Let's not pretend that "back to normal" is a thing we should ever talk about again. Nearly three years into the COVID era, we've all had to re-define "normal," and take it for granted that today's definition might change tomorrow.
In a sense, City Weekly's 2022 Best of Utah issue is a perfect example of the "new normal." There's a lot that will seem familiar, of course, in our celebration of the most exceptional places, things and (occasionally not in a good way) people that can be found in our fair state. But whereas in years past, more of this content included items from the brains of our staff and freelance contributors, this year's BOU handed much more of the power to you.
From food specialties to unique places to find a gift, we more than doubled the number of voting categories, letting our readers take the reins and guide this issue to Utah's wonderfulness. And readers responded in huge numbers, with more than 163,000 individual votes cast in less than five weeks. While we supplemented those choices with a few "staff picks" of our own, make no mistake: This is your Best of Utah.
One thing that definitely hasn't changed, though, is that Best of Utah is all about keeping it local. These are the restaurateurs, club proprietors, artists, media people and small-business owners who give Utah its own distinctive flavor, something that feels increasingly precious in an era of monolithic chains and online retailers. We've also created a new section, "This Is the Place," for Utah-centric picks. We hope you discover new gathering spots where you can eat, drink, shop, play and discover—and that such support becomes part of your new normal.
Scott Renshaw is City Weekly's longest-tenured editorial staffer, serving as film critic and arts and entertainment editor since the early aughts. He's also written the book Happy Place: Living the Disney Parks Life.
Who (or what) puts the bomp in Utah's bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Is it the green Jell-O? Dirty soda? Colossal cookies? Mammoth sundaes? Yes, indeedy, these are a few of our favorite things. But coffee and booze? Maybe not so much. However, nothing wrong with an iced frappe, right? As long as the caffeine's cold. Oh, and please refrain from taking the Lord's name in vain, dagnabbit. Life in Utah is nothing but a swirl of ludicrous contradictions. Stick around here long enough, and you'll grow to love our collective foibles. In this section we're calling "This Is the Place," we salute our uniquely Utahn cravings and inexplicable habits. You may have a few of your own to add to this list.
Sometimes, a plateful of Chuck-A-Rama scones is all you need.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Though the local dining scene has evolved considerably, the all-you-can-eat buffet at Chuck-A-Rama is hardwired into Utah's food culture. The pioneer motif, the buttered scones and the overabundance of gravy are Utah staples through and through. There's something comforting about knowing exactly what you're getting at a local spot, and there are some days when you just know you want to take several trips to the hot bar for some freshly sliced ham. Multiple locations, chuck-a-rama.com
2. King Buffet
3. Paradise Buffet
Best Donut Duo
Banbury Cross Donuts
Don't come between a Utahn and his or her donut. And in a hard-fought match, the team at Banbury Cross proved their donut dominance as they netted both reader picks for best cake and raised donuts. The perfect marriage of consistent quality, variety and a handy drive-thru window have made Banbury Cross a tough donut to beat. If you're in downtown Salt Lake before 10 a.m. and your car doesn't smell like Banbury Cross maple bars, you're doing something wrong. Multiple locations, banburycrossdonut.com
Cake Doughnut Runners Up
2. The Big O Doughnuts
3. Fresh Donuts & Deli
Raised/Glazed Doughnut Runners Up
2. Fresh Donuts & Deli
3. The Big O Doughnuts
Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
There's nothing quite like that feeling of anticipation when a box of Crumbl cookies is delivered to your door. They're always warm and gooey as if they're coming to you right out of the oven, and each bite makes you remember when a simple chocolate-chip cookie made all of life's problems just disappear. Polish off a few of these cookies with a tall glass of milk, and there isn't much that can ruin your day. Multiple locations, crumblcookies.com
2. RubySnap Fresh Cookies
3. Chip Cookies
Best Meat Pie
Fillings & Emulsions
Some people will tell you the secret to a good savory pie is in the filling, but they've been misled. Just like sweet pies, savory pies are all about the crust. You know who makes a good damned crust? The team at Fillings and Emulsions, that's who. Buttery, flaky golden perfection abounds in everything they do, and their meat pies are no exception. Pastry chef and owner Adalberto Diaz is, in fact, famous for his Cuban meat pies after he made them and won the Bake You Rich show on national TV. Multiple locations, fillingsandemulsions.com
2. The Dough Miner
3. Flake Pie Co.
Best Fruit Pie
Flake Pie Co.
