Best of Utah 2018 | An ode to the people, places, products and services that make life the Beehive State exceptional. | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

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COURTESY PHOTO TINWELL
  • Courtesy Photo Tinwell

Best Secret Rum-Fueled Hideaway

TinTiki at Tinwell
Want to take a quick trip to Havana? Setting aside the political considerations (and Trump's tantrum about relaxed travel rules to Cuba), it's much quicker, easier and cheaper to just ring up a modern twist on the Mai Tai at TinTiki, the hidden cousin of celebrated new bar Tinwell. Catering sometimes to private parties but more often to the intrepid few who scale the stairs, it's the perfect place to fight off the cold in a tropical-themed utopia replete with comfy couches, rickety antiques and vintage maps of the Caribbean. Having an in-depth conversation with your bartender is a major plus to TinTiki, too—and on busy weekend nights, it's the perfect place to catch your breath before you hit the dance floor again. (NM)
837 S. Main, 801-953-1769, tinwellbar.com

Best Place To Feel Like You're in the Big City
Lake Effect
You've heard it before: Salt Lake City? More like Small Lake City, am I right? But, damn it, SLC is growing and there are places to experience the big-city vibe. Stroll into Lake Effect on a weekend night and you'll likely catch some live music. The chic interior and skilled bartenders liven up the spot, making you feel like you're in a concrete metropolis, not a town in the Intermountain West. With specialty cocktails and potential sighting of local band Joshy Soul and The Cool, Lake Effect is setting trends downtown—and the scene for your next date. (RH)
155 W. 200 South, 801-285-6494, lakeeffectslc.com

ENRIQUE LIMÓN
  • Enrique Limón

Best (and Most Contentious) Way To Get Around

Bird and Lime scooters
Until recently, our choices of how to get around were boring. Trax and Lyft are fine, if you like sitting in a confined space with strangers and playing rideshare Russian Roulette. You could bike, but then you'd have to deal with the anxiety of knowing your ride is getting eyed by thieves while it's locked up outside. Driving is always an option, but then you're killing the environment, and who wants to deal with parking? Screw all that and take a scooter—a cheap, fast and fun way to get from Point A to Point B. Experience the transformative liberation of riding with the wind in your hair while pedestrians and bikers shoot daggers at you with their eyes. (KL)

Best Blackout on a Budget
X-Wife's Place
If you're strapped for cash, a cash-only bar might not be the first place that comes to mind for a night out. But if you can scrounge up a few greenbacks, X-Wife's Place gives you the biggest bang for your buck. The spot, thanks to its proximity to the University of Utah's campus, attracts a young crowd and with that, plenty of well-priced drinks. Try one of their Root Beer Mind Erasers—a drink you're supposed to suck down all at once to get that root beer float taste—and when you're ready for beer, there are plenty of options for a measly couple dollars. Try your hand at a game of cornhole out back or work your way to the pool table and, maybe, you'll win yourself a few more dollars to get you through the next round. (RH)
465 S. 700 East, 801-532-1954

PARTY DOT COM
  • Party Dot Com

Best Honky-Tonk To Grind to Ginuwine's "Pony"

The Westerner Club
I'm not saying I walked into the Westerner one Thirsty Thursday Night, dressed in my dungarees, leather chaps and cowskin cowboy hat, then later found myself grinding with all my newest friends to Ginuwine's "Pony"... on Utah's largest dance floor... at 1 a.m. But if I had, I would have arrived before the 8 o'clock crowd (skipping the $5 cover on Friday or Saturday nights), shot a few balls at the free pool tables, maybe taken a ride or two (waiver signed) on the mechanical bull, then ordered myself a stein ($4 domestic, $6 other, on Wednesdays and Thursdays) of Guinness as a nod to my Irish Pa. I would have settled down in a booth with a view of the dance floor, and enjoyed a Honky-Tonk Burger ($14.25)—melted pepper jack cheese topping a barbecue sauce-smothered onion ring and bacon burger. Finally, full as a tick, I would have made my way to the floor and given that hardwood hell. No, I'm not saying this exact scenario happened last Thursday night, but I am saying meet me Friday at 7 p.m. for free line-dance lessons. I'll be the rough-looking one with a moustache and a sprig of prairie wheat between my teeth. (ZS)
3360 S. Redwood Road, 801-972-5447, westernerslc.com

