Best of Utah 2020 | The complete list of winners from our readers and staff | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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2020, folks ... amirite?

I know, I know: This year, it's been hard to think about what's good. Between a global pandemic, the economic damage caused by it, social unrest to address institutional racism and, oh yeah, the ongoing threat of a fascist takeover of the American government, it's understandable if your mood hasn't exactly been celebratory.

In some ways, this year's City Weekly Best of Utah issue is unlike any other we've done. There's a recognition that some of the people and places we're celebrating have been hit hard by the COVID crisis—some of them hanging on by their fingertips, some of them still figuring out if they can survive. We realize that as we go to press, many of our award-winners don't know if they'll still be operating a month or even a week from now, and we send deepest condolences to those who have already had to make heartbreaking choices this year. It's possible that the information included here might change suddenly, and we apologize to readers if anything rapidly becomes inaccurate or obsolete as the world around us changes by the moment.


Yet in another sense, this is a Best of Utah the way it's always been. Our goal, even as more and more commerce moved online and benefitted massive corporations, has been to celebrate that which was specific and special to our state—the savvy entrepreneurs, the talented artists, the creative chefs, the dedicated activists and so much more. We support them, in the way so many of them have always supported City Weekly, by reminding readers that these are the people and places that give our communities their distinctive personality beyond chain establishments. And the fact that readers voted by the thousands in this difficult time shows that you support them, too.

Inside these pages, you'll find over 300 selections of the best restaurants, nightspots, arts organizations, shops, services and individuals, with 150 of those selections representing our readers' picks for Utah's best. For many of you, those picks will simply be a reminder of the great stuff you already know; for others, we hope it's a chance to discover something new and wonderful to add to your experience of living in Utah. Especially as we head into the holiday season, we ask you to support them financially to the extent that you are able to do so, making sure that come this time next year, we're still celebrating them as the Best of Utah.

We're all going to enjoy watching the door hit 2020's ass on the way out. But in the meantime, let's raise a cheer to everything in our state that made the experience of living through this year even a little bit easier.


Media & Politics | Readers' Picks

Best Social Cause
Black Lives Matter

In the months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, the focus on racial injustice and inequality in the U.S. has taken center stage. Protests were a regular staple in downtown Salt Lake City during the summer. Social justice advocates clamored for someone to be held accountable for the killing of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in downtown Salt Lake. Minorities and allies alike made their voices heard loud and clear that they won't stand for such abuses of power anymore. (RH)
2. The Other Side Academy 3. COVID Mutual Aid

Best Weathercaster
Allison Croghan

Whether it's dunking on strange men who slide into her DMs or sharing photos of her adorable pup, Archie, Fox 13 meteorologist Allison Croghan has a wide—and entertaining—range on social media. But when it comes to the weather, the Ole Miss alumna is an all-pro. Croghan joined the station in 2012 and moved to prime time as evening meteorologist in August 2020. Catch her reports at 4, 5 and 9 p.m. (RH)
2. Sterling Poulson, KUTV 2
3. Alana Brophy, ABC4

Best Nonprofit Organization
Best Friends Animal Society

Finding a forever home for Fido or Leo is heartwarming. It's also reassuring knowing there are people working to find every pet a home. That's the mission behind Best Friends Animal Society. In addition to supporting their no-kill rescue work around the globe, Utahns should check out the organization's Kanab-based animal sanctuary—home to more than 1,600 dogs, cats, horses, birds and other critters. (RH) Multiple locations,
2. Equality Utah
3. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah

Best Sports Reporter
David James

KUTV 2's David James is a long-running title holder for the Best Sports Reporter category, and it's with good reason. The California native joined the station in 1992 and has become a well-sourced and knowledgeable voice for Utah sports news. James hosts two weekend Talkin' Sports shows as well as a morning radio show on 1280 The Zone. (RH)
2. Dave Fox, KUTV 2
3. Amy Donaldson, Deseret News


Best Utahn
Donovan Mitchell

When the NBA season was put on hold in March and later resumed two time zones away in Orlando, Florida, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell carried the torch for Jazz fans rooting from afar for their squad. Then, when the Black Lives Matter movement took center stage on the American psyche, Mitchell proudly advocated for victims of police brutality and didn't shy away from the racial-equality conversation. Kudos to Mitchell for showing the world what a leader looks like. (RH)
2. U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams
3. Dr. Angela Dunn

