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BEST WOOD-OVEN PIZZA
To create one of Zucca's authentic Napoli-style pizzas like the marvelous Margherita, with perfectly charred crust bubbles, you're going to have to import a 1,000 degree Valoriani wood-fired pizza oven from Italyand then know what to do with it. Zucca's chef/owner Elio Scanu certainly knows what to do with his imported wood-fired pizza oven. His pizzas are topped with nothing but first-class ingredients like fresh buffala mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes and then cooked to pizza perfection in a flash. You won't find a better pizza pie this side of Napoli.
1479 E. 5600 South, South Ogden, 801-475-7077, MyZucca.com
At this pointafter what seems like decades of "Best of" awards for the Red Iguana, the only shocker would be if it didn't win the Best Mexican restaurant category. Which just goes to show that the Cardenas family is as beloved here in Utah as it is time-tested. The guys from Los Lobos eat at the Red Iguana when they come to town and Guy Fieri has featured it on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Even a guy crashing his car through the front of the restaurant and creating his personal takeout window can't slow this place down. Holy mole!
736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489, RedIguana.com
2. Blue Iguana
3. Caf Rio
BEST COOKING IN THE GARDEN
Salt Lake City's own Julia Child, Marguerite Henderson has made a living not only by teaching cooking, not only by publishing cookbooks, not only by catering to bigwigs, not only by opening two restaurants (one of them the Avenues' Cucina which she has sold) but essentially by doing what she loves: cooking. She is rather famous for hosting cooking classes literally in her back-yard garden with produce just plucked off the vine. Henderson reminds us that cooking is a pleasure to be savored slowly and enjoyed, but most of all, shared with others.
BEST CHICKEN PHILLY
This 20-year-old, unpretentious little sandwich shop is a great find. If you don't find it, the packed house at lunchtime will never miss you but you, on the other hand, will miss out on some of the city's best cheesesteak sandwiches. While Joni's traditional Philly cheesesteak is the stuff of legend, the chicken Philly is its modest, blushing cousin. Order it and be ready for a veritable bomb: a fresh-baked roll encasing grilled chicken and veggies topped off with melted cheese, all designed to explode in your mouth (and your hands if you're not careful). A lunch hour spent here cannot be deducted from your life (but it will be added onto your cholesterol).
52 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-486-6687
||BEST FOOD PYRAMID PIZZA
Tin Roof Grill
At Sandy's Tin Roof Grill, there's a tempting array of tasty tapas like basil pesto flatbread, garlicky poached shrimp, patatas bravas, Spanish tortillas, and crispy calamari. And of course the salad, sandwiches and pasta dishes are all popular too. But if you're looking to include something from each food group into one dish, we suggest the Tin Roof Grill white bean and grill steak pizza, which comes adorned with tomatoes, red onion, and fresh basil.
9284 S. 700 East, Sandy, 801-566-5226
If you're feeling a bit down, the falafel here will make you feel wonderful. Or a glass of Massaya wine. In fact, Mazza has been many a Salt Laker's first introduction to the wonders of Middle Eastern cuisine. We like Mazza's slow, diagonal encroachment upon the downtown area: First 15th & 15th, then 9th & 9thwhat's next, 6th & 6th? Then it's a hop, skip and a jump to 3rd & 3rd and, before you know it, there it is: the brand-spanking new Temple Square location. Well, we can dream.
1515 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9259; 912 E. 900 South, 801-521-4572, Salt Lake City, MazzaCafe.com
2. Caf Med
3. Cedars of Lebanon
When lifelong friends Doug Nelson and George Metos put their heads together to create a new restaurant, words like "fast," "healthy," "nutritious," "natural" and "delicious" kept coming up. So voila! Au Naturale serves fast (there's even a drive-thru takeout window), healthy, natural, nutritious, delicious foods like gourmet flatbread pizzas, oven-roasted fries, homemade chicken pot pie, and fresh salads to their happy, healthy customers in a lively, spotless, contemporary setting.
880 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-466-8888, GoAuNaturale.com
2. Wild Grape
3. Naked Fish
BEST REASON TO LET THEM EAT CAKE
These days, specialty cupcake shops are about as ubiquitous as drive-thru coffee shacksand why not? Their products are fun, cute and delicious. Hating cupcakes, in fact, is a bit like hating kittens. So Cupcake adds to the dome-shaped pastry's curbside appeal with a secret ingredient that even health nuts will applaud. Inspired by their daughter Celina, a bright, imaginative girl with cerebral palsy who is by every definition a "foodie," Kevin and Natalie opened the store to help people make positive choices and to demonstrate the only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves. If that's not enough reason to frequent So Cupcake, how about Blueberry Cake with Violet Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting & 3 Fresh Blueberries on Top?
3939 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-274-8300
It feels more like a retreat than a restaurant: just a little log cabin plunked down in the middle of 40 picturesque acres of private grounds. Gorgeous canyon views give it a feeling that's both epic and intimate, whether you're nestled inside during the winter or enjoying the outdoor patio during the spring. And that's before we even begin discussing the food from chef Dave Jones, full of local and organic ingredients and complemented by an award-winning wine list. For a wedding, an engagement, an anniversary or "just because," Log Haven delivers the total package.