STEVE CONLIN
  • Steve Conlin

Best Spot for Local Live Music Outside Downtown

The Royal
Featuring live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, this Murray bar has enough rowdy entertainment to satisfy your live-music needs— from its legendary reggae nights to regular sets by local faves Ginger & the Gents. If that isn't your thing, you can come by on Sundays for football, jersey giveaways, $3 tallboys and mimosas and 50-cent wings. And if you need a breath of fresh air, step out to the patio along the nearby creek for soothing rushing-water sounds. (RH)
4760 S. 900 East, 801-590-9940, theroyalslc.com

JOSH SCHEUERMAN
  • Josh Scheuerman

Best Inside and Outside Bar Atmosphere
Hog Wallow Pub
Tucked away in the Cottonwood Heights neighborhood west of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Hog Wallow has one of the more scenic outdoor patios in Salt Lake. Pair that with a deep lineup of live music acts—often featuring local bands—and the bar turns out to be one popular place. Check out their food menu, pair it with a cocktail and sit back and enjoy the up-close-and-personal tunes at this wildly fun establishment. (RH)
3200 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, 801-733-5567, thehogwallow.com

DARBY DOYLE
  • Darby Doyle

Best Bar That Feels Like Your Friend's Living Room

Water Witch
Drinking at this Central Ninth gem is a discombobulating delight: one part neighborhood dive, one part upscale lounge, one part freewheeling lab. Absent an elaborate menu, let co-owners Matt Pfohl, Scott Gardner and Sean Neves whip you up something nameless yet irresistible. Stumble in on a Tuesday night and discover a hot jazz trio squeezed into the bar's left flank. Do day-drinking right on Tiki Sunday with another daiquiri or three, please. Imbibe on a weekday afternoon and get cast in one of Mike Wright and @luxelother801's hilarious Instagram videos. Like that charisma-drenched friend with the impeccably outfitted living room, Water Witch provides the warmest of welcomes before sending you back into the real world with a dizzying dose of inspiration. (NM)
163 W. 900 South, 801-462-0967, waterwitchbar.com

Best Club Culture Booster
Jesse Walker of New City Movement
Jesse Walker's brand of cool wraps you in a warm, welcoming embrace—an inclusive characteristic central to his 25-year reign in SLC. Moving from Idaho in 1993 on the tailwind of fashion designer and raconteur Jared Gold, Walker immediately fell into the DJ rotation at Bricks, Club Manhattan, the Holy Cow and a hundred other long-gone but never-forgotten nightclubs. In 1998, he founded New City Movement, a forward-thinking collective that promoted a brighter future through dance music, design, art and culture. As a main incubator of the prodigious local DJ scene we enjoy today, Walker's secret for success is simple: "Never stop being interested in everything and everyone. Also, never quit your day job." (NM)

Best Place To Drink in Public
University of Utah tailgates
This ain't New Orleans or Las Vegas (or anywhere else that's fun), so don't you dare pop open that can of beer on the streets! We're more modest up here—except on Saturdays in the fall. If the University of Utah has a home game, you can bet you're allowed to crack that brew and walk around the tailgate no questions asked. Hell, if you want to pop a hole in the bottom and shotgun it down your throat, be our guest. It's no Southeastern Conference tailgate, but the party is just as fun. Of course, don't do anything too silly and draw attention to yourself. Be patient and wait in line for the port-a-potty—don't relieve yourself outside. But by all means, let the sun's rays warm you while you and your red-clad friends bask in the joy of an outdoor party and revel at the chance to (maybe) win the big one. (RH)
Tailgate lot at the corner of 500 South and Guardsman Way


Best Spot To Drink During the Week

O'Shucks Bar & Grill
If you find yourself in need of a drink on a Wednesday night, there might not be a better deal in town than O'Shucks' $3 schooners. But the fun doesn't stop there. The basement bar also houses Ahh Sushi, and the friendly wait staff shuffles back and forth to serve your beer and sushi cravings. (RH)
22 E. 100 South, 801-359-6770

