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VIP Voters say their favorite downtown spot is
The vitality of a city’s downtown is often defined by its “Main Street,” and the energy that comes from residents moving from restaurants to theaters to nightlife. Charlie Perry’s Eva (317 S. Main, 801-359-8447, EvaSLC.com) and its sister restaurant, Eva’s Bakery (155 S. Main, 801-355-3942, EvasBakerySLC.com), have been part of a resurgence in the feel of Salt Lake City’s Main Street as a viable hub for those looking for the best.
The popularity of Eva is in part thanks to its “small plates” emphasis, which allows customers to sample a variety of wonderful dishes. Eva’s general manager, Rachel Astin, isn’t quite prepared to refer to Perry as the “pioneer” of that approach, but says that Perry helped set the stage for The Copper Onion and Pago and others that started springing up. And Astin also notes that, beyond local support, Eva gets a lot of hotel business, as it’s one of the few restaurants open late—till midnight most nights—which appeals to those who might have just arrived from out of town and are looking for a quick quality bite.
But she also credits the evolution of Salt Lake City in recent years—including a shift away from thinking first of chain restaurants for a destination—as one of the reasons places like Eva can be successful. “People are more open now to trying new and progressive things,” Astin says. “People are now more educated about food and drink; they recognize menu items now that before they’d have to look up in a dictionary.”
The two eateries are named in honor of Perry’s great-grandmother, Eva Coombs, and both offer the feel of something that’s classy, yet also homey. And that sensibility is no accident, according to Astin, who says that Eva “is really accessible and affordable. There’s good food and drink, but we have that comfortable vibe so that it fits people who like a $160 bottle of wine and people who like PBR.”
Best Sunday-Nap Starter
Foundry Grill Sunday Brunch
There are buffets, and there are buffets—and the Sunday brunch at Sundance Resort’s Foundry Grill is most certainly the latter. It’s brunch, but one could load up a plate for every meal of the day: fresh-cut Prime rib, cheesy potatoes, seafood, fancy salads; a variety of breads, fresh fruit and cheese; buttermilk pancakes, French toast and made-to-order omelets—and it’s all gourmet. Even though you’ll be stuffed after a full day’s worth of eating condensed into a single meal, the dessert table’s siren song cannot be denied—airy custards served in Champagne flutes, chocolate-toffee-and-more-chocolate cake and maybe, if you’re lucky, the hot, flakey, white-chocolate-raspberry bread pudding. Reservations are required, but the atmosphere in the beautifully rustic restaurant is mostly casual as patrons prepare for a day on the mountain or nodding off in front of the fire.
8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance, 801-223-4220, SundanceResort.com
Chanon Thai Cafe
Voted Best Hot/Spicy and Best Place to Burn Your Tongue in past years, Chanon Thai Cafe has graduated to being City Weekly readers’ choice for Best Thai restaurant, as well as the choice of the guys over at Randy’s Records, who say that assistant manager Kris Rounds “keeps trying to set a new record for how often he can frequent this place every week.” It is still true that caution must be exercised when ordering spicy food at Chanon Thai, but don’t overlook the subtlety of dishes like yum goong—grilled prawns with lime juice, lemongrass, cabbage, kaffir lime leaf and mint. However, if your mouth does combust, the housemade coconut ice cream can extinguish even the most incendiary inferno.
278 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-532-1177, ChanonThai.com
3. Thai Siam
Best Deli Desserts
9th South Delicatessen
Customers at 9th South Delicatessen go gaga over the delicious corned beef, pastrami, tuna and other assorted sandwiches. They are filling and delicious, but you really do want to save room for dessert at this neighborhood deli, where sweet selections include New York cheesecake, fresh-made pastries, lemon tarts, apple and cherry strudel and, best of all, the classic spongy Black & White cookies made famous on Seinfeld.
931 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-517-3663, 9thSouthDeli.com
When City Weekly restaurant critic Ted Scheffler moved from New York City to Utah, the very first restaurant he stopped into—upon leaving the airport, in fact—was Red Iguana. “I’d been bereft of good Mexican food for so long living in Manhattan that I stopped at the first place I saw with burritos and tacos on the menu,” he says. As it is with Scheffler, Red Iguana is a perennial favorite of City Weekly readers who, again this year, recognize the Cardenas family’s eatery as the best of Utah’s many great Mexican restaurants.
736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489; 866 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-214-6050, RedIguana.com
2. Lone Star Taqueria
3. Blue Iguana
Lone Star Taqueria
The exterior almost dares you to take it seriously, with its patio full of rusting metal chairs, a fence adorned with cowboy boots and old hubcaps, and a broken-down vintage station wagon plastered with bumper stickers. But stop in anyway—or even drive through—for a savory burrito experience beloved by locals and aprÃ¨s-skiers. Enjoy your football-size treat with just the vegetarian basics (rice & beans, cheese, pico de gallo and lettuce), or pick chunky, perfectly seasoned meats like carnitas pork or carne asada. And you can’t go wrong adding any of the zesty housemade salsas.
