In 2000 we wrote: You’ve never really lived until you’ve had a meatball sandwich at Tony Caputo’s. So, you don’t like meatballs? No problem, Tony serves up any kind of sandwich you can imagine on your choice of bread with all the accoutrements. So squeeze on in to Caputo’s for a sandwich, and a little noontime browsing through Tony’s gourmet-stocked shelves. (Today we say: Tony is still blowing our mind with top-notch sandwiches and gourmet goodies, now in three locations.)
Pizza is a very personal thing. And for true pizza enthusiasts, the pursuit of the perfect pizza is never-ending. Well, for aficionados searching out thin-crust, not too cheesy, New York City-style pizza—the kind that you purchase by the slice, served on thin paper plates—Este is the end of the line. Call in the dogs, put out the fire; the hunt is over once you sink your teeth into a slice of Este’s perfect pizza.
2148 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-485-3699; 156 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2366, EstePizzaCo.com
2. The Pie
Best Pancake & a Tallboy
Linda Lin, aka Mom, has cooked damned near every meal at Big Ed’s for the past 34 years. Linda’s often blunt candor and the straightforward menu with breakfast items like the Gawd Awful is why Big Ed’s holds a special place in the hearts of generations of University of Utah students. It’s the closest place to the university to grab a beer, and it is certainly the only place where you can order a tall stack of pancakes with your tallboy (beer begins to flow at 11:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday). Many a hungover collegian has ambled through the wooden door of Big Ed’s with a heavy heart, only to leave an hour or two or three later with the feeling that the sharp lady behind the grill loves them—or at the very least, wants them to be full.
210 University St., Salt Lake City, 801-582-9045
Best Quality Control
Charming Beard Coffee
Charming Beard arrived in Utah after master roaster Levi Rogers fled the saturated Portland, Ore., market to bring his unique batches of high-quality blends to the Beehive State. Since arriving, he’s partnered with several individuals and coffee shops to craft more brews and expand the popularity of his beans. And the company doesn’t stop at selling the beans—training is also provided to the shops that brew Charming Beard so that the blends are at their absolute best from their start in the company’s roasters to their finish in the bottom of your cup.
SugarHouse Barbeque Co.
Back when it opened as Redbones, the restaurant that would become SugarHouse Barbeque Company raised the barbecue stakes for Salt Lake City, bringing Memphis-style barbecue to a town accustomed to eating ribs at Chuck-A-Rama. It was the real deal, and it still is, now in an expanded location on 2100 South. The meats and side dishes are excellent, but what really sets SugarHouse Barbeque apart is its housemade sauces, which range from the signature sweet and tangy barbecue sauce to Carolina-style mustard and pig sauces. Add a Bloody Buddy cocktail to the ‘cue and you’ve got yourself a fine, fine meal.
880 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-463-4800, SugarHouseBBQ.com
2. Pat’s Barbecue
3. R&R Barbeque
Best Place to Pass the Jam
The Park Café
This neighborhood favorite is friendliness personified. Huge windows give The Park Café—decorated with posters from local concerts—a bright atmosphere, and other kitschy décor items like action figures perched on ledges and stickers on the syrup bottles add subtle, authentic flair. The menu is simple and concise—and there isn’t a single thing on it that isn’t absolutely delicious and filling. But no matter what you order, make sure to get a side of toast—each table has a jar of one of the café’s delightful housemade jams, and you’ll soon be making friends with your neighbors as you trade flavors back and forth.
604 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-1670, TheParkCafeSLC.com
The affable owner of Mazza, Ali Sabbah, couldn’t have foreseen how beloved his Middle Eastern cafe would become some 14 years ago when he opened it. Back then, Mazza was more or less a fast-food joint, serving falafel on Styrofoam. Well, now there are two Mazzas to love, and the restaurants, menus and wine lists have grown to provide us lucky Utahns with some of the finest Middle Eastern cuisine west of the Mississippi. Come for the falafel; stay for the musakhan.
1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-484-9259; 912 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-521-4572, MazzaCafe.com
2. Layla Mediterranean Grill
3. Cedars of Lebanon
Best Source of Sodium
Is your salt real? That might be a question you never thought to ask yourself until you saw it on a package of Real Salt, sold nationwide by a Utah company of the same name. Real Salt started mining salt in 1958 from an ancient deposit in Redmond that’s 1 mile long, 3 miles wide and 5,000 feet deep, according to Darryl Bosshardt, a grandson of the mine’s founder. The first salt pulled from the mine was for agricultural use—you know, the kind cows lick. But then, about 30 years ago, Real Salt began producing table salt when a vein in the mine revealed salt that was edible for humans. Cows shouldn’t have all the fun.
