Choosing where to eat out isn’t always a simple matter, no matter where you live. You might know immediately where you’d go for your favorite delectable appetizer, but what about the salad that other restaurant has? And the killer entree at another place entirely? And the dessert at ... you get the picture.
But if you’re going to dream of a perfect meal, why imagine you have to sit down in one place? Limited only by their hearts’ desires, City Weekly contributors constructed multicourse meals from their favorite dishes at individual restaurants—a sort of hypothetical “dinner crawl.”
Downtown Salt Lake City: Carnivore’s Delight
By Kolbie Stonehocker
I’d start off at Sala Thai Kitchen (677 S. 200 West, 801-328-2499, SalaThaiKitchen.com) for a big, steaming bowl of tom kha gai. This fragrant, flavorful soup made with coconut milk, lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and veggies is the perfect pick-me-up on a cold, drizzly day.
Digging into an appetizer, I’d satisfy my meat tooth with an order of Plum Alley’s (111 E. 300 South, 801-355-0543, PlumAlley.com) sweet and sticky chicken wings. These hefty (with the “drummie” attached) wings get their bold flavor from a 12-hour brine, as well as a zesty palm-sugar chili glaze that will have you licking your fingers and reaching for the ice water.
For a second appetizer, I’d sink my teeth into the azekura at Takashi (18 Market St. [340 South], 801-519-9595). Japanese for “beef tower of awesome” (not an exact translation), this dish is a carefully built stack of perfectly crispy veggie tempura (asparagus, portobello mushrooms) and juicy, medium-well steak, served with a sweet teriyaki sauce and paper-thin slices of cucumber. Grabbing a piece of meat with your chopsticks while trying not to topple the entire tower will be the most delicious game of Jenga you’ll ever play.
Next, it’s time for a noodle course, and a date with some of the tastiest pad thai in Salt Lake City, from Sawadee (754 E. South Temple, 801-328-8424, Sawadee1.com). Truly great pad thai requires the perfect ratio between noodles and sweet tamarind sauce, and this beautiful restaurant hits it right on the nose: not too dry, with just the right amount of “sauciness.” Served in a delicious heap with scallions, scrambled egg, chicken, shrimp and lime wedges, this pad thai is served on a plate so large I always have enough for lunch the next day.
For an entree, The Copper Onion’s (111 E. 300 South, 801-355-3282, TheCopperOnion.com) meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. Made with a blend of Pleasant Creek Ranch beef, pork and lamb, this is a sophisticated take on the classic dish, perfectly seasoned and never dry. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon alongside hits all the right notes.
For dessert, I’d savor a decadent slice of reine de Saba cake from Les Madeleines (216 E. 500 South, 801-355-2294, Les-Madeleines.com). French for “queen of Sheba,” this aptly named cake is fit for royalty, made with rich Valrhona chocolate and amaretto. While fantasizing about my dream castle in the countryside, I’d pair this flawless confection with a cup of jasmine tea while attempting (in vain) to not gobble it right down.
Ogden: Boundless Breakfast
By Dan Nailen
I went to high school in Ogden, and my parents have lived there for the 20-plus years since, so I’ve spent some quality time with our neighbors to the north. And much of that time has been in the a.m., and almost inevitably on Historic 25th Street, for family meet-ups over eggs and coffee.
You can find quality grub in all corners of Ogden and the surrounding towns, but just strolling on 25th Street, you can put together the kind of satisfying early start that fills the belly, while leaving plenty of day to try to burn off at least a smidge—or make it to another late night out.
For starters, you have to have a good cup of Joe in hand, and Grounds for Coffee (111 25th St., 801-392-7370, Facebook.com/ 25thGFC) delivers. There’s food at the sweet little spot, housed underneath a Bikram yoga studio, but save your appetite while you savor the java. It has all your mochas, lattes and whatnot, but the straight stuff does me right.
Then it’s time to make the street into a massive brunch buffet. I’m going to start with a light and incredibly flavorful egg dish on my plate: the chorizo cactus scramble from the Two-Bit Street Café (126 25th St., 801-393-1225, TwoBitStreet.com). The blend of the Spanish sausage with pickled cactus by the name of nopalito—along with veggies, potatoes, cheese and eggs—is something I’ve never seen or tasted elsewhere in Ogden, and worth a stop at the Two-Bit even if you don’t peruse the rest of the menu (which you totally should). Some of Two-Bit’s latkes are going on the plate, too; they’re served with applesauce, chili sauce and sour cream.
