Best Small-Town Charm
This lively bar feels like it could be a downtown bar in an Idaho or Wyoming town—where everyone knows one another, the bartenders crack friendly jokes at your expense, and the pool rivalries go back decades. A dog even quietly patrols the place. But The Spot has big-city clout, thanks to its big fridge, which holds a surprising selection of bottled craft beers, including Lagunitas and Omission.
870 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-355-7768
Best Main Street Mirth
Off Broadway Theatre/Laughing Stock Improv
Located in what used to be known as the Rialto, the Off Broadway Theatre retains a vintage Victorian feel with its velvet lounger and crystal chandelier. Without a doubt, this is the place for yukking it up, family-style (not a lot of F-bombs to duck). A number of favorite comedies and musicals are staged here as well as gut-splitting parodies such as the upcoming Peter Pun & the Pirates. The city’s longest-running improv comedy team, Laughing Stock, brings the chortles on weekends.
272 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-355-4628, TheOBT.org
Best Burrito Bowls
Barbacoa Mexican Grill
If you are craving a dose of healthy Tex-Mex-style food, locally owned Barbacoa is the place where you can capture the ingredients of a giant burrito in a bowl—even the flour tortilla on the side, if you want. The beauty of Barbacoa is that you get to choose: Friendly burrito engineers build your meal with your choice of grilled meats, veggies, cheese, lettuce and salsa, all to your exact specifications. The Main Street location, in particular, efficiently handles the hungry lunch crowds in record time.
280 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-746-3798; more locations, EatBarbacoa.com
Best Cheap Drinks
The drinkin’ is not only inexpensive at Willie’s Lounge, it’s practically endless. There are 16 variations on the Mind Eraser alone, from the Dirty Sanchez (tequila, triple sec, Tabasco and soda) to the Statutory Grape (grape vodka, grape schnapps and soda), and even a full menu of mixed beers (the Doggy Style is Squatters’ Provo Girl plus Chasing Tail—sensing a pattern here?). Willie’s daily priced-to-move brews and liquor help fuel legendary karaoke nights, foosball tourneys and roller derby afterparties. Get out of downtown and save a few bucks, possibly at the expense of a few brain cells.
1716 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 866-612-2920, WilliesLounge.net
2. Bongo Lounge
3. Lucky 13
Best Veggies on Bread
Ever since Robin’s Nest made its home on Main Street, it has managed to hold its own. How? The Robin’s Nest sandwiches are utterly distinctive and delicious. Take, for example, its premier vegetarian offering, “The Natural,” which features portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, red onion, spinach, melted Provolone and roasted garlic on ciabatta—obviously not your grandma’s veggie sandwich! Add a serving of orzo pasta and an iced tea, and your body will praise you for your good care and feeding of it.
311 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-466-6378, RobinsNestSLC.com
Best Small Plates
Charlie Perry’s Eva restaurant is one of the warmest, friendliest and most comfortable spots to dine in Salt Lake City. The food isn’t pretentious; it’s just great. And it’s a blast to try an assortment of different small-plate selections—noshing on a little of this and a little of that. The sauteed Brussels sprouts are otherworldly, but we also love the slow-roasted tri-tip bruschetta, shrimp & grits, flash-fried calamari, sauteed snap peas and, well, everything else on the lengthy small-plates menu.
317 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-8447, EvaSLC.com
Best Raw Fish at Midnight
It’s challenging enough finding late-night eateries in Salt Lake City. But finding one that serves sushi and offers a party atmosphere, to boot? Shogun’s got you covered with its Late Night Izakaya, serving up small plates on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (10 p.m. to midnight) and Late Night Happy Hour on Thursday (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and Friday & Saturday (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.). While the restaurant also has a lunch and dinner crowd, its late-night offerings are winning over the bar crowd.
321 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-364-7142, ShogunSLC.com
The Atlantic Cafe
You can almost imagine Édith Piaf in this cafe singing “La Vie en Rose.” The Atlantic oozes Old World charm and intimacy while serving some of the best Balkan and Mediterranean food in town. In addition to pastas, sandwiches, salads, kebabs and cevapi, you simply must keep an eye out for the weekly goulash special, packed with tender meat and potatoes and served with bread. It can fuel you for a marathon as well as warm you on a rainy day. It’s flat-out delicious.
325 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-524-9900, AtlanticCafeMarketSLC.com
Best Daily Specials
With recipes from Roula’s native homeland of Crete, Greece, the daily specials offered at this quaint downtown corner Greek cafe tend to sell out quickly. It is easy to see why “daily specials to match you” is Roula’s motto. Customer favorites like the roast-turkey dinner and the Greek meatball over rice simply melt in your mouth. If you arrive too late to enjoy the lunch special, the souvlaki sticks cooked to order are some of the best in Salt Lake City.
405 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-924-0330, RoulasCafe.com
Best Bygone Amusements
Utah Book & Magazine
If you like old comics, children’s books, science fiction, adult magazines, Life magazines, board games, roller skates, VHS tapes, relics, collectibles and items that defy categorization, this may be your quirky shop. Operated by Peter Marshall, Utah Book & Magazine is packed with more items than likely could be inventoried. However, Marshall’s brain has cataloged every item in the shop, including a few friendly ghosts. This shop is best experienced when you have a minimum of two hours to really soak it in.
327 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-4391
Best Slice of Life
Maxwell's East Coast Eatery
By day, it’s a restaurant for young professionals to meet for lunch in downtown’s historic Boston Building. By evening, it’s a sports bar, and by late night, it’s a jam-packed dance club. But whatever crowd you’re in, you can always count on some of the best New York-style pizza the state has to offer. Maxwell’s traditional, floppy “fat kid” pizza is available by the slice or the huge 20-inch full pie, customizable with a slew of fresh toppings.
357 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-328-0304, MaxwellsECE.com
Best Downtown Comfort Lunch
For over a decade, the eclectic Boston Deli in Exchange Place has been serving made-from-scratch sandwiches, pastas, soups, quiches and salads. The tantalizing lunchtime specials will cure any hunger pang. For example, the turkey platter, at less than $8, serves up fresh oven-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a roll and a drink. That’ll bring some comfort to your stomach, and your wallet.
Boston Building, 9 Exchange Place, Salt Lake City, 801-355-2146, BostonDeli.com
Best Worker-Bee Food
You want to eat like a king but not pay a king’s ransom? For the past 30 years, the Royal Eatery has been a palace of grilled Greek American favorites, ranging from breakfast omelets to lunchtime pastrami burgers, souvlaki and grilled sandwiches—all at reasonable prices. Breakfast items are made to order—the perfect jump-start for many a downtown worker’s day. Just decide what you want to eat and then, like a king, enjoy the prompt friendly service and hold court while people and trains go by.
379 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-4301
Eva’s Bakery is about as close to a French boulangerie as you’re likely to find in Salt Lake City. And owner/chef Charlie Perry (pictured with manager Ruby Johnson) and his crew take pains to create the most authentic French-style baked goods around. To wit, the baguettes at Eva’s Bakery are made from organic flour and taste like they were bought on a Parisian boulevard. They’re light and airy inside, and perfectly crisp outside. Ooh la la!
155 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3942, EvasBakerySLC.com
Best Place to Conspire
Cheers to You
There’s such an intimate feel to this downtown dive bar. You could meet your secret loves here or draw up a top-secret business plan. Lawmakers could plot new liquor laws, and nobody would be the wiser. This is a bar where you can privately sit in a booth and enjoy sipping cheap drinks and—really—nobody needs to know your name. Except when there’s karaoke—on such popular nights as those, after you sing, you’ll be seriously famous.
315 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-575-6400
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