The Sweet Tooth Fairy
A great contemporary purveyor of sweet treats wants to remind you of the wonderful things you’ve enjoyed in family kitchens, and dazzle you with creations that Mom or Grandma never would have considered. Megan Faulkner Brown’s Sweet Tooth Fairy shops—winners of a 2012 episode of Cupcake Wars—serve up comforting sugar cookies, but also give you gourmet cake bites like the coconut-y Samoa and decadent double fudge. And while simple cupcakes are sometimes enough, prepare your mouth for a chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting that’ll have you wishing this was the kitchen you grew up in.
Multiple locations, TheSweetToothFairy.com
2. Gourmandise the Bakery
3. City Cakes
Best Utah County Java Fix
Joe Coffee Shop & Espresso
When you walk into Joe Coffee Shop & Espresso in Payson, you might see a kid with piercings and tattoos chilling in one corner and a faded-Carhartt-and-cowboy-boot-wearing rancher in the other. The two coexist just fine over a cup of mud, which, even in this nest of conservative LDS culture, has been dripping at Joe for 16 years. Try a flavored latte like the Crazy Honky Hazel and settle in to listen to the talk. Hear that hint of twang in the voices? It ain’t Southern at all; just pure south Utah County speak. A few blocks east, you’ll find a sign guiding you to Payson Canyon and the Mount Nebo Loop. Driving the entire loop will put you on Interstate 15 near Nephi. On your way back north to wherever, stop back into Joe for another quick jolt. Try it once and you’ll have a hard time not dropping in every time you pass through.
145 E. Utah Ave., Payson, 801-465-1220
VIP Voters say the chain restaurant they’ll admit to frequenting is
“I can’t lie,” says KUTV’s David James. “I eat at Café Rio, and you know it, because you all eat there and you see me.”
If “all” is an exaggeration, it isn’t much of one. The 25 Utah locations are among nearly 70 Café Rios in 11 states—not too shabby for a little Mexican/Southwestern restaurant launched in St. George in 1997 by Steve and Patricia Stanley.
According to Café Rio’s chief marketing officer, Ben Craner, the success story is at least partly attributable to the Stanleys being ahead of their time in the restaurant business. “When Café Rio initially launched,” Craner says, “there were a couple of revolutionary ideas. Now there’s a whole segment called ‘quick casual,’ but at that point, not a lot of people had seen that. And Café Rio will make everything from scratch. Having people make it in front of them makes a big difference.”
Of course, there’s still a big step between a small restaurant in St. George and a nationwide chain—and for Café Rio, that process started with testing a second location in Provo. “When there was success there, they knew it was more than just a small-market idea,” Craner says. “There were people waiting in line for an hour for a burrito.”
And people are still willing to wait to order from the menu of fresh-made TexMex, which has remained remarkably stable over the years; “We know what we’re good at, and we continue to do that again and again,” Craner says.
That’s important in a restaurant marketplace that has changed considerably since Café Rio was ahead of the “quick casual” wave 15 years ago. “A lot of national players have realized Utah is a good market to be in,” Craner says. “That’s made everyone kind of step up their game—which is good for people in Utah.”
Best Cheesy Chocolate Shop
Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli
Some of us remember Matt Caputo, son of Tony, when he was a schoolkid working in his dad’s deli. Always a great sandwich shop and imported meat and cheese specialty store, Tony Caputo’s made its Best of Utah debut in second place in that category, which prompted the ever-affable Tony to take out an ad that said “the City Weekly staff wouldn’t know a good deli if it bit them on the ass.” We ran the ad and had a good laugh and watched as Tony and Matt have grown their deli to one of national repute. Today, Matt is one of the country’s most knowledgeable experts in all things cheese and chocolate. The gourmet chocolate selection at Caputo’s is the largest in the country, and the cheese “cave” allows Caputo’s to properly store and age cheeses in-house. Matt oversees both and also hosts frequent chocolate- and cheese-tasting classes. That’s our brand of “continuing education”!
Multiple locations, CaputosDeli.com
Given that this is a restaurant named for the capital of Nepal and also specializes in Nepali cuisine, it’s quite a testament to all of the food at The Kathmandu that it should win for Best Indian fare. It shows the versatility of the kitchen that the must-have Nepalese momos, methi lamb and jwanu goat are made right alongside delicious Indian dishes like chicken jelfrezi, chana masala, mattar paneer, aloo govi, prawn tandoori and egg biryani. It’s a United Nations of fantastic flavors.