JOHN TAYLOR
  • John Taylor

Best After-Work Downtown Bar

Gracie's
Let's say you've had a long, stressful day at work, and you want to have a beer or cocktail to unwind before heading home to sleep and restart the whole hellish cycle the next morning. Live music, an expansive drink menu and a divine patio doubling as a perch above a busy city street make Gracie's a prime watering hole after clocking out for the day. If being outside isn't your thing (why do you live in Utah?), there are ample televisions, bars and even a dance floor inside. Whether you're coming for Bingo, booze or blues, Gracie's has you covered. (KL)
326 S. West Temple, 801-819-7565, graciesslc.com

Best Armchair Quarterback Spot
Fiddler's Elbow
With a projection TV, plenty of seats at the bar and a wide selection of food, this Sugar House staple is a great place to get your Sunday afternoon quarterback on. The front dining area includes a couch and lounge chairs where you can backseat coach your favorite team. Whether it's the Jazz, Utes, Cougars (the place is mostly red, though) or your favorite NFL team, you'll find plenty of friends here to weigh in on what play they would have called instead of whatever chicanery just played out on screen. (RH)
1063 E. 2100 South, 801-463-9393, fiddlerselbowslc.com

JOSH SCHEUREMAN
  • Josh Scheureman

Best Sound in the City

The State Room
While live music options continue to multiply across Salt Lake Valley, old standbys are still going strong. Consider The State Room: Open since 2009, this 300-capacity venue works wonders on any touring act. Big jam bands can experiment with a much-needed dose of intimacy; smaller jazz combos can flesh out expanded sonic sensibilities. And that's because the sound is flawless—clean enough to shine a spotlight on individual instruments and voices while rich enough to combine the sum of those parts. Separating the bar from the stage certainly helps, as does the resonance of its open dance floor and old church pews arranged stadium-style. No matter where you stand or sit, you're guaranteed good sight lines and great sound at The State Room. (NM)
638 S. State, 801-596-3560, thestateroom.com

DEREK CARLISLE
  • Derek Carlisle

Best Place To Test Your Knowledge

Proper Brewing Co.
Think you know your stuff? Well, you might. But why not prove it to your friends and the public? You can find trivia nights just about any weeknight around Salt Lake City. Hot spots include The Tap Room, The Green Pig and Piper Down Pub, to name a few. Tuesday evenings at Proper Brewing Co., though, might give you the best bang for your buck. Hosted by the Trivia Factory and a brain-busting host, you'll get 20 questions to test your might along with chances to guess 20 music artists for bonus points. Accompany it with a Johnny Utah burger from next door washed down with a pitcher (or two) of the latest Proper brew and you might be on your way to a $30 first-place prize. Just don't get too upset if you can't name what singer the late Sen. John McCain impersonated on Saturday Night Live. Hint: She's still singing about the way we were. (RH)
857 S. Main, 801-953-1707, properbrewingco.com

Best Drink and an Off-the-Beaten Path Bite
Duffy's Tavern
Utah might be strict with its liquor laws but that hasn't slowed the rising number of new watering holes around town. In fact, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has multiple bar licenses available—a rarity until this year—so expect more. If you can't keep up, why not slow down and check out some of the city's tried-and-true establishments. Duffy's Tavern doesn't have the shine and new-digs feeling some other places do, but that's what makes it glow. If the baseball diamond is your fancy, this is the place for you, especially if you're from Chicago. Duffy's walls are covered in Cubs, Blackhawks and Bears memorabilia. But it's also a welcoming place for homers if they're looking for fellow Utes fans. Try one of their famous sandwiches, dabble in some pool and cheer on your team while getting cozy at this neighborhood staple. (RH)
932 S. Main, 801-355-6401

