I figure that, over the years, I've written some 800—give or take—restaurant reviews for City Weekly. And, for the annual Dining Guide, I'm asked to name my favorite 100. With close to 1,800 restaurants in our listings at CityWeekly.net, that means there are about a thousand I haven't covered—probably haven't even been to yet.
So, if your favorite restaurant isn't in my Top 100, it simply may be because I've yet to visit it. Or, it just may be that I haven't visited the restaurant lately. There are about 25 restaurants in last year's Top 100 that didn't make it this year. Some closed. But in the main, they simply dropped off because it had been too long since I'd been back in to eat. So, how could they truthfully be my “favorites?”
My favorite restaurants are exactly that: favorites. They are not necessarily the best restaurants. Some are dives, others are opulent. These are merely the places that I like to frequent when I'm off-duty and on my own dime, when City Weekly isn't covering my expenses—places I'd recommend to friends.
As I always like to say with regard to dining out: Your mileage may vary. Restaurant criticism isn't a science. At best, it's an art. But with that in mind, this year we're trying something new. We asked City Weekly Club Fed members and other readers for comments about their favorite restaurants. It's unscientific, for sure, but we wanted to know which restaurants were your faves. Many coincided with mine. In those cases, we've included your comments in the Top 100.
In cases where your favorite restaurants weren't in the Top 100, we've sprinkled comments about them throughout my list. Thanks to everyone who participated. In the end, though, the Top 100 is simply a listing of restaurants I like and that I recommend—nothing more. Fair enough?
New this year to the Dining Guide is my choice for Restaurant of the Year. Again, I'm not christening it best Utah restaurant or naming a best chef. For reasons you'll see, I've chosen this particular restaurant for achievements against long odds.
Enjoy the Dining Guide. I hope it's useful. Mangia!
Superb service. Appealing ambiance. Fantastic food. These are the components of any great restaurant. But they are merely necessary, not sufficient. After all, there are many Utah restaurants that meet these criteria. So, what separates Forage from the rest?
Well, for one thing, Forage is still in business. That may sound underwhelming, but Forage has pulled off something that no other Utah restaurant I can think of has: Customers are offered only two dining options—a three-course fixed price menu and a lengthier chef's tasting menu. That's two prices, two menus—nothing a la carte, and then, very challenging food, to boot. So, if for no other reason, Forage is my choice for Restaurant of the Year just for surviving in an already difficult economic environment.
Dining at Forage is an experience and an adventure. There is nothing mundane about it. The food is precise, experimental and exciting. The service is utterly professional. The wine list is appealing. The creation and execution of dishes such as confit of wild ono, cinnamon-smoked duck with potato-pine puree, elderflower semifreddo and crisp pork shoulder with truffled puree takes chops. It's crystal clear at Forage that food is the emphasis—it's the star. The small dining space itself is clean and uncluttered; there's almost nothing, including wall art or music, to distract from the dining experience. This isn't dinner and a show; dinner is the show.
And so, that this one-of-a-kind restaurant has thrived for over a year on the Salt Lake dining scene—when this sort of place would have a hard row to hoe even in New York or San Francisco—makes it my choice for Restaurant of the Year.
370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-708-7834, ForageRestaurant.com
350 Main New American Brasserie
For more than two decades, 350 Main chef Michael LeClerc has been cooking his way through some of the finest restaurants on the planet. So, we're fortunate to have him land in Park City, where his global influences show up in dishes such as ono-ono (Pacific ono served two ways), black sesame sea scallops, spicy barbecued tempeh and black pepper-crusted venison medallions. For the health conscious, 350 also offers a vitamin- and antioxidant-rich/low-fat, low-calorie “Sante” menu. A tempting list of specialty martinis and strong wine selection rounds out the 350 Main experience nicely.
350 Main, Park City, 435-649-3140, 350Main.com
At Snowbird's Aerie restaurant, nature and natural flavors form a delicious team. As if the breathtaking mountain views from The Aerie's lounge and dining room weren't enough, executive chef Fernando Soberanis has created a dining experience to match the stellar scenery and ambiance. The sushi bar in the lounge is the perfect place to indulge in the sushi team's extraordinary seafood creations, while the dining-room menu features an eclectic mix of dishes such as pan-seared foie gras, salmon tartar, guava and passion fruit-glazed Kurobota pork ribs and Jamaican jerk chicken. Service at the Aerie is excellent under general manager Mo Salimi's watchful eye and the 850-plus selection wine list—A Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner—holds many hidden treasures.
Cliff Lodge, Highway 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Snowbird, 801-933-2160, Snowbird.com
African Market & Restaurant
The African Restaurant menu is filled with exotic-sounding Ethiopian-influenced dishes like ashaakiltii, misira, shiro, handaanqoo, waaddii and raafuu. Everything is house-made and served in a friendly, family-style atmosphere. Chances are your hostess for the evening will be an Ethiopian woman named Bulane, who's also chef/owner/server. She does everything, and remarkably well. The African Restaurant menu features a number of vegetarian dishes and a good way to sample them is to order the vegetarian combo plate called Wal-Maka. Meals at African Restaurant come served on large disks of spongy, East African-style flat bread called budenaa. It's made from taafii flour and is very similar to the ingeera served at many Ethiopian restaurants. This is a terrific choice for a fun, friendly, inexpensive and exotic dining change of pace.
1878 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, 801-978-9673
Aristo's Greek Restaurant
When Aristides Boutsikakis opened Aristo's Greek Restaurant & Café, I didn't think it would last, frankly. The menu seems too exotic, with unpronounceable dishes like keftethes, pikilia, taramosalata, melizanosalata and boureki. But Aristo's won me and many others over, serving no-compromise Greek cuisine in a setting that makes you feel like you're in the Mediterranean. And yes, they also have gyros.
224 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-581-0888, AristosGreekRestaurant.com
Readers Shout Out:
Gene: Sure there are lots of places in town that sell gyros and souvlaki. But how many really make Greek food? The answer is one: Aristo's. For people who have been to Greece, this is the place they want to eat. There's so much more to Greek food besides Gyros! We love everything on the Aristo menu but especially the mezedakia. It reminds us of being in Greece.
Bambara chef Nathan Powers may be soft-spoken—even a bit shy—but his cooking cranks up the volume. Innovative dishes like lavender-grilled Hawaiian tuna, goat-cheese gnocchi and his signature steak with herbed frites keep both locals and visitors to the Hotel Monaco happy and well fed. The service and ambiance at this recently renovated restaurant is second to none. And, with its full-exhibition kitchen, you'll be able to enjoy dinner and a show at Bambara.
202 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-363-5454, Bambara-SLC.com
“Scratch food” is what Bayleaf Café owner and chef Seth Radford calls his cooking. “Everything is made from scratch, every day,” he says. Sure tastes like it. Much of what you'll find on the menu consists of recipes handed down from grandparents and great-grandparents. The meatloaf, for example, is the same recipe Radford's great-great-grandmother used, and it's spectacular—in the way that only comfort food can be spectacular. But then, the same can be said for the catfish po' boy, barbecued shrimp with cheese grits, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, hoppin' John, and just about everything else on the Southern-inspired menu.
159 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-8490, Bayleaf-Cafe.com
The Bayou owner Mark Alston also operates The Beer Nut, one of Utah's leading homebrew supply stores. There's nothing this guy doesn't know about beer. In my mind, he's Utah's beer ambassador. So, serious beer aficionados from out of town wouldn't even think of visiting Salt Lake City without making a stop here. There's a reason that The Bayou has come to be known as “beervana”—200 bottled beers and over 30 more on tap has a lot to do with it. Add to that great Southern-style cooking, live music, pool tables and more and you've got a recipe for success—or maybe … excess.
645 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-961-8400, UtahBayou.com
In 2008, Amparo Alam was crowned Grand Prize Winner of Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown, a TV cooking show hosted by the ubiquitous Guy Fieri. Alam's Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken with fried yucca root beat out all others in the nationwide recipe contest. Well, you don't have to travel far—just out to Syracuse—to taste that award-winning chicken. The cuisine at Café Limon is a mix of Peruvian and American fare, with a menu that combines really good burgers with more exotic dishes such as lomo saltado (jumping beef), crispy yucca fries, or the delicious slow-roasted pork sandwich with choice of Peruvian sauce. The warm, family-style hospitality at Café Limon is award worthy itself.
973 W. 1700 South, Syracuse, 801-825-0219
I was lucky enough to be able to live in Spain for a few years, so I'm picky about my Spanish food. But, I love the cozy, yet classy ambiance of Café Madrid and the food here, not to mention the service. Owners Todd and Gabrielle McAfee and her brother J.C. Pino make every customer feel like family. There's literally no warmer restaurant in town that I know of. So, when I'm in the mood for tortilla Española, esparragos trigueros al ail-oli or pierna de cordero guisada, I make my way to Café Madrid. The only thing missing is flamenco dancers, but Gabrielle is so accommodating she might just do that for you as well, if you ask.
2080 E. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-273-0837, CafeMadrid.net
Featuring Italian cuisine inspired by the Molise region of south-central Italy, Caffe Molise has been putting smiles on faces of locals and visitors alike for many years now. From antipasti and insalate to piatti and panini, chef/owner Fred Moesinger tempts customers with delightful dishes such as his bruschetta misto, polenta con funghi, orecchiette al salsiccia and gnocchi di patate, all supplemented by an ambitious selection of Italian and domestic wines. During warm weather, the outside pocket-park patio is a popular dinner spot, and the John Flanders jazz trio brings in the crowds on Fridays.
