Best of Utah 2009: Food and Drink 

Salt Lake City's finest restaurants

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BEST ITALIAN
Cucina Toscana

On a nightly basis, the great Italian restaurateur/maestro Valter Nassi orchestrates a symphony of fresh flavors and a ballet of superb serviceall hitting the operatic high-notes that we know as Cucina Toscana: City Weekly readers' pick for best Italian restaurant. From the ethereal homemade gnocchi and handcrafted risotto to the sublime house specialty piccata di pollo al limone, we're not even sure you could find better Italian fare in Italy. One thing is certain, you'll never find a more welcoming host than Nassi.
307 W. Pierpont Ave, Salt Lake City, 801-328-3463, Cucina-Toscana.com
2. Lugano
3. Fratelli's Ristorante

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BEST BUDGET LUNCH
Moochie's Meatballs & More

The house that Moochie's built was laid with a foundation of meatballs and grilled Philly steak. And while these two sub options are still Moochie's bedrock, any true gourmand on a budget can you tell that Moochie's wallet friendly lunch menu extends beyond these two divine sandwiches. Even taking on just half a meatball or Philly cheese sandwich will provide an ample amount of messy lunchtime gorging and only set you back between $5 to $6. But that's not counting other great $6 lunch options like the gi-normous Reuben or the tuna grinder loaded with a full can of tuna. For the truly frugal who want to try a twist on the classic Moochies' meatball, how about the macaroni or potato salad with a hearty scoop 'o meatball on top ($4)? That's some mighty fine lunch on a budget.
232 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-0232, MoochiesMeatballs.com
2. Blue Plate Diner
3. Himalayan Kitchen

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BEST ATMOSPHERE
Caff Molise
The ambience and atmosphere at Caffe Molise change with the seasons. During winter, it's a cozy, warm spot to enjoy chef/owner Fred Moesinger's bistecca with grilled mushrooms and a glass of hearty Italian Barolo. When the weather turns warm, the Caff Molise action moves outside to the garden patio which surrounds a flowing fountain, where lighter dishes like pomodori e mozzarella are in order. Every Friday nightregardless of the seasonthe Caff Molise atmosphere is charged with jazz, courtesy of the Jon Flanders Trio.
55 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-8833, CaffeMolise.com
2. Log Haven
3. Fratelli's Ristorante

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BEST BAKERY (BREAD)
Great Harvest
With more than 20 bakeries in 43 states, Great Harvest must be doing something right. Of the 10 Utah branches, if a recent lunchtime visit to the Draper location is to judge by, local operations are continuing the franchise's national success story of selling honey whole wheat bread and other delicious loaves to American bread lovers. Without additives or preservatives, the breads are baked on premises and range in flavor from cheddar garlic to cranberry walnut. They also offer dipping oils and upscale jams, along with scones, biscottis and chocolate-chip cookies. With Harvest box lunches and even bread gift options, any bread lover's needs are more than fulfilled.
Multiple locations, GreatHarvestUtah.com
2. Crumb Bros.
3. Java Cow

BEST CUPCAKES
Mini's

Stepping into the quaint little Mini's bakery with its pink candy-striped lobby and Audrey Hepburn themed dcor, one might imagine somehow they've been shrunk and transported inside a 1950's Barbie dollhouse. And while the funky retro feel is very inviting, it's the decadent gourmet cupcakes that really draw the crowds. Mini's makes a mean cupcake, and even at $1.75 to $2 for a mini cupcake, you're getting a lot for your taste buds. The bakery does a lot of wedding business and can custom build the perfect cupcakes for your special day. If the femme fabulous ambience of the place doesn't jive with all you macho dudes, why not stop by for one of the tougher daily specials like the Monday Lemon Drop cupcake, soaked in Citron Vodka and frosted in lemon creme cheese frosting. For the more daring, try the Tuesday Margaritaville speciala fresh lime cupcake soaked in tequila.
14 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-0608, Mini-Cupcakes.com

BEST HIGH-ALTITUDE SUSHI
The Aerie Sushi Bar

The Jimmy Walker roll is Dyn-O-Mite! But then, so is everything else at the Aerie Sushi Bar, perched atop Snowbird's Cliff Lodge. Magnificent mountain views match the marvelous sushi and sashimi, artfully constructed by chef Otto Blum and his top-notch team of sushi artists. Put yourself in their hands and order "omakase" style, which means to "protect" or "entrust." You entrust yourself to the sushi chef by basically telling him, "Feed me!" Maybe you'll be treated to thin-sliced sashimi from a live Diver scallop or the Aerie's bodacious three-way Wagyu beef dish.
Level 10, Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Resort, Little Cottonwood Canyon, 801-933-2160, Snowbird.com