There's nothing wrong with a good 8-inch pie that you can slice up for dessert, but the idea of snagging a personal-size fruit pie from Flake—sharing optional—is gaining popularity. All the traditional flavors are well-represented, but don't overlook their seasonal fruit pies—peach season is a particularly good time to swing by. If you're after something you can eat while you drive, their fruit-filled Flakies are worth a couple of sticky fingers. Multiple locations, flakepie.com
2. Pie Fight
3. Left Fork Grill
Best Funeral Potatoes
Garage on Beck
Funeral potatoes are one of Utah's most significant contributions to the culinary zeitgeist, and The Garage on Beck honors this dish while keeping it modern. Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes—made from Idaho spuds, not actual fried Mormons—takes this local staple and packs it into crispy, golden balls of cheesy, potato-y goodness. To really drive the Utah flavor home, it comes with a big cup of ranch dressing for dipping. 1199 Beck St., SLC, 801-521-3904, garageonbeck.com
3. The Dough Miner
Best White Bread Sandwich
Grove Market & Deli
Grove Market and Deli was tailor-made to cater to the generation who grew up eating sandwiches on soft white Wonder Bread. Their white bread of choice is called the Ambassador Roll, and it's the canvas upon which they work their sandwich wizardry. For a prime example, check out the Big John, which is piled high with a dizzying array of deli meat—just make sure you haven't eaten for a few days beforehand. 1906 S. Main, SLC, 801-467-8860, grovemarketdeli.com
2. Caputo's Market & Deli
3. Even Stevens Sandwiches
Best Hot Chocolate
Hatch Family Chocolates
If all you know about hot chocolate is the powdery mix you get from downtown street vendors in December, a cup from Hatch Family Chocolates is nothing short of a miracle. With heavy cream, whole milk and melted pieces of chocolate, it's a rich, satisfying shot of pure joy. There's nothing finer than a cup of this tasty treat now that snow is in the forecast. 376 E. Eighth Ave., Ste. A, SLC, 801-532-4912, hatchfamilychocolates.com
2. Over the Counter Cafe
3. Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade
The RubySnap "Penelope"
Best Peanut Butter Cookie
RubySnap Fresh Cookies
All the ladies at RubySnap are firecrackers, but it's the peanut buttery "Penelope" that takes the cake, er, cookie in this particular rumble. (RubySnap gives female names to its creations.) While it's common for a peanut butter cookie to dry out, "Penelope" keeps things gooey and flavorful, especially when it's dipped in milk chocolate. You'll often find a little mound of peanut butter in the dead center of this cookie, which is surprisingly effective at turning your frown upside down. 770 S. 300 West, SLC, 801-834-6111, rubysnap.com
2. Crumbl Cookies
3. Nigh-Time Donuts
Best Snow Cone
This Millcreek snow cone shop has been making waves among dessert-lovers since its food truck days, and demand has spiked with the opening of its brick-and-mortar store. With its regular and "boujee" menu, Icy Mountain offers the nostalgic flavors snow cone fans love along with some special creations of their own. It's altered our perspective on what "the greatest snow on Earth" really means. 2272 E. 3300 South, Millcreek, 801-707-5763, icymountainshavedice.wixsite.com/foodtruck
2. Hokulia Shave Ice
3. Bahama Buck's
Best Ice Cream Sundae
Leatherby's Family Creamery
The hardest thing about going to Leatherby's is deciding which of their monumental ice cream sundaes you want to get, followed closely by whether you want to share it or not. Hulking banana splits, half-baked cookies, fudgy brownies and churros are just a few of the foundational elements of Leatherby's sundaes. For those nights when you must have ice cream for dinner, Leatherby's has you covered. Multiple locations, leatherbys.com
2. Farr Better Ice Cream
3. Handel's Homemade Ice Cream
Best Dinner Roll
Lion House Rolls
