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- Derek Carlisle
Breaker of Chains
Say 'Dracarys' to that corporate meal and opt for these local haunts instead.
By Alex Springer
Yes, SLC is home to more national food chains than the Night King had zombie minions, but that doesn't mean that our own scrappy forces of local restaurant heroes can't take 'em down. For every debauched menu item that the big boys roll down the track, Utah's own burger joints, pizza parlors and taco stands are standing by ready to defend us from the onslaught. Lift your hands and rise.
Westerosi Bacon Cheeseburger
Few of the combos on this list have as much bitter history as the Western Bacon Cheeseburger at Carl's Jr. and the Texas Bacon Cheeseburger at Apollo Burger (multiple locations, apolloburgers.com). There was a time when you could get a Western bacon at both restaurants, but CJ's took Apollo Burger to court for copyright infringement—they claimed to have invented the term "Western Bacon Cheeseburger." Apollo did its best to fight back, but their efforts were in vain and so the Texas Bacon Cheeseburger was born. When you bite into a tasty Texas Bacon Cheeseburger, pictured, not only are you getting a superior product for practically the same amount of money, but you're also sticking it to a soulless chain that, truth be told, goes a little overboard with their barbecue sauce.
There's nothing quite as satisfying as floppy, foldable slices of pizza. Pizza Hut, Domino's and Little Caesar's do an OK job at mass-producing this kind of magic, but if you happen to find yourself with a hankering for some greasy, slightly trashy (in all the right ways) pizza, then The Pie Hole (344 S. State, 801-359-4653, pieholeutah.com) needs to be in your life. The Pie Hole is open later than the storefronts operated by big pizza (until 2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays); they offer vegan pizza that doesn't suck; and after one slice of the Munchy Mango, it makes it obvious they're the Arbor Gold to the other guys' swill.
Cersei Gordita Crunch
When in the market for tacos in the 800 South and State Street area, you can either go to Taco Time or one of the several taco carts that now surround the fast food chain's location. El Paisa is my favorite of the bunch—for a couple bucks, you can get tacos al pastor or carne asada, but they'll always have my respect for showing me the beauty of well-cooked beef tongue. Songs will be written about El Paisa's lengua. So, when taco Tuesday rolls around—and your first impulse is to hit up Taco Bell, Del Taco or the ilk—pass on the drive-thru, prop yourself along the sidewalk, frosty bottle of Mexican Coke in hand, and get ready to feast like a king (or queen).
The Cheesecake Factory is perhaps the most dastardly chain of them all. Thought to be unbreakable, despite the bad casino lighting and tacky menu advertisements, it rises like an impregnable garrison of Glamburgers. Across the Wasatch Front, good people who have simply been lulled into submission by the siren song of a five-page cheesecake menu flock to this unholy place. With a little bit of redirection, however, these folks can be freed. For those of you whose parents insist on the Cheesecake Factory for special occasions, may I present The Dodo (1355 E. 2100 South, 801-486-2473, thedodorestaurant.com) as an alternative. It's got the same faux-fancy aesthetic; it boasts an equally eclectic menu; and a slice of their mountainous Toll House Pie towers above Franken-cheesecake any day of the week.
Wrenching the Wheel
If there's one area of the fast food spectrum in which Utah leans local, it's ice cream. Sure, Baskin Robbins has its 31 flavors, but visiting Leatherby's Family Creamery (multiple locations, leatherbys.com) or Monkeywrench (53 E. Gallivan Ave., facebook.com/monkeywrench) on a Friday night shows that the Beehive's frozen treat connoisseurs prefer their icy thrills homegrown. Both Leatherby's and Monkeywrench offer gigantic sundaes, overstuffed ice cream cones and plenty of other sweet surprises that have yet to be bested by their national counterparts. Their addictive menu items' secret ingredient? Locally unsullied ingredients plus heaps of TLC (and, perhaps, blood magic).