For breakfast side dishes to accompany my scramble, I’m going to the Southern flavors of Karen’s Café (195 25th St., 801-392-0345). And I am loading up—you can make a mean breakfast just from the tasty sides menu at Karen’s. Bacon, of course, along with grits and the must-get housemade biscuits and mouth-watering gravy—pretty bold to put “mouth-watering” right on your menu, but it’s true; these biscuits are not to be doubted.
All the spicy, salty goodness from the sausage and bacon needs something sweet as a meal-capping dessert. That’s where Rooster’s Brewing Co. (253 25th St., 801-627-6171, RoostersBrewingCo.com) comes into play with the Kahlua waffle, served with fresh fruit and caramel sauce. That’s right—Kahlua and caramel sauce. And you really do want both.
West Side: Four Continents, One Plate
By Joe Beatty
Cross into the Ws on the street signs, and you’ll be waist-deep in Utah’s melting pot of diverse flavors.
We’ll start our evening with an appetizer of a South American variety at Chilean Taste (3411 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City, 385-202-7051). The chorrillana is a nice finger-licker combo of fries, beef, sausage, onions and fried eggs.
Now that our taste buds are properly calibrated, we head over to African Restaurant (1878 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, AfricanRestaurant.org). The name might sound all-encompassing, but it’s actually just Ethiopian food, so apologies to Namibian-cuisine connoisseurs. We’ll have a nice basket of budenaa (aka injera), a spongy flatbread that is the lifeblood of the Ethiopian palate. You can find dud versions of the stuff elsewhere, but at African, everyone will be grabbing for pieces.
So far we’ve hit two continents; how ’bout a third? Pipa (118 N. 900 West, Salt Lake City, 801-326-3639), an Asian-fusion tapas spot with a techno-anime vibe, beckons. We’re going to try the Siamese shark fillet, steamed in ginger and scallion soy sauce. Don’t despair—it’s not actually shark, but a kind of catfish. It’s also a kind of awesome, and even better when washed down with one of Pipa’s many sake varieties.
Alongside the fish small plate, we’ll have a steaming cauldron of tofu soup (sundubu jjigae) at Myung Ga (3353 S. Decker Lake Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-953-0478). There are a few variations of this classic Korean dish available to try, but the seafood version is where it’s at. The soup is hot two ways, coming out bubbling as well as kicking from the chili powder. An egg is plopped in at the last second.
Now that we have completely cleared the sinuses, let’s move on to the main dish. For that, we’ll head west on Interstate 80 to Bonneville Brewery (1641 N. Main, Tooele, 435-248-0652) in Tooele. The Cowboy burger is a big beast of beef, Hefeweizen-battered onion rings, cheese and barbecue sauce. It pairs nicely with a Landspeed Lager, named for the record-setting “cars” that zip around on the nearby flats.
Let’s burn a few calories on a walk over to West Jordan for dessert at The Chocolate (9118 S. Redwood Road, 801-566-5330, TheChocolateDC.com). There are non-chocolate things there, too, but don’t be silly. A slice of The Brooklyn Blackout is a fitting way to enter the oncoming food coma. This is chocolate cake with dark-chocolate filling and dark-chocolate frosting—totally puts the “the” in The Chocolate.
Park City: Gourmet Gluttony by the Fire
By Rachel Piper
Just over the mountains from Salt Lake City is Park City, the perfect staycation location for locals. But since I don’t have money to burn, most of my budget usually goes toward lodging, leaving me with enough dough for maybe one dinner out. But if money, stomach size and hilly Main Street weren’t factors, I’d load a plate with Park City’s finest cuisine—and have it airlifted back to the lodge to enjoy as I sit near the fire, wearing a knitted sweater and watching the snow fall outside.
I’d prime for my meal with a tasting flight of High West Distillery (703 Park Ave., 435-649-8300, HighWest.com) whiskeys. In my dream scenario, liquor laws don’t apply since I’m having them back at the lodge, so I’d have four of their .5-ounce samplers, neat, in front of me. (Dining alone in real life, I’d be allowed only two at a time.)
After I’m glowing and warm inside, I’ll dive into a plate of shrimp ceviche from El Chubasco (1890 Bonanza Drive, 435-645-9114, ElChubascoMexicanGrill.com)—a relatively light and healthy start to a meal, with lots of chunks of shrimp, plus onions, peppers, mango and onions. It’s perfectly sweet and spicy for piling onto El Chubasco’s warm, crispy tortilla chips.
