350 Main New American Brasserie
The menu at 350 Main New American brasserie showcases chef Michael LeClerc's contemporary flair for seafood and beyond. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, LeClerc worked in Geneva, Thailand, Maui, Deer Valley, New York City and most notably in Paris at Joel Robuchon's Jamin kitchen before settling down at 350 Main. With dishes like Calypso seafood nage, ono-ono (Pacific ono served two ways), Pacific sea bass with wasabi mashers, and his scrumptious tower of ahi and hamachi, this is a seafood lover's heaven. But carnivores won't be disappointed, either: Try the black pepper-crusted venison medallions, duck confit or steak frites that would make Robuchon proud. For the health conscious, 350 also offers their vitamin- and antioxidant-rich/low fat and calorie "Sante" menu.
350 Main St., Park City, 435-649-3140, 350Main.com
At Snowbird's Aerie restaurant, nature and natural flavors form a delicious team. As if the breathtaking mountain views from The Aerie's lounge and dining room weren't enough, executive chef Fernando Soberanis has created a dining experience to match the stellar scenery and ambiance. The sushi bar in the lounge is the perfect place to indulge in chef Otto Blum's extraordinary seafood creations, while the dining-room menu features an eclectic mix of dishes such as seafood ceviche martini, ancho-Pasilla-honey-glazed Scottish natural salmon, grilled Kurobuta pork loin and achiote-marinated free-range chicken. Service at the Aerie is excellent under general manager Lucette Barbier's watchful eye and the 400-plus selection wine list—A Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner—holds many hidden treasures.
Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, Little Cottonwood Canyon, 801-933-2160, Snowbird.com
African Market & Restaurant
The African Restaurant menu is filled with exotic sounding Ethiopian-influenced dishes like ashaakiltii, misira, shiro, handaanqoo, waaddii, and raafuu. Everything is homemade and served in a friendly, family-style atmosphere. Chances are, your hostess for the evening will be an Ethiopian woman named Bulane, who's also chef/owner/server. She does everything, and remarkably well. The African Restaurant menu features a number of vegetarian dishes and a good way to sample them is to order the vegetarian combo plate called Wal-Maka. Meals at African Restaurant come served on large disks of spongy, East African-style flat bread called budenaa. It's made from taafii flour and is very similar to the ingeera served at many Ethiopian restaurants. This is a terrific choice for a fun, friendly, inexpensive and exotic dining change of pace.
1878 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, 801-978-9673
Aristo's Greek Restaurant and Café
For far too long, our town suffered from an absence of authentic Greek cuisine—gyro and souvlaki joints notwithstanding—despite its considerable Greek population. Thanks to the young and energetic Aristides Boutsikakis, that problem's been remedied. The sidewalk patio might not be perched on the Mediterranean Sea, but once you dig into Aristo's extensive mezedakia (Greek tapas) selection, you'll feel like you're in Greece. There's sautéed baby octopus and thick cuts of battered and flash-fried calamari, baked eggplant whipped with olive oil, Greek meatballs, sautéed shrimp in marinara and much more to get the ball rolling. For entrees, you'll not find better pastitsio in town, and the Corfu seafood platter brimming with shrimp, scallops and grilled tilapia is a real crowd pleaser. Don't feel like eating out? Try Aristo's frozen, ready-to-heat entrees and appetizers, available at your local grocer.
224 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-581-0888, AristosGreekRestaurant.com
At Bambara, chef Nathan Powers dazzles guests nightly with his superb but unpretentious fare. (His own favorite dish on the menu is steak frites.) With its full-exhibition kitchen, you'll be able to enjoy dinner and a show at Bambara. I still can't resist Bambara's warm house-cut potato chips slathered with bleu cheese, or delectable crab-stuffed piquillo peppers with corn tartar sauce and crisp chorizo. And the lavender-grilled ahi tuna with heirloom tomato bread salad, salsa verde and black olive aioli is marvelous. Manager Art Cazares runs a very tight ship, and Bambara's service is top-notch in every way, leaving you to only concern yourself with licking your plate clean, which will come quite naturally.
202 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-363-5454, Bambara-SLC.com
Bayou owner Mark Alston has operated a homebrew supply store in town for years (The Beer Nut). So, this guy really is nuts about beer. If you are, too, then the Bayou will be your beervana. The Bayou has all the right stuff: Pool tables (free during lunch), live jazz and blues, free wireless Internet access, good food, and, of course, beer—plenty of beer. The Bayou's gargantuan beer selection changes from week to week but, typically, you'll find more than 200 bottled beers and more than 30 draft beers on tap. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that The Bayou is the only Utah club to stock Rogue Brutal Bitter, Unibroue Terrible and De La Senne Tara Boulba. But don't overlook the grub. The sweet-potato fries are, well, sweet, and the homemade gumbo, muffaletta and Po Boys are worthy of The Bayou name.