DEREK CARLISLE
  • Derek Carlisle

Best Classy Joint That Makes You Feel Like Part of an Exclusive Club

The Rest
Bodega, the upstairs bar that serves as an entrance to its below-ground speakeasy, The Rest, is so trendy that it feels like the pub version of Urban Outfitters. For those seeking a more refined ambience, ask the ID-checker underneath the "RESTroom" sign (get it?) if you can go downstairs. You might have to wait a while, but it's worth it to bask in the hunter's den-esque saloon. Expert bartenders make divine cocktails as you listen to classic and modern records. This not-so-well-kept secret is ideal for anyone who wants to feel like they're in a trendy New York club without leaving Salt Lake City. (KL)
331 S. Main, 801-532-4452, bodega331.com

Best Eclectic Programming
Liquid Joe's
Consider Millcreek's Liquid Joe's a jack of many nightlife trades. Whatever floats your boat—from a revolving door of metal acts to a residency from beloved SLC party band Spazmatics—can be found here. Is karaoke more your thing? Warm up your vocal chords and head here on Tuesdays. Want to live out your Vegas fantasies? LJ's Monday poker night—boasting a $500 purse—is sure to do the trick. (EL)
1249 E. 3300 South, 801-467-5637, liquidjoes.net

MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

Best Spot For a Board Game and Growler Refill

RoHa Brewing Project
Looking for something different from your happy hour? How about a board game and a fresh-hopped craft beer at RoHa Brewing Project, where a no-nonsense atmosphere combines with Three Deep American Ale and Thursday IPA to put a little stillness back in your afternoon? The small tap room on Kensington Avenue, one block west of State, is simple and inviting: gray stools, a stainless-steel bar and a few black-and-white brewing diagrams scattered among competition medals. The only pop of color is the Buy a Friend a Beer bulletin board, emphasizing RoHa's community nature. Sure, the crowd ramps up on weekend nights, but a game of chess and a quiet break from the news on a weekday afternoon is perfect in these dizzying, disquieting times. (NM)
30 E. Kensington Ave., 385-227-8982, rohabrewing.com

RANDY HARWARD
  • Randy Harward

Best SLC Bartender

Metro's Michael Elliot
At first, it sounds like a misnomer, something like Best Vegan Butcher, but it's really surprising—given Utah's alcohol limitations—what the Metro fixture can do with an empty highball. Always cool and collected, even when lines of thirsty revelers span to a couple dozen, the Ogden native's boozy wizardry is a thing of legend. Whether you're at the venue for a metal show you've been looking forward to or a drag performance, chances are some of the night's best memories will include Elliot. More like him, please. (EL)

JOSH SCHEUERMAN
  • Josh Scheuerman

Best Bar-Crawl Neighborhood

Central Ninth
SLC's Central Ninth neighborhood isn't what it used to be. There are new restaurants, brewpubs and apartments popping up left and right. As a result, the area has quickly turned into a new nightlife hotspot. If you want to check out the drinking establishments, most are an easy walk (or scooter ride) apart. Start your night off at A. Fisher Brewing Co. (320 W. 800 South, fisherbeer.com) and grab a pint before pairing it with a bite from whatever food truck is parked outside. After getting your fill, head west to Kiitos Brewing (608 W. 700 South, kiitosbrewing.com) or east to any combination of Water Witch (163 W. 900 South, waterwitchbar.com), The Spot (870 S. Main), Proper Brewing Co. (857 S. Main, properbrewingco.com), Tinwell (837 S. Main, tinwellbar.com) and Purgatory (62 E. 700 South, purgatorybar.com). If you've made it this far, well, hopefully you don't live too far from this happening neighborhood to make it home. (RH)

AUSTEN DIAMOND
  • Austen Diamond

Best Place To Run Into an Athlete

No Name Saloon & Grill
Park City is the place to spot celebrities during the Sundance Film Festival in January and February, but that's not the only time you might see someone you've watched on TV. With two levels, a superb outdoor deck—heated in the colder months—overlooking Main Street and a famous buffalo burger to boot, the popular Park City pub isn't just frequented by the general public, but local athletes. Real Salt Lake players, for example, have been spotted there many times. Stay late for the rowdy music, eclectic nightlife and diverse drink selection—and who knows, you just might end up with a killer Instagram photo. (RH)
447 Main, Park City, 435-649-6667, nonamesaloon.net