Folks in Utah take their dinner rolls seriously—some might say too seriously. Based on our strong opinions, it makes historic sense that our favorite rolls are found at a restaurant inspired by Brigham Young's downtown home. Available for purchase at Nauvoo Café, they're soft, buttery and are perfect complements to whatever your meal may be. Nauvoo Cafe, 15 E. South Temple, Main Floor, SLC, 801-539-3346, thenauvoo.com
2. Maddox Ranch House
3. Little America
Where sodas get dirty: Thirst Drinks
Best Dirty Soda Shop
It's tough to come out on top of Utah's cutthroat dirty soda industry, but Thirst Drinks does with true panache—and free popcorn. Presentation is everything for a good dirty soda shop, and Thirst's pop culture-inspired drink menu along with plenty of sweet and savory snacks have helped this place become Utah's most beloved beverage broker. Multiple locations, thirstdrinks.com
2. Fiiz Drinks
Best Cream Pie
Before Pie Fight came to town, the hand pie was largely a novelty. With their perfectly laminated and buttery crust along with a wide range of sweet and savory fillings, Pie Fight has engineered a dessert powerhouse. It's their cream pie that netted them the win for this category, largely since one of their hand pies is roughly the equivalent of eating an entire round Boston cream pie—not that anyone is complaining. 937 E. 900 South, SLC, 385-222-5373, thepiefight.com
2. Flake Pie Co.
Best Fried Scones
This quaint Layton café has had fried scones on the menu since it first arrived on the scene some 50 years ago, so they've had plenty of time to hone their recipe. They have everything you'd want in a scone—fried to a dark brown with the scent of hot oil still wafting to your nose and then served with thick scoops of honey butter. No one will judge you for just getting scones for dinner. 335 E. Gentile St., Layton, 801-544-7438
2. Navajo Hogan
3. Penny Ann's Café
Best Social-Media Follow for
Not only does Hogle Zoo's Instagram page feature updates and live video about all of our favorite zoo buddies, but it's also a great place for parents to line up something fun and educational for the whole family. From their seasonal activities to their everyday classes and enrichment opportunities, it's an excellent resource to help kids and parents get in touch with their wild side. Hogle Zoo, 2600 S. Sunnyside Ave., SLC, 801-584-1700, hoglezoo.org
Best Wedding DJ
If the term "wedding DJ" evokes images of lanky dudes in pastel suits spinning Burt Bacharach, then let Eric Cabrera, aka DJ Erockalypze, shatter the stereotype. Cabrera is a stone-cold professional who conjures up smooth soundscapes that are guaranteed to get your guests up and moving. If the goal of your wedding reception is to get asses shaking and heads bobbing, look no farther. instagram.com/erockalypze
2. Richie T
3. DJ Ayo Marcello
Best Parenting Podcast
Perhaps the greatest reason why the Family Looking Up podcast snagged first place was the fact that it offers a balanced perspective on parenthood. It's a podcast that recognizes the realities of parenthood while helping listeners become more educated on everything from healthy eating to becoming financially savvy. Regardless of the parenting phase you're currently in, the team at Family Looking Up offers great advice. familylookingup.com/podcast
2. The Mom Show With Lindsay Aerts
3. Healthy Kids Zone
Best Hobby Shop/
Some hobby and game shops are less than welcoming toward geek acolytes, but Game Night Games has created a warm environment for game fans regardless of their particular nerd poison. On top of that, it has one of the largest selections of board games in town. To add something to your game collection or start one, they've got you covered. 2148 S. 900 East, Ste. 2, SLC, 801-467-2400, gamenightgames.com
2. Hastur Games
3. The Nerd Store
Best Family Fun