645 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-961-8400, UtahBayou.com
Blind Dog Grill & Sushi
In warm weather, the cozy patio in back of Blind Dog Grill & Sushi is the place to be. Two restaurants in one, really, Blind Dog restaurant specializes in scrumptious cooked fish and seafood while Blind Dog Sushi's forte is, well, sushi. The Blind Dog crabcake is rightfully renowned, served with sauce Louis and frazzled leeks. But equally delectable is the Derrick's slow-smoked Boston butt, the fried whole pompano, and the seared cobia with black beans and rice. And, of course, Penny's signature "Dreamloaf" is a perennial favorite at the Blind Dog. On the sushi side, specialties like the Japanese "Bagel," the Rigger and the Prozac roll really rock, as does The Blind Dog's extensive wine list. Meanwhile, over at the bar, you'll always find a gaggle of Park City locals.
1781 Sidewinder Drive, Park City, 435-655-0800, BlindDogGrill.com
Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant
At the Blue Boar Inn and Restaurant in Midway, you'll stroll into an old-fashioned European chateau, right down to the tall turrets and wrought-iron balconies. Blue Boar restaurant chef Eric May favors fresh, seasonal, local and organic ingredients whenever possible for his European-influenced fare. Kick off a meal with fondue-for-two made with Gruyere and Emmental cheeses, followed perhaps by smoked duck breast salad. Rustic Blue Boar entrees include roasted pheasant breast, fennel pollen-seasoned halibut and wild boar spare ribs. It's wise, when possible, to book an overnight stay so you can enjoy the complimentary breakfast, which features cinnamon-swirl brioche French toast, spinach and sun-dried tomato-feta quiche, grilled Norwegian salmon and sirloin steak with eggs.
1235 Warm Springs Road, Midway, 435-654-1400, TheBlueBoarInn.com
Bruges Waffles & Frites
I love the cozy, yet classy ambiance of Café Madrid. This award-winning gem of a restaurant has been featured in Bon Appétit magazine. But that's not why I go there. I return because the owners, in particular Gabrielle McAfee and her brother J.C. Pino make me feel like family. Pino instructs customers to "get messy," encouraging the use of fresh rolls for sopping up Café Madrid's luscious sauces and mixing and matching various croquettes with those accompanying sauces. Start with small, tender black mussels in a rich, roasted red pepper and tomato sauce or make an entire meal of classic Spanish tapas like croquetas, gambas con bacon, piquillo rellenos, butifarritas and tortilla Española. Seafood "lasagna" is wonderful: Layers of tilapia and shrimp snuggled between sheets of pasta with a light, creamy tomato sauce comes to the table in the small pan in which it was baked. All that's left is to order a glass or bottle of wine from the extensive Spanish wine list.
2080 E. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-273-0837, CafeMadrid.net
In warm weather, it's hard to beat Café Trio for al fresco dining. The patio is typically bustling with energy. Kick off a meal with Trio's famous rosemary flatbread or a bowl of steamed Manila clams. Then, launch into more substantial fare such as the wood-roasted natural chicken, pork tenderloin picatta, or cedar-roasted wild salmon. I'm also drawn to Café Trio's no-nonsense, economical wine list. For kids and kids-at-heart, Trio offers tempting desserts like Toll House pie and warm apple cobbler. For adults, there's an equally tempting array of dessert martinis. And on weekends, Café Trio ought to be at the top of your list of brunch destinations.
680 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-533-8746, TrioDining.com
Pre-concert, theater, conference, sporting event, symphony, opera or pre-nothing at all, Caffe Molise is a terrific downtown spot to indulge in Italian cuisine inspired by the Molise region of south-central Italy. Chef/owner Fred Moesinger's menu tempts diners with dishes such as polenta con fungi, bistecca, pollo Marsala, gamberi alla puttanesca, and orecchiette al salsiccia, all supplemented by an ambitious selection of Italian and domestic wines. And, Caffe Molise lasagna is all but legendary. During warm weather, the outside pocket-park patio is a popular dinner spot, and the John Flanders jazz trio brings in the crowds on Fridays.
55 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-8833, CaffeMolise.com
Although Caffé Niche has, in part, the feel of a hip neighborhood hot spot, it also manages to be cozy and downright friendly. Breakfast and lunch are the mainstays at Caffé Niche, where the daily quiche and gourmet sandwiches made with Crumb Brothers bread are popular. But light dinners (with correspondingly light prices) are also featured, along with live music on weekends courtesy of artists like The Red Rock Hot Club. Good entrée choices include the penne arrabiata and pan-roasted chicken. A small, but well-chosen wine list enhances lunches and dinners at Caffé Niche, which is also a popular Sunday brunch spot. Need a new 'do during lunch? Just stroll next door to the adjacent Dexterity Salon, where Jeff Martin and his crew will create a whole new you.
