-9559

Best Fish Waffles
Utah Taiyaki
Most Americans likely aren't familiar with taiyaki, a traditional Japanese edible delight that consists of waffle batter in a delightfully plump fish shape, stuffed with tasty fillings. Michael Goldman brought the idea back from a Japanese trip, and now has brought his taiyaki truck to Utah. For a really traditional experience, try them filled with sweetened red-bean paste. Or, to ease your way into it, enjoy them like a great big cream puff filled with vanilla custard. (SR)
UtahTaiyaki.com

Best Place to Discuss Cremation While Waiting for Your Pizza to Come Out of the Oven
Neptune Society
If you go off the Hot-N-Ready menu at Little Caesar's, you're gonna have some time to kill. At the Sugar House location, while your all-sauce pizza's in the oven, why not shuffle next door and visit the Neptune Society and see what's cookin' in their kilns? Now, hold on: The Neptunes' (no relation to Pharrell Williams) final resting furnaces are off-site, so this is strictly an info-gathering excursion. But if you wanna cheat the devil and burn before he knows you're dead, these folks can help with pre-planning services or more immediate needs, like—Yes! Pizza's ready. Gotta go. (RH)
2120 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, Ste. C, 801-484-0392, NeptuneSociety.com

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Best Neapolitan Pizza
Ti Amo
Pizza lovers all have their favorite styles of pizza pie: Chicago, NYC, California gourmet, New Haven, Hawaiian and so on. An authentic Neapolitan pie is a symphony of simplicity in which nothing but the very best ingredients—flour, yeast, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella—will do. Those ingredients, plus flawless wood-fired oven technique, is what you get with a pizza at Bountiful's Ti Amo pizzeria. Master pizzaiolo Mauro Bonfanti and his family create pizzas that would be the envy of the best Italy has to offer. (TS)
515 W. 2600 South, Bountiful, 801-294-5180, TiAmoPizza.co

Best Ticket to a Taiwanese Mom's Table
Mom's Kitchen
Run by Mama Zhang from Beijing, and Mama Chen from Taiwan, the reason we keep returning to this small paradise of Taiwanese and Chinese food on State Street is first and foremost the warmth that it exudes. You can hear the mothers working in the kitchen and feel the fragrant steam from their cooking and conversation wafting around the tables to the soundtrack of Chinese TV on a flat-screen on the wall. With a menu that includes housemade buns, spicy noodle dishes and fried dumplings that are a heavenly delight, the two chefs make every visit to their restaurant a culinary adventure of unusual, intriguing flavors, delicate yet generous dishes. But it's that indefinable warmth, threaded through with smells of cooking and family love that make this unassuming eatery a jewel in Utah's crown. (SD)
2233 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-486-0092, MomsKitchenSaltLakeCity.com

Best South Valley Omelets
Britton's
If you're seeking a down-home, mom-and-pop breakfast spot in Sandy, Britton's is your place. Britton's three-egg omelets are simply the best, including the namesake Britton (sautéed mushrooms, onions and bacon, topped with Hollandaise sauce); the Southwest (jalapeños, black beans, tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream and avocado); and the Cordon Bleu (diced ham with Swiss cheese on the inside, topped with Hollandaise sauce)—to name a few. A final tip? Arrive early (7:30-ish) before it gets busy and your servers will have fun with you, maybe even dance a little jig. (JW)
694 Union Square, Sandy, 801-572-5148, BrittonsRestaurant.com

Best Coffee House for Coffee Drinkers
Mestizo Coffee House
Embedded in one of Salt Lake's most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, Mestizo opened its doors just months before the economy melted down in 2008. If not for the rich community it serves, it would have folded with the countless others during the economic collapse. A nonprofit community art collective and coffee house, Mestizo highlights and celebrates the best of Salt Lake City and does so from its often marginalized west side. "We really pride ourselves in celebrating cultures of all kinds, and identities of all kinds," employee Sergio Martinez says. (WP)
631 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-596-0500, MestizoCoffeeHouse.com

Best Grease Joint with a Soul
Ogies Café
While Redwood Road-based Ogies opened in 1983, it seems so much older. That old-soul feel might be because some of its greyer clientele love to sit and jaw about the ol' days in the Beehive capital, or the host of gorgeous black-and-white photographs celebrating the family history of the owners and mining (there's a slew of pictures from Kennecott). Or perhaps it's the café's commitment to the classics of American diner cuisine, cheap breakfast ($4.99) and solid Mexican fare (patrons love the super-burrito). Regulars are rumored to include Real's long-running dread-locked star Kyle Beckerman and, at least in the early hours, some of the old lags with colorful reputations that still call the neighborhood home. Old soul or not, Ogies celebrates through its cuisine both bedrock Americana and the diversity of minority communities that have made Utah home, conjuring up a neighborhood eatery par excellence. What more could we ask for? (SD)
3515 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City, 801-973-6455

Best Spicy Vegan Breakfasts
Chabaar Beyond Thai
Anny Sooksri, the personable owner of Chabaar Beyond Thai, knows how to take care of people—especially those who crave delicious Thai food, spice and tasty vegan meals. Thai cooks know that "vegan" is not synonymous with bland. Try the Vegan Joke, a traditional breakfast made with rice, tofu, veggies, ginger and cilantro. The vegan "omelet" is a more of a rice-flour crepe with Pad Thai (cubed tofu, bean sprouts, sliced cucumbers and carrots and crushed peanuts) on top. Ask the cook to spice things up in the kitchen (but beware of anything over "level 1") or request some chili sauce on the side. (JW)
87 W. 7200 South, Midvale, 801-566-5100, AnnysTakeOnThai.com

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Best Filet Mignon Pho
Pho 33
This unassuming Vietnamese restaurant is a State Street gem. While it serves a variety of Asian dishes, its pho is among the best in town. There are 13 types to choose from, and depending on your hunger, you can go for small-, medium- or large-size bowls. The golden broth is infused with cinnamon, anise, black cardamom and ginger and served with rice noodles, lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, basil and peppers. If you eat meat, you must order the filet mignon pho. The meat is so tender, it melts in your mouth. Here, you can have your steak and slurp it, too. (JW)
7640 S. State, Midvale, 801-889-4090, Pho33Utah.com

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Best Beer and Burgers Done Proper
Proper Brewing and Proper Burger
The Avenues Proper & Publick House restaurant and brewery on Eighth Avenue remains a forward-thinking neighborhood staple. As it has found its footing in the local dining and brewing scene, though, its owners were plotting big. The fruits of these dreams culminated last spring when the Proper compound—Proper Brewing Co. and Proper Burger—opened on Main Street. With a flurry of beers on draft, 22-ounce bottle offerings of unique and tasty higher-alcohol options, and a robust menu of creative burgers, the new joint is a must-see, and a proper addition to Main Street. (CF)
865 Main, Salt Lake City, 801-906-8607, ProperBrewingCo.com

Best Barbecue Return
Charlotte-Rose's Carolina BBQ
A slew of setbacks and poorly timed road construction forced Trae Eller to close his Southern comfort eatery near Smith's Ballpark in 2014, but ardent fans of Charlotte-Rose's Carolina BBQ never gave up hope that Eller would be able to regroup and continue to dish out barbecue goodness. Now he's opened up shop in Bluffdale and stuffing bellies once again. Help yourself to a pile of tender, tender meat (ribs, pulled pork or pulled chicken) with a combination plate, or try the Southwestern-y Redneck Tacos: two flour tortillas filled with cheddar cheese, red rice, coleslaw, one of several housemade sauces and, of course, your choice of protein. There are plenty of side dishes to accompany your feast, but for a true taste of the South, the sweet potato casserole is a must. Top it off with a helping of peach cobbler and you'll be set, I'll tell you what. (SA)
14587 S. 790 West, Bluffdale, 919-244-6604, Facebook.com/CharlotteRosesCarolinaBBQ