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BEST BAKERY (SWEETS)
Gourmandise The Bakery
It's hard to imagine a greater pleasure on a warm summer afternoon than a visit to the downtown European-style Gourmandise The Bakery for a coffee and something to soothe that sweet-tooth craving. Gourmandise's shelves all but groan under the weight of delicious cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, scones and tarts. The problem, as ever, is making a choice. As you perambulate up and down the front counter, gazing at the saliva-enducing flaky croissants and the classic Chocalate Decadence and Strawberry Chantilly torte, not to mention robust muffins, it's almost painful to choose. Once you've made your pick and ordered coffee, all that awaits is a chair outside on the hedged-off patio and the opportunity to pamper yourself with dreams of getaways to Paris or Barcelona as you dig into your just dessert.
250 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-328-3330, Gourmandies.com
2. Carlucci's
3. So Cupcake

BEST CENTRAL UTAH CAFE
Farlaino's Caf

Most peopleespecially those zipping to Lake Powellonly see Price through the rear-view mirror. They really should stop and at least visit the nice dinosaur museum. Or hit Main Street and drop into Farlaino's for a tremendous breakfast or lunch. Home to thriving Greek and Italian communities, the Price area still holds some traditions true, and Farlaino's is one of them. Enjoy heaping servings of your American favorites with a smattering of European flair like its homemade Italian sausage, courtesy of owner Sam Farlaino's secret family recipe. Ah, the good old days.
87 W. Main, Price, 435-637-9217

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BEST BREAKFAST
Blue Plate Diner
If you can never get enough of breakfastif you love omelets, Benedicts, griddle cakes, biscuits, huevos rancheros and breakfast burritosjust remember, Blue Plate serves it all day here, seven days a week. They champion all breakfast causes: From those who insist breakfast is lapping up crunchy bacon and greasy sausage to those who favor eggs and home fries to those who swear by tofu and veggies, all will find something to delight and awaken the taste buds. And, yep, the patio on a cool summer morn does make the breakfast world go 'round.
2041 S. 2100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-463-1151, MySpace.com/BluePlateDiner
2. Ruth's Diner
3. Eggs in the City

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BEST INEXPENSIVE
Blue Plate Diner
Back in 1930s, the blue-plate special was a low-price meal served on a blue plate with dividers. Substitutions were not allowed, but it was a "square for two bits." So, let's clear things up. You won't find divided blue plates at Salt Lake's Blue Plate Diner, but you will find delicious daily specials. The friendly wait staff will allow substitutions with your order, and you'll likely pay more than two bits for your meal. But you won't need a federal subsidy to enjoy a packed menu of omelets, sandwiches, salads, burgers, chicken-fried steak, homemade meatloaf and fish & chips. Blue Plate is the diner to get us through these vexing economic times, which, for many, seem like the '30s all over again.
2041 S. 2100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-463-1151, MySpace.com/BluePlateDiner
2. Citrus Grill
3. Caf Rio

BEST SURPRISING APPETIZER
The Dodo

"Baked cream cheese, marinated in soy sauce, breaded with toasted sesame seeds. Served with apple and Asian pear slices and crackers." Maybe it's just us, but this Dodo Restaurant starter sounds well, yucky. But nay! In fact, it's a fantastic blend of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy, warm and cold. It's a generous serving that easily kicks off a dinner for four, keeping you occupied while the chef prepares signature Dodo entrees like honey-baked salmon, Cajun chicken Alfredo, and decadent beef Stroganoff.
152 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-456-2473; 1355 E. 2100 South, Sugar House, 801-486-2473; TheDodo.net

BEST COWBOY CHIC
Holy Smoke BBQ & Grill

Stroll into Layton's Holy Smoke BBQ & Grill and you'll think you've been transported onto a Wild West movie set. The joint is decorated to the nines with Western paraphernalia: saddles, cowboy boots, Rifleman-style rifles, branding irons and a nice collection of arrowheads. But somehow, the dcor comes across not as kitschy, but as honoring cowboys, ranch hands, American Indians and the like. And whether you're into Old West cowboy chic or not, you'll fall in love with the scrumptious St. Louis pork spare ribs, Carolina-style pulled pork, Texas beef brisket and Memphis-style barbecued chicken. It's all finger-licking great.
855 Heritage Park Blvd, Layton, 801-614-5011, HolySmokeBBQ-Grill.com

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BEST LATE-NIGHT
The Belgian Waffle

Midnight isn't for hoity-toity fare; it's the time to dive into the stuff that only an old-school diner can offer. Open 24 hours a day, this Midvale stalwart serves up a menu with something for every late-night appetite. Dig into a juicy burger or classic sandwich or share a banana split with a friend. Or if an after-hours breakfast is just what the doctor ordered, take the restaurant's name at face value and enjoy a plate of waffles or a massive Denver omelet. Any time is the right time; the lights are always on.
7331 S. 900 East, Midvale, 801-566-5731
2. Molca Salsa
3. Dee's
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