6451 E. Mill Creek Canyon, Salt Lake City, 801-272-8255, Log-Haven.com
Just down from the Avenues, Sawadee is a genteel paradise for the lunch crowd, a cool Thai oasis that offers excellent, reasonably priced food in a peaceful, elegant environment. Its $7.45 lunch special is one of the best deals in town. Salad with a drizzle of peanut sauce; light, fluffy jasmine rice; a deep fried spring roll; and two choices from a 20-odd item list of curries, coconut and chicken soupseven some barbeque dishes. With delicate desserts including fresh mangoes with Thai sweety sticky rice not included, they are still a sore temptation to round up the perfect meal.
754 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-328-8424, Sawadee1.com
2. Thai Siam
3. Chanon Thai
BEST SUB SELECTION
Grinders 13, a Utah sandwich institution via New Hampshire, has been bringing thousands of Utahns delicious subs (or "Grinders" as those Easterners call them) for over 30 years. The 13 may have denoted how many subs Sylvia and Maurice "Moe" Girouard offered back in the '70s but, in the new millennium, this eatery now boasts almost double that, with 24 subs to satisfy the pickiest sub lover. For a little variety, how about trying the savory Salisbury steak grinder? Or the pot roast sandwich, heaped with slow cooked pot roast, gravy and veggiesit's like Mom's Sunday dinner on a bun! For the vegan crowd, try a garden burger grinder and for the not-so-vegan crowd, try out the veal cutlet grinder which goes great with spaghetti sauce and peppers.
1618 S. State, 801-467-3676; 2125 S. 3200 West, 801-973-6489, Salt Lake City, Grinders13.com
BEST ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE
The Cotton Bottom's Garlic Burger
Part of Cotton Bottom's long-celebrated mystique is its locally renowned garlic burger. A burger of such acclaim that Cotton Bottom owners discovered a little caf in New York City willing to admit it copied their recipe. It's the kind of indulgence you owe yourself once in a whilea slab of garlic-drenched meat washed down with a few brews. But did you know the Cotton Bottom's garlic burger keeps your teenage daughters safe? Who wants to kiss a randy male student reeking of garlic? Add to that that the burger helps soak up the booze, thus helping to temper a young man's potentially booze-clouded mind, and it's clear the Cotton Bottom is one of Salt Lake's unsung civic heroes.
2820 E. 6200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-273-9830
Back in the day, Sage's Caf dominated the Best Vegetarian category not only because owner/chef Ian Brandt possesses mad culinary skills but also because his labor of love was pretty much the only strictly meat-free joint in town. Now in its ninth year, Sage's remains on top thanks to its commitment to quality organic ingredients, inventive menu items and friendly, knowledgeable servers. Oh, and the carrot butter. We'd pretty much crown them the victors on the strength of that addictive appetizer alone.
473 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3790, SagesCafe.com
2. Vertical Diner
SANDY'S BEST THAI LUNCH
Royal Thai Kitchen
It's hard not to love food that tastes fresh and home-made, and that's what you get at this little ma & pa Thai restaurant, tucked away in the mall that houses the beloved Spoons N' Spice and across from Salt Lake Community College's Sandy Center. Royal Thai Kitchen's lunch special at $6.99 is the real deal, featuring a rotation of soups, curries and noodles. They're more than willing to bring the heat, if requested, and some patrons leave dabbing sweat off their brows as proof. Best of all is the friendly cook who visits the tables after lunch to check on your contentment with her meal.
816 E. 9400 South, Sandy, 801-571-8791
BEST LAVISH BRUNCH
Stein Eriksen Lodge's Glitretind Restaurant
Imagine a vast spread of exquisitely prepared salmon, shrimp, sushi, free-range chicken, pork ribs, salads and soups in addition to breakfast faves like eggs Florentine, thick seasoned bacon, french toast, waffles, omelets, and crepes topped off by succulent desserts including creme brulee, chocolate decadence cake and Stein's apple pie. The altitude is high and so is your spirit after indulging in this feast. Go early, enjoy the view, linger as long as they'll let you.
7700 Stein Way, Deer Valley Resort, Park City, 435-645-6455, SteinLodge.com
Its move to the Crane Building has made Caf Trang such a popular destination for suburbanites attending events at EnergySolutions Arena that many of us, with fond memories of the old Main Street locationand even the one at the dearly departed Cottonwood Mallyearn for the good old days. But it's good to still see Trang on the map. Pho shizzle.
307 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-539-1638
2. East West Connection
The best thing about Bambara may be that it’s on Main Street. It’s a well-done, ground level, comfortable restaurant right where one should be in the heart of the business district. The Hotel Monaco is now overshadowed by a brand-new next-door skyscraper, but with Bambara, the older building retains the street’s classic character. Chef Nathan Powers directs the restaurant’s outstanding cuisine which is served by the city’s friendliest professional wait staff—Bambara offers the quintessential downtown dining experience. Pick anything on the menu—though you have to start with the blue cheese house-cut potato chips.
202 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-363-5454, Bambara-SLC.com
3. Tin Angel
BEST SMALL TOWN DRIVE-IN
Rodriguez Polar King
Every small town in Utah has one: that charming little family-run drive-in on Main Street. In Summit County’s Coalville, it was once simply “The Polar King.” Somewhere along the line, the Rodriguez family took over. They’ve added huge homemade burritos, enchiladas and yeros (yes, yeros) to the typical menu of cheeseburgers and chicken fillets. The fries are hand-cut and tasty and the milkshakes are thick and gooey. Friendly service and perfect after a day of fishing or mountain biking.
128 N. Main, Coalville, 435-336-2372