Best Dessert that Sounds Like a Rock Star
The Dirty Johnny at The Baking Hive
There are a zillion reasons to fall in love with this East Millcreek bakery. Owner Elisa Barber teaches baking classes to little kids, she knows all of her customers by name and is genuinely happy to see them when they visit. I have never been disappointed with The Baking Hive's selection of cakes, cookies and bars, but Barber makes one item in particular that is nothing less than a celebration of sweetness. It's called the Dirty Johnny ($3.95), and it's some kind of sorcerous union between a cookie and a brownie, coiffed with about two inches of silky chocolate frosting. It's the Elvis Presley of baked goods. (AS)
3362 S. 2300 East, 801-419-0187, BakingHive.com

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Best Boozy Brunch
Zest Kitchen & Bar
Who wants to wait until 11:30 a.m. to throw back mimosas when you can get tipsy at 10 a.m.? Visit Zest Kitchen & Bar to imbibe bubbly mimosas made with freshly pressed juice and other innovative cocktails with your early weekend brunch. "Because of our bar license we can serve awesome fresh juice cocktails at 10 a.m." owner and chef Casey Staker says. The brunch part is good, too, with options ranging from a traditional Greek omelet to savory chickpea pancakes topped with avocado, pico de gallo and housemade cashew sour cream. (AR)
275 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-433-0589, ZestSLC.com

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Best Breakfast of Hungover Champions
Rye Diner & Drinks
There's something to be said for an eatery we revisit on the regular, even when the site of last night's live music debauchery resides right next door. Such is our relationship with Rye, where we might not be able to look neighbor Urban Lounge right in the face quite yet, but we'll don our shades, slouch bleary-eyed into a booth, clutch a steaming mug of java, and order the International B-fast of Hungover Champions: a rice bowl with crispy-salty pork belly, an egg your way, and Rye's addictive housemade kimchi. A play on that soul-satisfying Korean classic bibimbap that makes the walk of shame totally worth it. (DD)
239 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-364-4655, RyeSLC.com

Best Motor City Madness
Billy Blanco's
Park City restaurateur Bill White might mostly be known for his upscale, refined restaurants such as Wahso, Grappa, Sushi Blue and Chimayo. But his namesake Billy Blanco's Motor City Mexican Burger & Taco Garage shines a light on a side of White not often seen. He's a true motorhead from the Detroit area, who loves cars, motorcycles and anything else with an engine. Thus, Billy Blanco's is an ode to the Motor City, complete with muscle cars and custom bikes on display to go along with the eatery's "food with horsepower." The bar at Billy Blanco's is even made from professional-grade steel toolboxes and race car seats. Vroom! Vroom! (TS)
8208 Gorgoza Pines Road, Park City, 435-575-0846, BillyBlancos.com

Best Excuse to Eat Local
Utah Eat Local Week
Harvest season brings Utah Eat Local Week, a tasty challenge encouraging folks to enjoy eating locally grown, raised and produced food. Sign up for the challenge on their website where you can participate in the recipe contest and other fun foodie events. "Eating local is about more than mileage, it's about meeting all the wonderful farmers and food producers who grow the great local food we have in Utah." says Gwen Crist, chairperson of Utah Eat Local Week and Slow Food Utah. "Utah Eat Local Week is about living more closely in your community and helping create a bright future for us all." (AR)
EatLocalWeek.org

Best Pad Thai, Like, Ever
Pleiku
If you like it saucy, with the perfect amount of spice, and super tender chicken or shrimp, get it at Pleiku—one of downtown SLC's newest Thai restaurants. For a huge serving that you likely won't finish in one sitting, it's $9, plus $1 extra for chicken and another $1 extra for shrimp (definitely go for both). For me, the more sauce, the better. But fair warning for those who disagree: This dish is drowning in a sweet and spicy sauce. There's also egg, green onion, sprouts, shredded carrot and cabbage, cilantro, red chilies, peanuts and a lime wedge. I've had pad Thai from many places, and this is my personal favorite, not just in Utah but anywhere. My only complaint? They're not open on Sundays. (AH)
264 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-4544

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Best Downtown Comeback
Apollo Burger
"Does Apollo serve breakfast? I'm confused," a recent text from a City Weekly manager read. It came after an invite by the big boss for breakfast. Turns out, they do serve breakfast and they serve it right. Following a revamping of the space long occupied by Royal Eatery, Apollo came in and retook the good-grub-done-right crown. Whether you go with the Pancake Breakfast ($6.49), two buttermilk flapjacks, two eggs, your choice of bacon, sausage ham or gyro meat, or the Mt. Apollo ($7.99), three eggs over your choice of meat layered with cheese and served on a mountain of country potatoes, you'll leave satisfied. In the mood for something heartier? Give their original bad boy—the hulking Apollo Burger ($5.99)—a go. Everyone knows Apollo is the god of knowledge, music and archery. Someone please alter his Wikipedia entry and add pastrami burgers as well. (EL)
379 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-4301

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Best Culinary Triple Play
Good Karma
At Houman Gohary's Good Karma restaurant, there really is something for everybody on the menu. Gohary is a world-class chef who has cooked internationally in culinary hot spots like Osaka, Barcelona, Dubai and Shanghai. We're lucky to have him here in Utah. Good Karma is not constrained by others' notions of what a menu should look like, so Gohary offers guests a range of flavors from Persian and Indian to American. Where else can you enjoy salmon Parsi, shrimp vindaloo and a tuna melt at one sitting? And during weekend brunch, Gohary entertains customers by playing live classical, jazz and flamenco guitar. (TS)
1782 Prospector Ave., Park City, 435-658-0958, GoodKarmaRestaurants.com

Best Place to Wait in Line for Breakfast
The Park Café
It doesn't really matter how early you rise after a night of heavy partying, you'll have to wait your turn at the Park Café. Luckily, the wait is always worth it—and you get coffee while standing in line. The Park, as it's sometimes called, has been a massive staple in the breakfast dining scene for more than a decade. The service is unparalleled, the servers are somehow chipper despite being swamped by the hungry, and the food is just damned delicious. Being a creature of habit, I rarely stray from the confines of the Park for breakfast. I also rarely order anything but the Michigan Hash, a mountain of potatoes mixed with sausages and vegetables topped with a pair of over-easy fried eggs. Red Tabasco, please! (CF)
604 E. 1300 South, 801-487-1670, Salt Lake City, TheParkCafeSLC.com

Best Cheesesteak
Vito's
As is the case with exceptional burgers, hoagies, pizzas and other classic comfort foods, creating the perfect cheesesteak is more difficult than it might appear. Maybe that's why Vito Leone has such a laser-like focus on doing one thing better than anyone else: making cheesesteaks. His cash-only Bountiful eatery is only open three hours per day (if the cheesesteaks don't sell out before then) and Vito alone cooks his steaks. They are made from top-notch ribeye cooked to perfection and served on excellent rolls. Vito's proves that you don't have to be big to make a giant splash in the cheesesteak world. (TS)
100 S. Main, Bountiful, 801-953-8486

Best Gnocchi
Veneto Ristorante Italiano
Lovers of Italian fare are familiar with gnocchi—the thumb-size oval-shaped potato-and-flour dumplings that are usually served with a simple pomodoro or butter sauce. Well, at Marco and Amy Stevanoni's Veneto Ristorante Italiano the gnocchi are in a class of their own. Rather than light and airy, the Venetian-style "mountain" gnocchi are somewhat free-form in shape, dense and a bit heavy, with a wonderful bite—substantial, to say the least. They require nothing more than a simple coating of butter, sage and Monte Veronese cheese to be absolutely fabulous. (TS)
370 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-359-0708, VenetoSLC.com

