BEST HIDDEN-AWAY CHINESE IN MIDVALE
Royal South Sea Restaurant
“Unassuming” is putting it lightly. This little café is behind what looks to be a residential home on State Street. But your trip up the “driveway” to the paved parking lot will be rewarded with mouthwatering Chinese and Thai dishes—like Szechuan chicken, shrimp in lobster sauce and pad Thai—all served up fresh and piping hot. How does this restaurant make it, you ask? Longtime Midvale restaurateurs Ting and Bo have a loyal seven-days-a-week following of eat-in, take-out and home-delivery patrons. The monster egg rolls should be shared.
7444 S. State, Midvale, 801-352-8888
BEST PORK & POLENTA
The boiled cornmeal that is polenta used to be peasant food, and consumption of cloven-footed swine makes some squeal. But a rare treat awaits those whose dietary requirements allow: Stoneground’s brined, roasted-pork tenderloin accompanied by grilled polenta, creamy Portobello, dried cranberry and red-wine sauce. Pair this dinner entree with a crisp Chardonnay, and there’s not much else to write about in all of creation unless you’d like to finish with Stoneground’s scrumptious tiramisu, a frequent BOU winner itself.
249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-1368, StonegroundSLC.com
| BEST APPETIZERS
OK, if the phrase “sweet potato” gives you the willies, conjuring up images of Aunt Margie’s Crisco- and marshmallow-topped yams at Thanksgiving, it’s understandable if you’ve gone your whole life without so much as glancing at that particular root vegetable. But, ah!, my friend—your eyes will be opened the first time you order sweet-potato fries at The Bayou. No, they’re not sweet sweet, just a little … well, sweet. And you’ll get used to that in a hurry, especially while you’re washing them down with one of the Bayou’s 17,000 varieties of beer, and that’s just counting the ones hailing from the Eastern provinces of Hungary. Good beer. Good appetizers. Go. Now.
645 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-961-8400, UtahBayou.com
2. Red Rock Brewing Co.
Gastronomy Inc. restaurants took the top two places in the seafood category, proving once again that this formidable culinary corporation has clout, not to mention an army of 650 employees. If you’re looking for fresh seafood, flown in daily, this is the place. Market Street sells more than 600 gallons of its famous clam chowder daily, along with 1,000 pounds of fresh fish and an annual tally of 1,200,000 oysters. What helps make the venerable downtown Market Street Grill special is its display kitchen where you can watch master oyster shuckers in action, the black-and-white-checkerboard floors reminiscent of the 1930s, and, of course, an impressive menu featuring Alaskan halibut and salmon, Hawaiian ahi tuna, Maine lobster, oysters from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and much more for the serious seafood lover.
48 West Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-322-4668, GInc.com
2. Oyster Bar
BEST RESURGENT TREAT
Nothing Bundt Cakes
Maybe it’s part of the whole nostalgia baked-goods craze that started with cupcakes. But bundt cakes, the humble hole-in-the-middle treats that got their start in 1950s Minneapolis, are back. April Nielsen opened her Nothing Bundt Cakes store in Sandy last year. And there’s nothing terribly humble about them. The cakes are rich and loaded with butter, eggs, chocolate and every other scratch ingredient you could imagine. Flavors include ever-reliable marble, carrot and red velvet as well as the more exotic pecan praline, white chocolate raspberry and chocolate bliss. Nielsen says the cakes have been popular for birthdays, baby showers and even weddings. Prices range from $3.99 for an individual “bundtlette” to $39.50 for the 18-serving size.
10389 S. State, Sandy, 801-619-3757, NothingBundtCakes.com
BEST CHILI VERDE IN SANDY
Everyone needs four go-to Mexican eateries in this town: The Red Iguana to impress out-of-town guests, the street vendors for a quick snack, Alberto’s or Rancherito’s for a fast-food-style sober-up meal, and finally the best of all: a local neighborhood café where you can count on delicious homestyle food, cozy atmosphere, great service and a relaxed, happy vibe. This is that place in Sandy. Operated by the Quinonez family, serving traditional cuisine from the Chihuahua region of Mexico, it is rumored the owner’s dad actually knew Pancho Villa. Smothered burritos, ribs, shredded-beef enchiladas, chicken suizas and other tempting entrees beckon but no one complains about the heaping portions of chile verde or the green salsa for that matter. iAndale, amigos!
8475 S. State, Sandy, 801-566-4464
The Soup Kitchen
Hearty homestyle soups are the unheralded center piece of our national cuisine. Clam chowder, chicken noodle, cheese brocolli or good, old-fashioned split-pea—these are the names that call us when we smack our lips at the thought of soup for lunch. The Soup Kitchen offers all of these flavors and several others. What makes its slurp-licious products so popular its commitment to quality ingredients and making soup with oodles of flavor. When added to its lunch specials such as sloppy joes, egg-salad sandwiches or their BLT, you have a meal that not only satisfies, but also provides a damned fine, all-American anchor for the rest of the working day.
