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Best Weird Slice of Layton
Main St. Grill & Pizzeria It’s true that much of Layton is filled with chain restaurants and strip malls, but there are more eclectic pockets than you might think, and Gabor Brothers is a good place to start. It’s full of bizarre touches, like the ventriloquist’s dummy named Chester who’s slumped inside a telephone booth in the entryway, and the placemats that are ripped-out pages of City Weekly—thanks for recycling! You get the feeling that all of the weird kitsch is the result of years of quick “Hey, this is a cool mask, let’s hang it in the corner of the ceiling” decisions rather than labored attempts at “flair.” And the food is rib-sticking, large-portioned Italian at its best—calzones the size of record-breaking trout, buttery garlic breadsticks the size of a femur. You won’t be able to finish, but you’ll definitely want to come back.
197 N. Main, Layton, 801-544-4344
Best Night Fishing
A craving is a craving, and it doesn’t always abide by the rules and conventions set by The Man. But even though this isn’t New York City, Utahns have the ability to get sushi at (almost) any time, day or night, thanks to Shogun. Open till midnight Monday through Wednesdays, till 1 a.m. Thursdays, and till 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Shogun serves some of the spiciest rolls around, so the next time you fall asleep on the couch watching the Food Network and wake up with a powerful craving for spicy tuna, you can run downtown, grab your desired sushi and go to bed happy.
321 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-364-7142
Best Attention to Detail
Asian Bistro The care that’s taken in every aspect of the dining experience at J. Wong’s Asian Bistro—from the food to the décor—is apparent the minute you walk in the door. The menu of flavorful dishes is focused instead of sprawling—no getting lost in a 10-page novel here—and everything is made in-house, even the rich sauces. And with the selection split between Chinese and Thai flavors, you can mix and match your meal to include all your favorites, such as a golden-fried egg roll paired with green curry, or kung pao scallops followed by fresh lettuce rolls that you assemble yourself. Dine in the beautiful restaurant itself—filled with high-backed black booths and warm lighting—or take your loot home like Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman, who says J. Wong’s is his favorite takeout.
163 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-350-0888, JWongUtah.com
Best Way to Guard Your Pizza
The Pie’s ApocalyptDough
There are people in the world who say they can handle spicy food, and those who actually can. And only the latter should attempt The Pie’s ApocalyptDough. The product of a year and a half of development, the ApocalyptDough has a deceivingly slow burn that’ll have your mouth afire by the time you hit the crust. For legal reasons, we can’t recommend that you pair the crust with banana peppers or jalapeños, but if you’re a heat fiend who’s sick of friends poaching your pizza, this is the pie for you.
Multiple locations, ThePie.com
Ramen is the rage right now—and we’re not talking about the 10-for-a-buck packages of dried noodles and high-sodium flavoring that’s sustained many a student through college. For real ramen, those in the know say there’s just one place to go: Naked Fish. During its lunchtime ramen service, Naked Fish serves high-quality, perfectly cooked ramen noodles bathed in a pure-tasting broth made from pork bones that are endlessly simmered.
67 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-595-8888, NakedFishBistro.com
Best Inexpensive Breakfast
Royal Eatery, a cornerstone of downtown Salt Lake City for years, is the place where city folk from all walks of life gather each morning for omelets, fried potatoes, bacon & eggs and, of course, coffee. The low prices mean that regulars come back day after day, year after year, whether the goal is a moment of solitude before the workday begins or a boisterous conversation over toast with the next table.
379 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-4301
Best Veggie Plate
Operating on a culinary version of Occam’s razor, Caffe Niche’s food philosophy is that the simplest ingredients are the best ones. And while the neighborhood restaurant’s menu is packed full of top-quality food, that philosophy is perhaps best personified in the dinner vegetable plate. No baby carrot sticks or “rabbit food” here; instead, the filling platter contains just-right selections of warm organic red quinoa, roasted beets with goat cheese, black lentils, sauteed spinach and the seasonal vegetable of the day, plus a roasted half artichoke. It’ll inspire a love of veggies that’ll make your mother proud.