Best Feast for the Eyes
Blue Iguana
At both Blue Iguana locations, vibrancy is the order of the day. Upon entering, the eyes are met with a rainbow of tropical colors, suggesting that a flavor fiesta is imminent. But there's more than just visual sizzle. Bold flavors from head chef Castillo match and often surpass the eye-popping ambiance, including some dishes that have been passed down through generations dating back to the Aztecs. Authentic Mexican dishes like spicy, slow-roasted pork tinga poblana and rich, deeply-flavored moles share the Blue Iguana menu with more modern Mexican-American fare such as chimichangas, fajitas, Buffalo wings, and chile verde. Add to the celebration of color with a strawberry margarita or daiquiri. (TS)
165 S. West Temple, SLC, 801-533-8900; 255 Main Street, Park City, 435-649-3097, BlueIguanaRestaurant.net

Best Street Taco you Can't Buy on the Street
Mi Lindo Nayarit
Street meat is one of life's greatest pleasures, not to mention risks. There are those among us, however, who don't gamble with their colorectal health. What's the saying? A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the toilet? But there's no need to deprive ourselves of tender carne asada ensconced in dual corn tortillas with onions, cilantro and hot sauce, and a sweet, sugary pineapple Jarritos soda on the side. Mi Lindo Nayarit in Salt Lake City offers some of the best off-road street tacos around—if you can stomach a long-ish wait for cooked-to-order goodness. The telenovelas and fresh, y muy sabrosos, chips and salsa helps the time pass. (RH)
145 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-908-5727

Best Ancestral, Chocolate-Based Sauce
Mole at Taqueria El Paisa
A recent BuzzFeed post titled "It's Time To Admit That Mole Is Actually Fucking Terrible" recently did the rounds among my friends' social media channels, and a clutching-of-the-pearls reaction immediately followed. How dare you, sirs? Here's the deal with mole: It's a delicious and comes in many stripes—Poblano being the most popular—and it's not the most photogenic food, which in the age of Instagram is a huge disadvantage for the humble sauce. Here's another truth: Ask anyone worth their salt, and they'll let you know that a good mole emcompasses 35 or more ingredients; it's preparation is laborious; and it's usually done by the matrons of the family—the moms, the abuelas, the tías—bringing them together to talk, laugh and, why not, bitch about anything that's on their minds. Its taste is unique, it's sensory, it's multi-generational. More importantly, it's good. Try the mole de gallo ($9.99) at El Paisa, and you'll see what I mean. Just be extra kind with whatever filters you use. (EL)
919 W. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-908-5320, TaqueriaElPaisaUtah.com

Best Old-School Park City
Adolph's
Long before Park City became known for glitz, glamor and the Sundance Film Festival, owner/chef Adolph Imboden was dishing up international cuisine with a flare at his namesake Adolph's restaurant. Adolph's was the first fine-dining restaurant in Park City and has been both a favorite of locals and tourists alike for more than 30 years. The former Swiss ski racer's cuisine has modernized over the years, with offerings such as ahi tuna sashimi and mango-avocado-salmon salad. But don't fret. Old-school favorite like Swiss-style raclette, chateaubriand, steak Diane, cheese fondue, duck l'orange, Wienerschnitzel, escargots, bündnerfleisch and other classics still grace Adolph's timeless menu. (TS)
1500 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-649-7177, AdolphsRestaurantParkCity.com

Best Bit of Culinary Bondage
Table X
Not even going to tip-toe around it: The whole experience of Table X Restaurant is flat-out sexy. There's a lot of leather on glorious display, to start with: Long black banquettes along one wall; on the other, three massive tufted-leather curved booths offering all kinds of privacy while simultaneously framing the view of the entirely exposed barrel-ceilinged space. As envisioned by architect Thomas Bath, designer Andrea Beecher and graphic artist Dallas Graham, the space is pushing all kinds of visual boundaries for the folks of Happy Valley, in the best possible way. And the food matches this spirit of stepping just slightly out of the usual comfort zone, with gorgeous presentations of locally sourced ingredients (many of which are grown in the restaurant's own extensive on-site garden) served up in cozy earthenware containers. This scribbler's particular sensory vice satisfied? Still oven-warm bread served with house-churned creme fraiche butter, available fresh each service. It's not such a bad addiction in the scheme of things, right? (DD)
1457 E. 3350 South, SLC, 385-528-3712, TableXRestaurant.com

Best Taste of a French Morning
Bubble & Brown
Imagine walking down a quaint Parisian side-street, smelling that delightful aroma of freshly baked morning treats, and finding yourself unable to stop walking into the shop from which it originates. Bubble & Brown has just that kind of feel to it, aiming for recipes built on classical European pastry techniques. Though the shop recently closed last month, plans to move in to a bigger space have ensued. In the meantime, you can still complement that coffee pick-me-up with freshly made treats, like the blueberry frangipane tart or peach and ginger scone, at Jade Market. As the flaky heaven melts on your tongue, you'll practically hear the accordion music playing "La Vie en Rose." (SR)
385-212-4998, BubbleAndBrownBakery.com

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Best Vegan Cheesesteak
Buds
If the words "vegan cheesesteak" sound like an oxymoron, I'd like to introduce you to Buds. This sandwich shop specializes in plant-based comfort food, serving up hearty sandwiches and salads to a bustling lunchtime crowd. The Cheesesteak ($6.50) is a gratifying combination of savory, peppery soy-based steak, grilled peppers and onions topped with a hot, gooey vegan cheese sauce tucked into a toasted sourdough hoagie. Top it off with a dollop of housemade marinara and sliced black olives for a mere 50 cents more to experience the full-flavored Pizzasteak. (AR)
509 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, BudsSLC.com

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Best Roadside Sandwich
Shadow Fighter Sandwich at Little Acorn Drive-Inn
Since 1972, this roadside shack has welcomed wayward travelers with its plethora of burgers and killer sandwiches. Next time you're zipping by, stop in, give their food a try and be mesmerized by their impressive aquarium. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to sit at the sweetheart table. Onto the good stuff: For the true experience, get the house special Shadow Fighter sandwich ($6.89)—a heaping hand-and-cheese sandwich on homemade bread with a quarter pound burger patty thrown in the middle. I don't have to mention just how big of a fan of combined foods I am (check out the "Chicken IN Waffle" entry), I'll just limit myself to saying this is a Frankenfood done right. To wash it down, order one of their famous fruit shakes (Oreo is a fruit, right?). (EL)
3660 US-6, Spanish Fork, 801-798-3143

Best Gourmet Popsicles
Lick'd Pops
From Otter Pops to popsicles, frozen confections are a summer rite of passage—and also usually just a delivery system for artificially flavored corn syrup. Tiffany Tomkinson decided to take the concept to another level, with a wide variety of small-batch frozen treats in mouth-watering flavors, made from the best available natural (and whenever possible, locally sourced) ingredients. The tangy Key lime pie pops come packed with graham cracker crumbles; the peanut butter chocolate cookie is like a refreshing Reese's Peanut Butter Cup on a stick. (SR)
LickdPops.com

Best Take-Out/To-Go
Deer Valley Grocery-Café
Who wants to cook when you're enjoying a ski vacation? For both visitors and Park City residents, Deer Valley Grocery-Café offers a world of gourmet goodies to eat in or to take home. 7-Eleven this is not, with a menu that runs the gamut from breakfast paninis and famous Deer Valley turkey chili, to chicken pot pie, goat cheese polenta, gourmet pizzas, pastas, Niman Ranch braised short ribs, an array of desserts and even beer, wine and liquor to go. If you're dining in, be sure to try one of the Grocery-Café's specialty cocktails. (TS)
1375 Deer Valley Drive, Park City, 435-615-2400, DeerValley.com

Best Canyon Dinner
Log Haven Restaurant
There are a growing number of fine-dining establishments in Salt Lake City, and for the food lover, this is excellent news. A little further afield, though, located 4 miles up Millcreek Canyon, is Log Haven, which quietly crafts superb food for anyone with a billfold thick enough to pay. For anyone not paying attention as they zoom up and down the canyon, Log Haven is also a spectacle of, well, log architecture. The space is beautiful, and it's surrounded by even more beautiful scenery, which makes it a destination for weddings. Try the bacon-wrapped elk strip steak. (CF)
6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, Millcreek, 801-272-8255, Log-Haven.com