Best TV News Station
Fox 13

Going on 42 years strong, Fox 13 is the youngest among Utah's commercial TV stations. But during its four-plus decades covering all things Utah, it's built a strong reputation for news coverage with the likes of Bob Evans, Scott McKane and the always Twitter-savvy (and this year, particularly, face-mask fashionable) Ben Winslow. Be sure to tune in for extensive news of the day during their hour-long 9 p.m. newscast plus hours of news programming throughout the day. (RH)
2. KSL-5
3. KUTV-2

Best Local Podcast
I Am Salt Lake

For the third year in a row, the I Am Salt Lake podcast reigns supreme. The locally themed podcast, hosted by Chris and Krissie Holifield, offers a glimpse into what makes Utah's capital city tick. Now at more than 450 episodes, it's hard to find a place with more insight into Salt Lake City's personalities. Recent episodes include interviews with a haunted house owner, an entrepreneur who's produced COVID-19 PPE and local restaurateurs. (RH)
2. Geek Show
3. Radio West

Best TV Anchor
Mary Nickles

After receiving a mammogram in 2012 to encourage other women to get screened, KUTV Channel 2's Mary Nickles learned she had an invasive, malignant tumor. The subsequent stories on her surgery, chemo treatments and even wig shopping won her an Emmy for Best Series. The Washington state native joined the station in 1991 and is an authoritative and accessible source for news. (RH)
2. Kelly Chapman, Fox 13
3. Bob Evans, Fox 13

Best Radio Show
Radio From Hell

Radio From Hell hosts Kerry Jackson, Bill Allred and Gina Barberi can be penciled into this spot just about any year. The longtime Best of Utah winners from 96.3 FM have amused and entertained Utah audiences in some form since 1986. This year might be some of their most impressive work yet as they've continued their show away from the studio because of the COVID pandemic. (RH) 50 W. 300 South, Ste. 200, SLC, 801-524-2600,
2. Radioactive, KRCL 90.9 FM
3. Bad Brad Wheeler, KUAA 99.9 FM

Best Elected Official
U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams

So how is it that Rep. McAdams easily won this award but then narrowly lost his re-election to Republican challenger Burgess Owens? Since 2018, the former Salt Lake County mayor served as Utah's lone congressional Democrat, walking a "moderate" tightrope to keep those in his split District 4 happy. After he contracted COVID-19 in March of this year, he sounded the alarm for mask-wearing caution. Here's hoping McAdams has the chance to win this title again at some point in the future. (RH)
2. SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall
3. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney

Worst Utahn
Sen. Mike Lee

There's a reason Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee is a back-to-back winner of the coveted title "Worst Utahn." President Donald Trump's yes-man and self-proclaimed "constitutional expert" tweeted in October that the U.S. is not a democracy. "Democracy isn't the objective," he wrote. "Liberty, peace and prosperity are." Well, Senator, with all due respect, we hope your "Worst Utahn" title brings you little peace and prosperity as you try to strip health-care coverage from millions in the name of your pocket-book Constitution. (RH)
2. Gov. Gary Herbert
3. U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart

Best Radio Station

A perennial inductee, X96 (96.3 FM) is the go-to station for alternative and contemporary rock along the Wasatch Front. Named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the five "awesome radio outlets" in America, the rock station features one of Utah's most popular radio shows—Radio From Hell. The station has brought all sorts of rock music to Utah's airwaves since 1995. (RH) 50 W. 300 South, Ste. 200, SLC, 801-524-2600,
2. KRCL 90.9 FM
3. KUER 90.1 FM

Best Political Scandal
Test Utah

As the COVID pandemic started its brutal course through the country, one group of Utah tech companies engaged in a philanthropic effort to boost the state's testing abilities. Then, it became a multi-million dollar no-bid state contract for companies such as Nomi, Domo and Qualtrics that made up TestUtah. But something wasn't right. Thanks in part to a Salt Lake Tribune investigation and concerns voiced by health officials, the group's testing accuracy was questioned. It turned out Test Utah's rate of positive results was less than half what it was for patients tested elsewhere in Utah. While there were reasons aplenty for the discrepancy, it became another cautionary tale underscoring the tech industry's tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. (RH)
2. Gov. Herbert's weak COVID response
3. Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen's racist and sexist remarks