55 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-8833, CaffeMolise.com
For casual, contemporary Italian-inspired cuisine, Café Trio is hard to beat—either the original downtown location, or the bigger space out in Cottonwood. In warm weather, it's hard to top either Café Trio location for al fresco dining, where patios are typically bustling with energy. The look of Café Trio restaurants is hip and slick, but the food has more rustic roots. Grilled flatbreads, tasty salads like the panzanella, pizzas, pastas and entrees such as roasted chicken and Niman Ranch Prime steak all are treated with traditional respect, while at the same time given modern twists such as truffle oil or citrus vinaigrette. At Café Trio, it's the best of both worlds: old and new.
680 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-533-8746; 6405 S. 3000 East, Salt Lake City, 801-944-8746, TrioDining.com
Chanon Thai Café
Thai cuisine at this funky, friendly, comfy little café is truly authentic, particularly when it comes to the heat scale. Order a dish of gang massaman curry spicy, and it will be spicy. Seriously. The Duck Fantasy is also superb, and a spring roll-wrapped fried banana with homemade ice cream provides a delicious finish to a meal.
278 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-532-1177
Readers Shout Out:
Melissa: When I'm looking for a cheap curry fix, I head to Chanon Thai Cafe. The family who runs this place is super sweet, even tolerating my messy toddler throwing rice all over the place. They always bring her little treats like sliced oranges and bananas. All of the curries at Chanon are superb, but the gang massaman is my personal favorite (followed closely by the gang panang). The pad siew is also excellent, and the fried bananas are killer. Spice-haters beware: Chanon serves it hot, sometimes even when you ask for mild.
Park City's Chez Betty restaurant is now in its 17th year. Brothers Tom Bell and Jerry Garcia have operated it since 1996, after taking it over from the previous owners. Over the years, we've seen Chez Betty grow and mature. It was one of Utah's first restaurants to showcase fusion cooking and pan-Asian flavors in combination with the rustic mountain cuisine befitting a ski town. Many people think of Chez Betty as a “destination” restaurant, but locals know better. The prices at Chez Betty are lower than at many of the town's higher-end eateries, the restaurant itself is warm and comfy and the seasoned staffers know most of their repeat customers by name. Plus, there's free and easy parking at Chez Betty, which is located in the Copper Bottom Inn. This is a restaurant with heart and soul.
1637 Short Line Drive, Park City, 435-649-8181, ChezBetty.com
At restaurateur Bill White's Chimayo restaurant, Southwestern flavors collide with French-American culinary techniques to create a nouveau-Southwest cuisine that is as unique as it is delicious. You might begin a Chimayo meal with something light, such as the ceviche de la casa and an award-winning Chimayo Margarita, before moving on to something more substantial like green pipian-seared trout fajitas, wild halibut “Sea of Cortez Style,” or the visually spectacular crown roast of barbecued spareribs with spicy guajillo chile and cumin demi-glace. The handpicked Mexican and Southwestern artifacts, décor and furnishings at Chimayo complete the festive dining experience here.
368 Main, Park City, 435-649-6222, ChimayoRestaurant.com
The Copper Onion
The Copper Onion may look humble; it's not an “in-your-face” eatery. No culinary pyrotechnics here, just outstanding, straightforward, affordable and delicious food, accompanied by exceptional service. A can't-miss dish here is chef Ryan Lowder's handmade ricotta dumplings. But that's just one superb menu item among a plethora. Simply put, restaurants like The Copper Onion remind me how much I love my job.
111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3282, TheCopperOnion.com
Readers Shout Out:
Stephen: The Copper Onion rates as my favorite eatery. A hip, casual place teeming with cool energy. The food is understated and absolutely fantastic. Interesting taste and texture combinations abound and everything is always cooked to perfection.
Curtis: The Copper Onion: Just simply good. Every time we have eaten there, we have fully enjoyed ourselves. Good balance between quality and creativity. And, add it to a movie next door, what could be better?
Restaurant owners and chefs come and go. But, more than any other Utah restaurant I can think of, it's impossible for me to even imagine Cucina Toscana without owner and impresario, Valter Nassi. Nassi simply is Cucina Toscana. And, for many, this is Utah's best choice for authentic Italian cuisine. Airy pillows of freshly made gnocchi in mushroom cream sauce are heaven. The signature piccata di pollo al limone can bring tears to my eyes. The baked veal chop with oyster mushrooms is simply sinful. But, as I suggested, I can't imagine the food here tasting quite as good if not for the watchful eye and constant supervision of Cucina Toscana's maestro, Valter Nassi. Without him, this timeless eatery just wouldn't tick.
307 W. Pierpont Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-328-3463, Cucina-Toscana.com
Readers Shout Out:
Mike: How could anyone not love Mr. Nassi's Continental charm and the exquisite flavors of Cucina Toscana? This is our special-occasion restaurant. But actually, every dinner at Cucina Toscana is a special occasion! We love it.
A DP (stands for “Downtown Philly”) cheesesteak is on par—and I'm not blowing steak smoke here—with the best The City of Brotherly Love has to offer. What makes DP's Utah's cheesesteak champ? First, a DP cheesesteak starts out with sliced-to-order rib-eye steak, just like the big boys. Second, you can get a DP cheesesteak slathered with Cheez Whiz, just like you would in Philly. Third: the bread. It's true that there's no substitute for the Amoroso rolls used for cheesesteaks in Philly. However, the Stoneground Bakery rolls used at DP Cheesesteaks are really good—a bit denser and more rustic than Amoroso's, but an excellent roll, nonetheless. And DP stuffs those rolls to the hilt with perfectly grilled and chopped steak. If you've ever had a Jim's cheesesteak from Philly's South Street and loved it, then you're also gonna love DP's.
83 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-883-8966; 1665 Towne Center Drive, South Jordan, 801-878-8450; 933 W. 500 North, American Fork, 801-763-0976, TheDowntownPhilly.com
Easy Street Steak & Seafood
This warm restaurant anchors the culinary end of the opulent Sky Lodge, with talented chef Scott Boberek at the helm. With the restaurant's classic French brasserie décor and bustling atmosphere, you might just think you've landed on the Left Bank. A bowl of sautéed mussels with fresh herbs and white wine tomato broth, accompanied by grilled, rustic baguette slices is a perfect starter at Easy Street, as is the thin-shaved buffalo carpaccio, dressed lightly and simply with arugula, shaved Parmesan, lemon oil and tangy capers. If Boberek's soul-satisfying duck cassoulet is on the menu, by all means don't pass it by.
201 Heber Ave., Park City, 435-658-9425, TheSkyLodge.com
Readers Shout Out:
Louise: For me, it's Easy Street at The Sky Lodge in Park City all the way! Chef Scott is amazing, the food fabulous, the service excellent and the atmosphere perfect.
I know some people are nearly religious about their pizza. I'm one of them. So, when I'm in the mood for authentic New York-style pizza—the kind I used to eat at least a couple times a week when I lived in NYC—I head over to Este. And, it's not without a little pain, since I—a diehard Red Sox fan since childhood—have to fork my money over to an unrepentant New York Yankees supporter. You know this pizza has to be great for that to happen. If the superb pizza isn't enough, Este also offers up killer calzones, spectacular stromboli and bodacious Buffalo wings. You can wash it all down with beer and wine—or soda and green tea, if that's your preference.
2021 Windsor St. (840 East), Salt Lake City, 801-485-3699; 156 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2366, EstePizzaCo.com
Readers Shout Out:
Nicole: Este Pizzeria: Hands-down best pizza in town.
Quite simply, Eva is the sort of eatery I just can't resist. It's versatile. Eva is an ideal spot for a quiet, romantic dinner for two, a convenient locale for a downtown business lunch or a friendly restaurant for a group of friends to congregate over good drinks and great food—all at very affordable prices. Wood-fired pizza, like the “fig and pig,” or the fantastic flash-fried calamari are both terrific. But, and I've said this before, if you order only one item from chef/owner Charlie Perry's eclectic Eva menu, make it the Brussels sprouts. Yup, that's right: Brussels sprouts!
317 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-359-8447, EvaSLC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Melanie: I am currently hooked on the hip Mediterranean cuisine at Eva. They have everything for the meat and vegan lovin' eater ... plus a full bar. The atmosphere is fab and the fact that they don't judge us boozers who dine with our babies is so awesome! Did I mention they are open late?
Sure, we all miss the original Finn's Restaurant at the top of Parley's Way, which was a classic restaurant on the Utah dining scene that dated back to 1952. Thankfully, Finn Gurholt carries on the Finn's family tradition at Finn's Café, serving cuisine with a Scandinavian spin, specialties such as pyttipanna, Norwegian waffles with wild lingonberries and sour cream, Jule Kake French toast, wienerschnitzel, and Norwegian-style vegetable soup with spicy meatball. The ambiance? It's clean and modern: sort of like IKEA, but without the lines.
1624 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-467-4000, FinnsCafe.net
Franck's is a hidden Salt Lake Valley gem—a wonderful restaurant situated in a small house, tucked away behind Tuscany restaurant, which shares the same owners. It's named for French-born Franck Peissel, whose charming personality would win you over even if he couldn't cook his ass off. But, he can. And you can watch him do it at the restaurant via the big-flat screen monitor and kitchen's “chef cam.” Top-notch treats from Franck's kitchen include classic escargot Provencal, organic Southern-fried chicken, pan-seared diver scallops, sous-vide Mishima Ranch Wagyu sirloin steak and his killer meatloaf, made with slowly braised pulled pork, veal and chicken in a blueberry lavender sauce. The wonderful ambiance and gorgeous décor of Franck's nicely rounds out the elevated dining experience, and the suggested wine pairings on the menu are useful touch.