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Best Secret Menu Item
The McDonald's McBitchin'
Take one McDonald's double cheeseburger, split it between the patties, insert Hot 'n Spicy McChicken sandwich. That, my friends, is a McBitchin'. Some call it a McGangbang. That's kinda fuckin' stupid. The double cheeseburger and the Hot 'n Spicy are two entities—that ain't no gang. But it is bitchin'. Room for more? I'll share a secret menu of my own creation. If you ask real nice at a hybrid KFC/Taco Bell, you can get 'em to put the contents of a KFC Famous Bowl (popcorn chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and cheese) and some pico de gallo into a tortilla, then grill it. Boom. Grilled Stuft Famous Bowl Burrito. Be sure to get a grip of hot sauce to go with it—and honor its Creator for eternity. (RH)

Best Vibe
Silver Star Café
Whether you slide in off the slopes or bike, hike or motor your way to Silver Star Café, you're unlikely to find an eatery with a better vibe in Park City. The vision when Lisa and Jeff Ward opened Silver Star Café in 2010 was to create a communal gathering spot with excellent, comforting cuisine, and also a haven where live American roots music could thrive. Check, check and check. Adjacent to Park City Mountain Resort, Silver Star is rustic, warm and cozy, with outside seating and fire pits. It's a great spot to grab a beer or cocktail and a burger or to enjoy a leisurely meal of wild mushroom stroganoff, organic rye berry risotto, housemade pizza, osso bucco, branzino or other tantalizing menu options. Whatever you order, the servers and staff are so accommodating, you're going to feel like you're dining with family. (TS)
1825 Three Kings Drive, Park City, 435-655-3456, TheSilverStarCafe.com

Best Individualized Dessert Experience
Create Donut Co.
You'll feel like a kid turned loose in a dessert playground when you customize your own treat at Create Donut Co. One recent customer ordered a doughnut inside of a crêpe while another chose a brownie sundae with a croissant on top. Feel free to mix and match with their 17 glazes and drizzles and 14 fillings made from whipped cream, mousse or fruit. You can originate any dessert ranging from a gelato cookie sandwich to a Madagascar whipped cream and chocolate mousse-topped croissant doughnut to organic shaved ice. It's all totally yummy and all totally up to you. (CC)
9305 S. Village Shop Drive, Sandy, 801-790-2738, CreateDonut.com

Best Hot Dog You Can Only Find Through Serendipity
Meier's Catering
"Caterer," even if netted against "work party," still doesn't summon images of hot dogs. At its thriftiest, it means a beef-chicken-fish option, decent dessert and maybe a few free beers. This held true enough at the summer work party of a certain longtime companion this summer—but, since kids might not like chicken and ribs, option Z was hot dogs; perfectly formed, crazy-tender franks on super soft yellow buns with optional ketchup, mustard and relish. I had three—plus four of Meier's redonk orange rolls. Sadly, since you can't walk into Meier's and order one, you'll just have to wait until karma/coincidence decides you're ready. (RH)
4730 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay, 801-278-4655, MeiersCatering.com

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Best Downtown Sausage Fest
JDawgs
Stick to what you know, the old adage goes. For a little over a decade, former BYU student Jayson Edwards' path has been paved with wieners—Polish and beef to be specific—turning him into the state's top hot dog connoisseur. Starting humbly as an off-campus shack that offered a break from the college pizza cycle norm, JDawgs recently opened a fifth locale smack in the heart of downtown SLC. For the full experience, start with a fresh-off-the-grill dog ($4), served with all the toppings (onion, sauerkraut, jalapeños and pickles), squeeze a goopy amount of secret sauce on that beefy bad boy, and get ready to kiss those boiled mystery meat imposters you grew up with goodbye. Judging by the line during a recent visit, Edwards, our own budding Ray Kroc, is onto something big. Something big and juicy. (EL)
Multiple locations, JDawgs.com

Best Band of Brothers
Kevin and Bob Valaika
In some ways, Shabu owners Kevin and Bob Valaika couldn't be more different; in others, they seem to be clones. Together, they help make Park City's Shabu restaurant one of the most exciting and innovative in town. Executive Chef Bob Valaika—who trained at with
chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Emeril Lagasse—spends most of his time in the Shabu kitchen, out of the spotlight. Kevin, on the other hand, is the affable "face" of Shabu, usually working the front of the house meeting and greeting customers old and new and treating them like family. The brotherly combination of exquisite Asian-inspired "free style" cuisine and first-rate customer service makes Shabu a bucket-list item when dining in Park City. (TS)
442 Main, Park City, 435-645-7253, ShabuParkCity.com

Best Southern Hospitality
Tupelo
Named for the tupelo trees that are native to the American Southeast, and given that owner/chef Matt Harris is a Southern boy himself, it should come as no surprise that Southern hospitality and a casual, comforting vibe should be the modus operandi at Park City's Tupelo restaurant. Along with business partner/wife/"tiger mom" Maggie Alvarez and a strong staff, Harris redefines comfort food with dishes like maple whiskey-glazed pork cheeks, deviled eggs with fried country ham and creme fraiche, and mind-blowing buttermilk biscuits with tupelo honey butter. Pastry Chef Shirley Butler's sticky toffee pudding with Earl Grey bitters ice cream will leave a wide grin on your gob. (TS)
508 Main, Park City, 435-615-7700, TupeloParkCity.com

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Best Place to Learn There's More to Mexican Dessert than Flan and Fried Ice Cream
Cakes by Edith
Nothing against Santa Flan, the patron saint of creamy desserts (movie recommendation: Freaked, starring Alex Winter and Randy Quaid), but step off custardy amigo. Ditto fried ice cream and Mexican candy. Once you've tasted some of the incredible treats at Cakes by Edith—a Mexican panaderia in West Valley—flan is just soggy tiramisu. Among the under-glass delights at Edith's are South American alfajores cookies, fist-sized balls that are suspiciously similar to raspberry Zingers, and Mexican wedding cookies. Their crowning achievement, however, is the pastel de tres leches—a white cake with creamy icing and strawberry slices soaking in a half-inch bath of sweetened whole, condensed and evaporated milks. Que chingón. (RH)
1736 W. 5000 South, Taylorsville, 801-963-3743

Biggest Variety of Candy and Soda
Pop 'n' Sweets
Talk about a soda- and candy-lover's paradise. Abba Zabbas, Sky Bars and Looks will take you back decades, and the four Pop 'n' Sweets locations are also filled with imported sweets and sodas from Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, France, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, Russia and Holland. Among the 500 types of glass-bottled sodas are 100 different root beers. Some Pop 'n Sweets locations offer counter service for root beer floats. Owner Christopher Wilms says he created the dessert shop three years ago with the goal of making the world a better place one candy bar at a time. (CC)
Multiple locations, PopNSweets.com

Best Food Court Fare
Tossed Pizzeria
Like me, you probably dread "ordering in the court." I'm referring to shopping mall food courts, where the cuisine is usually about as uplifting as this year's presidential election. Well, Tossed Pizzeria—located in the Layton Hills Mall—is out to change your thoughts. The anti-Sbarro, independent, family-owned pizzeria produces what might just be the best NYC-style pies in Utah. If that's not enough, there are also made-from-scratch salads that are to die for. It's reason enough to become a mall rat. (TS)
1201 N. Hill Field Road, Layton, 801-546-3558, TossedPizzeria.com

Best Downtown Southern Comfort
SoCo
Southern cooking has a particular foundation in tradition, based on family recipes and the sense that there's only one right way to make certain classic dishes. SoCo brings that sensibility to Main Street, with a menu full of favorites that you might find in a Carolina kitchen. The fried chicken (with or without waffles) is juicy-tender beneath the crispy crust, and the hush puppies provide just the right spicy kick beneath that crunchy exterior. Whether your personal irresistible favorite is shrimp and grits or fried catfish—maybe even with collard greens on the side—you can get a little burst of Dixie in downtown SLC. (SR)
319 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-3946, SoCoSLC.com