Eric S. Peterson
  • Eric S. Peterson

Media & Politics | Staff Picks

Best Investigative Journalism
The Utah Investigative Journalism Project

It falls to journalists to keep government honest. There is enough skullduggery, whether in San Juan County or the White House, to keep a battalion of investigative reporters occupied 24/7. The work is painstaking and costly, however, and most cash-starved news outlets can't afford it. We are fortunate to have the Utah Investigative Journalism Project. Founded in 2016 by Eric Peterson, who broke stories of pay-to-play corruption charges in the Attorney General's Office while a City Weekly reporter, it has been shining light into dark places ever since. If you believe in Tinkerbell, clap; if you believe Utah needs a watchdog, donate to the cause. (JR)

Best "Count My Vote"
73,000 Dems and Independents Registering as Rs

In an April Salt Lake Tribune op-ed, prominent developer Kem Gardner urged Democrats and Independents to temporarily register in the GOP in order to vote in the (closed to all but registered Republicans) primary. That's where most of the ultimate winners of the election are chosen. Gardner's modest proposal gained traction with endorsements from Abby Huntsman and Jim Dabakis. But the prospect of a herd of RINOs (Republican in Name Only) had party pooh-bahs crying foul. Meanwhile, more than 73,000 voters joined Republican ranks, a significant increase from past primaries. Will RINOs become a factor in Utah politics? Or will the Legislature, given its arch treatment of initiative petitions, nip RINOism in the bud? Stay tuned! (JR)

Best Data Columnist
Andy Larsen

Long before the mendacity of Donald Trump, Mark Twain observed there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The COVID-19 pandemic provided plenty of each, often in bewildering combinations. To sort fact from fiction, falsehood and flim-flam, The Salt Lake Tribune assigned Jazz beat reporter Andy Larsen to "data columnist," aka "coronavirus stats guy." Writing in an avuncular, first-person voice, Larsen explained the likes of "seven-day moving averages" and "positivity rates" to those who were stumped by high-school algebra. He challenged such Trump befoggery as: "If we stop testing right now, we'd have fewer cases." Larsen deserves The Anthony Fauci Award for Service in the Public Health—should there ever be one—and the gratitude of those who disfavor lies and statistics. (JR), @andyblarsen

Best All-Purpose Journo
Amy Donaldson

There was a time when Amy Donaldson was happily ensconced on her regular beat as a sportswriter for the Deseret News where she was regarded as among the best around. When changes disrupted newsroom coverage, nearly all writers took on new beats and among areas Amy became noted for besides onside kicks were minority, gender and women's issues. This year, she's become an expert on COVID-19, adding Utah health needs to her gym bag of tricks. She's an expert on Led Zeppelin and cats, too, so who knows what comes next. (MS) @adonsports

Best Wake-up Call
Lex Scott

As the founder and leader of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, Lex Scott's work is never done. Not only does she coordinate chapter projects such as organizing a summer camp for Black children, she meets with and advocates on behalf of school kids, inmates and tenants who've been evicted. She leads protests throughout the state. She's written a police reform bill, the Police Accountability and Transparency Act, and met with national and state representatives who've sought her input. She's been interviewed for TV, radio and print stories, helping those interested in the cause understand how best to be allies. Tune in to her message, and you'll begin to see where systemic racism lives and how it can be undone. It's exhausting and exhilarating to have lived through 2020, but Scott is unfazed. Give her your kind regard and get to work. Learn what it takes to get behind the Black Lives Matter movement. (JW)

Daud Mumin
  • Daud Mumin

Best Hope for Black Liberation
Daud Mumin

Community organizer, board member for March for Our Lives and college student, Mumin is stepping up on the world stage as an articulate champion of social justice. "My journey is about being Black in America; being Muslim in America; being first generation in America; being low income in America. Those identities alone bring a great deal of consciousness-raising about the world that we live in," says this wise-beyond-his-years 19-year-old who's been an activist since he was 13. "When I tell people that Black liberation is the liberation for every group, people think it's an exaggeration," he says, "but it's not. Black people are at the epicenter of violence, patriarchy, whiteness, masculinity, capitalism and colonialism." As he says, let's learn from it and "rethink, reimagine and re-create" a more just world. (JW)

Best Homeless Helper
Kim Russo

The following is a verbatim copy of a handwritten letter from a homeless person living in Salt Lake with a deep appreciation for case manager Kim Russo:

"I am not good with computers. I saw you were accepting nominations but could not figure out how to put in my case manager. I am sorry, life got in the way of what I wanted to accomplish.