Multiple locations, SLCSoup.com
2. Big City Soup
BEST AUTENTICO ITALIAN
Rino’s got a good thing going. And he’s had it going on for about 28 years. Gotta be doing something right, eh, paisan? Maybe it’s the fresh vegetables he grows in his own garden, or his delicious red sauce or his homestyle ravioli, or his yummy Lasagne. Or the way he graciously introduces himself welcoming you as you walk in the door. You will feel very comodo at Rino’s. But, be warned… you won’t find a meatball in the place. But then, you probably won’t find one in Italy either. See? Autentico!
2302 Parley’s Way, Salt Lake City, 801-484-0901
Spencer’s For Steaks & Chops
The secret to Spencer’s award-winning steaks is really no secret at all. Simply begin with aged, beautifully marbled, hand-cut USDA prime beef from Chicago’s stockyards, and then sear to perfection—not too slow; not too fast—at temperatures which approximate those of the sun’s surface. You can’t go wrong with the Porterhouse, New York strip, prime rib or Filet Mignon at Spencer’s. But, for our money, it’s the “Spencer Steak,” a juicy, perfectly seasoned 14-ounce ribeye cooked to order, where Spencer’s achieves meaty magnificence. It just doesn’t get any better than the Spencer Steak with a side of house-cut frites, and a bottle of great red wine.
255 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-238-4748, SpencersForSteaksAndChops.com
2. The New Yorker
3. Texas Roadhouse
|BEST BEER GOBLET & SUSHI SHOOTER
O’Shucks & Ahh Sushi
It’s Friday lunchtime, and your boss won’t mind if you had a goblet of beer or two, right? The place to go to get those big-as-your-head beer goblets is O’Shucks and Ahh Sushi. Order plenty of rolls, because every day during the lunch hour, they’re half-price. That leaves more money for beer, and it’s good beer too, like Moab Scorpion Pale Ale. A “must” roll is the Funky Vegas—deep-fried Sushi may not be for the sushi purist, but it tastes so good ... especially with beer.
22 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 358-6770
BEST FANCY DOUGHNUTS
Tucked away off the frontage road north of Ikea in Draper, there’s an amazing little doughnut place. It’s basically fancy icings and toppings on top of classic glazed doughnuts, but the flavors are terrific. Try the Key Lime Crumble with crushed graham cracker on top, plus Nutmeg Dash or Caramel Apple. At press time, the store was about to move to a more easily accessible location; call or check the Website for whether it has become even easier to get a delicious gourmet fix.
12714 S. Pony Express, Draper, 801-809-5791, BeyondGlaze.com
BEST WINE SELECTION
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine
The bedrock of Fleming’s’ prize-winning wine selection is “The Fleming’s 100.” At Fleming’s, you’ll find a selection of 100 award-winning wines available by the glass, hand-picked by Fleming’s wine director Marian Jansen op de Haar. The result is options, options, and more options, from Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne and Luna “Freakout” White, to Onyx South African Syrah and Greg Norman Cabernet. But remember, that’s just the wines by the glass. In addition, Fleming’s offers wine flights which allow customers to sample small pours of various different wines, along with a reserve-bottle list peppered with gems from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austrailia, New Zealand, Chile, the United States ... well, you get the idea.
20 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3704, FlemingsSteakhouse.com
2. Wild Grape
3. The New Yorker
After a morning or entire day of skiing the vast, wide-open terrain of Snowbasin ski resort, cheese fondue just seems mandatory. Well, lots of places offer fondue. But executive chef Eric Byrd of Snowbasin’s Earl’s Lodge and Cinnabar Lounge takes the notion of cheese fondue to a whole new level. Granted, it sounds odd, but he makes his luscious fondue with bleu cheese, melted with a splash of imported Belgian whit beer. The result is divine. And the finishing touch: this silky, sensational fondue is served with thick, crunchy house-cut potato chips. Now that’s fabulous fondue!
Snowbasin Resort, Huntsville, 801-620-1000, Snowbasin.com
Like virtually every Japanese restaurant nowadays, Kyoto has a vibrant sushi bar and all the raw fish and maki rolls you can handle, not to mention traditional homestyle dishes like tonkatsu. But what the gang at Kyoto does better than all the rest is tempura. Granted, it’s hard not to love anything that’s deep-fried in oil. But Kyoto’s tempura seafood (especially the shrimp) and veggies seem downright healthy; the batter is so light and crisp. Now, if only it served frites on the side.
1080 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-3525
Rio Grande Café
Remember when the Rio Grande almost lost its space a few years ago? Or when the Gateway construction threatened to leave it in a literal cloud of dust? This venerable Grande Dame of the near west side has weathered more than its share of storms, but it just keeps on making people happy. Maybe it’s all due to the Purple Lady, the alleged ghost of a jilted woman who jumped in front of a train at the Rio Grande depot. She is said to be responsible for slammed doors, dropped dishes and eerie footsteps in the night. Or, maybe it’s just those killer carnitas that keep longtime customers coming back.