6263 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay, 801-274-6264, FrancksFood.com
This Sandy restaurant pulled an upset earlier in the year by walking away with the City Weekly Best of Utah award for Best Italian restaurant. But, I can't say I was surprised. Brothers—“Fratelli” means “brothers” in Italian—Pete Cannella and Dave Cannell cook up exquisite Italian fare at easy-on-the-wallet prices. My favorite appetizer is the steamed clams and mussels in garlic-lemon broth, but the antipasti plate is also a great starter. The authentic Margherita pizza is one of the best in town and you can't go wrong with any of Fratelli's pasta dishes. The creamy gnocchi di gorgonzola easily supplants the standard fettuccine Alfredo served at most Italian eateries. And, for dessert don't miss the outrageous pistachio cake called simply “The Cake.”
9236 S. Village Shop Drive (1000 East), Sandy, 801-495-4550, FratelliUtah.com
Fresco Italian Café
Fresco is tucked away on a tree-lined block of 1500 East in Sugar House, and there's no place I'd rather be in warm weather than on the courtyard patio. In colder circumstances, the cozy dining room radiates warmth, thanks in part to Fresco's excellent service staff. I like to kick things off with a glass of fizzy Prosecco or a signature cocktail like a Bellini, ginger martini or High West Manhattan and a starter from the antipasti menu before digging into Fresco's risotto, which is always outstanding and changes depending on what fresh ingredients are available. The wine list at Fresco is adventurous, if not massive—there's only a very small space to store wine in the restaurant's cozy quarters—and I'm grateful when I dine there that the prices don't gouge.
1513 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-486-1300, FrescoItalianCafe.com
Readers Shout Out:
Cindy: Fresco is my absolute favorite dining spot. It's great for a date, especially on the patio when it's nice out. And the food is extraordinary.
Named for the controversial Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, this namesake bistro is vibrant, decorated from a bright and lively palate and strewn with evocative art. The art, including paintings, Mexican masks and figurines, has been collected by Frida Bistro owner Jorge Fierro. The colorful eatery is a salute to the more refined cuisines of Mexico and so, for example, you'll find dishes such as pollo asado: Yucatan-style chicken stuffed with poblano chiles, black beans and queso fresca, wrapped in a banana leaf and served with a slightly sweet, fruity sauce. And be sure to order the elegant, complex, visually beautiful and delectable chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce) if you see them on the Frida menu.
545 W. 700 South, Salt Lake City, 801-983-6692, FridaBistro.com
Readers Shout Out:
Scott: One of my favorites is Frida Bistro for very wine-friendly Mexican fare, unlike any other Mexican food I've had.
Curtis: I love everything about Frida Bistro—the food, the atmosphere, the patio, and even the bizarre industrial location. Give me more!
One of the best reasons to visit the Garden Café at the Grand America is general manager Ali Raafati. He's old school all the way (I say that with love), speaking five languages and bringing a European panache and professionalism to running his restaurant. It's a place where executive chef Phillip Yates and his 43-member kitchen staff create memorable dining experiences daily. Sunday brunch at the Garden Café is nothing less than decadent, and the Land & Sea menu on Saturday nights is a special treat, with an unlimited grand buffet of salads, breads and appetizers followed by entrees that include selections such as fresh wild-caught fish from Honolulu, porcini cannelloni, Niman Ranch natural flat-iron steak, a 26-ounce Angus double porterhouse and Loch Duart Scottish salmon with caper sauce. Do not leave without munching on the fresh-made beignets.
555 S. Main (Grand America), Salt Lake City, 801-258-6708, GrandAmerica.com
Ghidotti's Italian Restaurant
Park City restaurateur Bill White named Ghidotti's for his Italian grandmother, and the food here would make his nonna proud. I like to kick things off with a selection from wine manager Mike Brown's well-selected list before indulging in extraordinary dishes such as White's shrimp scampi Florentine, clams casino, “Mama's” chicken soup with Parmesan dumplings, tortellini made with wild oyster mushrooms, Niman Ranch pork osso buco or my favorite: slow-braised beef braciola. Surprisingly, Ghidotti's doesn't require splurging—the restaurant also offers full family dinners to go, which feed four hungry people, for a mere $25. Of course, you'll want to finish up your Ghidotti's experience sipping something from the list of grappas.
6030 N. Market St., Redstone Village, Park City, 435-658-0669, Ghidottis.com
Deer Valley's Mobile Five Star-rated Stein Eriksen Lodge is all about luxury, and dining at The Glitretind restaurant is no exception. From the bustling, award-winning, no-holds-barred brunch to intimate dinners in the dining room or on the deck, Glitretind meals are memorable, thanks to the efforts of talented executive chef Zane Holmquist. In combination with sommelier Cara Schwindt and a top-notch staff of seasoned servers, Holmquist orchestrates a symphony of flavors daily. Appealing appetizers include pork belly with pea puree, sea scallop ceviche, Kobe beef tartar and shrimp sautéed in Patron tequila. For the main attraction, try the Berkshire pork porterhouse, Muscovy duck breast, Kobe short ribs, wild-caught salmon or the double jeopardy lamb T-bone with braised pork shoulder.
Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, 435-645-6455, SteinLodge.com
At Good Karma restaurant in Park City's Prospector district, you'll discover an eclectic array of Indian, Persian and Asian dishes. Owner/chef Houman Gohary is a wizard in the kitchen and regulars love his lamb curry, made from an authentic family recipe as well as the Punjabi veggie kabob, saag with tofu, chicken tikka masala, and the excellent Raj tiger shrimp. At Good Karma, you can also find traditional breakfasts such as house-made buttermilk pancakes, fresh-baked challah French toast, huevos rancheros, a steamed veggie bake and even a Persian omelet with artichokes and feta cheese. The warm service and friendly vibe here helps this terrific restaurant earn the apt name of Good Karma.
1782 Prospector Ave., Park City, 435-658-0958, GoodKarmaRestaurants.com
Grappa Italian Cafe
This is the restaurant that began Bill White's Park City restaurant empire. And, for many loyal customers, it's still his best. Situated in a house at the top of Main Street in Old Town, diners compete for tables in the cozy, busy dining rooms and outside on the sprawling patios in summer. Calamari fritti is always a great place to start a meal or, perhaps, the seared ahi tuna “mini-steak.” The roasted tomato soup sings with fresh flavor, and for pasta I can't resist the handmade ravioli stuffed with braised veal, beef and pork. Given the restaurant's moniker, it's not surprising that Grappa also offers an extensive selection of grappa liqueurs.
151 Main, Park City, 435-645-0636, GrappaRestaurant.com
Readers Shout Out:
John: Bill White has opened so many fantastic restaurants, it's hard to pick just one favorite. But if I have to choose, I think Grappa is the one. There isn't any place better to go for a great meal in Park City.
Greek City Grill
Don't be fooled by the small size of owner Bob Daskalakis' eatery; it's packed with giant-size flavors and friendliness, much of which can be experienced even via the drive-thru takeout window. There are plenty of tasty menu items here, including the D-Will, a favorite sandwich of the Jazz's Deron Williams. But I come for the gyros. When a customer orders a gyro, Daskalakis starts carving. A gyro sandwich is a generous mound of juicy, tender well-seasoned gyro meat strips—a 50/50 combination of beef and lamb—wrapped in soft, warm pita bread and served with sliced tomatoes, diced onion and creamy homemade tzatziki or red sauce, your choice. Now, that's Greek to me!
6165 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-277-2355, GreekCityGrill.com
Hanamaru bucks the trend of the typical Japanese restaurants peppering the Wasatch Front; that is, restaurants specializing in raw fish. Yes, you can get sushi here, but Hanamaru features the sort of food that average Japanese people eat day in and day out—noodle dishes like niku udon and fried items such as pork tonkatsu or chef Roy Yamamoto's traditional Japanese curry. Hanamaru may not be trendy, nor is the cuisine cutting-edge. But authentic, traditional Japanese fare, consistently served up with warmth and grace, is an ageless fad that I can thoroughly get behind. If you're looking for homestyle Japanese cooking in Ogden, Hanamaru is the place.
350 E. 37th St., Ogden, 801-395-0329, Chikyujin.net
High West Distillery
Park City's High West Distillery & Saloon isn't so much a restaurant, bar and distillery as it is a compound—a fun zone for lovers of good food and great whiskey, not to mention wine, beer, cocktails and more. The sprawling labyrinth contains numerous dining rooms, bars, private nooks and crannies, a souvenir shop and a distillery, in addition to the “livery,” which can hold up to 180 people. This is the place to sample “Whiskey” Dave Perkins' award-winning whiskeys, made right on the premises, as well as superb fare from chef James Dumas. From comforting macaroni & cheese to the rockin' 21-day aged bison rib-eye with huckleberry whiskey sauce, both the food and drink at High West win high marks.
703 Park Ave., Park City, 435-649-8300, HighWest.com
Readers Shout Out:
Scott: I vote High West Distillery for best new restaurant and best pet-friendly restaurant (and perhaps best restaurant, period).
At this friendly downtown eatery, carefully selected art and photos from Nepal and India adorn the walls, and the entire restaurant gives off a soothing, mellow vibe. One of the best dishes here is butter chicken: tender pieces of boneless tandoori chicken are bathed in a salmon-colored sauce made with butter, tomatoes, onions, cream, nuts and subtle spices. It's heavenly! Of course, the Himalayan momos are a must, as are the tandoor-baked breads. The Himalayas mountain range of Nepal is known for its many towering peaks and, with one visit, you'll discover that Himalayan Kitchen hits many high peaks of its own.