"But please consider my case manager Kim Russo for an award! She works for Utah Community Action. She works downtown with the homeless—always coming out and seeing how we are. I like talking to her. If she can't find us, she gets in her car and finds us in our camps. She brought me food.

"Please give her one of your awards. I see many people get them, but nobody like Kim Russo. Do you know she is going to get me housing? Yes, she is. Please, I would like to have her in City Weekly. I read your paper every week and love it. Did you know I was illiterate until I was 14?

"Please consider Kim as she has shown me love and compassion; she cares about us; she is Superman to me and so many others. I am getting out of this shelter because she found a studio for me. Come and see me anytime. I camp on Rio Grande, or I am in shelter. I want to talk to you about my friend. Many thanks, [Name withheld for privacy]" (MS)

Best Zoom Feature

In the 1970s, "Zoomers" were 8-year-olds in rugby shirts, singing "C'mon and zoom, zoom, zoom-a-zoom" on a children's PBS-TV show called Zoom. Those Gen-Xers, now middle-age, find themselves unexpectedly dependent on a new Zoom. Expedient but irritating, the video-conferencing app has allowed businesses, schools and churches to carry on despite COVID. Zoom software offers a Hollywood Squares format, green-screen backgrounds, mellow lighting and, most important of all, a mute button. A feature of the old TV show was "Zoomchat," which encouraged kids to "turn off the TV and do it!" Mute it and do it remains excellent advice for Zoomers of any age. (JR)

Best Prophylactic for the Hive
Neighborly Mask Wearing

Zorro and Batman's masks were not prophylactic. They were disguises. The hero's mouth—the infection-spreading facial feature that signals approval or hostility—was never covered. Mouth-covering masks are a proven prophylactic, and while they do impede human interaction, they aren't "Luciferian," "unhealthful" or "unconstitutional," as some Utahns have asserted. What is constitutional is the social contract philosophy embraced by the founding fathers whereby citizens willingly give up a little freedom in return for security. Similarly, Utah culture has always placed more importance on the hive than the honeybee. The communal hive is sustained by neighborly love, and love in the time of Covid-19 requires a prophylactic mask. (JR)

Dr. Thuet, front left, founder of With Love, From Strangers, and her crew load PPE headed to Southwest tribal communities.
  • Dr. Thuet, front left, founder of With Love, From Strangers, and her crew load PPE headed to Southwest tribal communities.

Best Tribal Relief
With Love, From Strangers

This past spring, the Navajo Nation, a community of nearly 200,000 residents, reported one of the highest COVID rates in America. A lack of running water and PPE in conjunction with a high number of multi-generational households all contributed to the spread. That's when With Love, From Strangers, founded by Dr. Christina Thuet, began collecting PPE, sanitizer, masks and other aid for the Four Corners region to help stem the spread. With Love, From Strangers has conducted hundreds of flights and served a dozen health-care facilities, drastically alleviating the strain on the local community. (MS)

Best Bar Benefactor
Ty Burrell

We're all going to remember the first few weeks of the COVID shutdowns as a time of extreme uncertainty. We collectively didn't know enough about the virus, we didn't know if we had it and, as such, we limited interactions with Grandma, and, for whatever reason, there wasn't enough toilet paper to go around. Amid all that craziness, one industry got slammed more than others: the hospitality sector. Actor Ty Burrell (of Modern Family) and part-owner of Beer Bar, Bar X, The Eating Establishment and the Cotton Bottom, led the charge of high-level fundraising and marketing to raise awareness for this group, awarding displaced personnel in $500 chunks. At its final tally, the #TIPYOURSERVER campaign put hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $100,000 from Burrell himself, back into the pockets of good people all around Salt Lake. Thank you, Ty! (MS)

Best Columnist
Robert Gehrke

A columnist has two things going for them when they write about their own institution: 1. The support of his peers and readers, and 2. A whole lotta nerve. No columnist can succeed without both of those and Gehrke has each in bushels. When Salt Lake Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce left her position, Gehrke was quick to challenge the reasons for her departure, even noting on Twitter he feared it may cost his job. It didn't, thank goodness. Gehrke, a trained reporter, was thrust into being the outward facing columnist a couple of years ago, albeit nervously. Not to sweat. He's taken to the role and is one of SLC's last free voices—and he's not afraid to use it. (MS) @robertgehrke