779 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-433-3380, CaffeNiche.com
Dottie’s Biscuit Barn
In the age where you can get eggs, bacon and pancakes in a drive-thru or grocery freezer, it seems bizarre that one of the classic breakfast items—biscuits & gravy—remains mostly a staple of sit-down diners. But fans of the culinary warm hug that is rich, smooth gravy over a soft biscuit can rejoice: New food cart Dottie’s Biscuit Barn makes it possible to enjoy the ultimate comfort food in the summer sunshine. And with innovative gravy concoctions like tomatillo and heirloom tomato, Dottie’s—the brainchild of Andrew Walter, formerly of The Copper Onion—makes it possible to explore new flavor horizons while staying in your comfort zone. Dottie’s 2013 launch at the Downtown Farmers Market proved so popular—with pies and jams in addition to biscuits & gravy—that Walter plans to expand the menu and will be at the 2014 market every week instead of every other week. If this is the next big foodie trend, we’ll happily get on the gravy train.
Downtown Farmers Market, 300 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, Saturdays, June-October, Facebook.com/DottiesBiscuitBarn
2. Tacos Don Rafa
3. World Dog
Best Way to Get to a Jazz Game
Rio Grande Cafe
Housed in a historic (and, uh, possibly haunted) train depot, the family-operated Rio Grande Cafe is Salt Lake City’s “Main line to Mexico.” It’s a slogan they live up to, with giant enchiladas, tart margaritas and perfectly crunchy tostadas, but the Rio Grande is also the best route to Utah Jazz games. On game nights, a shuttle van regularly departs from the restaurant and drops you off right next to EnergySolutions Arena; just meet the shuttle back there after the game and it’ll take you back to your car—or, if the game ends early enough, a fried ice-cream nightcap.
270 S. Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City, 801-364-3302, RioGrandeSLC.com
Best Sushi Settlement
Sapa Sushi Bar & Asian Grill
They say it takes all kinds to make a world, and there are some people who are still a little nervous about the whole sushi thing. But the next time you get the craving for a Spider roll, you don’t have to leave that person at home or pack them a Tupperware bowl of mac & cheese to bring along. Just head to Sapa, where the inventive sushi rolls share space on the menu with top-quality Asian items that even sushi-shy eaters won’t be able to resist, like the Happy Valley lamb, garlic noodles and filet mignon. Now you can have your sushi, and they can eat, too.
722 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-363-7272, SapaBarAndGrill.com
The Soup Kitchen
For almost 40 years, The Soup Kitchen has been a midday staple for hungry Utahns craving steaming bowls of homestyle soup, served in a down-to-earth, mom & pop atmosphere. The Soup Kitchen’s treat for the soul is its fresh clam chowder, classic tomato soup and the always-popular chicken-noodle soup, made with locally produced pasta. The restaurant’s hearty breadsticks and sandwiches are excellent in their own right, but become perfection once paired with one of these soups.
Multiple locations, SLCSoup.com
2. Café Zupas
3. The Dodo
Best Excuse to Polish Up On Your Yiddish
With a stucco faÃ§ade and mountain-chalet-style furnishings, nothing about Feldman’s screams New York deli ... except the food. Knishes, potato pancakes and kishka provide an opportunity to gorge on just appetizers, but don’t fall into the trap; you’re here for the half-pound Reubens that have enough corned beef to push cows to extinction. Not that carnivorous? Feldman’s boils its own bagels every day, with the singular purpose of having them schmeared, loxed and consumed.
2005 E. 2700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-906-0369, FeldmansDeli.com
Best Globetrotting Cup of Joe
Salt Lake Roasting Company
Atmosphere is the name of the game at coffee shops around town these days. The Roasting Company has a nice vibe as well, but we bet that if founder John Bolton had a list of the 100 most important things an establishment like this should have, numbers 1 to 100 would be coffee. As chronicled in his long-running travel blog, Bolton has gone all over the planet to set up suppliers for his downtown cafe. This passion for providing the perfect caffeinated beverage bleeds into every part of the Roasting Company, which is why study groups and relaxing readers continue to put down stakes and slurp up.
320 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-7572; Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, Roasting.com
Best Best of Utah Deadline Drink
J-Billy In early 2012, the original Five Wives Vodka—made by Ogden’s Own Distillery—was (briefly) kicked out of Idaho for its name. But it landed firmly in the hearts and bellies of City Weekly employees, and nestled even deeper with the 2013 launch of the flavored vodkas Heavenly and Sinful—vanilla and cinnamon, respectively. In early 2014, as the fevers of the approaching Best of Utah deadline set in, a couple of City Weekly staffers tried something so crazy that it crossed the line into genius—combining the two—in equal measure, no ice—into one sweetly powerful punch of a drink that we dubbed the J-Billy after its creators. So thank you, Five Wives, for getting us through this dayahowafiowhafzzzzzz ...
