- Alex Springer
While it's borderline masochism to go outside in Utah during these long, scorching summer days, I have to say that patio dining during our slightly less-scorching summer nights remains one of our state's prime amenities. Of course, our local patio dining scene wouldn't be as fun to navigate if we didn't have such a plethora of culinary talent and knowledgeable service on hand. Thanks to the combo of 90-degree sunsets, creative menus and comfy open-air seating, evening dinner dates are among the best ways to enjoy our local nightlife. I've spent the last few weeks checking out the primo patios that lend an air of breezy comfort to their respective dinner menus, and here are a few of my favorites.
Osteria Amore (224 S. 1300 East, 385-270-5606, osteriaamore.com): Since 2019, Osteria Amore has been serving up a menu of traditional Italian classics with a stellar wine list to match. Its location just west of the University of Utah makes its patio an ideal place to people-watch while enjoying some antipasti or one of their signature wood-fired pizzas. My wife and I visited this up-and-coming local favorite right as the sun was going down, but the neighborhood's existing tree-line, coupled with the restaurant's vine-clustered fencing, did wonders to abate the summer heat—and it doesn't hurt that the east-facing patio keeps the sun's garish rays well out of the way.
It's a comfortable place to savor the house carbonara or the Gnocchi alla Sorrentina ($19) while scoping out the collegiate foot traffic, but the service staff excel at keeping things lively during dinner. A group next to us ordered a sea bass dish, and the servers wheeled out a butcher block with the roasted bass, glittering with fresh olive oil, to plate it. They then proceeded to carefully remove the meat from the bone for the diner while discussing wine classes. The whole affair scored major points for pure spectacle.
Eight Settlers Distillery (7321 Canyon Centre Parkway, 385-900-4315, eightsettlersdistillery.com): Though Eight Settlers also offers the prospect of repasting within your own little jail cell—complete with a barred gate, exposed brick and vintage photography—the patio at this Cottonwood Heights newcomer is quite a set piece. It's a kind of hybrid between indoor and outdoor seating, as its mechanical glass ceiling can retract to fully reveal a breathtaking view of the valley from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
During the day, when this current heatwave is at its maximum levels of misery, the ceiling is typically in place to allow for adequate air conditioning. But once the sun goes down and things cool off, they open things up for a dining and drinking experience that is spiked with a tinge of mountain air as you enjoy your short rib grilled cheese sandwich ($16), or sip some signature Devil's Gate Bourbon.
Ruth's Diner (4160 Emigration Canyon Road, 801-582-5807, ruthsdiner.com): I know that dining inside one of the train cars inside Ruth's Diner is a big part of this local treasure's appeal—this was my preferred spot for quite a while. But that was before my wife and I were offered a patio seat during one of the many times I had a mean craving for some of their chocolate malt pudding ($5.99). At the time, I was unaware Ruth's even had a patio. But as we shared a tall, frosty glass filled with what is quite possibly the best dessert of all time, within a comfy space that took full advantage of the gorgeous natural beauty of Emigration Canyon, there was no going back inside.
I'll never stop recommending the chocolate pudding here, but if you happen to be craving something a bit heartier while you enjoy this particular patio, the pulled pork benedict ($13.79) blends barbecue and hollandaise for a flavor combo you never knew you needed. Ruth's meatloaf ($15.29) is also a homerun—it's the Sunday dinner to end all Sunday dinners.
Nuch's (2819 S. 2300 East, 801-484-0448, nuchspizza.com): This Millcreek pizzeria was another local favorite whose patio digs were an unexpected—and completely delightful—surprise. I have been a fan of Nuch's ever since I tried their New Haven pizza ($22), a mighty god-king in the pizza pantheon that combines Yukon gold potatoes and roasted garlic with mozzarella cheese, asparagus and smoked bacon.
Blinded by my passion for this too-good-for-this-world pizza, I never inquired about the restaurant's patio space. I was introduced to its existence under some triumphant circumstances, however. I had the honor to officiate the wedding of two friends who shared my love of Nuch's to the extent of having the wedding reception on the Nuch's patio. It's like they open a doorway between Millcreek and the Mediterranean, as you are surrounded by high, ivy-clad walls and a well-cultivated landscape. A canopy of trees creates this beautiful arboreal ceiling, making it all-too-easy to forget about your responsibilities and lose yourself in a bowl of butternut squash ravioli ($17) or a refreshing watermelon salad ($12).