779 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-433-3380, CaffeNiche.com
The Cedars of Lebanon
At the Cedars of Lebanon, cuisine from Lebanon, Morocco, Israel and Armenia is complemented by super service and even a private Moroccan room with floor seating for those looking for an exotic dining experience. But of course, The Cedars is really all about Raffi, the outgoing host and owner, who welcomes customers like they are members of his family. At lunchtime, the meza appetizer combos are popular as are the gyro sandwiches, falafel, kebabs and Greek salads. In the evening, Moroccan specialties like luscious and savory pastilla, lamb tangine, Berber couscous and moussaka appear, along with the chef's tantalizing beef chawarma. And don't fail to try the Egyptian katayef for dessert. Bonus: Belly dancers make their moves on the weekends.
152 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-4096, CedarsOfLebanonRestaurant.com
Chanon Thai Café
Oh lordy! If you think spice is nice and heat is neat, this is definitely the place for you. The Thai cuisine at this funky, friendly, comfy little café is truly authentic, particularly when it comes to the heat scale. Order a dish of gang masaman curry spicy, and it will be spicy. Seriously. So order carefully. Absolutely divine is gang khua sub pa rod, a bowl of red curry with coconut milk, red bell pepper, Thai basil, cubes of pineapple, and a charitable portion of shrimp —all spicy and sweet at the same time. The Duck Fantasy is also superb and a spring roll-wrapped fried banana with homemade ice cream provides a delicious finish to a meal.
278 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-532-1177
Park City's Chez Betty restaurant is now in its 16th year. Brothers Tom Bell and Jerry Garcia have operated it since 1996, after taking it over from the previous owners. Over the years, we've seen Chez Betty grow and mature. It was one of Utah's first restaurants to showcase fusion cooking and pan-Asian flavors in combination with the rustic, mountain cuisine befitting a ski town. Many people think of Chez Betty as a "destination" restaurant, but locals know better. The prices at Chez Betty are lower than at many of the town's higher-end eateries, the restaurant itself is warm and comfy, and the seasoned staffers know most of their repeat customers by name. Plus, there's free and easy parking at Chez Betty, which is located in the Copper Bottom Inn. This is a restaurant with heart and soul.
1637 Short Line Drive, Park City, 435-649-8181, ChezBetty.com
At Chimayo, Southwestern flavors merge with French-American culinary techniques to create unique offerings such as the London broil of elk, cazuela de striped bass, green pipian-seared trout, Kobe beef and Gulf shrimp kebabs, and the visually spectacular crown roast of barbecued spareribs with chipotle-pineapple glaze. And if you're looking for the best Margarita in town, look to the award-winning Chimayo Margarita. Chimayo was the second of restaurateur Bill White's dining empire, which also includes Grappa, Wahso, Windy Ridge Café & Bakery and Ghidotti's. Today, it's one of the toughest tickets in town to book during ski season and especially during the Sundance Film Festival.
368 Main, Park City, 435-649-6222, ChimayoRestaurant.com
The concept at this popular neighborhood eatery is honest, good food, friendly service and low prices—simple as that. It's a nice touch that almost everything on the menu comes in "hearty" or "petite" portions. The wood-fired pizzas are very tasty, as are the sandwiches, the ham and Havarti with cranberry aioli being my current favorite. The zippy pepper-crusted risotto cakes with goat cheese and tomato "fondue" really rock, and I also love the fusilli pasta with tomato-vodka sauce. Like the food menu, the Citris Grill wine list is customer friendly, too. Everything on the wine list comes as a choice of a 2.5-ounce or 5-ounce glass, or a full bottle. Oh, and here's something a little different for breakfast: How about a "breakfast meat pizza?" The Citris slogan is "your neighborhood squeeze," and it really is!
2991 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-466-1202, CitrisGrill.com
For many, this is Utah's best choice for authentic Italian cuisine. Dining at Cucina Toscana is part opera, part symphony, part three-ring circus—all orchestrated by the "maestro," Valter Nassi. The debonair, hand-kissing, bear-hugging, Italian-restaurant owner greets each guest personally and, each evening, gives a unique performance that revolves around impeccable northern Italian cuisine. Order the Caesar salad and chances are Nassi will prepare it for you himself, at tableside. Opt for the risotto of the day—always cooked perfectly, by the way—and Nassi will likely turn up to offer freshly sliced truffles. Ask about the pollo della casa—a souped-up version of chicken piccata—and he might get a little teary describing it to you, he's so proud of the dish. Airy pillows of freshly made gnocchi in mushroom cream sauce are simply heaven. But, then, so is everything else about this very special Tuscan trattoria.
307 W. Pierpont Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-328-3463, Cucina-Toscana.com
Curry in a Hurry
If all fast food were this tasty, we'd never visit another sit-down restaurant. Of course, you can sit down and eat at Curry in a Hurry if you'd like, but most folks get their curry to go. There are a few small tables inside and a picnic table or two out on the sidewalk. The korma-style chicken curry is outstanding, nicely spiced with just a hint of coconut. And lamb lovers will enjoy the equally delicious lamb curry. For sides, try the spicy chickpeas and soak up the great curry sauces with warm naan. The combo plates are a terrific bargain. Curry in a Hurry adheres to Islamic dietary practice and someone from the Nisar family is always on hand to assure quality control.
2020 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-467-4137
Donovan's Steak and Chop House