- Derek Carlisle
It's easy to neglect eating when you're cowl-deep in FanX festivities. Of what use is physical nourishment when there is a veritable smorgasbord of intellectual and emotional nourishment primed for consumption throughout the weekend? With that in mind, let me give you a hand. I've compiled a list of geektastic local dishes that will keep your bellies happy without distracting you from your favorite fandom. These are the places that serve up edible bits of pop culture to keep your nerd flag from flying at half-staff while you navigate the convention.
The Penguin Brothers
On its own, a cookie ice cream sandwich ($5) from The Penguin Brothers is a softball of sweet nostalgia. But when you venture into their secret combinations—bonus points for all you Book of Mormon nerds out there—you see items like the chocolate and mint Luigi's Mansion and the honeycomb-infused Golden Snitch. You're welcome to create your own combo of cookie and ice cream, which is good fun on its own, but I recommend checking these two signature dishes out for a taste of how these dough bros expertly balance flavor and texture with the right amount of geek-friendly whimsy. Multiple locations, thepenguinbrothers.com
As we can all heartily agree, Kathryn Bigelow's early '90s surf opera Point Break is the greatest action movie of our time. Proper Burger threw a beefy gauntlet down when they named their take on the classic pastrami burger after Johnny Utah, the film's cocksure lead played by Keanu "Our Internet Boyfriend" Reeves. As a native Utahn, I'd had my share of pastrami burgers, and I can safely say that the Johnny Utah ($8.49) at Proper Burger is every bit as brazen, cocky and effortlessly sexy as our favorite deep cover FBI agent. It's the in-house smoked turkey pastrami that makes this burger special—it retains all of its black pepper smokiness, but the leanness of the meat makes it less of a gut bomb when the whole thing has been consumed. Trust me, this burger will take you to the edge ... and past. 865 S. Main,properburgerslc.com
Bruges Waffles and Frites
Every sharpshooter and gunslinger in the first-person-shooter video game genre knows that a good arsenal is the key to victory. Those who like to drool over their collection of Lancer Rifles, Gjallarhorns and BFG 9000s can find a few firepower-inspired sandwiches at Bruges Waffles and Frites. The Machine Gun ($10) locks and loads with a spicy lamb sausage and a few ammo belts worth of their famous twice-fried frites, and the Muzzle Loader ($12) chambers some house-made Flemish stew made from beer-braised beef in a baguette barrel for maximum flavor firepower. Imagine your hunger is a horde of the undead or an away team of hostile aliens, and lay into it with these two trigger-happy sandwiches. Multiple locations, brugeswaffles.com
Sandy's tasty hive of buns and aioli is home to a sausage creation that screams its way onto your radar like the twin ion engines of the fighter ship for which it's named. The Thai Fighter ($7.49) recruits a spicy Thai currywurst as its decorated pilot and arms it with arugula, pickled jalapeños and basil aioli for a green laser blast of Eastern flavor. All of the dog fighters standing at attention within the restaurant's fighter bays are meals in and of themselves, and that buttery toasted bun that launches them into battle is so much more than a secret weapon. Dining at the Dog Haus definitely qualifies as a sojourn into the dark side, so be warned—or forever will it dominate your destiny. 10261 S. State, doghaus.com
If hard-boiled Tarantino crime thrillers are more your thing, you can dive into the sleek Japanese ambiance of Itto Sushi and order up the Kill Bill ($12.95, pictured) in honor of Beatrix Kiddo. It's a Hanzo katana of a sushi roll that includes thinly sliced jalapeño and Sriracha alongside tuna, tempura shrimp, lime, tobiko, avocado and eel sauce. The atmosphere alone evokes the climactic showdown at the House of Blue Leaves in Kill Bill Vol. 1, and the obsessive attention to detail within the roll is evocative of Tarantino's filmmaking. Multiple locations, ittoutah.com
Speaking of hard-boiled crime thrillers, the AMC series Breaking Bad has made a huge impact on the geek community, and set the stage for much of the prestige television drama that we have been so privileged to enjoy. To honor the show's beloved and maligned anti-hero Walter White, the pizza maestros at The Pie unveil a specialty pie known as the Heisenberg every fall. It's a pie that celebrates both complex physics teachers-turned-drug dealers and Oktoberfest by loading up with slices of smoked bratwurst, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and green apples. It's a bit easier to love than Breaking Bad's sociopathic leads, and it's an ongoing testament to the show's lasting influence on pop culture. Multiple locations, thepie.com
With that dark cinematic trailer and Joaquin Phoenix donning the greasepaint and green hair of Batman's most famous arch-nemesis, I know that the bulk of DC fanboys and fangirls are immensely stoked about the Joker's upcoming filmic reinvention. For those who want to celebrate the film and the actor bringing the Joker to life, Vertical Diner offers a plant-based burger known as the Joaquin Phoenix ($10). It's a spicy black bean and veggie burger topped with tempeh bacon, dill pickle slices and ranch dressing, and it's every bit as surprising as the method actor himself.
234 W. 900 South, verticaldiner.com