10 Best Utah Dishes 

10 things from Utah restaurants you must put in your mouth.

click to enlarge Market Street Oyster Bar - JOHN TAYLOR

Like any food writer, I’m often asked to name my favorite restaurant. More often than not, my response isn’t to select a single restaurant but to say, “Well, I really like the so-and-so at Restaurant A, and I’m crazy about the such-and-such at Restaurant B and the this-and-that at Restaurant Q is really great.” And so it goes.

So, sure, I could send you off to my favorite restaurant(s). But a more fruitfulnot to mention delicious—path might be to tantalize your palate with favorite dishes from all sorts of different eateries. Few restaurants do everything well. But these tasty morsels are surefire winners.

My single-most-delectable-taste discovery of the past decade or so might be the ankimo at Takashi (18 W. Market St., 801-519-9595). I remember the first time Takashi presented me with a shallow bowl of what looked like medallions of foie gras served with shredded daikon, ponzu and a sweetish-tart garnish of yuzu. I’ve gotta be honest, I was a bit startled when he told me that ankimo is Japanese for monkfish liver. If you’ve ever seen a monkfish, you certainly wouldn’t want to eat its liver! But now, I’m a convert. Bring on the ankimo!

If you asked 100 people to name one food they really despise, I’ll bet brussels sprouts would top the list. My wife, who was forced to eat brussels sprouts as a kid, says that she’d actually swallow them whole to avoid really tasting them. Well, brussels sprouts haters, I urge you to visit Eva (317 S. Main, 801-359-8447) and give chef Chuck Perry’s sprouts a try. He thinly shaves the brussels sprouts into a confetti-like consistency on a Japanese mandolin before sautéing them in lots of butter and tossing with cider vinegar and toasted hazelnuts. The result is so delicious that I now prepare my brussels sprouts at home this way and even the kids love ’em.

I’m not a big salad guy, so choosing an arugula salad for my top 10 list might seem surprising. But when I recall the arugula salad at Valter Nassi’s Cucina Toscana (307 W. Pierpont Ave., 801-328-3463), I start to salivate. The simplicity of this delectable dish is beautiful: The chopped, nut-and-pepper-tasting arugula is topped with nothing more than a spritz of lemon, shaved Parmigiano- Reggiano and—here’s the kicker—acacia honey. It’s an absolutely divine dish at the start or end of a Cucina Toscana dinner.

While not really a salad guy, I am a cheesesteak guy. And my favorite Utah cheesesteak for a while now (I can’t go more than a couple weeks without having one) is at DP Cheesesteaks (1665 W. Town Center Dr., South Jordan, 801-878-8450 and 933 W. 500 North, American Fork, 801-763-0976). Just like in the City of Brotherly Love, a DP cheesesteak begins with shaved rib-eye steak, slathered with Cheez Whiz (accept no substitute!) and served on bread that’s a pretty legitimate stand-in for the holy Amoroso rolls served in Philly. And, you Easterners will appreciate that DPs also sells Tastykakes, birch beer and Herr’s potato chips.

I’ve probably visited Siegfried’s Delicatessen (20 W. 200 South, 801-355- 3891) more often than any other single Utah eatery. And, that’s due in large part to the spaetzle—not quite a dumpling and not quite a noodle, but absolutely essential alongside Siegfried’s schnitzel, brats, schweinshaxen and leberkaese. Easy on the gravy, though.

Want a party in your mouth? Rancho Market’s (2470 S. Redwood Road, 801-466- 8700) “molcajete” is the ticket. A Mexican molcajete is turned upside-down and heated until nearly molten-lava hot, directly over a gas flame. The fiery-hot molcajete is then turned right-side up and a layer of queso asadero is placed into the bottom. It melts immediately, creating a beautiful, brown, cheesy crust. Next, strips of napolitos (cactus), cooked shrimp, chicken and thin strips of beef are placed into the hot molcajete, along with whole charred jalapenos and plump Mexican-style green onions. Finally, the entire thing is topped with thick chunks of cheese and delivered hot enough to cause concern. Olé!

Beehive Cheese Co. (2440 E. 6600 South, Uintah, 801-476-0900) has racked up an astonishing number of prestigious national and international awards for its artisan cheeses, with Beehive’s Barely Buzzed coming out on top over and over again. But my favorite Beehive cheese— one I can’t resist—is the Bandaged Cajun-Rubbed Promontory Cheddar. It’s an Irish-style cheddar—buttery and full-bodied with citrus notes. But add a coating of Cajun spices and you can see why it won second place in the pepper-flavored cheese category at the American Cheese Society annual competition in 2008. It’s hot, so keep some cold beer handy.

I’m astonished to think there was a time when I refused to eat oysters. Now, raw oysters on the half-shell are one of my favorite guilty pleasures. And when I’m in the mood for oysters (which is always), the downtown Market Street Oyster Bar (54 W. Market St., 801-531-6044) is where you’ll find me. After all, what could be more pleasing than fresh-shucked oysters and mignonette?

At Spruce (2100 Frostwood Drive, Park City, 435-647-5566) they take charcuterie seriously. So order a great glass of wine from Spruce’s fantastic wine list and settle in for the Grand Selection: duck rillette, country pork paté, ciccioli, poached veal tongue, duck liver mousse, coppa, chorizo and pig’s ear terrine. Sorry, no vegans allowed.

For dessert, I think I’ll go with handcrafted chocolate from Orem’s Amano Chocolate (496 S. 1325 West, Orem, 801-655- 1996). It doesn’t even matter which chocolate you choose; they’re all spectacular.

Happy eating!

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