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Best Canyon Comfort
Since the original Ruth’s opened in the 1930s, it’s been a can’t-miss destination for rib-sticking comfort food. Of course, the menu has been refined over the years, especially since Ruth’s was taken over by Erik and Tracy Nelson. Today, you’ll find Erik’s justifiably famous raspberry chicken on the menu, for example. But irresistible classics like chicken-fried steak, Grandma Claire’s baked macaroni & cheese, braised beef pot roast, grilled Idaho red trout, Reuben sandwiches and such help keep Ruth’s vintage vibe alive.
4160 Emigration Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, 801-582-5807, RuthsDiner.com
Best Sushi Stalwart
This Japanese restaurant has been holding down the fort east of downtown for a solid 30 years—long before sushi became ubiquitous or even trendy. Whether you sit in a traditional Japanese booth or at a table for two, the simple atmosphere puts the focus squarely on the food and your dinner companions. And the Kinkaku roll—spicy salmon and avocado topped with real crab, habanero, masago and spicy mayo—is spicy sushi perfection embodied.
1080 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-3525, KyotoSLC.com
Best Fancy Pho
You destroyed your body Saturday night. Now it’s Sunday and you require the soothing and healing power of broth. Well, Pho Thin is here to satisfy your cravings with delicious Vietnamese cuisine. Located in the newly remodeled Granite Furniture building, the restaurant’s go-to dish is, of course, pho. But Pho Thin also provides tasty banh mi sandwiches and specialty dishes like barbecue pork salad.
2121 McClelland St., Salt Lake City, 801-485-2323
Truly great coffee shops don’t have to reinvent themselves every month with new seasonal flavors or limited-time pastries; it’s quality and consistency that keep customers returning morning after morning—and voting year after year, as in the case of Coffee Garden. Coffee Garden’s winning ways are in the basics: friendly baristas who’ll remember you and your drink and recognize when you might need an extra shot of espresso; top-quality espresso pulled to perfection; and tempting treats like fresh-baked scones (you have to get up pretty early in the morning to grab one of these before they’re gone from the Main Street location). If none of this sounds particularly earth-shattering, well, it’s not; it’s just the best, plain and simple.
878 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3425; 254 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-364-0768
2. Beans & Brews
3. Sugar House Coffee
Best French Pastry Connection
When you hit that moment in the weekend when only The New York Times, coffee and a freshly baked beignet will do, there’s just one place to go: Tulie Bakery. This eye-catching neighborhood bakery has an entirely glass front that fills Tulie with light. The warm atmosphere and the gorgeously toothache-inducing displays of croque-monsieur, baguettes, brioches, sticky buns and more will make you want to stay all afternoon. It’s the closest you can get to French heaven that doesn’t involve a plane ticket.
863 E. 700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-883-9741, TulieBakery.com
A decade ago, Café Zupas was a single Provo restaurant with a crazy notion about preparing specialty soups and salads from scratch; now, it’s a brand that means flavor and quality throughout the state. Flavor profiles from around the world grace Zupas’ unique salads, from honey chipotle chicken to Thai mango. And they’re often bursting with a mix of sweet and savory, like the red raspberry spinach (with grapes, pears, blue cheese and pistachios) and Vermont maple blueberry (featuring fresh fruit, cinnamon almonds and a housemade maple vinaigrette) salads. There’s never a reason to settle for the idea that salad is boring.
Multiple locations, CafeZupas.com
VIP Voters say their favorite atmosphere is
In 1982, when Ali Sabbah first arrived in Utah, it might have been difficult for him to envision a time when a Middle Eastern restaurant would be a significant part of the Salt Lake City landscape. “I remember when I first came in 1982, it was a Sunday. A UTA bus dropped me off at a Greyhound station and it was completely empty,” Sabbah says. “I was used to living in places where the streets are teeming with people, and my first thought is, ‘The only time the streets are empty in Middle Eastern countries is when there’s a coup d’état.’ ”
Fortunately for Salt Lakers, Sabbah wasn’t frightened off. After leaving the state for several years, he returned and eventually opened Mazza in 2000 as a limited-service, over-the-counter deli-type restaurant. There really weren’t any significant Middle Eastern restaurants in the city at the time, Sabbah recalls. “The idea of doing full-service dining sort of evolved organically after I opened the restaurant,” he says. “It was sort of a ‘feel’ … that maybe this is not all there can be to Middle Eastern food” in Salt Lake City.
