Salt Lakers are not easily satisfied. Even with all our amenities, awe-inspiring mountains and low crime stats, we can’t help but complain. We’ve got a lot on our mind: Mormon political dominance, liquor laws, parking meters and local sports teams. But at the end of the day, we cherish our city and its bounty of goodness. We especially like to get out and show off our city to friends and relatives when they come to visit.
To give you ideas of where to wine and dine your people, we’ve asked noted authors, sports figures, entrepreneurs, politicians, nonprofit managers, media personalities and entertainers for their best ideas.
Sara Zarr moved here from San Francisco and has a lot of friends and colleagues coming from New York City and Seattle. “I try to take visitors to restaurants that prove I’m not living in a culinary backwater—they worry sometimes,” she says. “Depending on what we’re in the mood for, I think The Copper Onion (111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3282, TheCopperOnion.com), Squatters (147 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2739, Squatters.com) and Vinto (418 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-539-9999, Vinto.com) hold up under outsider scrutiny but are also great local standbys.” For Zarr, those places have the right combination of “interesting menus, reliable execution, solid (but nonhovering) service and a welcoming atmosphere.” Zarr doesn’t go in for excessively fancy or trendy spots, she says. “The focus should be on getting to visit with my friends while we enjoy some good food without spending a fortune.” (Rachel Piper)
For Megan Marsden, you simply can’t go wrong if you choose one of the Gastronomy, Inc., restaurants. She and fellow U of U gymnastics head coach (and husband) Greg Marsden often go to Market Street Broiler, just west of the U campus, and recommend downtown’s Market Street Grill to the gymnastics teams that come into town to take on the Red Rocks. Besides their excellent fare, Marsden appreciates the restaurants’ historical locations: “That’s a nice feature; that’s a good thing for our community,” she says.
Sea Salt is a new favorite of the Marsdens for its upscale ambience with a neighborhood feel, making it the go-to destination for when “we’ve got someone in town, and we’re trying to impress them,” she says. “They’ve got a lot of high-end wine, and the things that they offer are a higher-end product.”
Megan is appreciative of Salt Lake City’s dining scene as a whole. “For our size of city, we’re really fortunate to have so many dining options,” she says. “You don’t have to go all the way into downtown to find something special.” (RP)
Just as he is with his computers, PC Laptops founder/figurehead Dan Young is emphatic about his favorite eateries—such as Omar’s Rawtopia (2148 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-486-0332, OmarsRawtopia.com). “I feel clean and high-speed after eating here! A great place to refresh yourself if you’re tired of the meat sweats!” His dish of choice at Omar’s: the spicy curry seaweed roll.
The Tin Angel (365 W. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-328-4155, TheTinAngel.com) is another Young favorite; he rattles off nearly the entire menu before punctuating it with “Yumbo!” He’s more specific about Naked Fish Bistro (67 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-595-8888, NakedFishBistro.com): “You must have the sukiyaki and Japanese mackerel, and I love the little privacy rooms where you can really enjoy your fish.”
Young’s not all fancy-pants in his local food tastes, however—he can throw down with the best of ’em at Bucket O’ Crawfish (1980 W. 3500 South, Salt Lake City, 801-419-0900, BucketOCrawfish.com): “This is like Man vs. Food all over again! Win! Great fried catfish, too—and my favorite clams!” (Bill Frost)
ABC news anchor Kylie Conway is still relatively new to Utah, but she’s already collected an impressive hit list of local foodie favorites, including The Farm at Canyons Resort (4000 Canyons Resort Drive, Park City, 435-615-8060, CanyonsResort.com) as “a local gem.” “Farm to table, the food is fresh and prepared perfectly, and the short-ribs appetizer is to die for.” She has similar accolades for Takashi (18 Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-519-9595): “Fresh and delicious—out-of-towners can’t believe this sushi is served in the middle of the desert!
“Log Haven (6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, 801-272-8255, Log-Haven.com) is always putting different spins on local cuisine,” Conway continues. “It’s inviting and the wait staff is so nice; some even grow vegetables for the restaurant.” Her Log Haven favorites: alpine nachos and Utah trout.
