Best of Utah 2010: Food & Drink 

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Best Food to Wait in Line for at the State Fair
Navajo Tacos

Beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes stacked atop fresh fry bread: There are few things that taste more quintessentially summer than Navajo tacos after perusing award-winning livestock, watching cheesy how-to cooking presentations, or prowling the midway. So grab a Navajo taco, a cold beer or lemonade and go watch the alligator show. 155 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City, 801-538-8400, Utah-State-Fair.com

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Best Salads
Cafe Zupas

The name means “soups,” but for its many fans, it means salads, too. When you step up to the Zupas counter, you could be overwhelmed by the topping options if you decide to build your own salad. So, why not simply try one of the uniquely terrific specialty options, like the red raspberry spinach salad (with pears, grapes, bleu cheese, pistachios and raspberry vinaigrette) or the piña colada chicken salad (with pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, macadamia nuts and a zippy piña colada dressing). Half-salads (a plentiful portion) are just $4.99, and you can finish off each with the chocolate-dipped strawberry that’s part of every purchase. Multiple locations, CafeZupas.com
2. Cafe Trio
3. Red Rock Brewing Co.

Best Veggie Sandwich
Great Harvest, Layton

Great Harvest stores are laboratories of bakery inventiveness. Except for the logo, fresh-ground flour and honey whole-wheat bread, franchise locations are encouraged to experiment. Vegetarians who like big flavor can rejoice: Without such nonconformist policies, the spicy veggie sandwich available only at the two Layton Great Harvest locations may not exist. Red pepper spread on tomato herb bread are the ingredients that set this sandwich apart, but the cheddar and provolone cheeses, cucumber, mixed peppers, onions, tomatoes and lettuce seal the deal. 96 N. Main, Layton, 801-543-0304; 755 W. Antelope Drive, Layton, 801-614-0422, GreatHarvestLayton.com

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Best Chef
Will Pliler, The New Yorker

Longtime New Yorker chef Will Pliler’s head should be about ready to explode—he’s probably won more awards than he has wall space for. This talented chef is confident, yet keeps his ego in check. Perhaps that’s why his local following is so vast. Well, that and his culinary expertise. From classics like escargot with Roquefort-garlic butter and roasted rack of lamb, to more contemporary fare such as his awesome pappardelle with Maine lobster or pepper-seared ahi tuna, Pliler hits all the right notes, day after day and night after night. Don’t be fooled by his humility; this guy can cook. 60 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-363-0166, GINC.com/NY
2. Peter Cannella, Fratelli Ristorante
3. Nathan Powers, Bambara

Best Euro-dining
Vienna Bistro

Did the lousy economy cause you to cancel your European vacation this year? Not a problem, thanks to Frody Volgger’s Vienna Bistro. If you’re looking for a slice of European ambiance, not to mention first-class Austrian-influenced cuisine, Vienna Bistro is the place. Grab a sidewalk table in warm weather and pretend you’re dining on a Viennese boulevard, or hunker down inside the cozy restaurant—perhaps at one of the window seats in front. Frody’s specialties include Raclette/Gruyere/Appenzeller fondue for two, j%uFFFDgerschnitzel, semmelkn%uFFFDdel, veal Zurich-style, pork loin Calvado, tournedo Rossini and, of course, fresh apple strudel. Just think how you’ll be able to splurge with the airfare you’re saving! 132 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-322-0334, ViennaBistro.com

Best Lentils
O’Falafel Etc.

O’Falafel Etc.’s signature sandwich is delightfully unorthodox. They serve their falafel almost as a spread rather than the traditional deep-fried ball, allowing each bite of the pita to include the key ingredient. But the menu doesn’t end at deep-fried chickpeas. Among the “et cetera” is the savory mujadareh, a vegan dish made with lentils that becomes vegetarian only if you dare dip into the delectable cucumber mint yogurt sauce. The lentils are mixed into a bed of rice and caramelized onions, topped with crisp sauteed onion strips. 790 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-7747