Best Soon-to-be-National Concept
Mollie & Ollie
The Mollie & Ollie approach to dining is a brilliant one, from the menu to the ordering system. The restaurant's menu—which features breakfast items, scrambles, stir-fries, salads, wraps, side dishes, desserts and beverages—is accessed via an area of kiosks equipped with touch-screen tablets. Given the almost endless combinations of customization for nearly every dish, tablets for customers are a good way to go. The fast, healthy meal options at Mollie & Ollie—named for the owner's goldfish, by the way—make this concept one that we wish we'd gotten in on the ground floor of. We'll bet the farm that Utah's M&O will be a national sensation in a few years. (TS)
159 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-328-5659, MollieAndOllie.com

Best Nibble of Candy Bar History
Startup's Opera Bars
Confectionary trivia: Did you know that the first candy bar with a filling in America was manufactured in Utah (according to Ripley's Believe It or Not)? Native Englishman William Daw Startup moved to the state in 1874, where he started a candy store in Provo. In 1895, William's grandsons created the Opera Bar, with layers of cream-filling in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry candy. More than a century later, their Opera Bar is still available, as the fifth generation of Startup confectioners keeps the family business going, with plenty of other flavors of chocolates, jumbo pops and Magnolia perfume candies to accompany their history-making creation. (SR)
534 S. 100 West, Provo, 801-373-8673, StartupCandy.com

Best Way to Track Down a Food Truck
Food Truck Thursdays, Food Truck Roundups
Food trucks are, for adults, like the ice cream man was for kids. Granted, they don't drive around blasting music box hits of the 18th century; but they do make you chase 'em. Social media makes it easier to know where to find these roving grub-mobiles, but whenever your finances permit a diversion from your routine Michelina's mac and cheese or PB&J, Cupbop's in F-ing Draper. Luckily, the chuckwagons congregate regularly in locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley and Utah County, making it easier to get your Kko-Kko Bop-and-Mandu or Sweeto Burrito fix. (RH)
TheFoodTruckLeague.com; FoodTruckUnderground.com

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On that note, Best Place to be a Food Truck Snob
Soho Food Park
For a while there, food trucks could get away with serving sub-par food at exorbitant prices simply because they were on-trend novelties. While this didn't mean that all local food trucks were dispassionate hacks, it made it difficult to pin down the quality establishments. Thanks to Holladay locals Shelly and Mark Olsen, food snobs no longer have to risk tracking down a food truck only to be disappointed with its mediocrity. The Olsens vet and interview each member of the food park, ensuring a revolving lineup that is consistently impressive. Plus, Mark makes a mean cup of hot chocolate. (AS)
4747 E. Holladay Blvd., Holladay, 801-560-8200, Facebook.com/SohoFoodPark

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Best Après Ski
St. Regis Bar and Lounge
There aren't a lot of places where you can nosh on après ski fare created by the renowned chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but the Bar and Lounge at Deer Valley's St. Regis Deer Crest hotel is one. Enjoy the St. Regis' signature 7452 Mary—their high-altitude take on the classic bloody mary—while nibbling on black-truffle pizza, Maine mussels marinière or sautéed corvina with spicy peanut broth. The wine list is one of the best in town, and on sunny Sundays guests can enjoy listening to live music provided by the great local duo Joy and Eric out on the bustling Mountain Terrace. (TS)
2300 Deer Valley Drive East, Park City, 435-940-5760, StRegisDeerValley.com

Best Literal Watering Hole
Artesian Well Park
If you're not going to recycle your empty milk jugs, at least reuse them by capturing crisp spring water that pours from a red brick station downtown. Artesian Well Park on the corner of 500 East and 800 South is among the city's smallest, measuring in at about a quarter acre. Devoid of playgrounds, puppies or stoned slackliners, this park instead fulfills a singular mission of slaking the thirst of the masses. It's a free, environmentally conscious way to keep your fridge stocked with drinking water, which regular visitors vouch is tastier than what flows from their taps. (DWH)
808 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-972-7800

Best Place to Satisfy your Gluten-Free, Vegan Sweet Tooth
City Cakes Bakery & Café
Just because you're avoiding dairy, eggs and gluten doesn't mean you've given up on life. City Cakes Bakery & Café offers delectable vegan and gluten-free desserts. The moment you enter the bakery, the colorful goodies inside the pastry case catch your eye. You've never seen so many delectable vegan and gluten-free doughnuts, scones, cupcakes and cookies! One bite of the zesty blueberry-lemon scone and you'll be convinced—you don't have to sacrifice to be vegan or gluten free. (AR)
1000 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-2239, CityCakesCafe.com

Best Yogurt Jones Satisfied
GR Kitchen Spit-Fired Greek
With clean lines, clean eating and a clean-as-a-whistle service staff, the whole GR Kitchen experience totally makes sense for how people want to eat modern Greek food—think fresh-sliced lamb and beef gyros, spit-roasted lean pork or chicken souvlaki—whether it's a sit-down long lunch with friends or a family meal on-the-go. Add a great local beer selection to the mix, and we're absolutely golden. Gilding this proverbially already-glorious lily? The thick and impossibly creamy housemade traditional Greek yogurt, which chef/owner Chris Tsoutsounakis urges guests to top off with gourmet ingredients like richly syruped cherries, crushed pistachios or local honey. Adding to this delicious danger zone, pints (or more!) of the yogurt are available to-go for late-night binging. (DD)
7702 Union Park Ave., Sandy, 801-352-7406, EatGRKitchen.com

Best Unexpectedly Wonderful Wine List
Hot Dynasty
Although China has given us what might be the world's most ancient and complex cuisine, wine is something we tend to think of in tandem with French food. That's not the case at Hot Dynasty, where the wine selection rates with some of the best fine-dining restaurants. Right there beside fresh boba drinks, kumquat juice, mango shakes and strawberry slushes are wines from around the world. Choices range from Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and Stag's Leap Chardonnays to Sauvion Sancerre from France, Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet and even M. Chapoutier Luberon La Ciboise Rouge. A very good choice to augment Hot Dynasty's robust flavors is d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé from Provence. Or, you could celebrate your good luck in discovering this wonderful Chinese eatery with a bottle of Dom Pérignon vintage Champagne. (TS)
3390 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-712-5332, HotDynasty.com

Best Rise From the Damp, Fizzy Ashes
Curry 'N' Kabobs
Many downtown denizens mourned when, over the summer, the soda machine at Curry 'N' Kabobs was responsible for flooding the Afghan and Indian eatery. Luckily, after a couple of weeks of renovations, the tiny restaurant located in the back of Market on Main St. was reborn. Take it from someone who has tried almost every item on the menu: You can't go wrong here. Homemade kabobs, fresh naans, curries and a decent vegetarian selection all do the trick. Looking for something handheld? From falafel to shawarma, all wraps are less than $7, and can be upgraded with seasoned rice and a salad to a full plate for just two bucks more. Dine-in and enjoy the vast selection of Bollywood movies playing on a nearby flat-screen. The soundtrack, combined with the top-notch eats, is sure to make your taste buds dance and sing. (EL)
268 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-363-0300

Best Mexican Restaurant You Haven't Been to
Nuestra Cocina at Rancho Market
Hidden inside all 11 Utah Rancho Markets is the most authentic Mexican dining experience on this side of the upcoming administration's proposed yuuuge wall. A small-but-mighty staff works away doling out the good stuff since the wee hours in the form of delectable chilaquiles, chorizo-and-egg and steak-and-egg burritos. For lunch, nothing beats their carnitas, carne asada and al pastor tacos ($2.50 each or in a combo of eight plus rice and beans for $14.99). Wash it all down with a housemade fruity agua fresca. You can also stock up on chicharrón (pork cracklings), which are sold by the pound here, and don't waste your time looking for fancy napkins from a dispenser, as each table is equipped with a roll of paper towels. Room for postre? Ranchos' dessert counters have you covered with kilometers of pan dulce, gravity-defying double-decker pie/cake combos and the best hybrid since the Tijuana zonkey: choco-flan. (EL)
Multiple locations, RanchoMarkets.com