That “feel” has certainly been validated, as Mazza expanded to include a second location to serve its many local fans who return again and again for the food, unique cocktails and elegant but comfortable atmosphere.
“The atmosphere is very important as far as the dining experience,” Sabbah says. “I want it to feel Middle Eastern, but a little more sophisticated than run-of-the-mill restaurant. … You want to make sure that by the time [a customer] walks out, they think, ‘I didn’t waste my evening.’”
“It always feels like a warm home to me,” says former City Weekly editor Holly Mullen, who also recommends the Whiskey White cocktail. “And, of course, the food is authentic and tasty.”
For Betsy Burton of The King’s English, Mazza is “simply the best.” She explains: “You’re treated like royalty at both restaurants,” which boast “friendly service; great food; small, cozy; no pressure to hurry.”
That laid-back sentiment is echoed by Sabbah, who says that over the years, Salt Lake City “has become this very cool place, very rich, very diversified, and not just in terms of restaurants. I think Salt Lake has all the right components now for a city of its size. It’s exciting.”
Best Unrepentant LDS Nostalgia
The Garage’s Funeral Potatoes
A bar may seem like a strange place to enjoy the famed funeral potatoes of Utah Mormon culture, but whether you’re an open-minded Saint enjoying live music at The Garage, a Jack-Mo’ with an appetite for delicious irony or simply a No-Mo’ looking for a snack, all can dig into The Garage’s take on the traditional food of Mormon funerals and family gatherings. The Garage improves upon the casserole recipe you may remember by supplementing the cheese, hash browns and sour cream with bacon and scallions and then forming the thick, creamy mixture into balls, which are coated in a cornflake crust and deep-fried into bundles of heavenly goodness.
1199 N. Beck St., Salt Lake City, 801-521-3904, GarageOnBeck.com
BTG Wine Bar
BTG Wine Bar
It’s hard to believe that it took this long for downtown Salt Lake City to get its first real wine bar. Wine aficionados owe a debt of gratitude to Caffe Molise owner Fred Moesinger, who opened BTG (By The Glass) Wine Bar next to his restaurant in late 2013. BTG offers 50 wines by the glass or 2-ounce taste, plus many more by the bottle, along with beer, cocktails and food. And an added bonus: Sommelier extraordinaire Louis Koppel recently joined the BTG team. Winos unite!
63 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-359-2814, BTGWineBar.com
2. Bistro 222
Compassionate Eatery Picking up this award for the second year in a row, Frisch has become more than a trendy vegan hotspot; its owners have also become community leaders, encouraging the entire city to eat better. Leigh and Rachel Kade’s array of salads and wraps turned Frisch into a must-eat destination for health-conscious lunches, and their array of daily specials prove that eating good can taste great, too. Within the past year, the Kades have made two big changes that should bring even more people to the vegan table: moving to the Ballpark District and bringing in Cakewalk Baking Company to serve decadent vegan baked goods.
145 E. 1300 South, Suite 201, Salt Lake City, 801-906-8277, FrischEats.com
2. Vertical Diner
3. Sage’s Café
The Copper Onion
Although it’s been around just four years, it’s hard to imagine downtown SLC without The Copper Onion. Maybe the reason this restaurant is so beloved has to do with balance. The cuisine isn’t over the top; it’s just honest. You’re not going to find molecular gastronomy dishes that look and taste more like chemistry projects than food. What you will find are contemporary, thoughtful iterations of classics like stroganoff, cassoulet, meatloaf, dumplings, carbonara, beef tartare and the like. Add flawless service, a bustling ambiance, plus a superb beverage selection, and you’ve got Salt Lake City’s best downtown restaurant.
111 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3282, TheCopperOnion.com
Best Sourdough Pancakes
Silver Fork Lodge
Not all pancakes are created equal. Regular customers of Brighton’s Silver Fork Lodge know this. The secret to Silver Fork’s signature flapjacks is their sourdough starter, which has been around longer than any of the lodge’s employees: 70-plus years. That ancient sourdough gives these pancakes a zippy tang that sets them apart. Of course, you’ll want to add toppings from the four other important food groups: strawberries, nuts, whipped cream and chocolate chips.
11332 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, Brighton, 435-649-9551, SilverForkLodge.com
Best Gourmet Cafe
Left Fork Grill
The slogan at Jeff Masten’s Left Fork Grill is “Where cafe meets gourmet.” And that’s appropriate, since Left Fork still has the family-friendly diner vibe and ambiance left from the old Kramer’s Diner location, where Left Fork Grill now resides, combined with not-so-diner-like gourmet flavors. Masten’s from-scratch (even the coleslaw) dishes are perfectly executed classics, like the tuna melt, Reuben, eggs-in-a-hole, biscuits & gravy, French toast and such. And, you’d be out of your mind to leave without enjoying a slice of pie—Masten’s are among the best we’ve ever tasted.
