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Restaurant Reviews

10 Best Utah Dishes

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

By Ted Scheffler
Photo by John Taylor // Market Street Oyster Bar
Posted // January 13,2010 -

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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Posted // February 1,2010 at 08:02

Those sound great. I know you do this for a living, but I just wanted to reply with my novice top ten must eats in Utah. Maybe you've tried them, maybe not, but they're all delish to me. They are in no particular order.

The chicken hearts and the little cheese roll puffs at Tucanos

Tasty donuts. There are no donuts better...anywhere, period...personal favorite is the double blueberry and I don't even like blueberries normally, but really any kind is great

The orange peel beef at the Mandarin in Bountiful.

The lobster thai curry soup at Zupas

The hot and sour soup at the Won Won Wok in Saratoga Springs is the best I've ever had. Also, if you like Sushi, their fantasy roll is AMAZING!!!

The shrimp steak at The Maddox in Perry, Utah is original and fantastic. Shrimp chopped and formed into a steak like patty. SOOOO good. Perfect right along side their rolls with raspberry butter.

The best sandwich I could ever dream of you'll find at a place called Spanky's deli in Bountiful. Their 4 meat combo is the biggest baddest sandwich you can find.

At a little pastry shop on 5th south and 2nd east in SLC called Les Madeleines, you'll find a $5 pastry called the Koung Amon. (spelling may be wrong) It is quite simply the best thing you'll eat. It has been spotlighted on food networks the best thing I ever ate as well. Call ahead though or they might be sold out.

For pizza, it must be the Pie. The Mountain of Meat is my personal fave, but compliment it with their original cheese pull-a-part.

The paprika shrimp at The Bayou in downtown SLC is off the hook. I will be looking forward to opening my own Creole/Southern Soul food inspired restaurant in Utah one day, as The Bayou is the only other one I have found and we need more places like this to eat.