Best Raw Bulk
Cali’s Natural Foods

Chef, gardener and restaurateur Ian Brandt recently opened Cali’s Natural Foods grocery store to complement his other endeavors: Sage’s Cafe and Vertical Dinner. Upon entering Cali’s, the mounds of potatoes and winter squash along with rows of bulk beans and oats gives a warehouse-y, no-frills, “heck-of-a good deal” feel. Cali’s focus is on raw, wholesome ingredients that support the local environment—fry sauce out, Sun River Farms garlic in. 389 W. 1700 South, Suite C, Salt Lake City, 801-483-2254, CalisNaturalFoods.com

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Best Vegan Dishes
Sage’s Cafe

For those who struggle to find restaurants that understand vegan needs, Sage’s continues to be the standard by which others are assessed. As its “sensitivity menu” demonstrates, it strives to cater not only for vegan tastes, but also those who require gluten-free alternatives. And best of all, it recognizes that vegan doesn’t mean tasteless. Just try its superb sautéed spinach salad with Portobello mushrooms, almond sprinkles and pure maple candied pecans. 473 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3790, SagesCafe.com
2. Vertical Diner
3. Cakewalk
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Best Cheap Breakfast out West
Ogie’s Cafe

Ogie’s Cafe in West Valley has a attentive waitstaff that’s uncharacteristically pleasing: They’re ever so prompt with a coffee refill, but have been spotted chatting on their phone, talking to Mom, while serving up homestyle grub. The laid-back vibe fits well for early morning, but Ogie’s biggest brag is its five different plates for $2.99 that will fill your belly on the cheap. Of all the $2.99 plates, the fan-favorite is the scrambled egg burrito smothered in green chili. 3515 S. Redwood, West Valley, 801-201-4638, OgiesCafeandCatering.com

Best O-Town Hooch
Ogden’s Own Underground

Hard liquor made in Utah? What have you been drinking? This handy concoction brewed in Ogden has made its way around the local liquor stores and down the throats of many a willing drinker. Tim Smith decided to pay tribute to one of the city’s real heritage markets and push his love for booze to the next level by creating his own distillery. Already, he has his liquor in stores in 31 states. It’s a fitting memory of the long-gone Two Bit Street. 208-1/2 25th Street, Ogden, OgdensOwn.com

Best Crunchy Cookie
Salt Lake Roasting Co.

Binaries shape our lives: Limbaugh/Olbermann, talkers/listeners, boxers/briefs, haves/have nots, in love/seeking love. When it comes to cookies, the crunchy/chewy binary holds sway, but like Macs in a PC world, the crunchy cookie lover gets short shrift. Most bakeries offer only limp, doughy cookies. The Salt Lake Roasting Co. is the exception. There, the chocolate-chip cookies, embellished with pecans, are crisp from edge to middle. A rare chance to chomp down in a soft-cookie world. 320 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-7572, Roasting.com

Best O-Town Cajun
Soul & Bones

The chalkboard menu at Ogden’s Soul & Bones reads like a N’awlins dream: Fried pickles, fried okra, crawfish beignets, étouffée, blackened chicken, shrimp, crawfish Creole, blackened catfish, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, beef brisket, black-eyed peas, hush puppies, collard greens, dirty rice, crab cakes—it goes on and on, and there’s not a weak dish in the bunch. Even if you’re not into Cajun heat, Soul & Bones’ smoke-barbecued meats alone are worth the trip to 24th street. 319 E. 24th Street, Ogden, 801-627-4227, SoulAndBones.com

Best Dessert Oddity
Meditrina’s Drunken Oreo

No longer challenged by the deep-fried Twinkie? Try Meditrina’s Drunken Oreo. A conflation of three Oreo cookies saturated with red wine topped with Fendall’s vanilla bean ice cream and finished with a port reduction, the dessert is especially appealing to those who like a shot of Bailey’s in their after-dinner coffee. To the hoi polloi, the Drunken Oreo dessert is, well, odd. 1394 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-485-2055, MeditrinaSLC.com

Best Jazzy Gyro
The D-Will at Greek City Grill

Not much changes about the gyro. Layers of lamb (mostly) on a nice piece of fluffy pita and slathered in onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce. When someone first exchanged the white tzatziki sauce for a red tomato-based sauce, he was likely considered heretic and skewered on his own kebab. But gyros are growing up and now include many ingredients, the best of which is served at Greek City Grill and was invented by Utah Jazz star Deron Williams. The D-Will is a a pita smeared with red-pepper hummus, then stuffed with grilled chicken breast, diced cucumbers, tomato, minced red onion and crumbled feta with house dressing on the side. 6165 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-277-2355, GreekCityGrill.com