Best Mediterranean Getaway
Reef's
Dining at Reef's restaurant and art gallery in Park City is a little like a low-price getaway to warmer, sunnier climes. The vegetarian- and gluten-free-friendly restaurant features the flavors of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Europe, with art curated by Paris-born Ida Yoked. Tel Aviv-native Asi Yoked—Reef's chef and owner—opened the restaurant along with his wife Tali, naming it after their son, Reef. Yes—surfers, swimmers and divers are very welcome. You can't miss with Middle Eastern staples like hummus, falafel and baba ghanoush, but give the sensational chicken schnitzel a try, too. (TS)
710 Main, Park City, 435-658-0323, ReefsRestaurant.com

Best Glendale Grocery Store
Super Mercado de las Americas
It's always pleasurable to stumble upon new things in a familiar city. The Super Mercado de las Americas is the kind of unreal grocery store that you won't find on the internet; it's not being Yelped about along with Harmons, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. No, it must be discovered. Of course, once this discovery takes place, the days of visiting the other grocers are numbered. Need the beef you're grilling seasoned? Just ask; the butcher will do it for you. Don't want to cook? Buy a burrito from the taquería inside. With its barrel roof and massive wooden joists, the market is also an architectural gem, well worth a road trip to the city's Glendale neighborhood. (CF)
1179 Navajo St., Salt Lake City, 801-972-4585

Best Chili Con Carne
Bandits
Positioned in the shadow of Cottonwood Heights' Hyatt Place, Bandits Grill & Bar is the area's best spot for barbecue. The barbecued baby back ribs, chicken, pulled pork, cedar-plank salmon and tri-tip are just a few of the outstanding smoky choices available at this uber-friendly restaurant. But there's more going on at Bandits than just the blast-furnace, 1,800-degree grill. Chiliheads will go gaga over Bandit's chili. It's a highly spiced, tomato-based chili con carne, brimming with meaty chunks of oh-so tender beef tri-tip—all in perfect harmony and without unnecessary frills or accoutrements. That championship chili followed by an order of bread pudding might just be the perfect Bandits meal. (TS)
3176 E. 6200 South, Cottonwood Heights, 801-944-0505, BanditsBBQ.com

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Best Way to Forget About Fry Sauce
Mama Africa's Pili Pili Sauce
Cathy "Mama Africa" Tshilombo-Lokemba is a welcome fixture at most of Salt Lake's outdoor events, like the farmers market and Twilight Concert Series, where she cooks up some of the best ribs, beignets and samosas that I've ever tried. She's also perfected a tangy, sweet and spicy brew called Pili Pili sauce, and it's got my vote to usurp fry sauce as Utah's condiment of choice. It's the kind of sauce that has the versatility of Sriracha, but with more depth of flavor. It's a marvelous addition to most any condiment-friendly food, and it packs a punch that fry sauce just can't compete with. (AS)
3460 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City, 435-224-2328

Best Heat-Lover's Condiment
Salsa Del Diablo's "The Kitchen Sink"
It's like Satan and Jesus put aside their differences and teamed up to make Utah's hottest and best salsa. Salsa Del Diablo's "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" is extra hot and should be eaten slowly by first-timers who aren't sure yet how much they can handle. Once you've gotten past the heat (or rather before the heat fully sets in), the salsa has an excellent flavor, and quite literally contains everything but the kitchen sink. You might have seen Salsa Del Diablo at farmers markets across the valley, where they sell all sorts of flavors, like Pumpkin and a Pepper, Beehive Buzz, Green Goddess, the popular Cashew Dream and more, depending on the season. Whatever flavor or spice level you like, they have something you'll become addicted to. They're based in Holladay, but sell their salsas at various stores listed on their Facebook page. (AH)
Facebook.com/SalsaDelDiablo

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Best Late-Night Bargain
Chef Gao/Sweet Ginger
Aside from fast food and franchise fare, it's not easy to find late night noshes in Utah. And it's even more difficult to find truly unique and inexpensive food after 9 p.m. Thankfully, Chef Gao/Sweet Ginger in Midvale has you covered for late-night eats. The restaurant offers a cash-only selection of late-night specials all priced at $5.49 apiece, beginning at 9 p.m. nightly. And here's the best part: There are about 60 of them! The diverse menu of after-hours eats runs the gamut from Shanghai-style fried rice cakes and North China noodle soup, to Mongolian beef, fish with black bean sauce, spinach and tofu soup, eggplant with jalapeño and, yes, kung pao chicken. (TS)
220 W. 7200 South, Midvale, 801-352-0888, SweetGingerSLC.com

Best Place to Circumvent Long Lines to Get your Favorite Food
Taste of Red Iguana
It's been said in these pages a zillion times, and we'll say it a zillion more: The Red Iguana, home of killer Mexican food, is el mas chingón. What's not badass about it is the long lines one often encounters at both the original and the nearby Red Iguana 2. So the ability to get at least a portion of the Red Iguana menu at a mall food court is pretty sweet. It does, however, lack the charm of the original in this context. But would you rather have Sbarro for the umpteenth time? (RH)
City Creek Center, 28 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-214-6350, RedIguana.com

Best Veggie Taco that Disappeared but Should Return
Blue Poblano's soft-shell veggie tacos
The tears splashed about on the wooden window shutters between Dick & Dixie's bar and the adjoining building are mine. The reason: A note recently tacked to the taquería announced Blue Poblano's indefinite closure. It's a crying shame because their soft-shell veggie tacos—made with corn or flour tortillas and crammed with avocado, cheese and red cabbage—were superb. The restaurant's Facebook page explains it closed shop due to an "urgent emergency repair," but implied it would rise again. In the meantime, Blue Poblano caters. (DWH)
BluePoblano.com

Best Dressing for Sensitive Stomachs
Cut to the Taste
Looking for a recipe that would address the dietary needs of friends and family who are gluten- and/or lactose-intolerant, Mannie Dotson developed a cilantro-lime dressing that was bursting with flavor, but kinder on the digestive system. The original recipe has expanded to include smoky bacon, chipotle and jalapeño variations—perfect options for diet-restricted eaters, whether you just want to drizzle it on a salad, or use it as a delicious marinade or sauce for main dishes. (SR)
CutToTheTaste.com

Best Place to Spend $20 on your Lunch and Not Think Twice
Este Deli
You know how in Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman orders a $5 milkshake at Jack Rabbit Slim's and John Travolta says, "That better be one fuckin' good milkshake." That's how I felt laying down 13 bucks for a philly cheesesteak and $3 for a fancy Rice Krispies treat at Este Deli—the first time. After tax and tip put me close to $20, I felt guilty for getting myself such an extravagant dinner. During the long wait, I decided to eat dessert first in order to get my stomach to STFU. I ate greedily, wondering where "brown butter" had been all my life. And then I ate the sandwich on the way home. And went back for more. (RH)
1702 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-487-3354, EstePizzaCo.com

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Best Oh Mai!
Oh Mai
Yellow curry chicken, shredded pork, spicy beef short-rib—it doesn't matter which sandwich you order at any one of Oh Mai's four locations; the result will satisfy. These sandwiches, known as banh mi, are anchored by a French baguette and stuffed with delicious
Vietnamese goodness. While all of the sandwiches are top-notch, including The Sardine, which is at least worth one try, I prefer The Sinner, which consists of braised pork belly, black pepper, lettuce, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots, soy sprouts and jalapeño. Since you're sinning, it's important to know that you can add a fried egg or two to your sandwich. (CF)
Multiple locations, OhMaiSandwich.com

