Utah Food Trends: Bring it On, 2023 | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Utah Food Trends: Bring it On, 2023

Predictions for this year's hot local dining trends

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

During my gastronomic exploits of 2022, I've had a fairly decent glance at the potential dining trends that will shape our restaurant scene in 2023. Utah is always a bit of a wild card when it comes to which national trends will be adopted and when they'll take root, but here are my predictions based on what I've seen so far.

Frugal Sustainability. Over the past few years, several Utah restaurants have made sustainability a priority. With the macroeconomics that have caused fluctuations in the price of running a restaurant, however, I think we're going to start seeing restaurants try to balance sustainability with frugality. It's a trend that speaks to the adaptability that has become a requirement for restaurants to navigate an increasingly difficult time for their industry. While being frugal and sustainable isn't a bad thing by any stretch, I think it's important for consumers to keep in mind. We may start seeing some menus change around a bit, and I'm betting restaurants will start specializing in dishes—which means fewer menu options. As long as diners remember that such changes result from any number of crushing realities that restaurant owners have to deal with, and are not part of some elaborate scheme to inconvenience them, we'll all be just fine.

Food Hall Evolution. I think 2022 saw food halls make the important transition from dining fad to dining fixture, which makes me think we're going to see more variations of this concept in the coming years. When I checked out Woodbine Food Hall (545 W. 700 South, 801-669-9192, woodbineslc.com) a few weeks ago, I noticed that food halls that can function from dawn until well after the sun goes down can be great community assets. Its location in the bustle of the developing Granary neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City makes me think that food halls have a good chance of being the centerpiece of future development projects that come to our metropolitan area. If that's the case, then these food halls will need to be on the cutting edge to help them stand out and get the most of their curated roster of eateries.

Noodle Bars. I lost track of how many new ramen bars opened up at the tail-end of 2022. I tried visiting as many as possible, but they just kept popping up—and that momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down. This is one of the trends that I am most excited about, as I'd love to see noodle bars become as prolific as Starbucks in our commercial areas. The obvious reason for the uptick in noodle bars is the simple fact that ramen, pho, laksa, tom yum, etc. are flavorful and delicious. As Utah plunges into a cold, dismal winter for three to five months out of the year, hot and satisfying soup helps keep the seasonal depression at bay. My hope is that this trend opens the brothy floodgates and we get even more variations on this classic comfort food.

Concept Restaurants. As 2022 drew to a close, I noticed restaurants like Italian Graffiti (156 S. 400 West, Ste. 113, 385-281-8373, italiangraffiti.com) and Aqua Terra (50 S. Main Street, Ste. 168, 385-261-2244, aquaterrasteak.com) make their way into our downtown shopping centers. Both restaurants take a conceptual approach to dining, which lends itself to more of a holistic experience instead of just a place to eat. Italian Graffiti, for example, comes to us from Nice Hospitality Group, which excels at creating restaurants that have, for lack of a better term, strong-ass vibes. While quality food and an exciting menu remain front and center, these restaurants strive to take their diners on an escapist journey. As more and more of our dining experiences get shared online, it makes sense to see restaurants that have a bit of capital to craft destination spaces that look fantastic on Instagram.

Butter Cake. This dessert is truly having a moment right now, and I can see it becoming the new "it" girl of dessert menus across the Wasatch Front. I am no cultural anthropologist by any stretch, but I'd trace the popularity of this dessert back to the 2022 Sugar High Festival, when the butter cake at American Fork's Sol Agave (749 W. 100 North, Ste. CRA8, 801-692-1758, solagave.com) won the Fan Favorite award. The festival took place in October, and since then, I've seen butter cake popping up on menus in both swanky gastropubs and casual diners. I definitely get the appeal—like the noodle soup phenomenon, when something is simply delicious from a foundational perspective, it has all sorts of mass appeal. Considering the fact that butter cake is something that can be made from relatively few ingredients and served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it makes sense that pastry chefs are hopping on the butter cake train. By the end of next year, butter cake will be as big as molten chocolate cake back in its prime.