Best of Utah 2010: Food & Drink 

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Best Wine Selection
Pago

You might think that winning a Best Wine Selection award would require a 4,000-bottle wine cellar, a phone book-size wine menu and a dedicated sommelier. But, you’d be wrong. When it comes to wine, City Weekly readers seem to favor quality over quantity. At Pago, owner Scott Evans’ well-selected wine list features around 20 wines by the glass or bottle, with a number of very interesting choices (Evans is a self-confessed wine geek). So, along with Pago’s quality fare, you might find yourself sipping wines such as Pedro Ximenez Odysseus, Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine Tempier Mourvedre, Apaltagua Cabernet, or a festive, bubbly glass of Marques Gelida Brut. Sometimes, less is more. 878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0777, PagoSLC.com
2. Fleming’s
3. Fratelli Ristorante

Best Hop & Go
The Beer Store

Sure, you can get the good brew at State Liquor Stores, but it’s always warm and dusty—what do they think we are, European? The brewery-ensconced Beer Store on 300 West sells the local bra%uFFFD fresh and cold, whether in growlers from the tap or refrigerated bottles of Wasatch and Squatters favorites like Devastator, Hop Rising and even Brigham’s Brew root beer (if you’re into the non-alcoholic stuff). After a long day at the office, there’s nothing like picking up a frosty sixer or two of some of Utah’s best suds; the only way to improve The Beer Store would be to install a drive-thru window. 1763 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City, 801-466-8855, UtahBeers.com

Best Budget Lunch Downtown
City Market Place & Deli

For downtown denizens, the City Market Place & Deli is a well-kept secret. Just off the hustle and bustle of Main, the deli offers a bounty of tasty breakfast and lunch options priced right for our trying economic times. No meal on this menu, from a Reuben to a chicken pita, will cost more than $6 with tax. Breakfasts like freshly-made breakfast pitas stuffed with two scrambled eggs, ham or bacon and a choice of cheese will only cost about $4. Add a cup of joe and it’s still about $5. For the real treat, though, try the daily specials, such as filling chicken enchiladas or chile verde burritos. Now, if only they were open for dinner, it really would be possible to dine downtown on a dime. 46 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-355-0100

Best Classy Burger
Salt City Burger Co.

In the Quarry Bend strip mall, Salt City Burger Company provides an oasis of coziness in a range of stores and restaurants that offer little in the way of inviting facades. The warm light from Salt City is like a beacon broadcasting the existence of this unusual entry in the fast-food stakes. With its rust-brown walls and comfortable booths, it encourages the diner to savor the burger-only menu, of which the smokehouse bacon, with bacon ground into the patty, is a standout. Salt City understands that diners crave a little class with their burger so they don’t feel like cogs in a corporate wheel, and Salt City delivers in style. 9176 S. Village Shop Drive, Sandy, 801-495-4111, SaltCityBurgerCo.com

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Best Mexican
Red Iguana

Holy mole! Can anyone remember a year when Red Iguana didn’t win the Best of Utah award for Best Mexican? Will it ever happen? We should live so long. When Red Iguana founders Ramon and Maria Cardenas got into the restaurant biz more than 40 years ago, they couldn’t have possibly foreseen the success they’d have. But Red Iguana is so popular with lovers of Mexican food that it’s now spawned Red Iguana 2 and Taste of Red Iguana with, undoubted, more Iguanas to come. The reason: A fun, funky atmosphere combined with friendly service and signature dishes such as cochinita pibil, papadzules, chilaquiles, puntas de filete a la Norteña and, of course, those glorious moles. Multiple locations, RedIguana.com
2. Blue Iguana
3. La Frontera

Best Cityscape Escape
Cafe Trio

To truly pass muster, a restaurant’s outdoor patio must do one thing: Transport you away from the urban chaos. It’s no good having a gorgeous vine-covered patio if a nearby crowded street destroys the serenity and chokes the air with toxic fumes. Trio’s patios set the standard—they’re covered by striped awnings and have flower-boxes and mist-sprays to whisk you away to wherever your dreams require. 680 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-533-8746; 6405 S. 3000 East, Salt Lake City, 801-944-8746, TrioDining.com