2265 E. Fort Union Blvd., 801-944-2300, LoneStarTaqueria.com
2. Red Iguana
3. Hector’s Mexican Food
Lunch. Dinner. Late night. No matter the time, you’ve just gotta love this place. It’s a throwback to non-chain, mom & pop, hole-in-the-wall, hand-tossed pizza joints of the past. And when we say “joint,” we mean it lovingly. Graffiti covers the walls, bitcoin payments are accepted, and the staff is totally rad. Oh yes, and you can get your Pie Hole pizza fix until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Plus, they deliver! Did we hear someone say “late-night munchies”?
344 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-359-4653, PieHoleUtah.com
3. Hector’s Mexican Food
Best Breakfast Pizza
Jack’s Wood Fired Oven
Jack’s Wood Fired Oven has quickly become a favorite for Logan locals and Utah State University students, thanks to its huge selection of ingenious pizzas, with unique (and often local) toppings. The Birds & the Bees pizza, for example, features Slide Ridge honey, fresh mozzarella, huckleberry chicken and thyme. You’ll spot items like avocado, pickled jalapeños and shrimp on the other 14 pies (plus, of course, basics like cheese and pepperoni). But the most unusual of all might be the Sunny Side, which has cream sauce, potatoes, prosciutto from Salt Lake City’s Creminelli Fine Meats, all-natural dry-aged bacon, smoked cheddar and two free-range organic eggs cooked sunny side up—all drizzled with pure maple syrup. Why hasn’t someone thought of pizza for breakfast before?
256 N. Main, Logan, 435-754-7523, JacksWoodFiredOven.blogspot.com
Best Divine Coffee
Magdalene Religious Goods & Coffee Grotto
A match made in heaven, Magdalene Religious Goods & Coffee Grotto is a combination coffee shop and Catholic-goods store. Filled with natural light, it’s a calm, spiritual space to browse saint medals, holy cards, incense, rosaries and more, or just spend a peaceful afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea. Fresh flowers are available to purchase for Catholic milestones such as weddings and quinceañeras, and there’s also a beautiful selection of baptismal gowns handmade by the Carmelite nuns in Holladay. The soon-to-open meditation chapel will provide a quiet place to reflect and pray, even in the midst of life’s hustle and bustle.
2030 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-953-1820
Best Cure for Salad Ennui
Pizzeria Limone’s Italiano Salad
It seems everywhere you go, you see the same old salad. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber—yawn, yawn, yawn. What’s the point of ordering something you could make at home with the sad ingredients in your vegetable crisper? Well, not all salads are created equal. Pizzeria Limone’s Italiano salad sets a new standard with a mix of toppings that you won’t find anywhere else—and they work: sausage, beets, chickpeas, kidney beans, aged mozzarella and diced red peppers atop fresh greens, with a creamy, tangy vinaigrette. It’ll make even salad cynics take a second look.
1380 E. Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights, 801-733-9305; 613 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-953-0200, PizzeriaLimone.net
As with the rest of its menu, Avenues Proper doesn’t skimp on the appetizers (or “Bites” and “Starters”). The duck-fat popcorn is the first attention-grabber, but seemingly simple selections like the chicken & waffles (a dainty waffle with a chicken sausage on the side, topped with a quail egg) and cheese & crackers (more Downton Abbey than Duck Dynasty) are elevated beyond upscale. Paired with any of Avenues Proper’s eight house drafts—ranging from the smooth Proper golden ale to the salty Gose the Gozerian leipziger gose—these appetizers make for a proper meal in and of themselves.
376 Eighth Ave., Salt Lake City, 385-227-8628, AvenuesProper.com
2. The Bayou
Best Heaven on a Plate
Penny Ann’s Cafe
Penny Ann’s has been around just three years, but it feels like a Salt Lake City staple. Located on the first floor of a nondescript apartment building, the small family-owned diner is open only for breakfast and lunch during the week, and serves just breakfast on the weekend—but boy, what a breakfast. The house-specialty Heavenly HotCakes—airy sour-cream pancakes—are a must with any meal, but you’ll also find classic bacon & eggs meals, biscuits & gravy, more than a dozen different omelets, and stuffed French toast (it’s the chef’s choice, usually Nutella and bananas). And if you’ve got a really big appetite, you can take on the Pot of Gold, which is basically every breakfast item on the menu—fried potatoes, three kinds of meats, veggies, two eggs—all mixed together, smothered in sausage gravy and served with toast or two Heavenly HotCakes on the side.