Best Rising Chef
Joey Ferran at Cucina
Through the years, Cucina in The Avenues has been known primarily as a deli/café offering great sandwiches, salads and such. But more recently, Cucina began offering evening dinners, including very well-attended and successful monthly wine dinners. The morphing of Cucina from deli to sit-down restaurant has largely come about with the hiring of what I think is Utah's best new rising young chef: Joey Ferran. While Cucina does still dish up crowd favorites like curried chicken salads and gourmet sandwiches, Ferran has created an elevated nightly dinner menu that includes items like pork-belly pozole, tandoori lamb chop, fried chicken lollipops with tofu agedashi, fontina polenta and many more tempting choices. Keep an eye on Mr. Ferran—he's going places, though we hope not too far. (TS)
1026 Second Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-322-3055, CucinaDeli.com

Best Canyon-Inspired Craft Hard Cider
Mountain West's 7 Mile Cider
It's a no-brainer for those who love hard cider but don't like it too sweet. What separates this one from the domestics you're probably more familiar with is that it's drier—like a dry Champagne, as opposed to sweet—and lighter in flavor, with hints of green apple. Named after southern Utah's Seven Mile Canyon, and totaling 5 percent alcohol by volume, it's the perfect refresher for a warm sunny day. It even won a silver medal in the Modern Cider category at this year's Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. You can buy it on tap or in 22-ounce bottles at their downtown tasting room, along with a few others, like their stronger Cottonwood Dry Hopped (6.9 percent ABV). Cheers! (AH)
425 N. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-935-4147, MountainWestCider.com

Best Place to Eat a Burger while Uncomfortably Close to a Person who is Paid to Make Fun
Wiseguys Downtown
Comedians are like wild animals: We love 'em, but we don't wanna get within attack range. At the relatively new Gateway location of Wiseguys comedy club, the food is way better—especially the messy burgers. Just don't sit too close to the stage while you're eating. Sure, it's great to be that close to a wild stand-up in its natural habitat, but if you saw some drunk greedily inhaling a burger while laughing ... Could you resist baring your claws? (RH)
194 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-532-5233, WiseguysComedy.com

Best at Keeping it Local
Frog Bench Farms
When you dine in many of Utah's finest restaurants—places like Table X, Pago, Current, Martine, Zest, Pallet or Riverhorse—you'll find chefs making use of locally grown, sustainable and organic produce and herbs from urban Frog Bench Farms. Located in Salt Lake City's Foothills neighborhood, Frog Bench—the creation of Joe and Paula Sargetakis—is a state-of-the art urban farm powered by some 200-plus solar panels, and contains water-collection systems that can gather 2,500 gallons during a good rainstorm. Of course, it's the incredible range of produce and herbs grown from heirloom seeds that most of the chefs are after. Where else are you going to find edible flowers on a wintery Tuesday afternoon? (TS)
801-478-5835, FrogBenchFarms.com

Best Parisian Culinary Education
Croissant classes at Les Madeleines
When Romina Rasmussen starts her class in the delicate and highly buttered world of croissant-making, she asks each person's name and then goes around her restaurant, repeating all the names until you feel you are an ingredient in one of her locally famous, travel-inspired pastries. For anyone who's ever wondered just how you get that flaky, layered texture, the answer is lots of folding of butter into dough. By the end of the class, you'll have half a dozen croissants ready to pop into the oven, and the dough and butter to make a whole bunch more. Rasmussen succinctly demystifies the art of croissants so anyone can make them, although weight-watchers beware—it takes an awful lot of butter. (SD)
216 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, 801-355-2294, LesMadeleines.com

Best Braised Bunny
Provisions
Nope, I'm not talking about a Fatal Attraction moment, here. My autumnal obsession? The rabbit pappardelle as envisioned by Chef Tyler Stokes, which makes an occasional appearance on the menu when he can get his lucky paws on the hard-to-find ingredient raised to his exacting standards of sourcing. When I'm lucky enough to find it done as well as Stokes' version at Provisions in Millcreek, I grab it when I can. Luscious and full of flavor, the rabbit has been braised low and slow until it is falling-apart-on-your-fork tender, then it's sautéed with speck (mild bacon), slivered garlic, sage, oyster mushrooms and a velvety browned butter sauce. It's then pan tossed with housemade wide egg pasta ribbons. Every decadent forkful is a bite of heaven. Sorry Thumper, but I'm not even a little bit sorry. (DD)
3364 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-410-4046, SLCProvisions.com

Best Midnight Snack
The Munchy Mango at The Pie Hole
The Pie Hole is everything one wants in a late-night pizza joint. They're always pumping good music, the décor hits the shabby-chic sweet spot, and they create pizza monstrosities that reflect a canny awareness of their nocturnal clientele. The Munchy Mango ($16.50), a pie topped with mango chunks, jalapeño slices and thai peanut sauce, is but one example in their repertoire. On paper, those ingredients don't sound like they'd play nice with each other, but it actually reflects a thoughtful balance of flavors. It's tasty at any time of day, but there's something about ordering this beast at 1 a.m. that makes it particularly special. (AS)
344 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-359-4653, PieHoleUtah.com

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Best Pizza Place That's Taking Soooo Long to Build
The Pie
Ever since The Pie Pizzeria—long-regarded as serving the best pies in SLC—started to venture out of the University area into other parts of the valley, I've wished for one in my own neck of the woods. Months (and months) ago, when the sign went up at the South Salt Lake construction site across from the Century 16 theaters, my heart soared and my stomach percolated. It wouldn't be long; soon the zappis and vegan cheese pull-a-parts would be mine. Now, I dunno how long it's meant to take, building a building and all ... but it feels like it's taking forever. (RH)
ThePie.com

Best Dinner and a Show
Encore Bistro
Let's face it: Food and drink options at most theater performances and concerts suck. You're lucky if you can find a granola bar to eat, much less a decent glass of wine. That's why we love Encore Bistro at the Eccles Theater. Whether you're attending a show at the Eccles or not, Encore is open serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with tasty, tempting options like their Diva Panini, Stage Left Sliders, Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, daily quiche and killer chicken-and-waffle sandwich. Themed dinner menus coordinated with specific performances provide delicious surprises and, yes, you can get a good glass of wine with your intermission meal. (TS)
131 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-509-7871, EncoreBistroSLC.com

Best High-Mileage Chef
Emmanuel Levarek
Owner Eric DeBonis has a well-traveled secret weapon at his Sea Salt and The Paris restaurants: It's longtime chef Emmanuel Levarek, a Parisian of many talents that extend beyond the kitchen. Among them, he moonlights at a purser for Delta Airlines, frequently traveling the SLC to Charles de Gaulle route. We doubt if Levarek is eligible for frequent flyer Skymiles on Delta, but if he were, he'd likely have millions in his account. When he's not catering to international travelers with panache and professionalism, you'll find "E-Man" doing what he does best: cooking in two of our city's finest restaurants. (TS)
TheParis.net; SeaSaltSLC.com

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Best Downtown South American Debut
Argentina's Best Empanadas
For years, Ana Valdemoros sold her homemade empanadas at the Downtown Farmers Market. An empanada is essentially a pastry turnover with a savory filling. In July this year, Valdemoros took the bold step of opening her first store, open Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. She sells five varieties, including traditional beef, lemon beef, spinach and feta, roasted chicken, along with a breakfast empanada—which might have the Argentine purist rolling her eyeballs—of egg and bacon bits. Valdemoros has done Argentina proud with her celebration of tasty empanadas. (SD)
357 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City, 801-815-0690, ArgentinasBestSLC.com

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Best Under-the-Radar Asian
Rice Basil
Tucked away in a commercial building near Holladay Village, Rice Basil is easy to overlook. But do so at your own peril, because passing by Rice Basil means passing up some of the best Asian fare our city has to offer. The gorgeous interior and lovely ambiance is the perfect setting for the exquisite Asian-inspired cuisine here. You'll think you're at Nobu with eye-popping and palate-pleasing dishes such as jalapeño hamachi, saba shioyaki or the delectable sashimi platter. And, desserts like Key Lime Calypso are works of modern art. The first-class, friendly and professional service should convince you to put Rice Basil into your GPS immediately. (TS)
2335 E. Murray-Holladay Road, Holladay, 801-278-8682, RiceBasil.com