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Best Eastern Valley Restaurant
Citris Grill

Talk to Citris Grill’s regulars, and sooner or later, they’ll talk about how it’s their local haunt, the one venue that’s truly worthy of the word “neighborhood.” Part of that reflects Citris’ attentions to a customer’s wants. It recognizes that size matters. Their small wine list doesn’t overwhelm you, while half-sized plates can be ordered if you’re just in the mood for a nibble. The waitstaff are always friendly, and by the time you’re ready to leave, it’s with the knowledge that it won’t be long before you’re back again. 2991 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-466-1202, CitrisGrill.com
2. Lugano
3. Bombay House

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Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Café Trang

Cafe Trang’s biggest selling point has always been its ample portions and its extraordinary range of dishes. How do they manage to serve dishes so quickly from a menu that runs in the hundreds? Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, vegetarian and sushi—only on the dinner menu—are offered in a pan-Asian approach that ensures no palate goes away unsatisfied. Multiple locations, CafeTrangRestaurant.com
2. Mi La Cai
3. Pho Tay Ho

Best Plate Lunch
Mo’ Bettah Steaks

At Kimo and Kalani Mack’s Mo’ Bettah Steaks, the specialty is what is known in Hawaii as a “steak plate” or “plate lunch,” a protein served with rice and macaroni salad. And, at Mo’ Bettah Steaks, the plate lunch rocks! The Kahlua pork is juicy, shredded, heavily salted (authentically Hawaiian) tender pork that is so full of flavor your tastebuds will be doing the hula. The teriyaki chicken lunch plate is a big pile of boneless, skinless thighs that’ll instantly transport you to the islands. Best of all, Kalani and Kimo encourage all comers to arrive in shorts and “slippahz” (flip-flops). Aloha! 335 W. 1830 South, Salt Lake City, 801-466-3886; 273 W. 500 South, Bountiful, 801-296-2928, MoBettahSteaks.com

Best Slider
Metropolitan

Sure, Metropolitan is well-known and deservedly lauded for its cutting-edge cuisine, stunning design and decor, and superlative service, but we also love Met for its bar food. Yes, at Metropolitan you can actually belly up to the bar and order mac & cheese, pommes frites, grilled cheese & tomato soup, and chicken pot pie. But, the one bar bite you definitely won’t want to miss is the juicy, toothsome, bodaciously awesome buffalo slider. Bet you can’t eat just one! 173 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City, 801-364-3472, TheMetropolitan.com

Best Moab Pizza
Paradox Pizza

It’s easy to support Paradox Pizza because it uses fresh ingredients, humanely raised natural meats, organic products, plus it composts, recycles and uses biodegradable packaging. That’s all well and good, but the main reason to get your lips around a slice of Paradox pizza is the taste. Paradox Pizza serves up East Coast-style pies from its old deck pizza oven that lends a taste of Little Italy. All of the pizzas at Paradox are good, but the East Coast Special really rocks. 702 S. Main, Moab, 435-259-9999, ParadoxPizza.com

Best Latino Flavors
The Alley Table

Jose, Ernesto and Demetrio opened up this simple but intriguing eatery in 2009 after working together as short-order cooks at a Flying J truckstop. They wanted to do something different from the typical Mexican eatery, so they’ve expanded their menu to include South American fare such as empanadas and milanesas. Their milanesa—lightly fried breaded veal—is a revelation, so tender it all but melts in the mouth. 1190 N. Main, Springville, 801-491-8870‎

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Best Balls
Lugano

Anytime is the right time to visit Lugano for owner/chef Greg Neville’s sensational Italian cooking. But if you have to settle on just one day per week, we suggest Monday. Nothing gets the week started off with a bang like Neville’s “Everything Pinot and Meatball Mondays,” where the stars of the evening are Pinot Noir wines and meatballs the size of yer noggin. These 14-ounce balls are slowly braised and served with spaghetti and homemade sauce, with a selection of PInot Noir flights by the glass. Go ahead: Have a ball. 3364 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-412-9994, LuganoRestaurant.com