Like most everyone in the western United States, Conway also has loco love for Red Iguana (736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489, RedIguana.com). “I’ve never had better traditional Mexican food; my weakness is the amarillo mole with guac.” But, she always comes back to Pago (878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0777, PagoSLC.com): “A go-to favorite—when I can’t decide, I always default to Pago. Brunch, lunch, dinner … it will make you happy.” (BF)
When it comes to entertaining the Hollywood crowd, Salt Lake Film Society Executive Director Tori Baker has several cards up her sleeve. She takes Tinsel-towners who want a healthy, vegetarian-friendly menu for breakfast to downtown Oasis (151 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-322-0404, OasisCafeSLC.com). Dinner-wise, she’ll either choose The Copper Onion (111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3282, TheCopperOnion.com)—“killer potatoes, great risotto” and a strong wine list, she enthuses—or, when she requires a more intimate, conservation-friendly venue, then it’s the moodily lit 9th & 9th Mazza (912 E. 900 South, 801-521-4572, MazzaCafe.com). For some folks, however, notably director/writer/actor Crispin Glover, only a trip to Whole Foods (544 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, 801-924-9060, WholeFoodsMarket.com) will do. Rather than go to a restaurant, Baker recalls, the transportation-less star asked her to “talk to me while I shop for my groceries.” (Stephen Dark)
Fox 13 reporter Ben Winslow is a self-confessed connoisseur of Salt Lake valley’s holes-in-the-walls. But listen to him wax lyrical on the topic of Jorge Fierro’s Frida Bistro (545 W. 700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-983-6692, FridaBistro.com) and you realize the Mexican-cuisine maestro has found the way to Winslow’s heart. While it helps that Winslow’s a fan of the restaurant’s namesake, artist Frida Kahlo, it’s the fare that catches his eye. Whether it’s the margaritas that boast such curious ingredients as habanero peppers, mangoes and cucumber, or the always-intriguing food menu, “I just like the twist they do on it,” Winslow says. (SD)
William Shakespeare once wrote: “All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely omelet eaters”—or something like that. As such, Salt Lake Acting Company’s co-executive producer, Keven Myhre, takes his actor and nonactor friends to “the perfect place for breakfast”: The Park Cafe (604 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-1670, TheParkCafeSLC.com).
“The staff is just so great and personable to everyone,” Myhre says. “The location [near Liberty Park] makes for such a cross-section of people—I always see someone I know—so there’s great energy in that room.”
Before sitting down to enjoy a veggie omelet or the simple “the single”—two eggs, park potatoes and toast (but mainly the potatoes: “Who can resist them?”), he takes a stroll in the park to work up an appetite or to clear his mind from his SLAC and directing work. (Austen Diamond)
A man who specializes in eclectic music as a DJ—soul, deep-house and disco—and in design, as the lead designer at Contact Design, Jesse Walker likes food with a little je ne sais quoi. Whether it’s to help alleviate the burdens of late-night DJ sets or just to soak up the ambience, Walker and his partner prefer to take guests to the “ever-evolving, yet consistently delicious” Meditrina (1394 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-503-0362, MeditrinaSLC.com), “because, I’ll be honest, it’s 2 1/2 blocks from our house, and we like to have a drink while we catch up with friends,” he says. Walker’s must-eat short list includes patatas bravas, curry lime prawns and Ballard Farms pork belly. “Meditrina has found its shining path by serving up imaginative small plates with a wink and a nod. A good wine list is topped by great desserts and a cozy atmosphere,” Walker says. “What more could you want?” (AD)
Mike Winder is the hard-working mayor of West Valley City and one of the sixth generation working for the family dairy, Winder Farms. He also raised a ruckus ghostwriting articles to promote his city for the Deseret News in 2011, and launched an unsuccessful bid for county mayor this summer. Who knows where he’ll end up next? One place you might find him is at Pho Green Papaya (2000 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 801-866-1548, GreenPapayaUtah.com), where he’s known to devour the Massaman curry, short ribs and marinated roasted quail. And, he says, the bento box lunch specials—with a Vietnamese salad, spring roll, fried shrimp and an entree—are a terrific value. “Their pho is downright sloppy Vietnamese goodness,” Winder says. “The Nguyen family that runs Pho Green Papaya are immigrant entrepreneurs at their best, who work hard to provide great service with fabulous Thai and Vietnamese eating.”