360 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-328-2077, HimalayanKitchen.com
Ho Ho Gourmet
It might be wise to wear blinders when dining in at Ho Ho Gourmet. The, er, décor is not what brings the crowd. Perhaps that's why many people come here for takeout. But whether eating in or out, you won't find better or more authentic Chinese flavors anywhere in Utah. From turnip cakes, ginger beef tripe and steamed chicken feet during dim sum, to clams in black bean sauce, braised whole fish and Peking spare ribs from the regular menu, the food at Ho Ho is anything but ho-hum. Just be sure to ask for the special Chinese menu—the one all the Chinese families you see dining here order from.
1504 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-487-7709
[Ed. note: The other Ho Ho Gourmet locations are not related to this one—they're all independent now.]
Hong Kong Tea House & Restaurant
For fans of dim sum, Hong Kong Tea House & Restaurant is nirvana, where each and every dim sum dish is a surefire winner. Fried tofu topped with shrimp balls and five-spice foil-wrapped chicken are each delicious, as is the sticky rice in lotus leaves. Like most great Chinese restaurants, this one serves whole deep-fried fish with garlic. Kids will love the steamed barbecue pork buns, while adults munch on steamed chicken feet and the best Peking duck in the state. The Szechwan ma-po tofu is fiery and delicious, and you'd be nuts not to order the deceptively simple and sensational deep-fried flounder with garlic. While you're there, sample a few of the teas from Hong Kong Tea House & Restaurant's Chinese tea selection.
565 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-531-7010, HongKongTeaHouse.com
Envious chefs salivate over the gargantuan exhibition kitchen at J&G Grill at Park City's St. Regis, named for Jean-George Vongerichten. “It's the biggest of all my restaurants,” said Vongerichten, proudly. Well, bigger doesn't always mean better … except in this case. The restaurant is simply gorgeous, and the food hits high notes as well. What J&G Grill has in common with every other Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant is a delicate touch in the kitchen. Vongerichten's dishes are complex, but not complicated. Lobster tastes like lobster, enhanced by basil-butter sauce and seasonings, not buried in them. Stunningly simple boneless, Parmesan-crusted Niman Ranch poulet rouge with lemon sauce actually tastes like chicken—moist and flavorful, on a bed of lemon-basil-butter artichokes. And, the 4,600 bottle wine selection means you'll find the perfect pairing for every dish.
2300 Deer Valley Drive East, Park City, 435-940-5760, JGGrillDeerCrest.com
J. Wong's Asian Bistro
There are few Chinese restaurants here that pull off what J. Wong's does: Offer authentic Asian cuisine (not just Chinese, but also Thai) and a gorgeous, contemporary ambiance to enjoy it in. On weekends, there's free valet parking, so drop the wheels and get ready for delicious dining. My go-to dish at J. Wong's is the heavenly walnut shrimp. But, there are other delightful dishes as well, including the Panang salmon: two large, crisp, deep-fried salmon filets infused with lovely coconut and peanut flavors. In fact, there's nothing on this well-conceived menu that you won't love, and the friendly, polished service is just frosting on the cake.
163 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-350-0888, JWongUtah.com
French-born Jean Louis Montecot is one of Utah's boldest chefs, both in his range of cuisines and his electric personality. His eclectic cooking combines Asian, American, Mediterranean, North African and Latin flavors with impeccable French technique. I like to grab a drink at the bustling bar before dinner and, sometimes, I wind up having dinner at the bar—such is the appeal of the friendly vibe there. The brasserie-style menu offers French classics such as la truite amandine, la soupe a l'oignon, roasted pork tenderloin with ratatouille, les escallopines de veau and steak frites. And, it goes without saying that you'll want to order Jean Louis' famous soufflé—chocolate or Grand Marnier, your choice. Ooh la la!
136 Heber Ave., Park City, 435-200-0260, JeanLouisRestaurant.com
Kimi's Mountainside Bistro
Named for host Kimi Eklund, Kimi's Mountainside Bistro features the creative cooking of chef Matt Anderson. The setting is gorgeous, with a beautifully designed interior and even more impressive outdoor dining, featuring a stunning mountain backdrop, fresh flowers, fire pits on the patio and the ever-present Utah sun. The occasional moose strolls by, no doubt hoping for a menu morsel like the roasted chicken and poblano chili, bresaola carpaccio, Swedish-style toast smogen, cheese fondue, bison lasagna, prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin or beef “Africana.” Kimi's is the place at Solitude for apres ski and, on weekends, the brunch buffet really rocks.
Solitude Mountain Resort, 12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801-536-5787, SkiSolitude.com
Kyoto Japanese Restaurant
If you're looking for cutting-edge Asian cuisine, you might want to drive past Kyoto, located across from Liberty Heights Fresh. But, if traditional Japanese fare and friendly service is your thing, then Kyoto has all the right stuff. Kick off your meal with fresher-than-fresh saba—delicious mackerel served sashimi-style—before moving on to, perhaps, Kyoto's justifiably renowned tempura. Ebi (shrimp) tempura comes massively piled onto a plate, and although it looks impossible to finish, you're going to savor every single bite. Steer the kids towards the breaded-and-fried pork tonkatsu; they'll love it. Osamu Tada's lovely restaurant oozes serenity and calm, from the manicured gardens and outside patio to the lengthy granite sushi bar and private rice paper- and wood-trimmed booths. Kimono-clad servers seem to float on air through the Kyoto dining rooms, always at your table exactly when you need them. Kyoto is quite popular, and deservedly so: It's smart to make advance reservations.
1080 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 84105, 801-487-3525
Le Nonne Ristorante Italiano
Hailing from Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany, Italy, chef/owner PierAntonio Micheli brings the flavors of Northern Italy to northern Utah. There aren't many restaurants I'd drive as far as Logan to visit, but Le Nonne Ristorante Italiano is one of them. It vies with Cucina Toscana, in my opinion, for Utah's best Italian restaurant. Le Nonne (“the grandmothers”) is named for Micheli's mother and grandmother, who taught him to cook. Le Nonne features live jazz on weekends and outstanding dishes, including tuna carpaccio with asparagus, other-worldly home-style ravioli and gnocchi dishes, and specialty entrees like stracceti al Gorgonzola: thin-sliced beef sautéed and served with white wine and rich, creamy Gorgonzola. Dining at the lovely Le Nonne, you might just forget you're in Logan.
129 N. 100 East, Logan, 435-752-9577, LeNonne.com
Left Fork Grill
At Jeff Masten's popular Left Fork Grill, the concept is “Where café meets gourmet.” And that's an apt description of this diner cum bistro. Most of what's served at Left Fork Grill is made from scratch, right down to Masten's homestyle coleslaw, which is the best I've ever tasted. Kick off the morning with eggs in a hole, biscuits and gravy or the smoked salmon scramble. At lunchtime, there are terrific sandwiches—the Reuben, tuna melt and meatloaf are musts. And then, at dinner, you can go old school with liver and onions, an open-faced turkey sandwich or opt for one of Masten's more modern dishes. For sure, though, you won't want to leave without a piece of his incredible homemade pie.
68 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-266-4322, LeftForkGrill.ipower.com
Readers Shout Out:
Ashly Mae: The food is always delicious. I've never been disappointed. It's my go-to breakfast place for birthdays, Mother's Day, anniversaries, etc.
Ambiance? Who needs ambiance? This is one of a small handful of Salt Lake City Chinese restaurants that actually caters primarily to the Chinese palate. First things first: Ask for the Chinese specialty menu, not the Americanized version they automatically give to gringos. Second, if décor matters, stay home. Little World is a funky little dive where the food is simply awesome. Peking ducks hang in one corner, and the smell of garlic and hot woks permeates the place. And it's usually crowded. So, if those things bother you, get takeout (there's even a drive-thru window) and eat at home. Highlights include clams with garlicky black-bean sauce, Xo frog legs, shrimp balls and steaming hot clay pot dishes. The fried prawns may just change your life.
1356 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-467-5213
Snowbird's Lodge Bistro is a terrific restaurant, equipped with a patio and stunning mountain views in warm weather. In winter, it's cozy and warm. Regardless of the season, I can rarely resist a bowl of chef R.J. Peterson's French onion soup, a ceramic terrine of hearty soup “sealed” on top with a layer of crisp, crunchy Gruyere and toasty homemade croutons. Another simple-but-sensational Peterson dish is his stellar cedar-plank salmon, which he's bold enough to cook medium-rare—beautifully crisp on the outside and moist and juicy inside—and, blessedly, not smothered in a heavy sauce but adorned simply with crisp haricots vertes and a side of bacon-spiked potato “hash.” And whatever else you do, be certain to indulge in the decadent Sarladaise potatoes—just screw your diet.
The Lodge at Snowbird, Highway 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Snowbird, 801-933-2145, Snowbird.com
Log Haven Restaurant
Yes, my wife handles weddings at Log Haven. But that doesn't prevent me from loving chef Dave Jones' cooking and the well-selected wines and pairings from general manager Ian Campbell. I'm not alone.
6451 Millcreek Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, 801-272-8255, Log-Haven.com
Readers Shout Out:
Matt: The four seasonal menus per year are full of delectable options prepared from local fare. Margo and the staff are polite, professional and fun. They treat us well—like family—every we time we dine there. It is located in a well-maintained historic, sizeable log cabin. The view is beautiful from both the indoors and the outdoor deck/patio seating, and it is a great way to enjoy a break from the Salt Lake Valley. It is a unique dining experience and I recommend it to anyone visiting or living in Salt Lake City.