Best One Night Only and Encore
Avant Groove Jazz Club & Martini Bar / Button Down Bar
Back in April, I wanted to find the type of raw, sweaty Jazz club that Jack Kerouac describes in On the Road—you know, the kind that could get you in trouble with the law. What I found was Avant Groove, the brainchild of Bay Area jazz vet John Vecchi—and though suit-and-tie classy, it did not disappoint. I chatted with Vecchi, drank a Broken Time—Bulleit Bourbon, ginger liqueur, lemon twist and rosemary garnish—and heard the Elastic Jazz Quintet's bone-rattling, lunatic rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."Kerouac would have been proud. Regrettably, Avant Groove permanently closed its doors on June 21, 2018. However, a few months ago, investor and long-time jazz fan Ross East bought the building, and has since created Button Down Bar, a new twist in the same space. Button Down prides itself on its versatility—equal parts sports bar and nightclub—and local ties, screening games and keeping their bars and taps fully stocked with wares from Utah distilleries and breweries—Dented Brick, High West and Wasatch, just to name a few. If you're the drinkin' type, I'd recommend the BDMF ($9), a sour watermelon and cranberry number, or the Heavenly SL,UT ($9), a mixture of Five Wives vodka, egg white and other secret flavors, which tastes like a liquid key lime pie. Or if, like me, you're still itching for a little jazz, you can attend Wine Down Wednesdays, featuring an extended wine list and the Elastic Jazz Quintet, still vamping their sweet madness. (ZS)
122 W. Pierpont Ave., 385-259-0573, buttondown.bar

this-old-couch.png

Best Spot To Drink in Protest

Your Couch
One of the plaintiffs in Church and State—the documentary about the legal battle to overturn Utah's same-sex marriage ban—said it best: She likes living here because you can protest from your couch. Sure, you could protest the state's stringent rules on liquor from the comfort of your own home (and we wouldn't necessarily blame you), but once the angry wrist-shaking has subsided, or you've imbibed the last Lime-A-Rita in the box, we hope this guide has inspired you to go out, sip on a microbrew, enjoy a craft cocktail, rage, partake in a little line dancing, test your nerd knowledge skills and rub elbows with some of the area's standout drink slingers. You've hung out with the rest, now it's time to party with the state's bonafide best. (RH & EL)

DEREK CARLISLE
  • Derek Carlisle

Best Sugar House Watering Hole

The Ruin
Adhering to the motto "Working is the curse of the drinking class," this place's intention is not, in fact, to ruin you, but enrich your imbibing knowledge with a series of top-notch cocktails guaranteed to wet your whistle. In the mood for a Utah-centric sip? The Bumble and Fizz, with its Beehive Barrel-aged Gin, honey, lemon and a touch of sparkling wine is sure to do the trick. More of an adventurous type? The Antelope Island Rum-infused 120 Daiquiri will leave you feeling like a regular Hemingway. (EL)
1215 Wilmington Ave., Ste. 120, 801-869-3730, ruinslc.com

Best Night Out
Elixir
Looking for a unique dinner and drinks one-two punch? This place has you covered with its combo Italian restaurant/lounge. Bloody mary piled to the sky accompanied by some pork tenderloin? You got it. Asian pear martini and a hand-tossed pizza? Step right up. Regardless if your mood is downtown cool or uptown swank, Elixir always delivers to the masses of thirsty and hungry denizens far and wide. (EL)
6405 S. 3000 East, Ste. 101, Holladay, 801-943-1696, elixirloungeslc.com

Best Pampered Concert Experience
Premium Seating at The Depot
Sometimes you want a live-music experience that's all about being in the middle of a pulsing crowd; sometimes, you just want to enjoy your favorite artist with a bit less stress. The Depot offers an upgrade option from the standing-room-only general admission, with premium seats that include a separate entrance, in-seat service, private bar and access to an open-air patio when you need to get a bit of fresh air. You never have to feel like you're too old to rock 'n' roll. (SR)
13 N. 400 West, 801-355-5522, depotslc.com


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