Best at Demanding Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault
Rep. Angela Romero

Utah ended a backlog of thousands of unprocessed sexual assault kits recently, thanks in large part to Rep. Angela Romero, who sponsored a 2017 Utah law that mandated testing of the kits used to collect DNA and other evidence from victims of sexual crimes. Turnaround time for processing kits is now under 90 days, with a goal of reducing it to 30. Processed kits have added 5,025 new DNA profiles to the state's database, identified 1,979 suspects and provided evidence for charging at least 33 suspects across the state. (JW)

Best Mask Mandate Rant
State Rep. Phil Lyman

You may recall that in 2015 Phil Lyman was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing for leading an ATV protest ride through Recapture Canyon's archaeologically sensitive lands, closed to off-road vehicles by the BLM. The Blanding state representative only just paid off a $96,000 fine for that act of rebellion. This year, he was also among the first elected leaders to politicize COVID mask mandates by comparing Utahns wearing them to those wearing Hitler's arm bands. "Hitler didn't start out killing Jews, Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hungarians, homosexuals, the disabled, political critics, Poles, Soviets, and Gypsies," Lyman tweeted. "That was after he asked politely for people to just wear the [damned] arm band." When an elected leader compares a symbol of anti-Semitism and white supremacy with a face covering intended to reduce the spread of a highly contagious virus, is it any wonder why Utah case counts are spiking at record highs? (JW)

Dr. Angela Dunn
  • Dr. Angela Dunn

Best 'Rona Warrior
Dr. Angela Dunn

Over the many months since COVID-19 showed its ugly crown in Utah, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn has been the cool voice of reason at the governor's briefings. Some might call her Utah's Anthony Fauci, but she brings a fresher face, a less raspy voice, and thus far, is less worn down by politics. That, even after Dunn helped guard the taxpayers' pocketbook by protesting when overzealous state administrators heeded Trump's dog whistle to acquire massive doses of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, although its effectiveness was in question. It would have been easy to acquiesce and let the stampeding elephants have their way, but Dunn stood strong. Utahns appreciate her succinct delivery and the fact she never veers far from the mantra of "wear a mask, social distance, stay home if you're sick." That's the common sense we need right now. (JW)

Best Election Reform
The End of Straight-Ticket Voting

Utah's Republican barony finally relented: straight-ticket voting is by the boards thanks to the recent passage of HB70 (a longtime project of Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek). For years, Utah voters (and those in six other states) could cast a vote for every candidate of a particular party with a single stroke of the pen. Never mind if a candidate was unknown. Party loyalty über alles! Roughly a third of all ballots cast in Utah had used straight-ticket voting. Now, without the option, voters are incentivized to research the down-ballot candidates and select individuals based on qualifications—not party affiliation. There might even be a Democrat worth a surreptitious vote. (JR)

Best Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear
Urban Indian Center's Wood Collection for the Navajo Nation

The hurricane-force winds that lashed the Wasatch Front Sept. 8 left its urban forest badly damaged. Thousands of trees were uprooted, including 255 at Salt Lake City Cemetery alone. In the disaster, the Urban Indian Center recognized opportunity. Rather than dumping tons of branches and tree trunks in the landfill, the wood could be trucked to the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners Region, where many houses are heated by burning wood. Two collection points—the Urban Indian Center and Esther's Garden (Congregation Kol Ami)—were established. In a matter of days, three semi-trailer truckloads of salvaged wood were dispatched. Now, if you want to help replace the trees, make a contribution. (JR) Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, 120 W. 1300 South, SLC, 801-486-4877,

Best Retirement Gig
Jason Chaffetz as Talking Head

When Jason Chaffetz left Congress in 2017, six months into his fifth term, politicos speculated he'd jump into this year's governor's race. But he opted to pass, saying, "I'm going to get off the crazy train." Instead, he jumped on the gravy train as he continued his gig as a contributor on Fox News. Salary? "They were very nice to me," the 53-year-old coyly said after signing with the conservative network. He's collecting royalties, too, from two books and has signed on with D.C. speakers' bureaus. One lists his fee as "$15,001 to $20,000." And there's a stipend from Harvard where he's a visiting fellow. Not bad for a guy who famously and frugally slept on a cot in his Capitol Hill office following his election in 2008. (LG)

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