Lugano chef/owner Greg Neville has garnered more acclaim and awards than he has room for—including being invited to cook at New York City's prestigious James Beard House. His popular east-side eatery combines a friendly bistro/trattoria-style ambiance with the rich flavors and scents of Italy. It's a bustling spot, where the open-air kitchen and wood-burning oven give customers a live Food Network-worthy show each night. I like to begin with an order off the vast wine list, which includes the biggest selection of Italian wines in the state, before enjoying dishes like Neville's spaghetti with Napa cabbage or the pizza quattro stagione.
3364 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-412-9994, LuganoRestaurant.com
Readers Shout Out:
Jonathan: Lugano is, by far, my favorite restaurant in the entire state. The Italian food there is amazing. The spaghetti with shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, garlic, chili flakes and tomato is the best. I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever eaten. My wife and I return whenever we can, and I get the same thing every time.
MacCool's Public House
If you're in the hunt for a small piece of the Emerald Isle, MacCool's Public House has your number. Owners Mic Warner and Scott Schlisman have done the nearly impossible: created a small slice of Ireland right here in Zion. At MacCool's, you'll discover a unique Irish ambiance, complete with faux Irish stone walls, 7-foot-high beachwood chairs, a Victorian dining area, busy pub section and the hand-painted wall art of Sarah Berkowitz. MacCool's also dishes up Utah's best corned beef, made from scratch daily, and an equally good rendition of chicken pot pie, served with a puff-pastry square the size of a throw pillow. The barbecued lamb ribs are essential, as is a pint of Guinness or Tetley's. “Cead mile failte.”
1400 S. Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-582-3111; 855 W. Heritage Park Blvd., Layton, 801-728-9111; 11610 S. Main District Drive, South Jordan, 801-727-3111, MacCools-Utah.com
This wildly popular Chinese restaurant might be located in Bountiful, and it might be owned by Greeks, but the flavors are distinctly, authentically Chinese, thanks to a kitchen full of Chinese chefs via Hong Kong and San Francisco. Hopefully, you won't have to wait too long for a seat in this gorgeous restaurant before ordering something from the extensive wine and drink menu, then launching into a meal of delectable dishes such as Peking duck, Singapore noodles, Nanking chicken, Hunan pork, Mongolian beef, or what has become Mandarin's most popular specialty: black bean salmon.
348 E. 900 North, Bountiful, 801-298-2406, MandarinUtah.com
At Deer Valley's Mariposa restaurant, located mid-mountain at Silver Lake Village, timing is everything. The warm, cozy eatery is only open in winter, during ski season, and then only for dinner. So, the opportunities to enjoy Mariposa's superb cuisine and service are limited. After skiing Deer Valley powder all day, I like to settle in for dinner with fresh oysters on the half shell and Kobe beef carpaccio before moving on to favorite entrees from executive chef Clark Norris. They include seared yellowfin tuna filet, Utah-raised natural lamb, pan-roasted sea scallops and the ginormous Mariposa mixed grill. Finish things off with a chocolate snowball, of course.
Silver Lake Lodge, Deer Valley Resort, Park City, 435-645-6715, DeerValley.com/Dining
Market Street Oyster Bar
With by far the best and freshest selection of oysters in town, Market Street Oyster Bar is a must for any oyster lover and has been since opening in 1980. Six to eight oyster varieties are typically offered daily, along with an array of fresh seafood and steaks. The chilled seafood platter of Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab, and Gulf shrimp is pretty hard to resist, but I'm also a sucker for the fried clam strips. All of the chowders and seafood stews at the Oyster Bar totally rock, but here's a surprise: They also serve the best chili in town, not to mention excellent Certified Angus Beef Natural steaks. Or, just do as I do and belly up to the bar for a good glass of wine and a dozen oysters on the half-shell.
54 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-531-6044; 2985 E. 6580 South, Salt Lake City, 801-942-8870; 10702 S. River Front Parkway, South Jordan, 801-302-2264, GInc.com
This charming, independent restaurant quietly—without a lot of fanfare or press—continues to entice customers old and new with its lovely ambiance, friendly and professional service and dishes that please. Martine Café, situated in an beautiful old brownstone building downtown, has been pleasing customers with its world cuisine since 1999. A must-have tapa at Martine is chef Tom Grant's stupendous Moroccan braised beef with gingered couscous. And, one of the understated attractions of Martine is the wine list. It's not the biggest, but it might be one of the best. Owner Scott Hale has a fetish for finding interesting, inexpensive wines and then not pricing the bejesus out of them. Much appreciated!
22 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-9328, MartineCafe.com
Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
I recall when the original Mazza at 15th and 15th opened: Owner Ali Sabbah mostly served falafel sandwiches from a walk-up counter. The dinnerware was Styrofoam. Sabbah's Middle Eastern food was delicious back then, but much has changed over the years. Now, there's a second Mazza at 9th and 9th and both are full-service, full-menu restaurants, complete with an exceptional wine list featuring an international selection of wines, including some from Lebanon, Morocco and Greece. I still think Sabbah's falafel is the best in Utah, but now and then, I veer away to other delectable dishes like ful mudammas, maghmoor, dolaa (stupendous) and baked kafta.
1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-484-9259; 912 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-521-4572, MazzaCafe.com
Readers Shout Out:
John: I've been coming to Mazza since the original one opened. The Middle Eastern food there is awesome. Definitely the best around. I can't live without Ali's falafel! Nice people, too.
Meditrina Small Plates & Wine Bar
What's not to love about this offbeat eatery? It's an uncluttered, minimalistic space adorned with purple ceilings, jet-black tables and chairs, and a mix of exposed brick and avocado-colored walls that are hung with provocative local art. At Meditrina, you'll likely order two or three dishes to share, depending on the size of your party, then repeat as necessary. The small-plates concept lends itself beautifully to informal, unrushed, and unstructured dining. Tasty tapas include peppercorn-crusted lollipop lamb chops, prosciutto di Parma-wrapped asparagus and irresistible piquillo peppers stuffed with crab and mascarpone. And, there's a terrific wine selection, to boot.
1394 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-485-2055, MeditrinaSLC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Karen: I just tried Meditrina for small plates (vegetarian only, that's all I eat), and they were so fantastic. Delicious Mediterranean, and some really creative plates, too. I have not often been this satisfied in dining out.
There's a reason Metropolitan owner Karen Olson was recently named chairperson for DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) the lady knows a thing or two about fine dining. Since opening in 1996, Metropolitan has continually set a high bar for creative, contemporary American cuisine in this town. And, the most recent menu, filled with palate-pleasing dishes such as Blue Point oysters with kimchi and red beer, braised rabbit pizza, the decadent pork charcuterie plate called “Three Little Pigs,” and Arctic char with white beans and Umbrian black truffles, keeps Metropolitan firmly at the forefront of the downtown dining scene.
173 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-364-3472, TheMetropolitan.com
Over the years, Moochie's—which is located in owner Joanna Rendi's husband's pottery shop—has become less about pottery and more about fantastic East Coast-style meatballs and cheesesteak sandwiches. The eatery has grown from a handful of tables inside and out to a comfy spot to enjoy one of Utah's best cheesesteaks. In fact, the food here is so good that Guy Fieri featured it on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “Moochie's is money!” proclaimed Fieri. But, since man cannot live on meatball subs and cheesesteaks alone, there's also a terrific grilled Reuben, eggplant parmigiana, tuna grinder and still the best potato salad in town.
232 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City, 801-596-1350, MoochiesMeatballs.com
This wine bistro is candy for the eyes, one that would fit comfortably into Salt Lake City's Downtown Rising scheme—or, for that matter, SoHo in New York City or San Francisco's Embarcadero. Most of the wine at Moxi is available by either the glass or bottle. California spot prawns are split and beautifully charred on the grill, served whole with heads on. Lamb-loin medallions sing with a cucumber-mint “bombe” and come with yummy grilled yams alongside. And, the grilled game hen, with its raisin-chili glaze, is moist, tender and delectable, accompanied by Israeli couscous studded with dried fruit. Time for a trip to Bountiful!
1025 S. 500 West, Bountiful, 801-335-0394, MoxiBistro.com
Like a free, unfettered mustang stallion, owner/chef Bill Hufferd's cuisine at his Mustang restaurant in Park City is bold and even a bit wild. But then, so is the arty, contemporary décor at the restaurant. So, prepare yourself for exotic dishes such as Southwestern duck chile rellenos, fresh papaya and arugula salad, grilled Honduran lobster with Texas ruby-red grapefruit salsa, and chipotle-barbecued baby-back ribs with watermelon-jicama salad and pasilla chile quesadilla. And, a setting this contemporary just cries out for a signature Mustang cocktail like the Cosmopolitan.
890 Main, Park City, 435-658-3975, MustangParkCity.com
Sushi chefs T.J. and Tosh, as well as the team at Naked Fish have managed to pull off a helluva feat: They've turned a restaurant that, when it originally opened, wasn't worth crossing the street for into a dining destination well worth a trip from afar. Settle in at the sushi bar for an omakase dining experience—simply put yourself in your talented chef's hands and enjoy remarkably fresh, artful, delicious Japanese fare. Big-eye tuna, spiraled needlefish, raw octopus carpaccio and amberjack garnished with myoga are just a few of the delights to be had at this hip Asian bistro. But, don't ignore the cooked food: Tender robatayaki lamb chops and Miyazaki Wagyu beef are also remarkable. Get naked!