Since its inception, Aristo’s has been Utah’s Mount Olympus of Greek fine dining. Maybe local real-estate developer Vasilios Priskos says it best: “Who ever can show a picture of a skinned lamb’s head on Facebook, and still pack them in, is my winner.” This year, Aristo’s is hauling in its 10th Best of Utah award in this category. When it comes to incredibly authentic, traditional Greek dishes, owners Aristo Boutsikakis and his parents George and Ekaterina, take pride in preparing the very best Mediterranean favorites, including classic deserts like baklava and halva. If you really want the Greek god treatment, try Aristo’s justifiably famous grilled octopus while relaxing on the patio.
224 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-581-0888, Facebook.com/AristosSLC
2. Greek Souvlaki
3. The Other Place
Best Box O’Beer
The Old School Brew 12er, is possibly the cutest beer packaging we’ve ever seen. Even the inside is patterned with the tiny Bohemian Lions from the coat of arms of Czechoslovakia, homeland of the late Joe Petras, founder of Bohemian Brewery. The sturdy corrugated-cardboard box, available in grocery stores, also contains four collectible pop-out coasters that give the lowdown on Bohemian’s tasty classic lager beers. It’s a party in a box.
Best Use of Fritos
In the heart of what we at City Weekly like to refer to as the Sandwich District in downtown Salt Lake City lies Good Dog, a “Gourmet Hot Dog Emporium” that assembles some of the most delectable wiener variations around. There are old-school standbys like Chicago and chili dogs, but specialty creations like the Amigo (with green chiles, tomatoes, cheese and Fritos), the Islander (pineapple chutney, bacon, mozzarella, green onions and Sriracha), the Blue Buffalo (blue cheese crumbles, Buffalo wing sauce and green onions) and the flagship SLC Dog (potato salad, crushed potato chips, diced pickles, relish, bacon and green onions) are experiences unto themselves.
30 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-4217, GoodDogSLC.com
Best Taco Takeover
Mexican restaurants often have ginormous menus, offering seemingly endless combination platters. Well, Taqueria 27’s menu is pretty vast, too, but it’s focused. The specialty here are the tacos, which are a little different than the ground beef varieties you make at home or grab from a drive-thru—think duck-confit with crispy leeks and chipotle crema, and a veggie taco that’s a tart, juicy mix of grilled pears, roasted beets, spinach, blue cheese and balsamic syrup. Don’t miss the guacamole, either—and there are six to choose from, including a guac of the day that’s basically what the geniuses behind T27 decided to smash up and make delicious. And these top-tier tacos have taken off so well since the restaurant opened in 2012 that another T27 is opening soon in Holladay.
1615 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, 385-259-0712, Taqueria27.com
Best Lunch Buffet
You’re always rolling the dice with a buffet; odds are that you’ll truly enjoy just two or three of the items. Unless, that is, you hit Himalayan Kitchen’s lunchtime buffet, where instead of getting standard buffet food, you get to take an all-you-can-eat tour of the restaurant’s top menu items. Scarf down nummy vegetable samosas, amazing chicken tandoori, and all the curries you can handle. And since it’s a buffet, you can finally do some fusion combo experimenting and make that naan-tandoori-saag-paneer sandwich you’ve always dreamed of. 360 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-328-2077, HimalayanKitchen.com
Best Belly Bender
There are times when you want to linger over a dainty, vegetable-loaded dish of fresh pasta while sipping a glass of fine wine. And there are times when you simply want to shove your face into a comforting pile of meats and cheese. This good old fashioned Italian eatery allows you to both, offering both well-made Italian classics and an expansive menu of pizzas, including the Pizza Bender—one of the bodacious Italian Village pizza crusts folded and stuffed with the meats, cheeses and veggies of your choice. It’s filling comfort food at its best.
5370 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-266-4182, ItalianVillageSLC.com
Best Onion Rings
You can’t go wrong with ordering the Apollo Burger, one of the best examples of the Utah-famous pastrami burger—unless, that is, you neglect to order onion rings on the side. Apollo Burger’s onion rings are second to none: soft sans sogginess, and crispy sans chewiness. Don’t forget the fry sauce. Now you’ve got a perfect Utah meal.
Multiple locations, ApolloBurgers.com