One can never have too many snacky appetizers in front of the fire, so I’d follow that up with the mujadarah from Reef’s Restaurant (710 Main, 435-658-0323, ReefsRestaurant.com)—a warm, comforting melange of rice, lentils, caramelized onions, cumin and Saigon cinnamon.
Now that my stomach has fully expanded, I’ll take on the 12-ounce Prime rib from Grub Steak Restaurant (2093 Sidewinder Drive, 435-649-8060, GrubSteakRestaurant.com). There’s no meal more befitting of an Old West town than a juicy cut of beef, especially when it’s been slow-roasted for 18 hours.
And to keep my heart happy, I’d have some asparagus from Talisker on Main (515 Main, 435-658-5479, TaliskerOnMain.com) on the side—simple yet exquisite, served with lemon juice and olive oil. And though I’m not sure how well it pairs with steak, the jalapeño cream ale from Wasatch Brewpub (250 Main, 435-649-0900, WasatchBeers.com) is one of my favorites—crisp and spicy, but with a smooth finish.
Dessert is really what I’ve been looking forward to. Since choosing the entire dessert bar at Deer Valley’s Seafood Buffet is probably cheating, I’ll focus on Chimayo’s (368 Main, 435-649-6222, ChimayoRestaurant.com) chocolate tres leches cake—a moist, spongy cake with a mocha kick.
And since I always crave a little something extra a few hours after a meal, and I plan to be up reading by the fire for a while, I’ll tuck away the gourmet s’mores from the Escala Provisions Company (3551 N. Escala Court, 435-940-1234, EscalaLodge.Hyatt.com), in the Park City Hyatt—graham crackers, marshmallow and top-quality chocolate, blowtorched till toasty in a mess-free Mason jar.
Creamy Goodness in Every Course
By Eric S. Peterson
This culinary jaunt begins at the amazing Black Sheep Cafe (19 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-607-2485, Facebook.com/BlackSheepCafe), home to authentic Navajo/fusion cuisine. The ideal appetizer here—and perhaps in all Utah County—is the exquisite green-chile stew, made from fire-roasted peppers, braised veggies, slow-cooked pork and roasted sweet-corn pico de gallo. It even comes with a tasty slice of frybread for sopping up the chile goodness.
For another fancy starter, head on over to Communal (102 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-373-8000), where long tables make for a unique shared dining experience. Of course, just because you may meet strangers at your table doesn’t mean you have to share anything with them, especially not Communal’s fancy take on mac & cheese. This sumptuous side features English peas and Tasso ham.
For the main course, trek north up the road a bit to Orem and to the miraculous Mexican menu at Milagros (970 W. 800 North, Orem, 801-655-1555, MilagrosUtah.com). True, this is a very Americanized menu, but it does not disappoint, especially Barry’s pollo fundido, which is a well-seasoned chicken breast wrapped in a tortilla, baked and then doused in creamy fundido sauce: a mix of cream cheese, Monterey Jack, sour cream, cheddar, peppers and spices. It’s chicken gift-wrapped in awesome and smothered in yes!
For dessert, ramble back down to Provo and make your way to the BYU Creamery (Multiple locations, BYU.edu/Creamery), the paragon of ice cream excellence in a county that prides itself on having more ice cream parlors than bars by a hefty margin. The creameries use local ingredients in their numerous flavors, which range from the traditional—mint brownie and chocolate chip cookie dough—to more unique combos, like banana fudge, strawberry sundae crunch or the popular German chocolate crunch, which comes with delicious nuggets of chocolate brownie swirled inside. Ice cream serving sizes range from 8-ounce cups—perfect for sharing on a date night—to 3-gallon buckets, perfect for taking home for a sweatpants & self-loathing night.
Logan: Familiar Flavors & New Sensations
By Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin
When putting together a perfect meal in Logan, one of the surprises is that brands that are popular along the Wasatch Front, like Caffe Ibis coffee and Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread, actually have their home bases in the Cache Valley.