67 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-595-8888, NakedFishBistro.com
The New Yorker
The New Yorker—Gastronomy Inc.'s flagship restaurant—has been winning over customers since 1978 with its unique mix of Continental and contemporary American cuisine. And, executive chef Will Pliler has been on board for most of that time, ensuring consistency and quality through the years. I like to enjoy a classic cocktail at the bar before dinner, something like a Bellini or Cable Car. Then, it's always difficult to choose from the array of menu riches at the New Yorker, but my favorite dishes include classic escargot with Roquefort-garlic butter, pappardelle with Maine lobster, Dijon-crusted roasted lamb rack and the breast of pheasant with basil mashed potatoes. Of course, after dinner Pliler's Tahitian vanilla-bean creme brulée is an absolute must.
60 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-363-0166, GInc.com
On one side of the Hispanic supermarket called Rancho Market, you'll find an eatery named Nuestra Cocina. It's an open kitchen with counter seating and picnic tables, where a team of friendly Mexican women make everything from fresh tortilla chips and tamales to posole, menudo, tacos, gorditas, tortas, chilaquiles and more. But, the main draw is the stupendous dish called el molcajete. First, a layer of Oaxacan cheese is placed into the bottom of a stone molcajete. It melts immediately, creating a beautiful brown cheesy crust. Next, strips of napolitos, 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, somewhat similar to feta, and delivered to your (picnic) table, hot enough to cause concern. Olé!
2470 S. Redwood Road, Rancho Market, West Valley City, 801-577-0030
At Pago, an intimate farm-to-table restaurant in the bustling 9th & 9th neighborhood, owner Scott Evans and executive chef Michael Richey create delectable meals utilizing quality products from local growers, farms and artisans. At lunchtime, the Wagyu steak sandwich, Pago burger and crab cakes are good options; dinner brings out dishes such as grilled quail panzanella, fried Heritage chicken and Sicilian braised local rabbit. Pago is also a great choice for weekend brunch.
878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0777, PagoSLC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Michelle: Pago! Hands down. Unique menu, friendly and knowledgeable staff, beautiful interior, local ingredients.
Nicole: Pago. Great prices, use of local product, and a great seasonal menu.
Recently, Eric DeBonis rededicated his flagship restaurant to French bistro/brasserie cuisine, which is just fine and dandy with me. I never miss the opportunity to indulge in confit de canard aux lentilles du Puy at the Paris, along with mandatory oysters on the half shell. But now, options such as bouillabaisse, hanger steak with frites, mussels mariniere, steak tartar, beef daube and Provencal-style grilled lamb chops also beckon. Add to that an atmosphere that's a little slice of Paris, the city, along with an excellent wine list and, viola! you've got a delicious French getaway at 15th and 15th.
1500 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-486-5585, TheParis.net
Pawit's Royale Thai Cuisine
Owner/host Ponpawit Numnuan was born and raised in a small village in northern Thailand. Today, some of the proceeds from Pawit's Royale Thai Cuisine help support 200 schoolchildren in a small elementary school in his home village. All of which is great, but you'll want to visit Pawit for his authentic Thai flavors, not just his charitable leanings. Some of my favorite's at Pawit's include the beef larb, yum talay, pad siew, lard naa, gang massaman, and the baked chicken, marinated in lemon grass, garlic, pepper and Thai spices. Order a cold Singha beer to help douse the fire.
1968 E. Murray Holladay Road, Holladay, 801-277-3658, PawitsRoyaleThai.com
Piñon Market & Cafe
One of the many attractions at Victoria Topham's Piñon Market & Cafe is its dog-friendly vibe—there is dog “parking” outside and they even cook up doggie biscuits for your pup. For hungry humans, there's an eclectic array of tasty treats, everything from Key lime pie and quite possibly the world's best zucchini bread to sticky buns, hearty salads, potpies, homestyle soups (the curry squash soup is outrageous) and entrees like Thai lemon chicken. And, while lots of places sell something called “Chocolate Decadence,” Piñon's really is. Try to score some.
2095 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-582-4539
Pizzeria Seven Twelve
According to the owners, Pizzeria Seven Twelve is an exercise in the possibilities of sustainability, seasonal cooking and freshness. So obviously, this isn't your typical pizzeria. For starters, you won't find pepperoni on the menu. And how many pizza joints can you name that feature dishes such as braised-beef short ribs, wood-roasted Brussels sprouts or white-bean stew? The pizzas at Pizzeria Seven Twelve are wood-fired thin-crust pies, topped judiciously with ingredients like hand-pulled mozzarella, roasted fennel, house-made sausage, speck, caramelized mushrooms and onions, roasted eggplant, leeks, goat cheese and sopprassata. This is most definitely not your daddy's pizza parlor.
330 S. State, Orem, 801-623-6712, Pizzeria712.com
Plates & Palates
What did Bountiful do to deserve this? Plates & Palates could be located in downtown Salt Lake City or San Francisco, for that matter, and do well. The combination deli/café and cookware/bakeware shop serves up some of the best salads and sandwiches you'll find anywhere. I love that the owners remember their customers' favorite menu items. For me, that's the tomato-basil penne pasta salad with balsamic dressing, grape tomatoes, pine nuts and Parmesan. But, I'm also a sucker for the excellent Mediterranean panini: Genoa salami, Black Forest ham, provolone, feta, artichoke, tapenade and roasted red peppers on grilled cracked-wheat bread. Finding a seat at lunchtime is the only challenge.
390 N. 500 West, Bountiful, 801-292-2425, PlatesandPalatesUtah.com
Owners Becci and T have come a long way since 1996, when Q4U was nothing more than a 12-by-8 teal, magenta and white concession trailer selling beef brisket sandwiches and hot links at local fairs. Today, Q4U is one of the most beloved down-home eateries in the state. And, as always, T and the crew serve up deliciously messy pulled pork, beef brisket, succulent ribs, barbecued chicken, catfish and much more, with a friendly welcome that's all too hard to find these days. Stop by on Fridays in warm weather for Q4U's famous “pig from the rig.”
3951 W. 5400 South, Kearns, 801-955-8858, Q4U.com
Apparently, it's not enough for Red Iguana to win the “Best Mexican” award in City Weekly's Best of Utah every year we can recall. Nope, the folks at Red Iguana are out to conquer new territory, this year opening Red Iguana 2 and Taste of Red Iguana in the City Creek Center Food Court. Well, wherever you choose to get your Red Iguana fix, you can be assured the flavors of dishes like cochinita pibil, papadzules, chilaquiles, puntas de filete a la Norteña and, of course, the moles will bring tears of joy to your eyes.
736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489; 866 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-214-6050; 28 S. State, City Creek Center Food Court, 801-214-6350, RedIguana.com
Readers Shout Out:
Deano: Can't live without the Red Iguana mole.
Red Maple Chinese Cuisine
I can count on one hand the restaurants in our area serving authentic Chinese of any sort, be it Cantonese, Szechwan, Hunan, Mandarin … whatever. You know: the sort of place where Chinese immigrants dine with their families. Well, I'm happy to report that you can add Red Maple to the shortlist of local Chinese restaurants worth picking up a pair of chopsticks for. On weekend at lunch/brunch time, the parking lot at Red Maple is packed. Inside, the restaurant is mobbed with hundreds of (mostly) Chinese customers gathered, family-style, around large tables. They're here for the traditional dim sum service, which is nothing less than exceptional. The Chinese community here has fallen in love with Red Maple, and so have I.
3361 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, 801-747-2888, RedMapleSaltLake.com
Reef's Kitchen, located in the Marriott Plaza district of Park City, is named for the chef/owner's son, Reef—your first tip that Reef's Kitchen is a family affair. Owner Asi Yoked's wife works there also, as well as his sister and his parents on occasion. Well, nobody does falafel better than Asi, and the babaghanouj is also great. But, order a glass of wine or cardamom tea and carefully peruse the menu. In addition to kebabs, hummus and stuffed grape leaves, there are specialty dishes such as Moroccan salmon, couscous and Jerusalem shishlik (skewered, marinated leg of lamb)—I suppose you could call this Middle Eastern fusion cuisine. Sides of mejadarra and tabbouleh are terrific, and I suggest winding up your meal with sesame-spiked halva cookies or basbousa, a semolina coconut cake.
710 Main, Park City, 435-658-0323, ReefsRestaurant.com
At the Royal India restaurants in Sandy and Bountiful, owner/chef Emmanuel Shanthakumar and his family cook up a dazzling array of authentic Indian dishes from the south and north of India, all in this beautifully appointed restaurant. What distinguishes a good Indian restaurant from a great one largely has to do with the little things: décor, specialty dishes, breads, service. It's those types of considerations that have made Royal India one of my very favorite Indian restaurants in Utah. The warm hospitality at Royal India matches the fiery vindaloo dishes. The shrimp saag is rich and creamy, keema dosa is stuffed with fragrantly spiced lamb and the Peshwari naan (filled with cashews, raisins, and coconut) is heaven. Vegetarian options also abound at Royal India, and the daal Maharani is especially delightful. For dessert, you should try kulfi: homemade ice cream with pistachio, cashew nuts and cardamom.
10263 S. 1300 East, Sandy, 801-572-6123; 55 N. Main, Bountiful, 801-292-1835, RoyalIndiaUtah.com
Royal Street Café
Located mid-mountain at Deer Valley's Silver Lake Lodge, Royal Street Café is a perfect spot in summer, when the crowds thin out and one can enjoy a leisurely lunch on the sunny deck supplemented with fine wines and killer cocktails. The yellowfin tuna tartare appetizer is a terrific beginning to a meal, and the renowned Deer Valley Turkey Chili is justifiably famous. While at Royal Street, consider taking the award-winning (Best Park City Cocktail) St. Germaine Elderflower cocktail for a spin. Hungry? The chipotle barbecue burger with Royal Street's shoestring fries is a real whopper! And the best BLT I've ever had was the DVBLT (cherry chutney and Dijon-tarragon mayo make the difference). By all means, don't think of escaping without sinking your teeth into Royal Street's decadent ice cream sandwich.