270 S. Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City, 801-364-3302
BEST PORTION CONTROL
Unfortunately, we live in a state where bigger is usually considered better. But that’s not the case at Citris Grill, where super-size portions aren’t forced down customers’ throats. Most of the menu items come in two different sizes: “hearty” and “petite.” We absolutely love that. Because maybe you just have an appetite for a half-order of crab wontons, slow-roasted chipotle babybacks and butternut squash fettuccini—or maybe you really do want the whole magilla. Wine choices are similar: You can get a bottle, a regular pour or a taste. There’s a good word for the customers’ options at Citris Grill: respect.
2991 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-466-1202, CitrisGrill.com
BEST SPECK TELLER
Vienna Bistro’s executive chef and owner—Austrian-born Frody Volgger—couldn’t find any speck teller locally to suit his perfectionist standards. So now, he makes it himself. Speck teller is an Austrian air-dried ham, and it’s fabulous … especially at Vienna Bistro. But then, so is Frody’s bundner teller (air-dried beef), his bundner fleisch, house-smoked trout, homemade wurst, and every other damned thing on Frody’s menu. It’s all about quality control and a commitment to excellence, from the speck to the house-made semmelknudel. He’s Austria’s gift to downtown Salt Lake City.
132 S. Main, 801-322-0334, ViennaBistro.com
BEST BRITNEY SPEARS MEXICAN
The signed photo at the Blue Iguana from Britney Spears says, “The Blue Iguana rocks!” Tucked away in Arrow Press Square, you gotta give Britney props for even finding the place. We don’t know what she ordered, but she certainly had options. The extensive menu ranges from a vast selection of mole dishes and mariscos (seafood) to chile verde and Colorado, carne asada, flautas, a healthy selection of vegetarian items and much more. Britney’s made lots of bad choices, but the Blue Iguana wasn’t one of them.
165 S. West Temple, 801-533-8900, TheBlueIguana.com
The New Yorker
Following an educational trip to the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, The New Yorker’s executive chef Will Pliler came home preaching the classic cocktail gospel, and retrained the restaurant’s bar staff to create classic cocktails from scratch using only freshly made mixes and juices, top-shelf spirits and liqueurs, and time-tested techniques. The result: flawless renditions of timeless drinks such as the Negroni, Cable Car, Ramon Fizz, Old Fashioned, Bellini and Martini. Shaken or stirred; your choice.
60 W. Market St., 801-363-0166, GINC.com
BEST OGDEN BISTRO
In summer, the airy, sun-drenched patio is a lovely place to dine, filled with fresh flowers, shrubbery and good vibes. And in colder weather, Bistro 258 takes on a cozy, warm hue that befits bistro fare like their New York steak dressed with Gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar. Like any authentic bistro, Bistro 258 wasn’t just conjured from the ether on an architect’s table. The restaurant is located in one of Ogden’s oldest historic buildings, and adorned as a true bistro/brasserie should be, with a marvelous antique wooden bar and beautiful brasserie-style mirrors. It’s just a little slice of Paris in Ogden.
258 25th St., Ogden, 801-394-1595
BEST MEXICAN SEAFOOD
Hector’s Miramar Restaurant
Too bad so many people stop at beef burritos when ordering Mexican food. Besides the rich traditions of moles and sauces, Mexico lays claim to thousands of miles of coastline that contribute to its lesser-known (at least around here) tradition of excellent seafood creations. There’s plenty of Mexican seafood on the valley’s west side, but why drive when you can go to Miramar on 1300 South? Miramar was the first local restaurant to specialize in a tasty Mexican seafood dishes including camarones in green salsa, fish tacos, ceviche, ajo in garlic sauce, oyster and octopus plates, plus an excellent fish soup. Not feeling fishy? Don’t worry, they’ve got you covered.
342 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-484-5737
BEST SPANAKOPITA TWIST
Too much spanakopita served in these parts often comes in two versions: too much feta or too much spinach. Not to mention that it can be mistaken for a masonry brick. Not at Eva’s. Though brand spanking new, if their salads and spanakopita are any indication, they’ll be around for quite some time. Spanakopita at Eva’s didn’t come from Yiayia’s ancient-memory recipe. It’s served in a tight coil, for starters, like you might find in a restaurant in the core of Athens. But the surprise is they defy Yiayia, placing their twist of spinach and fillo on a bed of pureed poblano peppers doused with a balsamic vinaigrette sauce. If only the Greeks had thought of that.
317 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-8447
BEST SUSHI BARGAIN BY DAY
Maybe not all day, but from 2-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, Tsunami puts the full assault on high prices at all of their locations (they recently opened a third location in River Park). Now people who are too often sticker-shocked at the price of sushi can choose from an array of Japanese classics, including their award-winning rolls (the Sugar House, Cococabana or Tokyo Cowboy for example). At happy-hour prices or not, Tsunami also excels at small-plate offerings, donburi dishes and its popular bento boxes.
2223 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-467-5545; 7638 S. Union Park Drive, Midvale, 801-676-6466; 10722 S. Riverfront Parkway, South Jordan, 801-748-1178
BEST SUSHI BARGAIN BY NIGHT
On certain late nights, Shogun in downtown Salt Lake is the place to be if you have the dual hankering for sushi and savings. Featuring a reduced menu with all rolls priced at just $6, Shogun is packed—particularly with the young at heart—from 11 p.m. to closing at 2 a.m. While you won’t find to