Best Fried Chicken
Mom’s Cafe

As the sun sets on the corner of Main and Center Street in Salina (central Utah), Mom’s Café stands defiant. The delicious and surprisingly unstodgy Utah scones, moist broasted chicken (read: deep-fried under pressure), and liver and onions testify to what’s best about Utah cuisine— homey, old-fashioned cooking. Even though the deceased former owner’s porcelain-doll collection has been replaced by the new owner’s hunting photographs—he’s the district’s game warden—the way patrons and waitstaff talk about “Mom” suggests her spirit still keeps the flag flying for honest food. 10 E. Main, Salina, 435-529-3921

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Best Thai
Chanon Thai

Perhaps it’s the mellow vibes from the friendly family of servers, the eclectic mismatched plates or just the rich culmination of spices and flavors—whatever it is, it has become an exquisite all-around dining experience known simply as Chanon. The authentic menu will bring the heat, so be ready to chase your sensuous pad thai or Massaman curry with a soothing banana or coconut and ice cream dessert. Whether you’re a Thai aficionado, curryphile, foodie or just plain hungry—this is the Thai spot for you. 278 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-532-1177
2. Sawadee
3. Thai Siam

Best Park & Ride Cafe
Liberty Park Grill

One block away from the always-crowded Park Cafe, in the heart of Liberty Park, is a small breakfast cafe that almost never has a wait, offering ample outdoor seating and, most importantly, good eats. It’s also a great place to take kids, because the surrounding park space gives them plenty of room to run without the parents losing sight of them. Finally, during the summer, breakfast can be followed with old-school fun-park entertainment on the nearby ferris wheel, carousel, and flying chairs. 1150 S. 600 E., Salt Lake City, 801-972-7800

Best Huge-Portions Restaurant
La Frontera Cafe

This long-standing Mexican restaurant may have the best comfort food in the valley. La Frontera’s ample servings, which should always be smothered with its amazing chili verde, are a giant, greasy hug for ragged souls. That’s true for any of their six outposts, but the food served at the Glendale location seems to have more spice, while the restaurant itself feels more like a small-town cafe. 1236 W. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-523-3158

Best Flashing Knives
Fuji Japanese Steak House & Sushi

Watching an Asian chef toss knives and spatulas with abandon over a hot plate is hardly new. What Fuji—a newcomer to Sandy’s ever-expanding line up of culinary institutions—does, though, is turn it into an art form. Their chefs do a dazzling series of knife juggles followed by an onion volcano that they put out with a squeeze toy that pees on the flames. Then, the chef catches an egg in his hat, finishing a performance that will cause children to break out in cheers, a response that justifies the price of the check on its own. 10649 State, Sandy, 801-523-6022, FujiSandy.com

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Best Japanese
Takashi

For many fans of Takashi Gibo, his namesake restaurant isn’t just the best Japanese restaurant in town, but the best restaurant, period. The vibrant eatery is constantly buzzing with customers who come not just for Takashi’s world-class sushi, but also for his sublime cooked fare. Innovative dishes such as bluefin tuna topped with a bone marrow meringue; Kurobuta pork belly with spicy miso; and green tea panna cotta push the envelope of Salt Lake City restaurant cuisine, and the knockout sake selection just adds to the fun at Takashi. 18 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-519-9595, TakashiSushi.com
2. Kyoto
3. Naked Fish
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Best Steaks
Donovan’s Steak & Chop House

For the meat eater, Donovan’s defines pleasure. It’s not just the outstanding wine list and attentive sommelier (Jimmy Santangelo) that tells you after you’ve sat down that you’re in good hands. Nor is it the wood-paneled décor or the free prime steak sandwiches and wraps at happy hour from the bar that leave so many departing with smiles on their lips. What truly elevates Donovan’s to an experience to be savored, cherished and repeated is its understanding that great food and wine in a comfortable location is all most folks need. 134 W. Pierpoint Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-359-4464, DonovansSteakhouse.com
2. Spencer’s For Steaks & Chops
3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
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