For an appetizer, stop by Crumb Brothers Café (291 S. 300 West, 435-792-6063, CrumbBrothers.com) and grab a slice of one of the 15 different breads baked there—soon to be more, as Crumb Brothers is ceasing its distribution to the Salt Lake Valley to concentrate on creating more kinds of bread. Unique options include Polenta Jack, featuring Monterey Jack cheese rolled in polenta dough, and Decker five-seed, with the quintet in the name being sunflower, flax, poppy, sesame and pumpkin. The cafe offers plenty of options for what to put on the bread or dip it in, including the interesting local flavor of sweet Slide Ridge (475 E. 250 South, Mendon, 435-752-4956, SlideRidge.com) honey-wine vinegar. By the way, if you want to separate those two tastes, Slide Ridge also sells raw honey, and the Slide Ridge Winery released its first vintage in 2012.
For the soup/salad course, swing by Cafe Sabor (600 W. Center St., 435-752-8088, CafeSabor.com) in the historic train depot for a Mexican take on a traditional combination as roasted-tomato soup meets up with a grilled-cheese quesadilla.
The main course is found at The Elements (35 E. 640 South, 435-750-5171, TheElementsRestaurant.com), where you can sit on a deck overlooking a river. Although the diverse menu has everything from a meatball wood-fired pizza to lobster ravioli to cola-glazed meatloaf, it’s hard not to go with one of the steak options. The wood-fired chateaubriand with merlot butter is a melt-in-your-mouth meat experience.
For dessert, you’ll want to soak up some Logan history at The Bluebird Restaurant (19 N. Main, 435-752-3155), which first opened on Main Street in 1914. The highlight is the imported marble soda fountain, which serves up the Teddy Bear sundae: ice cream, Oreos, whipped cream and cherries put together into the shape of its name.
There’s nothing better than finishing off a terrific meal with a cup of great coffee, and Caffe Ibis (52 Federal Ave., 435-753-4777, CaffeIbis.com), which has been roasting coffee in northern Utah since 1976, has reached perfection with the Highlander Grogg and its hint of liqueur essence.
Southern Utah: Far-flung Fancy Fare
By Joe Beatty
We’re in for a busy evening, so it’s best to relax with a brew before chowing down. One of the more scenic and diverse-of-beer spots is the Lift Lounge in Brian Head (314 Hunter Ridge Drive, 435-677-9000). There’s a huge outdoor patio for summer sipping and plenty of seats inside for the ski crowd. The alpine air has worked up quite the appetite, so down the mountain we go ...
Considering the cultured crowd that Cedar City attracts, it’s not surprising that the most popular food destinations are in old houses near Southern Utah University, like The Garden House (164 S. 100 West, Cedar City, 435-586-6110), where we’ll begin our meal with the baked brie. The soft French cheese is wrapped in phyllo, baked and served with cranberry chutney and crackers. It’s a tasty appetizer that won’t fill you up.
Sorry, Shakespeare, we’re skipping town before curtain and motorcycling to Richfield for the spinach salad at Sagebrush Grill (1345 S. 350 West, Richfield, 435-896-4444, SagebrushGrillUtah.com). A colorful way to get some veggies in, it’s topped with a house mango vinaigrette that gives a little kick.
But enough healthy stuff; it’s main-course time at Eddie McStiff’s (57 S. Main, Moab, 435-259-2337, EddieMcStiffs.com), Moab’s cavernous brewpub institution. An 8-ounce flat-iron marinated in Cuban spices and topped with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette, the Mojo (“mo-ho”) steak is a little powder keg of a main dish. For our two included sides, let’s go with the cowboy beans and the mashed potatoes—Edward Abbey would be proud.
Leaving Canyon Country, we zip southwest to St. George and cozy up to a slice of sour-cream lemon pie at Croshaw’s Pies (175 W. 900 South, 435-628-1700, CroshawPies.net). For what the place lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in baking. The sour-cream lemon is this little restaurant’s signature dessert, but there are 33 other kinds to choose from, including sugar-free varieties.
Following the sugar high, how about a nightcap? Jetpacking all the way to the other corner of the state, we end our journey at the San Juan Inn (U.S. 163 and Old Bridge, 435-683-2220, SanJuanInn.net) in Mexican Hat. Holding a rare southeast Utah liquor license and some authentic Navajo recipes, this historic spot overlooks the river and serves as the perfect place to unwind while traveling in the Monument Valley area.
Salt Lake City’s East Bench: Eats From Around the World
By Dan Nailen
The west side of the Salt Lake Valley has the well-deserved reputation of being a hotbed for various ethnic cuisines. The east side of the valley, though, has more than its fair share of international flavor. The countries represented in my east-side dream meal might not always see eye to eye at the United Nations, but they can all fit on my plate.
