Restaurant Roundup: Best of 2023 | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Restaurant Roundup: Best of 2023

The finest plates this year had to offer.


Pho Hanoi at Saola - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Pho Hanoi at Saola

Another year of happily devouring my way through Salt Lake's local food scene has come and gone, adding plenty of standouts to my dining radar. It's hard to properly convey the deliciousness that I enjoyed this year in just one article, so we're really condensing things down to those places that made a particularly strong impression. So, without further ado, here are 2023's best dishes.

Pho Hanoi at Saola
7307 Canyon Centre Parkway, Ste. 1
I've always found pho to be a top tier comfort food. Regardless of where you get it, this piping hot bowl of noodles, bone broth and sliced meat tells some kind of story while warming you up from the inside out. Much like pizza or potstickers, pho is something that is hard for me not to enjoy. With this context in mind, trying the pho Hanoi at Saola made me pause for deeper reflection into my affection for this dish. It's got all of the wonderful things that make pho such an approachable and soulful dish, but the team at Saola really make their ingredients sing. From the rich, voluminous flavors of the bone broth to the tender slices of filet mignon–hard to go wrong with that upgrade, that's for sure–this dish is near unto perfection.

The pho Hanoi at Saola encapsulates what makes this restaurant such a treasure. You're likely going into Saola familiar with the techniques and dishes they're preparing only to have them smack you upside the head with a bold reinvention of what you thought you knew about Asian food.

The Exorswiss & Mushrooms at Burgertory
3197 S. Redwood Road, Ste. 9
I visit a lot of restaurants over the course of a year, and never have I felt "seen" as much as I do when I visit Burgertory in West Valley. There is an unspoken convergence among horror movies, punk rock and off-beat diners that serve food that'll knock you on your ass that has always been a big part of my identity, and Burgertory beautifully personifies all that greatness. Not only does the interior decor of dungeon-core lighting and wall-to-wall horror movie posters always put a smile on my face, but these burgers are not messing around.

Not only are their labels cleverly culled from the annals of horror movie history, but each one is as big, messy and unapologetic as the shock cinema from which they are named. My personal favorite is the Exorswiss & Mushroom burger–thankfully devoid of anything related to split pea soup. The bun is buttery and toasted, the patty is thick and impossibly juicy and the melty, gooey swiss cheese pairs perfectly with the sauteed mushrooms. Get this with a side of Dracula's Casserole, a decadent riff on mac and cheese with sriracha bacon crumbles on top for best results.

Twice Baked Chocolate Croissants at Forty Three Bakery
733 Genesee Avenue
Chef Andrew Corrao and his team at Forty Three bakery have always been adept at making next-level pastries, but something about their recently opened space on Genesee Avenue has really helped the menu blossom. I don't know if it's simply a distillation of all the good vibes their new space generates on a daily basis or if the team hit some kind of mystical baking synergy in the relocation process, but even the most unassuming pastry on the shelf seems to conceal tasty secrets from beyond.

There's really no wrong choice at Forty Three Bakery, but I keep going back to their twice-baked chocolate croissants. Forty Three's croissants have the bearing of sumo wrestlers–their dainty, buttery lamination has plenty of area to cover, making them a delight to eat. That crispy exterior crumbles with each bite, revealing a chewy, buttery interior with a shock of dark chocolate. Plus, you've got that almond frangipane as a little creamy, flavorful bonus. It's hard to claim perfection when chocolate croissants are concerned, but these will do until the perfect croissant happens to come along.

El Lomo at Libertang
10395 S. State Street
It must be a rural suburban thing, but I grew up thinking steakhouses were stuffy, white tablecloth affairs that didn't know how to have any fun. Libertango's Argentine vibes are a great contrast to the antiquated idea that steakhouses had to somehow be boring and joyless. From the service to the decor, this place knows how to show you a good time.

Its menu of expertly curated steaks is suited for those looking to splurge a bit, but I've found El Lomo to be a nice mid-level entree for when I feel like celebrating. It's a 10-ounce filet mignon that comes with tri-color carrots and mashed potatoes, but it's the chimichurri that takes this dish over the top. When combined with that perfectly cooked steak, you get an excellent snapshot of Argentine grilling culture–which is a total blast.

Overall, 2023 has been yet another great year to explore Utah's culinary offerings–here's looking forward to 2024.