3142 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-466-3504; 212 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, 801-355-0454, TheKathmandu.net
2. Bombay House
3. Saffron Valley
Best Street Meat
3 Brothers Tacos
Typically parked in front of Bar-X on Wednesday through Saturday nights, this family-owned street-meat distributor provides the perfect chaser to a night of high-class cocktails: $1 tacos. And the carne asada, chicken, spiced pork and veggie tacos have proven so popular with the bar crowd that owner Layo Gonzalez might soon be opening a storefront.
Salt Lake City, 801-688-9352
Best Utah County Restaurant
Black Sheep Cafe
Southwestern-style restaurants may be easy to come by, but there’s a unique flavor to Mark Daniel Mason’s mix of Mexican-influenced dishes with a bit of Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo Native American cuisine. You can try the enchiladas and chimichangas, or test the Navajo taco sampler with pinto beans, beef and green-chile pork. Even the burgers are distinctive, like the goat-cheese-stuffed beef patty topped with a portobello mushroom and adobo chile mayo and wrapped in flatbread. Wash it down with a cactus-pear lemonade for a lunch or dinner that’s unlike any other in Utah.
19 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-607-2485, Facebook.com/BlackSheepCafe
3. Pizzeria 712
VIP Voters say their favorite local landmark eatery is
If there’s anyone alive in Utah who remembers a time before there was Lamb’s Grill, look to that individual for life wisdom—because Lamb’s has been part of the Utah landscape for nearly a century.
That’s what made it so attractive to owner Francis Liong when he relocated to Utah from California in 2011. “Lamb’s has had only three owners since its beginning in 1919,” Liong says. “I am committed to building upon the solid base of business that was previously established by the Lamb and Speros families.”
It’s telling that our voters cited multiple reasons for considering Lamb’s a “landmark” aside from mere longevity. For developer Vasilios Priskos, Lamb’s is a “step back in time”; for Realtor Babs DeLay, it’s all about the food. And for former City Weekly editor Holly Mullen, one of the key factors is a wait staff that “knows the beauty of making small talk with the customer without being sticky and overbearing.”
City Weekly’s Ted Scheffler adds, “It’s hard to put a finger on the reasons for Lamb’s longevity, but I think it has to do first and foremost with consistency. While somehow staying current—you’ll find chicken leg confit on today’s menu, for example—Lamb’s has been able to buck short-lived food trends, sticking with time-tested menu items like trout Amandine and sauteed calf liver, for instance. In a world where change seems to happen in nanoseconds, Lamb’s is a place of solace—a restaurant to rely on, most likely for at least another 95 years.”
The Redhot menu allows one to speak delicious words like “bacon wrapped,” “Reuben dog” and “Japanese mayo.” And no matter what you order, the 100 percent Kobe beef delicacies are smoked and spiced to perfection before they’re grilled or steamed (your choice) and slipped inside a soft-but-not-squishy bun alongside mouthwatering toppings. But it doesn’t stop there—Redhot also offers banh mi sandwiches: honey-soy pork belly, red miso beef or fried tofu, plus cilantro, jalapeño, cucumber, chipotle aioli and pickled daikon and carrots, all piled onto a crispy French baguette.
165 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-2499, Redhot-Dog.com
Best Build-Your-Own Burger
Salt City Burger Co.
We all know at least one picky eater, the type who can’t help customizing his order at every restaurant with requests like “Can I substitute provolone for havarti?” Well, this is why Salt City Burger Co. exists. Your choosy friend can order, say, the Sunrise burger (fried egg, sliced bacon and cheddar cheese) and oversee its creation at a massive trough of sauces, vegetables and other toppings.
Multiple locations, SaltCityBurgerCo.com
With so many eye-popping eateries around these days, winning Best Atmosphere is a real coup for a restaurant—especially one that didn’t cost a half-billion bucks to build. So, kudos to the folks at Pallet and the CityHomeCollective design team, who collaborated and constructed an entirely unique one-off experience. The restaurant features entry walls made from reclaimed wooden pallets, and other design touches come from repurposed railroad pushcarts and such. We like to think of the warm atmosphere as “industrial cozy.”
237 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-935-4431, EatPallet.com
2. Log Haven
3. The Copper Onion