As living creatures, we all have to consume nutrients in order to live. But, as humans, we eat for many other reasons beyond mere survival.
We eat to celebrate, to socialize and to bring us together with our loved ones. Some folks eat compulsively to mask fears, or competitively to win prizes. But none of us, it seems, can resist succumbing at times to one of food's greatest charms: its ability to calm our nerves, to make us forget our workday woes and to transport us back to happier times.
In City Weekly's 2015 Dining & Bar Guide, the focus is on food for the soul. We ask local chefs where they go to feed their bellies and nourish their souls. We list some of Salt Lake City's best food trucks, discover the best local pizza & beer pairings and, yes, we even indulge in some comforting bites (and a beverage or two) from some of our favorite bars.
So please, enjoy reading our 2015 Dining & Bar Guide while snacking on some of the best comfort food Utah has to offer. Forget about your waistline for the moment—comfort food is good for the soul.
A dozen nourishing soups for the soul
By Ted Scheffler
Sure it's a culinary cliché, but a piping hot bowl of soup really can soothe the soul, and is even purported to have healing powers. And yet, soups, chilis and stews seem to appear on fewer and fewer restaurant menus. So, where's the soup? I'm sure City Weekly readers have their favorites; here are a dozen of mine.
I'd walk a mile for a steaming bowl of French onion soup with lovingly rendered onions in a dark, rich broth with a gratin of Gruyere and toasted baguette slices. Or, I could just mosey over to The Paris Bistro (1500 S. 1500 East, 801-486-5585, TheParis.net) for a tureen of its deliciously satisfying gratinée à l'oignon, knowing that there's also a plethora of French wines available to drink with it.
I've been in mourning ever since Elvis Nixon's Chili Parlor in Sandy closed well over a decade ago. That's because a good bowl of housemade chili is hard to find. What a surprise, then, to find excellent chili con carne made from scratch at a deli—Boston Deli (9 Exchange Place, 801-355-2146, BostonDeli.com), to be precise. Its beefy chili with beans sticks to the ribs with just the right amount of spice, plus crackers and cornbread on the side.
For clam chowder, I usually go to one of the places that has been doing it here the longest: Market Street Grill & Oyster Bar (various locations, MarketStreetGrill.com). Market Street chowder is brimming with chunky potatoes, celery, onion, leeks, green pepper and clams, lightly seasoned with thyme and bay, all served up with Market Street's scrumptious sourdough bread.
When I eat at Feldman's Deli (2005 E. 2700 South, 801-906-0369,FeldmansDeli.com), I'm always in a quandary. The sandwiches like the Reuben and Sloppy Joe are so filling that there's not really much room for extras. However, it's also hard for me to ever pass up the homemade matzo ball soup, with airy matzo balls, scrumptious chicken broth and just the right amount of schmaltz.
I'm a lentil lover. I love black beluga lentils, green lentils, red and yellow lentils—if it's a lentil, I love it. So, it's no wonder I'm partial to the red-lentil soup at Layla Mediterranean Grill and Mezze (4751 S. Holladay Blvd., 801-272-9111, LaylaGrill.com). It's a hearty mélange of onions and red lentils, cooked down and puréed with spices, and served with homemade pita chips.
My Greek friends and colleagues would tan my hide if I didn't mention my favorite avgolemono. It's a Greek soup typically made with chicken broth that's thickened with eggs, subtly spiked with lemon, and usually contains rice or orzo. For my money, it's hard to beat Aristo's (224 S. 1300 East, 801-581-0888, AristosSLC.com) for avgolemono—or any other Greek fare, for that matter.
There are plenty of places here to get good Vietnamese pho, and I frequent a number of them. My favorite—especially if I'm in the neighborhood—is the pho at Pho Tay Ho (1766 S. Main, 801-466-3650, PhoTayHo.com). I usually start with fresh shrimp spring rolls before digging into the fragrant pho, made with a beautiful broth that simmers overnight and comes with a choice of brisket, flank, tendon, steak, tripe or meatballs, or even a combination of all of them.
Thank goodness there's at least one non-chain business in Salt Lake City that specializes in soup. Not surprisingly, The Soup Kitchen (various locations, SLCSoup.com) serves up an array of homemade soups, and I love the cream of tomato. The chicken noodle, has thick, dumpling-style noodles like my mom made. Still, it's the timeless flavors of its split-pea with ham soup that serves as a nostalgic kick in the soul for me.
Having a best friend who lives in New Orleans, I'm exposed to gobs of gumbo. When I have a hankering for that Cajun-Creole soup/stew here, I always turn to The Bayou (645 S. State, 801-961-8400, UtahBayou.com). I normally order the standard chicken sausage gumbo with rice, but if you're feeling flush, you can add crawfish or shrimp for a couple extra bucks. The only thing missing is the Abita beer. But, hey, you'll have hundreds of other Bayou beer options to choose from.
Ramen is the new "it girl" of soups. And, judging from the lines for tables at Tosh's Ramen (1465 S. State, 801-466-7000, ToshsRamen.com),Chef Tosh doesn't need my help. But I'd be lying if I didn't say this was my favorite Salt Lake City ramen. Tosh makes his broth from scratch, simmering bones overnight, and I love the quality of the excellent wheat and egg noodles from Los Angeles' Sun Noodle company. You can't beat the tonkatsu at Tosh's.
Italy's classic pasta e fagioli—a tomato and mirepoix-based broth with white beans and small pasta pieces such as ditalini—is one of my favorites, a hearty soup to enjoy year-round. When I'm looking for the real deal, I head to Per Noi Trattoria (1588 E. Stratford Ave., 801-486-3333,PerNoiTrattoria.com) for Chef Francesco's excellent, authentic Italian fare.
With a recently updated interior, there's even more reason to try the menudo at Taqueria El Rey de Oros (175 S. 900 West, 801-322-3176). Sure, the dollar tacos are hard to beat. But I love the big steaming bowl of menudo: breakfast of champions. The tripe stew with red chile broth here is homemade and soul-affirming,but don't look for it on weekdays. It's a Saturday-Sunday specialty.