Brigham Young settled Salt Lake City in 1847, but the ensuing decades created its character. This is a city of pocket neighborhoods, libraries and eccentric family restaurants. This is the home of Saints and sinners, of an NBA team and a political firebrand named Rocky Anderson. This is the state capital, and it’s surprisingly cool. Salt Lake City is the dark horse on trendy location lists, but it always gets a write-up.
What follows are the unique districts that give Salt Lake City its hip vibe, its flava. While visiting, take in a few recommended hot spots to learn where residents spend their down time.
CAPITOL HILL & MARMALADE DISTRICT
With steep hills and narrow streets, Capitol Hill and its western neighboring Marmalade district are reminiscent of Pittsburgh at its finest. Perfect for an evening walk, a secret staircase behind Washington Elementary leads pedestrians through the neighborhood and ends just outside the Capitol. Marmalade Hill, so called because of the fruit trees planted there more than a century ago, is not only one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, but has recently gained notoriety as a “gayborhood.” In fact, the Utah Pride Center, which doubles as a coffee house, sits on the outskirts of lower Capitol Hill on 300 West, just down the street from a deserted parachute folding company. Marmalade homes, many of which are historic landmarks, look like gingerbread houses designed by Andy Warhol, complete with phosphorescent blue doors, key lime shutters, and not-so-typical color spins on middle America’s picket fence.
Look for Em’s (271 N. Center St.): Upon moving to Capitol Hill in 2003, Emily Gassmann seamlessly fit her namesake restaurant into the surrounding vernacular architecture. The space is actually a converted corner store, with large windows facing a pleasing street. Subtle interior styling allows Em’s to be either an inexpensive place for legislators to score a Reuben sandwich or an ideal Friday night date location.
Salt Lake Acting Company (168 W. 500 North): The Salt Lake Acting Company loves a good joke. The company, perhaps most famous for its annual pinch-and-jab Saturday’s Voyeur, performs alternative plays in an old LDS building. This might be cause to shudder if you know typical ward architecture (think: cinder block), but not so with the 19th Ward Relief Society. The building is unexpectedly influenced by Russian architecture and features an onion-dome steeple. Inside, a season ticket for $151 gets you into Friday opening nights plus guaranteed “lively” intermission parties.
Alfred McCune Mansion (200 N. Main): Little expense was spared by railroad tycoon McCune in building his beautiful mansion in 1901, now restored and available to rent for weddings and conferences. Tour the mansion, said to be haunted, by calling the Utah Heritage Foundation at 533-0858.