1810 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-935-4760, PennyAnnsCafe.com
Best Pizza Crust
Sicilia Pizza Kitchen
A fresh pie from Sicilia has many merits—delicious sauce (the white is divine), perfectly balanced ingredients and just-gooey-enough cheese. But perhaps what elevates Sicilia’s pizza to the next level is the crust: thickness without jaw-shredding chewiness; softness without hard-to-handle floppiness; seasoned without overpowering flavors or gritty textures. You’ll almost want to eat it backward.
35 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-961-7077, SiciliaPizzaKitchen.com
Best Wildcat Pre-Game Pizza
It’s great to see that Ogden is beginning to brim with new restaurants, but you can’t beat an old favorite. Tony’s makes hearty American-style pizza: plenty of cheese and grease, abundant toppings and Mamma Toscano’s “special sauce.” The meatball sub and garlic bread are also hard to beat, and Tony’s location just down the hill from Weber State University makes it a favorite place for fortification pre-Wildcat basketball or football. You might even see former Weber (and Utah) football coach Ron McBride or former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden there; Layden pops in for pizza when he’s in town for a game, and McBride says Tony’s “is one of my favorite stops.”
409 39th St., Ogden, 801-393-1985
VIP Voters say their favorite diet-killer is
Nobody goes home to slim down; when you’re home, you tuck into the comfort food and smile in blissful disdain at the silly dietary rules you set for the rest of your life. And that sense of “home” pervades Red Iguana, including the fact that owner Lucy Cardenas lives right behind the original location on North Temple. Its kitchen might as well be her kitchen, serving up her family’s recipes with love.
“The chefs have been making these same recipes since we opened,” says Aubrey DeMonja, manager of the North Temple Red Iguana. “The building has a lot of history. There are even people who call to find out if their favorite server is working that night. There’s definitely a feeling of family. Lucy wants the vibe to be family.”
It all adds up to a Utah institution of nearly 30 years, where lines stretch outside every day of the week—opening a second location just down the street made sense to pick up the overflow. And locals are willing to throw caution to the wind when they dine there. Former City Weekly editor Holly Mullen says, “I just can’t leave anything behind on the plate”—which, of course, is exactly what you learn from Mom that you should do when you’re eating at home.
De Monja has her own simple explanation for why fans of Red Iguana might call it a “diet killer”: “It’s so good, you don’t care about all the cheese and calories.”
Best All-Purpose Barbecue Sauce
T&J’s All In One
Local companies produce a wide variety of delicious barbecue sauces—some with a sweet and mild profile for chicken and pork, some with a bolder kick that’s perfect for beef. T&J’s All In One sauce, made in Washington, Utah, is an aptly named combination of the two, mixing a uniquely complex selection of ingredients (citrus juices, parsnips and carrots among them) to create something that’s sweet and savory enough for light meats, but with a chili kick that can stand up to a steak.
Bowman Brown, Forage
It’s not only Utah’s food enthusiasts who recognize Forage chef/owner Bowman Brown’s exceptional talents. Brown is a semifinalist for this year’s James Beard Award, and Food & Wine called Brown’s cooking “ingenious modernist food.” And that certainly is true, but may we also add delicious? How he even conceives of dishes like fresh fish roe warmed over pine branches, or ice cream made with toasted elm-seed pods is beyond us, and to actually execute them with such delectable results is truly magical. Brown isn’t just Utah’s Best Chef; he’s one of America’s best.
370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-708-7834, ForageRestaurant.com
2. Ryan Lowder, The Copper Onion
3. Takashi Gibo, Takashi
Started with modest ambitions in 1972, Greek Souvlaki has grown into a local powerhouse for Greek food. The restaurant’s growth (it now boasts five locations, including an outpost in the Salt Lake International Airport) has been fueled largely by the collision of American and Greek fare that is the Gyro Combo. For less than $9, a calorie-starved person—even one who has no idea how to pronounce “gyro”—can fill, and likely overfill, his or her stomach with a pita stuffed with a delicious mishmash of lamb and beef and topped with spicy red or creamy white (tzatziki) sauce, plus (here’s the American influence) a generous plate of fries and a large soda. It’s a taste you won’t ever forget.
Multiple locations, GreekSouvlaki.com
2. Crown Burger
3. Yanni’s Greek Express
Sitting at one of Takashi’s coveted sushi-bar seats in front of Takashi Gibo affords sushi lovers an opportunity to watch a sushi master in action. Takashi has a Zen-like focus as he creates gorgeous pieces of deliciously edible art from live scallops, needlefish, Arctic char and other fresh fish and seafood that you don’t find in most sushi restaurants. As Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake team captain, says, “I’ve been to many sushi restaurants on both coasts, and nothing compares to Takashi.”
18 W. Market St. (340 South), Salt Lake City, 801-519-9595
3. Naked Fish