Best Fort Union Philly
Back East Cheesesteaks

Displaced Easterners are a fussy lot, always looking for “authentic” when it comes to cheesesteaks, hoagies and fries. So many eateries fuel the cheesesteak wars by insisting theirs is the quintessential sandwich. But this shop isn’t out to win a switchblade fight; it’s all about Philadelphia brotherly love. Relish a warm roll stuffed with meats, veggies and cheese and savor that good Back East feeling. Not only are the low prices revolutionary, but you’ll have freedom from hunger for hours afterward. 1005 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale, 801-233-5345, BackEast.biz

Best Sandwich With a Side of Quirk
Baba Mitza’s Soup & Sandwiches

In our haste to cruise State Street while wolfing fast food, dialing in tunes and checking our e-mail, we’ve gradually become inured to State Street’s charms. Bypass the open-only-for-lunch Baba Mitza’s, though, and you’ll miss the oversize turkey, Reuben and vegetarian sandwiches as well as the gumbo and cheddar potato soups. And then there’s the quirk: You’ll think you’ve stepped into a dark tavern. Pool tables beckon from the back room and a TV blares from behind the beerless bar. Take it all in while Baba Mitza and her next generation of sandwich staff cater to your empty craw. It’s a State Street original. 3110 S. State, South Salt Lake, 801-466-0882

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Best Banana Cake
Kiwi Bakery & Fish & Chips

Leave it to downtown Magna to have one of the most over-the-top bakeries in Utah. Operated by New Zealander Don Oliphant, the Kiwi Bakery serves up oversize specialty pastries like custard squares, lamintons, New Zealand cream donuts and creamed apple turnovers. Beyond that, its cases are filled with fresh sausage rolls and assorted meats pies. But then, what bakery in its right mind also serves succulent fish & chips to go? Crowds roll in for the sweet, the savory and the fried—many sporting a British, Aussie or Kiwi accent. And what about the banana cake, you ask? Imagine a slice of banana bread becoming all that it can be: a huge, rich piece of moist cake, covered with thick banana frosting and sprinkled with walnuts. This is banana bread’s college graduation. 8963 W. 2700 South, Magna, 801-250-9557, KiwiBakery.com

Best Wholesome Sliced Bread
Prairie Grain Bread Co.

This locally baked bread is available in grocery stores and, heck, even Walmart. The weighty sliced loaves come in varieties like crunch, honey whole wheat, golden honey wheat, low-carb “spelt” and oat bran. Put a slice in the toaster, wait for it to brown, spread butter and jam, and then commence to chew. No. 1, it’s nutty and oh-so-good. No. 2, one slice and you’re full. No. 3, now we’re talkin’ fiber (or should that be No. 2?). 211 W. 3680 South, Salt Lake City, 801-281-4076, PrairieGrainBread.com

Best Carnitas
Tomatillo Mexican Food

We know. You were expecting to read about one of your favorite street vendors. And sure, they’re authentic. But many of us go out to eat not only in search of the little braised meats which, when enclosed in a tortilla, become carnitas, but we also seek a place away from work, home and general chaos. Tomatillo is that welcoming café offering carnitas in generous portions using family recipes, made fresh to order and served hot off the grill. Try the Tomatillo lunch specials—most are less than $5 and will get you thinking outside the bun and the Bell. 355 W. 1830 South, Salt Lake City, 801-463-4741

Best Combo Meals
Hook & Ladder Co. Firestation #13

They’re not new in town. Their menu says they’ve been serving for 37 years. With antique fire trucks parked outside and a flamboyant adjacent floral and gift shop, the Hook & Ladder grabs your eye from the street. You can tell it’s an undiscovered candidate for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. So before it hits the big time, eat a pastrami or jalapeño burger, a foot-long hot dog, chicken crunch, soft taco, fish & chips, or a Goliath special. There are 19 combo meals to choose from, plus all manner of floats, cones, sundaes and shakes—all promising to put out the fire of your hunger pangs. 1313 W. California Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-972-2336

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