You could also look for Winder at La Palapa Juice Bar (1824 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 801-908-5167) getting “juiced.” Real fruit juices make this an “oasis of Mexican yumminess,” he says. But don’t stop there. La Palapa’s fresh food cooked to order—especially his favorite, the double shrimp enchilada plate—are divine. Enjoy eating at wooden tables under booths with grass-thatched roofs with Spanish TV humming in the background. “And those smoothies, made with real fruit, are some of the best in town,” Winder says. The banana, papaya and mango combo made with iced orange juice is a personal fave. (Jerre Wroble)
What do you get when you add the talent of beer brewing to a sophisticated foodie palate? Epic’s Kevin Crompton, who enjoys using his tasting artistry outside the world of beer and in the world of fine dining. Crompton recommends sitting down to wine and dine with close friends at Forage (370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-708-7834, ForageRestaurant.com), a place known for high-concept offerings and its high-pedigree chefs, Bowman Brown and Viet Pham. Crompton is drawn to the restaurant’s scrumptious pairings of food, spices and alcohol. “You’re tuned into the food, and you’re getting this narrative from the chef that made it,” he says. “That’s what makes it an intimate event.” (Frances Moody)
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon knows where to find dining hotspots all around Salt Lake Valley and has a special appreciation for Asian flavors and spices. That’s why Out of the Box Café (50 W. Century Parkway [2950 South], Salt Lake City, 801-463-4905, OutOfTheBoxCafe.com) has been the backdrop for both his business meetings and outings with friends and family. A big fan of the Japanese-style eatery’s lip-smacking chicken teriyaki, Corroon also appreciates the private back room and the fact that they are “always nice about bringing you free cookies at the end.” (FM)
Real Salt Lake’s head coach, Jason Kreis, lives in Park City, where he naturally gravitates to Main Street. He likes Prime Steakhouse, (804 Main, Park City, 435-655-9739, PrimeParkCity.com) where the seared ahi tuna and the fried calamari always score as “incredible appetizers.” And then there are the steaks, “delivered on boiling hot plates—always incredibly juicy and flavorful,” he says. With live music most nights in the piano bar, Kreis enjoys unwinding there in the evenings. Plus, he says, “during the summer, dinner on the front patio overlooking Main Street and the Town Lift area is simply spectacular.”
Another favorite is the restaurant with the “cool vibe,” Shabu (442 Main, Park City, 435-645-7253, ShabuParkCity.com). Kreis goes for the nightly dim sum specials followed by housemade sorbets. “Everything is different and excellent here, ranging from sushi to steak cooked by the patrons on a hot rock!” he says. (JW)
Bill Manning’s office is in Sandy, so he’s partial to unique eateries that specialize in comfort food. Johanna’s Kitchen (9725 S. State, Sandy, 801-566-1762) is his go-to for breakfast meetings for its friendly atmosphere, hearty breakfasts and reasonable prices. “It’s not stuffy at all, and my GM, Garth Lagerwey, and I love coming here to talk RSL business,” he says. “As a New York guy, it’s as close as I can get to a diner back home.”
For lunch and after-work appetizers, you’ll spot him soaking up the “cool vibes” along with a good selection of food and beers at Porcupine Pub & Grille (3698 E. Fort Union Blvd., Salt Lake City, 801-942-5555, PorcupinePub.com). “The chicken soup is amazing, and the nachos are huge,” he says.
On the weekends, he heads up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Silver Fork Lodge (11332 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, Brighton, 435-649-9551, SilverForkLodge.com) for its good, old-fashioned dining. “I love going here on weekends, especially when we have out-of-town guests,” he says. “During the summer, the scenery is beautiful, and you’ll see hummingbirds flying around.” (JW)
Real cocktails were once served in real clubs. But Utah’s liquor laws no longer favor drinking etiquette, style or perfection. Outside of several notable exceptions (Bar X, Kristauf’s, and Red Door, to name a few) are you tired of all your cocktails being clumsily mixed into the same size bucket glass in nearly every bar in town? If you are, and you want a taste of how drinks used to really taste, then visit these three great dining spots that serve fantastic, authentic cocktails: Eva (317 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-8447, EvaSLC.com) for the gin, honey and lemon mixture called the Bee’s Knees; The Wild Grape Bistro (481 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-746-5565, WildGrapeBistro.com) for Sergeant Pepper whiskey sour—unique by any standard; and Pallet (237 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-935-4431, EatPallet.com) for an 1800s vintage Sazerac— a cocktail classic, served perfectly sweet here.