I start with appetizers from Aristo’s (224 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-581-0888, AristosRestaurant.com), probably my favorite Greek place in Utah. I can’t stop there without getting into the orektika, a three-spread sampler served with pita bread, cucumber slices and olives. All the spreads are amazing, and I go for the kafteri (an addictive mix of roasted Macedonian peppers, feta cheese and cayenne pepper), along with the hummus & skordalia, a blend of “garlic, garlic and more garlic.” It’s not exactly ideal date food, but it’s incredibly tasty. You can’t skip the mithia ouzo, either, so, thankfully, the black-shell mussels steamed with ouzo, scallions, garlic, shaved fennel and feta are relatively light.
The pommes frites at The Paris (1500 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-486-5585, TheParis.net) have a spot on the plate alongside the appetizers. They are no ordinary fries, and they’re worth a quick stop to sit at the zinc bar and sip a cocktail or glass of wine. And as long as this is a dream meal with no thought to the stomach-expanding aspects of my plate, let’s go ahead and add the escargots classique on the side. You might not think you like snails, but these succulent guys served with a cognac, tarragon and garlic butter will change your mind.
For my main dish, I’m going to keep it on the lighter side and bring in some Mexican flavors courtesy of Taqueria 27 (1615 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, 385-259-0712, Taqueria27.com). It’s listed as a “starter” on the menu, but I can’t get enough of the duck-confit quesadilla, full of roasted veggies, chipotle crema, cheese and that distinct duck flavor. You can get the duck confit in a taco, too, but I’m going to have the P.B.L.T.A. tacos instead—filled with pork belly, lettuce, tomato, avocado and jalapeño mayo. It’s far from a typical street taco, and hard to beat for pork lovers.
That’s a lot of food, sure, but we’re not stopping without dessert and a cocktail. And for those, I bring in the Spanish flair of Finca (1291 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-487-0699, FincaSLC.com). For my palate, a Bulleit Rye fits the bill every time, and should work just fine with the flan, a cinnamon-flavored custard served with caramel and including just a hint of lime. Creamy and cool, it’s a perfect ending to a great meal.
South Salt Lake: Foodsta’s Paradise
By Bill Frost
Contrary to what you may have heard or smelled, the ‘hood of South Salt Lake (aka SoSaLa, or West Sugar House) has a tasty array of eateries—all within a few blocks of one another.
Myself, I’d start light with a straight-up pepperoni pie from Rusted Sun Pizzeria (2010 S. State, 801-483-2120, RustedSunPizzeriaUT.com); it has more elaborate pizzas, but even the simplest Rusted Sun selection beats most joints’ specialties. Throw in a salad, just for health’s sake.
A couple of blocks north on State Street, longtime local sandwich shop Grinders 13 (1618 S. State, 801-467-3676, Grinders13.com) is home to some of the most delicious stacks of meat in town. A 6-inch classic Italian (salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, oil, vinegar, lettuce and mayo) is my sandwich of choice.
Nothing washes down an Italian like a fat garlic burger and a cold beer, and the Busy Bee Bar & Grill (2115 S. State, 801-466-0950) serves up a legitimately legendary one—burger, not beer—on toast, not a bun. A real daredevil pairs it with a basket of the Busy Bee’s garlic fries; I’ve tried it before, and I can still taste it.
No meat sweats yet, so off to Pat’s Barbecue (155 W. Commonwealth Ave., 801-485-5963, PatsBBQ.com) for some burnt ends—as long as it’s Friday. Pat’s weekly brisket-tips special usually has folks lined up out the door when the “Open” sign goes up (11 a.m.), and they’re definitely worth skipping breakfast for.
Heading west on the meat quest: Peruvian restaurant Del Mar al Lago (310 Bugatti Drive, 801-467-2890, DelMarAlLago.com) nails ceviche and seafood, but the lomo saltado, a dish filled with marinated beef strips with stir-fried onions and tomatoes served over french fries, is the order to beat. Del Mar al Lago also has a full bar and wine list, which helps make the soccer on the handful of overhead TVs tolerable.
For dessert, Penny Ann’s Cafe (1810 S. Main, 801-935-4760, PennyAnnsCafe.com) features a sugar-coma-inducing spread of sweets, including floats, milkshakes, cakes and cookies—but the dozen-odd varieties of pie really should be as famous as the proprietors claim. Trad flavors like banana cream and Key lime mingle with more out-there concoctions like chocolate peanut butter and Kentucky bourbon, and you can go à la mode for just a buck more. The salad earlier was a good call.