Silver Lake Lodge, Deer Valley Resort, Park City, 435-645-6724, DeerValley.com
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Yes, it's a franchise, but Salt Lake City's Ruth's Chris Steak House certainly isn't a cookie-cutter affair. It's a feast for the eyes and palate. And, if service is your thing, you'll find a top-notch assemblage of handpicked servers at Ruth's Chris. I can't resist a cocktail at the plush bar—a Pear Twist martini, for example—before enjoying the classic chopped salad for a starter. At Ruth's Chris, you hear a lot about “sizzle.” The steaks are cooked at 1,800 degrees and are topped with fresh butter so they sizzle all the way to your table. This is true. And, if you want sizzle with a capital “S,” I recommend going whole hog—or whole cow—and indulging in the Porterhouse steak for two. Bring your platinum credit card.
275 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2000; 2001 Park Ave., Park City, 435-940-5070, RuthsChris.com
The truth is, I don't spend a lot of time eating in vegetarian restaurants. But, when I do, Sage's is where I point my GPS. At Sage's, faux meat dishes are often better than the real thing; you certainly won't miss the meat in Sage's rich and creamy stroganoff, and the “picadillo vegetariano” is also a winner.
473 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3790, SagesCafe.com
Readers Shout Out:
Pete: As a vegetarian living in meatland, I thank the lucky stars for Sage's, where I can get wholesome, meatless meals that taste great. It's not just this town's best vegetarian restaurant but best all-around restaurant—period. Three cheers for Sage's!
Sapa Sushi Bar &
The owners—Mai Nguyen and Sean Dang—put a lot of money and sweat into Sapa. The main dining room is trimmed out with orange squiggly eye-catching “chandeliers” that look like they came from a science-fiction movie set. The look of Sapa is contemporary and chic but warm, with a sushi bar elevated above the main dining room and a courtyard in back featuring small, individual wooden huts that are 300 years old. Blessedly, the food reaches the lofty heights of the beautiful décor. From yellowtail carpaccio and poki salad to the fragrant lemongrass-infused lamb sauté and warming bowls of pho, there's nothing at Sapa that doesn't satisfy.
722 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-363-7272, SapaBarandGrill.com
Readers Shout Out:
Anna: Sapa is not to be missed! An aesthetic dream, this beautiful Vietnamese fusion restaurant has a sushi bar, Vietnamese fusion dishes extraordinaire and noodle dishes for those seeking something milder. Beyond a doubt, the best calamari this side of Greece. The 300-year-old tea houses surround a private patio, great for al fresco dining. The interior has wonderful décor and creates and ambiance that lends to savoring your meal. The wait staff seem to really love their job and make even ordering a fun experience.
Scott: I vote for Sapa for its delicious sauces and perfectly prepared cuisine.
For traditional, authentic, Napolitano-style pizza, certified as such by the president of Vera Pizza Napoletana, an organization dedicated to preserving the “identity and integrity” of Napolatino-style pizza, I turn to Settebello. The recipe for its majestic Margherita pizza is surprisingly simple: crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and extra-virgin olive oil on a crispy thin crust. Pizza just doesn't get any better than this.
260 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3556, Settebello.net
Readers Shout Out:
Fredrik: Settebello, all the way. Those pizzas (and salads) are amazing.
“Freestyle Asian cuisine” is what Shabu owners and brothers Kevin and Robert Valaika call what they do at Shabu. At Shabu, there's a lively bar scene where sushi and sake are consumed by happy patrons, and in the dining room, Shabu Shabu, where you are the chef, is a popular favorite. Shabu shabu is sort of Asian-style fondue, where you dip ingredients (meat, seafood, veggies) from a bento box into an assortment of hot freshly made broths: Thai-coconut, vegetarian or dashi-mirin. Effectively, you cook your dinner yourself at your table, and it's a fun way to dine, not to mention delicious. If you'd prefer to have chef Robert (formerly of Nobu) cook for you, try his freestyle sea bass, wok-seared diver scallops, coconut-crusted tofu, or moo shu duck. Be sure to try one of Shabu's signature saketinis.
442 Main, Park City, 435-645-7253, ShabuPC.com
The Shallow Shaft
Now in its 34th season, Alta's Shallow Shaft restaurant is an ideal spot to enjoy a quiet dinner after romping on the slopes of Alta or Snowbird. If you didn't catch quite enough scenery skiing, the Shaft has you covered. Try to score a window seat to watch the sunset and indulge in the Shaft's exquisite fare—everything from pizzas and house tacos to more elevated dishes like Black Angus hanger steak with Guinness Stout-chipotle butter and grilled onions. And, the Shallow Shaft's friendly, professional staff makes this lovely restaurant as essential as Alta's Champagne powder.
Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta, 801-742-2177, ShallowShaft.com
Got schweinshaxen and britchen? You would if you'd visit Siegfried's, where I go to shop for hard-to-find sausages, wurst, bacon, ham, wieners, sauerkraut and the like. And, when I'm too busy to cook, I just get in line with all the other hungry Siegfried's patrons for cafeteria-style bratwurst, weisswurst, sauerkraut, roasted chicken, spaetzle, the best Reuben sandwich in town and, of course, German chocolate cake. There are also cold beer and wine to enjoy alongside your Bavarian feast.
20 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-355-3891, SiegfriedsDelicatessen.biz
Snake Creek Grill
The cuisine chef/owner Dean Hottle turns out at Snake Creek Grill In Heber is superb—an impressive feat, given that the menu ranges from onion rings to wild mushroom risotto with spinach and leeks and everything in between. A delicious starter is spicy butterflied grilled wild white shrimp with chipotle barbecue sauce, guacamole, pickle slices, fresh lime and homemade tortilla chips. And, I appreciate that Hottle allows diners to customize pasta and risotto dishes by making available add-ons such as grilled chicken, Italian sausage and grilled shrimp. It goes without saying that you must not leave without indulging in the bodacious black-bottom banana cream pie.
650 W. 100 South, Heber City, 435-654-2133, SnakeCreekGrill.com
Spencer's for Steaks
At Spencer's, aged USDA-certified natural Black Angus beef steaks are hand-cut and seared at 1,600 degrees. So, if you can find a better steak in Salt Lake City than at Spencer's, go for it. The steaks here, in tandem with sommelier (and occasional City Weekly Drink column contributor) Louis Koppel's spot-on wine pairings make lunch or dinner a risk-free experience. But before the meat, there are chilled “colossal” shrimp with Absolut Peppar Bloody Mary cocktail sauce to be had, not to mention the refreshing Romaine lettuce hearts with homemade croutons and aged Parmesan. Although the double-cut lamb chops are spectacular, it's hard to resist the classic “Spencer Steak,” which is 14 ounces of boneless Creekstone Farms natural beef rib-eye, cooked exactly to your specification.
255 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-238-4748, SpencersForSteaksAndChops.com/SaltLakeCity
Spoony & Nata's Down
The odd location of this restaurant is fitting. It reminds me of the strange, often-wonderful little cafes you find in and around New Orleans—tucked away in alleys, butting up against the Mississippi, in a hidden courtyard or in the back of someone's house. The po' boy here is terrific: tender shrimp in a crispy batter coating with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and rémoulade on a po' boy roll worthy of the Crescent City. But don't overlook the gumbo: a large bowl brimming with crab, shrimp, sausage and chicken—shells, bones and all—over rice. It's delicious in the way that only a slow-cooked, homemade gumbo can be. The jambalaya, too, is exceptional: a plate of perfectly cooked converted rice with tender chunks of boneless chicken breast and smoked sausage slices, perfectly spiced. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
1810 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-467-0400, SpoonyandNatas.com
Located in the beautiful Waldorf Astoria, just below The Canyons resort, this is the “sister” restaurant to San Francisco's Spruce. As with the California version, everything about Park City's Spruce is first-class. I suggest enjoying a first-class cocktail at the long white Carrera marble bar before retiring to the dining room, equipped with chocolate-colored mohair walls and faux ostrich-covered chairs. Chef Mark Sullivan's menu changes frequently, but I highly recommend the house-made charcuterie, sweetbreads Lyonnaise, honey-laquered duck breast with cinnamon foie gras and the buttered Maine lobster with potato gnocchi. A superbly well-thought-out wine selection and first-class service puts Spruce in a class of its own.
2100 Frostwood Drive, Park City, 435-647-5566, SprucePC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Zelda: Spruce at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City is truly inspired.
At St. Bernard's, located inside the Inn in the village at Solitude Mountain Resort, chef Matt Barrigar cooks up a range of delectable dishes—everything from wild blueberry pancakes and corned beef hash for breakfast, to lemon-cured free-range chicken and a lamb porterhouse for dinner. Among the dishes you won't want to miss are the duck confit with sage brown butter and the decadent pork jowls braised with dates and red wine. Dinners here tend to be lengthy and filling, so I suggest booking a room at the inn to sleep off all that dining goodness.
The Inn at Solitude, Solitude Mountain Resort, Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801-535-4120, SkiSolitude.com
There are dozens and dozens of Chinese restaurants along the Wasatch Front, but Szechuan Garden is special. Hey, U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman himself is a fan. For over 35 years, Chef Meng has been cooking Szechuan cuisine in prestigious venues around the world. So, we're quite fortunate to have him here cooking for us—in Sandy, no less. Orders of camphor tea-smoked duck, fish filet in Szechuan chili sauce, intestines with pickles, and scallops with black pepper are all exotic and outstanding. For the more mainstream, there's also chow mein, kung pao, foo yong, sweet & sour and the like. Truly, something for everyone.