Best Lighter-Than-Air Bagels
Rich's Bagels
Rich's Bagels invented its signature Asiago cheese bagel, which has a light and chewy texture and is so popular, it's shipped worldwide. A brother-sister team with extended family have all been part of the business for 24 years. The Rich's Asiago bagel is so flavorful, it's tasty even without cream cheese. There's nary a freezer on the premises, and dough is prepared fresh, proofed overnight and baked the next day, resulting in hearty flavor and airy texture. Along with the bagels, almost everything else—including the cookies, bread and salads—is made on site. The hot egg bagel sandwiches are especially good. (CC)
6191 S. Highland Drive, 801-277-3137, RichsBagels.com

Best Cup of Mud in Cache County
Caffe Ibis
Ahh, Logan. There are certainly some aspects of the place that make one wonder if its citizens aren't just decades and decades ahead of the curve. One such example is Caffe Ibis, which began in 1976 as the Straw Ibis Market and Café. By 1985, the café had blossomed into one of the state's first coffee roasters—a practice it continues to this day. On the forward-thinking note: A sign on the door in July informed customers that internet access was no longer going to be provided. Why? Because Caffe Ibis is a place where people can be with other people, not their glowing machines. (CF)
52 Federal Ave., Logan, 435-753-4777, CaffeIbis.com

Best Place to Get a Warm, Greasy Peach Fritter
Donut Boy
We take for granted that doughnuts are bakery items and therefore baked, not fried. Usually because by the time we get to them the oil has dripped off or dried, leaving no hint of the sexy little circles' greasy genesis. And although they're only doughnuts by association,
the sublime peach fritters at the new-ish Donut Boy in West Valley are made to order and, in addition to being crispy and chewy, they're damned near juicy. If you, like my wife (or The Greasy Strangler—another film rec, parental guidance is advised), are into that sort of thing, that's a bonus. If you're sclerotic, just sniff 'em. (RH)
2194 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 385-528-0782

Best Apple Cider Slush
Rowley's Red Barn
There's nothing like the taste of an apple freshly picked at a local farm. Unless it's the taste of those apples pressed into fresh apple cider. Or, to take it up a notch—as Rowley's Red Barn does—the taste of that fresh apple cider transformed into an icy frozen treat that's unlike anything you'll find in a convenience store. You can even add some of their wonderful ice cream to take an already delicious refreshment and given an à la mode kick. (SR)
901 S. 300 West, Santaquin, 801-754-5511; 25 N. 300 West, Washington, 435-652-6611, RowleysRedBarn.com

Best Sushi that Isn't Takashi
Happy Sumo
If I had to choose one type of food to eat every day for the rest of my life, it would hands-down be sushi. Only problem is I'm also stingy. Thankfully I stumbled upon addicting bang-for-the buck rolls (in the $8-$14 range) this year at Happy Sumo. Additional bonuses: It tastes the same every time, they're open seven days a week and the service is almost always fast. I'd like to think I'm culinarily adventurous, but (disclaimer) I lean toward spicy flavors and generally stay away from things that are deep-fried or include cream cheese. That being said, my personal favorite there is the Baja Roll ($8.95), with spicy tuna, avocado and cilantro topped with sriracha and jalepeño slices. For a starter, their miso soup is always my go-to. Nigiri tends to be a bit more expensive ($4-$7 for two pieces), but I can rarely resist the perfectly prepared unagi. (AH)
Multiple locations, HappySumoSushi.com

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Best Makeover
Stoneground Kitchen
In the 16 years since Bob McCarthy opened Stoneground Kitchen, a lot has changed. The Italian-inspired eatery has gone from pizza-joint atmosphere with a pool table as the main piece of décor, to an upscale restaurant with an ambiance to match. The Stoneground
makeover included a beautiful upstairs patio complete with fire pit and contemporary design, while the natural wood-and-stone interior is eye-pleasing and soothing. But not just the visuals have changed: With chef Justin Shifflett at the helm, Stoneground has also become a top-notch destination restaurant in Salt Lake City with delicious dishes such as black tagliatelle with lobster, ricotta gnocchi verde with pan-roasted clams and nduja, and pizzas that will leave you wanting more. (TS)
249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-1368, StonegroundSLC.com

Best Frontrunner Fare
Café Sabor
Located in the space that was home for many years to Doug & Emmy's Family Restaurant and Café, Sabor is literally just a few steps from the Layton's Frontrunner train station. Along with typical Mexican combo plates of tacos, burritos, tamales, enchiladas and such, Café Sabor also offers chicken mole, camarones a la diabla, carne asada and a robust selection of margaritas, like the Bear Lake made with raspberries, Lunazul Blanco tequila, sweet and sour mix and Chambord. ¡Salúd! (TS)
200 S. Main, Layton, 385-245-1636

Best Freshest Chinese and Vietnamese
Pan Wok
Pan Wok is a hidden Millcreek gem where all of the sauces—from lemon to pon pon to teriyaki, even the chili sauce—are housemade. Combine fresh ingredients with fast, friendly service and artfully arranged dishes and you have a winner for lunch. Popular choices include the Singapore noodles, the Pon Pon dish and vermicelli noodle dish. There's even a magazine shelf filled with a variety of periodicals to entertain your brain. (CC)
2955 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-486-8199, PanWok.com

Best Transcendent Space
Oasis Café
Salt Lake City's Oasis Café could not be more aptly named, since it truly is an urban oasis. Now owned by Joel and Hill LaSalle, Oasis Café and adjacent Golden Braid Books have been serving as a peaceful and serene escape from the city's hustle and bustle for 21 years. A menu filled with mostly organic and locally sourced foods matches the wholesome atmosphere of Oasis Café, where lingering over a book—maybe Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—or making use of the eatery's free Wi-Fi is commonplace. Serving spirited food and drink, it's a sublime city sanctuary. (TS)
151 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-322-0404, OasisCafeSLC.com

Best Pie with a Side of History
Gifford Homestead in Capitol Reef National Park
A drive through Capitol Reef National Park isn't complete without stopping for pie at the historic Gifford Homestead. Nestled in the Fruita valley among bountiful fruit orchards, this historic pioneer home sells freshly baked sweet treats and housemade pickles and jam. After you take in the family heirlooms and photos in each room of the small refurbished house, treat yourself to pie. Made from local fruit, the petite pies sell for $6 each, add a scoop of ice cream for $1 more. Enjoy your pie at one of the picnic benches in the yard and
take in the scenic views and history as well as the perfect crust and sweet fruit filling. (AR)
NPS.gov

Best Massive Dessert in Cache County
The Bluebird Restaurant
As it should be, stepping into the old-timey confines of The Bluebird Restaurant in Logan is akin to stepping back in time. But unlike so many awesome old joints that still dot the highways of Utah, The Bluebird's prices and dessert sizes remain frozen in another era. The gut-busting stock banana split ($5.05) comes with two flavors of ice cream, three toppings, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. Sit at the marble bar and watch a white-shirted, tie-wearing waiter meticulously pile on the ingredients. If you're still hungry afterward, you can always order a burger and fries and get a box of chocolates on the way out. (CF)
19 N. Main, Logan, 435-752-3155, TheBluebirdRestaurant.com

Best Bitey Ale
Jalapeño Cream Ale by Wasatch Brewery
For Sugar House residents who've discovered the genteel delights of the Wasatch Brew Pub (there's a second up at Park City), pulling up for a beer with your dog on the street patio in the summer holds all the pleasures of metropolitan life. Order a plate of their scrumptious Whiskey Salt Tater Tots and the question of what suds to suck down with them looms large. In a beer menu chock full of pleasures, their jalapeño cream ale, however, is one of the standouts. It's smooth, rich and flavor-deep and with that perfect bite at the back of the throat that has you coming back for more. As beers go, this particular ale is a local treasure, no more so than on a hot summer's day when you're craving cool, spicy nectar. (SD)
Multiple locations, WasatchBeers.com

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