68 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-266-4322, LeftForkGrill.com
VIP Voters say their favorite bar to watch people is
We can only speculate whether Gracie’s seems so interesting as a people-watching spot at least in part because it’s a favorite hangout for City Weekly staffers; we are a fairly fascinating bunch to observe in the wild. But even without our regular presence, Gracie’s has a unique atmosphere that combines the best of a sports bar, a neighborhood pub, a chic restaurant and an after-hours hip-kid hangout.
It’s a vibe that co-owners Deno Dakis and Shawn Frehner brought over from their time working at the late, lamented Port O’ Call. “We knew [the closure of Port O’ Call] was going to happen for at least five years,” Frehner recalls, “so we started planning. We loved everything about Port, and wanted to translate that, offering an array of things … for people of any age.”
Former City Weekly editor Jerre Wroble gets at this eclectic clientele by noting, “From stodgy city-father types to glamorous MILFs to lusty frat boys, the bar is full of illustrious characters who are fun to watch while they yammer, head-bob to music, play cornhole, cheer on the big game on the flatscreen and/or shamelessly hook up.”
As such, it’s practically a one-stop overview of Salt Lake City’s evolving demographic spectrum, depending on whether you venture out to the ample patio, settle in on the main floor or head upstairs, and whether you find yourself hanging out for lunch, dinner or into the wee small hours. “Some people look at us as a sports bar,” Frehner says, “others as a live music venue, a wine bar. … After 9 on a Friday, the people who come in might not even know you can have brunch here.”
So as you hunker down for your anthropological field study, you can enjoy some of the best bar grub in the entire state. Just think about how gracefully you’re eating—and, of course, drinking—or the people being watched just might turn out to be you.
Best Contemporary American
Creativity simply oozes from the kitchens of Blue Lemon restaurants, where the flavors are complex and delectable. Where else, for example, would you find fresh, handmade black-bean ravioli with roasted-red-pepper cream sauce, herb emulsion and salsa fresca? Brilliant! Best of all, Blue Lemon dishes like seared natural chicken with fire-roasted artichoke hearts and tomatoes are delicious, wholesome and virtually guilt-free. It’s contemporary American cuisine at its yummiest.
Multiple locations, BlueLemon.com
The Hive Winery
Founded and owned by Jay and Lori Yahne, this boutique winery has proven that grapes aren’t necessary to create incredible wine. Made with locally sourced fruit and honey in small batches, The Hive Winery’s fruit wines, called melomels, capture the essence of Utah peaches, currants, raspberries, cherries, apricots and more—slowly ripened during warm summer days—in bottled form. The strawberry wine is especially lovely, with the sweetness of rosy strawberries at the front and a slightly dry finish that lingers on the tongue. The selection at the winery store itself is extensive, with many wine names inspired by local culture, such as Preacher’s Son blueberry-honey wine, Zion Curtain raspberry wine and Sisterwives sparkling wine, made with Bing cherries. A select few flavors also can be found at state liquor stores.
1220 W. Jack D Drive, Suite 2, Layton, 801-546-1997, TheHiveWinery.com
2. Castle Creek
3. Kiler Grove
Best Sweet Touch
Fine Desserts You’ll know when you’re at an event featuring one of pastry chef Martin Perham’s works of art. The colors and tastes of his beautifully designed wedding and birthday cakes, pastries and tarts are simply dazzling. A longtime supplier for the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake, the former hotel chef creates custom desserts that demonstrate a refined European attention to moistness and flavor. 801-244-0823, MartinsFineDesserts.com
Best Warm Brazilian Embrace
J.R. Lopez, Braza Grill
You can tell you’re close to Braza Grill when you see the white charcoal smoke from the restaurant’s chimney mushrooming into the night sky. But once you’re inside the Murray restaurant, you’ll realize the true warmth of this longstanding treasure of a Brazilian churrascaria comes from its owner, J.R. Lopez. He works the tables with both charm and interest, treating regulars and first-timers with equal respect and pleasure—and, of course, ensuring they receive some of the most mouth-watering meats in the state.
5927 S. State, Murray, 801-506-7788, BrazaGrillUtah.com