Best Mid-Valley Restaurant
Since moving into gorgeous new digs in its Holladay location earlier this year, Cafe Madrid has become even more popular, if that’s possible. Of course, longtime loyal customers of Cafe Madrid know of the warm and caring service provided by owner Gabrielle McAfee’s family and staff. And now, a new bevy of mid-Valley diners are discovering the superb Spanish cuisine offered there—dishes ranging from cold tapas like tosta con sardinas encebolladas and warm ones such as pulpo a la gallega to scrumptious main courses like sea bass with caramelized onions and creamy shrimp sauce. It’s like a quick getaway to España!
5244 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-273-0837, CafeMadrid.net
2. Red Rock Fashion Place
3. Stella Grill
Best Local Beer
Epic Brewing Company
Talk about coming on strong: In 2011, Epic Brewing Company jumped to the No. 2 slot in our Local Beer voting after only a few months in business. Now, the Epic folks have smashed their way to the top of Best of Utah, as well as making splashes at beer festivals across the country—not bad for a little joint on State Street. Unlike most transplanted Californians, Epic co-founders Peter Erickson and David Cole chose to make high-point brew instead of whining about the lack of it in Zion, and, along with brewer Kevin Crompton, they’ve satiated the masses with their Classic, Elevated and always-surprising Exponential series, the latter including killer new entries like the Double Skull Doppelbock lager and the Big Bad Baptist stout, as well as the gluten-free Glutenator. Drink up!
825 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-906-0123, EpicBrewing.com
3. Uinta Brewing
Best Sweet Expansion
Hatch Family Chocolates
Steve Hatch and Katie Masterson’s original Aves chocolate shop (as seen in 12 episodes of TLC’s The Little Chocolatiers reality series) was quaint and cozy, but couldn’t accommodate growing demand for both product and service—the sweets are tasty and acclaimed, but it’s also nice to have some room to enjoy them with friends and, ever the chatterer, Hatch himself. So when Hatch Family Chocolates moved into the old Eighth Ave. Meat & Grocery store in 2011, it didn’t just go big, it went big, inside and out with more seating, some breezy patio space and a couple of extra slots for other businesses. Who needs a reality show?
376 Eighth Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-532-4912, HatchFamilyChocolates.com
Ruby River Steakhouse
Should Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanson ever visit from Pawnee, local chain Ruby River would be the only steakhouse that could satisfy his red-meat lust. The New York-cut, top sirloin, T-bone, rib-eye, steak Oscar and the rest are all cut fresh daily, then seasoned and seared at 1,600 degrees to seal in the flavor and juice; paired with a craft beer from the Ruby River Brewery, you’ve got a premium meal guaranteed a top slot in Ron’s Pyramid of Greatness.
Multiple locations, RubyRiver.com
2. Spencer’s for Steaks & Chops
3. Maddox Ranch House
Best Moab Breakfast Joint
You know you’re up for some tasty morning grub when the restaurant in question does breakfast and breakfast only. Moab’s Jailhouse Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to noon every day, and there’s pretty much a line to get in that entire time. No problem—grab a cup of coffee from the Wicked Brew Drive-Thru across the street, sit on the patio and plan your day, because soon enough, you can delve into one of the house specialties, like ginger pancakes with Dutch apple butter, or a chorizo scramble. Just be sure to order the “soul-food bacon” on the side.
101 N. Main, Moab, 435-259-3900
Best Student-Cooked Dinner
The Savory Palate
When most of us were students, our culinary expertise stopped at figuring out which old condiment found in the fridge bests complements Top Ramen. But at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City in Draper, students learn to cook and serve upscale, contemporary cuisine with worldwide influences. The Savory Palate restaurant, where the students learn to be professional chefs, servers and managers, offers a six-course dinner that will set you back less than 20 bones.
Art Institute of Salt Lake City, 121 W. Election Road, Draper, 801-601-4769, ArtInstitutes.edu/SaltLakeCity
Best Vegan Dishes
Saying “vegan comfort food” might make some meat-loving folks scoff, but Chef Ian Brandt has concocted a diner-like menu of breakfasts, sandwiches and fried faux-meats that are mouth-watering and, well, comforting. And unlike diner food that leaves you with an awful feeling, the fare at Vertical is wholesome—feel-good food. This—plus Vertical’s french fries—is no doubt a key component to the VegNews proclamation in its March/April issue that Salt Lake City is “The Next Great Vegan City.”
2280 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-484-8378, VerticalDiner.com
2. Sage’s Cafe
3. Long Life Veggie House
Best Big-Bite Contest
The next time Guy Fieri is passing through central Utah, he might want to scout out Big Moe’s for Food Network’s Guy’s Big Bite. Big Moe’s has a challenge for masochistic food machos out there: If you can beat the current best time—as outlined on the centrally located chalkboard—of eating a 1-pound hamburger, 2 pounds of fries and drinking a large drink, then glory and fame is yours for the taking. Glory is the $12.99 on the house, and your name stenciled in chalk on the board. The best time in 2011 was just under seven minutes, but the time is reset Jan. 1 of each year.
Big Moe’s, 61 S. 700 East, Price, 435-636-0451
Best “New” O-Town BBQ
Soul & Bones BBQ
There were few ways to improve upon the original Soul & Bones BBQ, which boldly (and rightfully) claims to be “Ogden’s best bar-b-q and Cajun” joint, but Chef “Big” John Dearmin did it with a bigger, better location and a newfound determination following the untimely death of his wife and restaurant co-founder, Jennifer Habel, in June 2011. Soul & Bones’ revamped menu features fried okra and crawfish beignet appetizers, po’boys, etouffee, jambalaya, blackened amberjack and barbecue specialties like St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken, baby back ribs and more. Another new addition is one that separates simple barbecue restaurants from bona fide barbecue joints: live music three nights a week.
2432 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-627-4227, SoulAndBones.com
Best New Local Spirit
Five Wives Vodka
From Ogden’s Own, the distillers who previously brought us the dark and sweet Underground Herbal Spirit, comes a new shot from the other end of the booze spectrum: Five Wives Vodka. The half-and-half wheat/corn distillation is filtered through active carbon and then blended with spring water from Ogden Canyon, making for a smooth, clean finish that belies its low price tag—just $19.99, $10 cheaper than, say, P. Diddy’s celebrity lighter fluid. Even better, Five Wives caused a minor outrage with certain local groups upon release, thanks to its title and label illustration, which is always good for business. Grab some fast; Five Wives is flying off state liquor store shelves.
It can sometimes be tough to find tasty vegan and vegetarian options, but Sage’s Café has been consistently serving Salt Lake City’s veg-heads for more than 12 years. The selective tastes of owners Ian and Kelsey Brandt have cultivated an award-winning organic menu ranging from mushroom escargot to the local-favorite guac-n-roll burger. Sage’s features a cozy outdoor patio, a massive wine and beer list and great eats for picky kids.
473 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3790, SagesCafe.com
2. Vertical Diner
3. Oasis Café