No two trips to Hogle Zoo are ever really the same, which is one of the reasons it's a top go-to destination for all-ages fun. It's always been a good time to see what our favorite members of the animal kingdom are up to, but it's the seasonal events that keep people coming back. Halloween and Christmas are just cooler when you're sharing oxygen with rhinos and polar bears. 2600 S. Sunnyside Ave., SLC, 801-584-1700, hoglezoo.org
2. Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
3. Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
Best Missionary Suit Store
There's no better place to get that LDS missionary of yours suited up—the team at Mr. Mac is stellar. They've been helping missionaries look good for decades, and they often feature discount packages that can help send your pride and joy off in style with enough money left over for all those care packages you're going to send. Multiple locations, mrmac.com
2. Men's Wearhouse
3. The Missionary Store
Best Summer Camp
Natural History Museum of Utah
Any visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah is a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the world around us, but their summer camps are an ideal way to nurture the future scientists of our state. Campers learn how to conduct experiments, connect with other STEM-minded kiddos and get exclusive access to the museum's research facilities. Who doesn't love digging in the dirt for dino bones?
301 Wakara Way, SLC, 801-581-6927, nhmu.utah.edu
2. Jewish Community Center Bernie Camp
3. University of Utah Youth Theatre
Best Utah Swear Word
Oh, My Heck
Utah's list of colloquialisms is as wide-ranging and diverse as the Wasatch Front itself, but a shocked, unironic "Oh, my heck!" is the combination of words that truly lets you know you're in the Beehive State. You could make a solid argument that "heck" itself was a word born in Utah. Though it's often thrown together with a "flip" or a "flippin," the foundational elements of "Oh, my heck!" will never change.
Best Remote Workspace
Salt Lake City Main Library
With the rise of remote work, the whole downtown metro area has become our office. For those who need a quiet spot to work while taking in a lovely view of the city center, the Salt Lake City Main Library branch has become a professional haunt. It makes sense, of course—pre-2020, people would have killed for a corner office. Now it's right there in front of you—as long as you arrive early enough.
210 E. 400 South, SLC, 801-524-8200, slcpl.org
2. Old Cuss Cafe
Smith & Edwards tech Eric demonstrates gun maintenance.
Smith & Edwards
In the 70-plus years it's been in business, Smith & Edwards has accumulated a staggering amount of inventory. Not only can you find pretty much anything within its walls, but over the years, it's become a haven for anyone working on emergency preparedness. Everything from freeze-dried Eggplant Parmesan to water purification tablets can be found here, along with plenty of stuff you didn't even know you needed. Multiple locations, smithandedwards.com
2. Family Freeze Dry
3. Food Storage Depot
Best Social-Media Momstagram
Utah momstagram can be hit and miss, but the team of Sissy Wilkinson and Heidi Hachtman have turned their social media prowess into a one-stop shop for advice on fashion, recipes, activities and beauty products. Their website offers info on a wide range of products that have earned their seal of approval along with plenty of info on smokin' deals and local events. triedandtruemoms.com
2. Aspyn Ovard, @aspynovard
3. Post Mormon Parenting,
Editor's Note: Over 160,000 votes were cast in the 2022 City Weekly Best of Utah poll. The ballot software used was from Revfluent, Inc. which provided City Weekly a list of "estimated winners." That list was tallied and vetted by City Weekly editorial staffers per our historic rules and published guidelines that are intended to monitor ballot malfeasance. The official City Weekly Best of Utah 2022 results were printed in Salt Lake City Weekly on Nov. 17, 2022 and are republished here online.
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