1275 E. 8600 South, Sandy, 801-233-0027, The-Szechuan-Garden.com
When I'm asked to name my favorite Salt Lake City restaurant, Takashi springs forth from my lips as often as any other. “Sushi in Salt Lake City?” is the standard response. Well, yes. I'll put Takashi up against the best Japanese restaurants in the country. Takashi Gibo's cuisine is creative, artful, surprising and, most important, absolutely delicious. Add to that superb service and an outstanding list of wines, beer and sake, and, well, those are the components for creating a truly memorable dining experience—one that Takashi offers on a daily basis.
18 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-519-9595
Readers Shout Out:
Monica: Takashi is my favorite place to eat in Salt Lake City. It's not just the amazingly fresh fish, it's the inventive flavors and wonderful presentation. It's the one place in town that I can confidently order anything off the menu and know it will blow my mind. Takashi takes sushi places I never thought possible, and that's what keeps me coming back.
Talisker on Main
For many years, I've been enamored of longtime Park City chef John Murcko's cooking. Now, he has a home to call his own—at Talisker on Main—and he's hitting it out of the park. For an interesting appetizer, Murcko serves up lobster hush puppies with tarragon butter, which tastes as brilliant as it sounds. Keeping with the lobster theme, I can't resist the lobster chowder, with sorrel oil, sourdough croutons and floating lobster claw. As with everything else at Talisker, the service, too, is impeccable. They only hire the cream of the crop. For a big blow-out, consider indulging in the chef's tasting menu.
515 Main St., Park City, 435-658-5479, TaliskerOnMain.com
Taste of India
Taste of India offers authentic Indian cuisine with dishes such as shrimp korma, lamb biryani, chicken vindaloo, channa masala, saag paneer, aloo mattar, daal makhani and much more. Especially good is the butter chicken: tandoor roasted chicken cooked in a butter, onion, tomato and cream sauce. Since great care and finesse is put into every Taste of India dish, you won't find the standard lunch buffet. However, to sample a range of what this wonderful restaurant has to offer, I recommend the Thali lunch special: two entrees served on large silver platters with raita, kheer, rice and naan.
1664 N. Woodland Park Drive, Layton, 801-614-0107, TasteofIndiaLayton.com
Readers Shout Out:
Melissa: I am a curry addict. Although I find the menu at Taste of India in Layton on the pricy side, the exquisite food more than makes up for it. The owners are so friendly and always willing to talk food. In fact, some of my Indian recipes at home have been much improved with their tips. My favorite dishes are the lamb roganjosh, coconut korma and the very best alu gobi in the state (and probably the world, as far as I'm concerned).
Tiburon Fine Dining
For more than 10 years now, Tiburon has been quietly pleasing palates out in Sandy. They were doing it long before other fine dining eateries discovered the suburbs. It's hard not to love a dish as decadent as the St. Andree triple creme brie and five-hour “dry” braised Kurobuta pork belly appetizer.
8256 S. 700 East, Sandy, 801-255-1200, TiburonSLC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Pam: I vote for Tiburon, and I get so tired of people saying that Tiburon is just a good Sandy restaurant. This would be a great restaurant no matter where it was located. We who live in Sandy are just extra lucky that they decided to open up here. The food and service is better than anywhere else you'll find. Try it and you'll see.
Tin Angel Café
The Tin Angel Café is wildly popular for its quirky, funky, fun atmosphere and food, not to mention live music and art shows. Perched across from Pioneer Park, you can count on chef Jerry Liedtke to incorporate fresh ingredients from the Downtown Farmers Market when it's in operation. In warm weather, the patio is a great place to take in the neighborhood sights and sounds, nibbling on Tin Angel tapas like fried risotto cakes, speck-wrapped shrimp, spiced almonds with bleu cheese, bresaola carpaccio, chorizo and shrimp skewer or fish cakes with spicy aioli. On Saturdays, there's a popular brunch—be sure to try the all-natural beef tips with eggs.
365 W. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-328-4155, TheTinAngel.com
Readers Shout Out:
Beth: The Tin Angel is my overall favorite restaurant. Always good, local ingredients and a great vibe.
Tony Caputo's Market & Deli
I don't know a Salt Lake City food enthusiast who wouldn't lose his/her mind were Tony Caputo's Market & Deli not in existence. It's the source for imported and domestic cheeses, charcuterie, pastas, chocolates and a thousand-plus items to entice foodies, including excellent deli sandwiches, salads and specials. And now, there's more Tony to go around, with the recent opening of Caputo's on 15th, a slimmed-down version of the original downtown Caputo's.
314 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-531-8669; 1516 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-486-6615, CaputosDeli.com
Readers Shout Out:
Beth: Don't forget Caputo's: best sandwiches!
In the beginning, Tsunami was known—in its original Sugar House location—mostly for great sushi. But, as the enterprise has expanded to Midvale and South Jordan, so has the menu. Sure, there are still stellar sushi, sashimi and nigiri; the seven-piece nigiri combo is one of my favorites. But, Tsunami also cooks up dishes from the kitchen, like chicken katsu, miso-marinated Alaskan black cod, broiled green lip mussels, escolar and langoustine “poppers,” and their awesome baby-back ribs with jalapeño-teriyaki sauce. And, you'll find those in the know at Tsunami's popular sushi happy hour, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at all three locations.
2223 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-467-5545; 7628 S. Union Park Ave., Midvale, 801-676-6466; 10722 River Front Parkway, South Jordan, 801-748-1178, TsunamiUtah.com
Visiting Tuscany restaurant serves as a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city—a gorgeous getaway, tucked among the trees of Holladay. Ex-Jazz great Mark Eaton serves as owner and manager, encouraging diners to indulge in seductive dishes such as oysters asiago, herb-crusted beef carpaccio, pan-seared chicken piccata, Hawaiian sea bass with risotto croquet and the bodacious wood oven-roasted, cured double center-cut pork chop. And, since Eaton is a wine aficionado and collector himself, you'll find a sensational selection of wines by the bottle or glass, both in the restaurant and the comfy bar.
2832 E. 6200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-277-9919, TuscanySLC.com
Through all the dust, demolition and debris of “Downtown Rising,” Vienna Bistro owner/chef Frody Volgger has hung tough, keeping his Viennese-style eatery open despite the long odds and construction barriers. Hell, the city should be paying him rent. At any rate, this is the place to go downtown for a taste of Europe—Austria, specifically—where you'll find menu items such as semmelknodel, jagerschnitzel, chicken paprikasch and kasespazle, with a nod also to the rest of Europe: veal Marsala, steak au poivre, cheese fondue and pork loin Calvados. Of course, it's a no-brainer to finish off with linzer torte or fresh apple strudel.
132 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-322-0334, ViennaBistro.com
Vinto ain't your daddy's pizza parlor—unless, that is, David Harries is your daddy. If so, lucky you, because Harries has a knack for creating visually appealing, palate-pleasing eateries—he's been doing it for about 30 years, dating back to the original Riverhorse Café, Ameci and Barking Frog in Park City, as well as the Park Café in Salt Lake City. The made-from-scratch meatballs at Vinto are heavenly orbs in a class of their own. And, I love the fennel and heirloom tomato pizza from the wood-fired pizza oven, which comes served on a plastic cutting board—a cool touch. Add to the terrific food at Vinto an easy-to-maneuver wine list and top-notch service, and you've got a recipe for success.
418 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-539-9999, Vinto.com
The concept behind Wahso is Shanghai in the 1930s: Art Deco and Victorian, with imported Asian screens, an ebony fireplace, private dining rooms reminiscent of Orient Express sleeper cars … in other words, an eye-popping restaurant filled with a collection of Asian artifacts from around the world. Amazingly, the food at Wahso manages to match the lofty ambiance. First course temptations include Wahso's pad Thai, hamachi sashimi and steamed pork buns. For entrees, it's hard to top the “forbidden” chicken curry made with organic chicken, the miso-marinated black Alaskan cod, or the porcini-crusted Certified Angus Beef tenderloin. A stellar list of wines and specialty cocktails rounds out the divine dining experience at Wahso.
577 Main, Park City, 435-615-0300, Wahso.com
Wild Grape New West Bistro
Wild Grape New West Bistro espouses the use of fresh, natural, local, sustainable, organic products and ingredients whenever possible. Which sounds great, but doesn't mean much if the food isn't the same. However, the cuisine at Wild Grape reaches the lofty levels of their mission, with tempting dishes such as fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, Niman Ranch bavette steak with chimichurri, paprika prawns with local papparedelle, and roasted halibut with Utah peas and potato gnocchi. There's also a popular, wide-ranging brunch menu on the weekends, and an excellent selection of wines by the glass, bottle or splash.
481 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-746-5565, WildGrapeBistro.com
With Zucca Trattoria, Italian-born chef/owner Elio Scanu brings authentic, rustic, and robust flavors of Italy to South Ogden. The very appealing ambiance is actually overshadowed by Elio's cuisine, which ranges from wood-fired, oven-baked Margherita pizza and fritto misto to monkfish loins in Bordelaise sauce, and heavenly pasta bathed in ultra-silky sauce made with heavy cream, butter, Fontina, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Veggie lovers will appreciate grigliata mista di verdure, a platter of wood oven-roasted peppers, zucchini, oyster mushrooms and eggplant with garlic, olive oil and parsley. And now, there's even more Zucca, with the recent opening of Zucca Market, where you can purchase fresh cheeses, olives, charcuterie and more for the home pantry.
1479 E. 5600 South, Ogden, 801-475-7077, MyZucca.com