Best of Utah 2009: Food and Drink | Salt Lake City's finest restaurants | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

Best of Utah 2009: Food and Drink 

Salt Lake City's finest restaurants

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Red Rock Bakery & Net Café

With the red rock mountains as its back drop, this laid-back Café captures the essence of Moab in a way few other establishments in that craggy, beautiful part of Southern Utah does. Amid the over-sized cookies and a nice range of sandwiches, one jewel stands out in the crown, their egg salad sandwich. While this item is usually a mayo-drenched bomb in soggy white bread, the Red Rock’s offering is buttressed by two heavy slabs of delicious brown bread and a filling that boasts yellow yolk and a texture that’s just exquisite.
74 S. Main, Moab, 435-259-5941

Café Rio
You can ask for a lot of things to be done to your burrito at Café Rio, such as wrap it in a stone-ground whole wheat or flour tortilla and fill it with chile and/or rice and/or beans and/or cheese and/or meats and/or sauces. And cook it enchilada style or not. But just don’t ask them to nuke it or freeze it, because the company swears it has no microwaves or freezers on site. They’ve been serving it up fresh and furiously in Utah since 1997, now at 22 locations.
Multiple locations,
2. Barbacoa
3. Red Iguana

Em’s Restaurant

House-made ice creams are a standard at your finer dining establishments, but here’s one you don’t see every day. If you wanted your after-dinner sweet with more than a touch of spice, you could have sampled this selection from this Salt Lake City eatery. Like mole does in entrees, this dessert gives cocoa an unexpected hot punch. It’s fire and ice all in one spoonful.
271 N. Center St., Salt Lake City, 801-596-0566,

Pawit’s Royale Thai Cuisine

There are few truly charming eateries that strike such a complete chord as Pawit’s. Maybe it’s because owner Ponpawit Numnuan, aka Pawit, loves to work hard, thrives on hospitality and is eager to do good deeds for people. It seems to radiate from there. From the moment you walk in the door, good vibes begin to ebb in your direction, from the warm colors on the wall to the large saltwater aquarium’s harmonious feeling to the colorful leafs that form a path to the restrooms. The wait staff greets you with a warmth equal to the décor’s; they’re pleasant, helpful and efficient at bringing the incredible Thai cuisine you crave. But Pawit’s exquisitely flavorful Thai specialties seem to tie it all together into one resounding “ooooommmm.” Or, rather, “yummmmmm.”
1968 Murray-Holladay Road, Salt Lake City, 801-277-3658,

Gourmandise The Bakery
Just walking through the front door could be enough to cause a salivary meltdown; the display case seems to go on forever, offering a mind-boggling range of cookies, cakes, tarts and other confections. From Napoleons to cannolis and everything in between, Gourmandise tempts its customers with enough options to pick a different new dessert every day of the year. The flaky, creamy, sweet and dreamy choices are almost too much—but the raspberry-chocolate mousse cake is a nice place to start. Just understand: Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
250 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-328-3330
2. The Dodo
3. So Cupcake

Cluff’s Car Hop

Whether it’s the John Deere tractor parked outside, or the plumbing-service ad on the toilet seat in the restroom, there’s a rural charm to Cluff’s family diner that time has not dulled. This is a family business already on its second generation. Open only in the spring and summer, its cramped, narrow seating inside is much helped by the car hop and outdoor bench from which you can take in the genteel splendor of Fillmore’s Main Street. Munch on the slender, lightly fried potatoes Cluff’s serves with their crispy-bacon cheeseburger, ponder the way, as one local puts it, the sidewalk gets rolled up at 6 p.m. every night, and it’s tempting to give up the rat race and hunker down in this peaceful American backwater.
270 N. Main, Fillmore, 435-743-5510

Greek Souvlaki
If you want a gyro, you go to Greek Souvlaki. Ask anybody. Sure, other places have gyro on the menu. But have you ever seen anybody order it? Of course not. It’s always “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Trust us: You want a gyro; you go to Greek Souvlaki. It’s not by accident the shop’s flagship 400 East location has been in business for nearly 40 years.
Multiple locations
2. Crown Burger
3. Mad Greek

Dragon Isle

After a day on the slopes, where do you go when that hankering for Szechuan pork or moo goo gai pan takes hold? You can’t exactly ski in to this place, but, situated in the Brighton Point shopping center on Bengal Boulevard, Dragon Isle is pretty darn convenient to Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. It’s a nice little bit of Chinese-food-in-a-strip-mall heaven, with all the favorites, prepared authentically and at prices any ski bum would appreciate. The servers are pleasant and quick to bring your food, even beer and wine! If you’re too spent from skiing, they’ll even deliver.
3414 E. 7800 South, Cottonwood Heights, 801-453-9998

Crown Burger
Little known to some, there is a tried-and-true way to judge the worth of a bag of french fries. It’s called the sunlight test: Buy a bag of french fries, eat the hell out of ’em, and then, when you have just an empty bag, hold it to the light to see how translucent the bag has become from residual deliciousness. Employing this scientific method to a bag of Crown Burger fries will undoubtedly leave the consumer satisfied that indeed they have just consumed a highly delectable assortment of fries. So take the sunlight test for yourself with a bag of these crisp little deep-fried slices of heaven the next time you’re at a Crown Burger, and you will have science backing up your satisfied stomach—reassuring you that you’ve just consumed Utah’s best french fries.
Multiple locations
2. The Bayou
3. The Training Table

Este Pizzeria

Dependable lunch spots are few and far between in downtown Salt Lake City, specifically places within walking distance of Main Street’s ghost-town corridors. Este Pizzeria swept in just as our options were exhausted, opening up a second location to its original Sugar House store (the first of which nearly perished in a 2007 electrical fire, but is now open again). Este specializes in New York-style pies, with mostly organic toppings for meat-lovers and vegans alike. Just remember three things before your visit: No Ranch. No Pineapple. No Red Sox Attire.
168 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2366,


You know you’re in a good old-fashioned diner when you’re sitting down in horseshoe-shaped, vinyl-upholstered booths, and your jones for breakfast can be sated any time. Britton’s features plenty of burgers and other homestyle favorites, but sometimes you just want eggs and pancakes or waffles. Try the Seventh East scramble: a mound of eggs with ham, peppers and tomatoes covering toasted English muffin and smothered in country gravy.
694 Union Square, Sandy, 801-572-5148

Slow Food Utah

You are what you eat. And so is your community. That is the philosophy of Slow Food Utah, which aims to support local farmers and get fresh vittles to the table while improving food safety and creating a sustainable and ethical food economy. All you have to do is buy from local growers, a project made easier by a directory of local gardens and producers of meat and cheese being assembled on Slow Food’s Website. As local growers prosper, you get increasingly tasty fare. Evidence for success of the effort can be seen in the explosion of locally made food—from some of the best salami in the country to goat cheeses to bread (the kind that won’t still be around after the apocalypse).

It’s customary to begin a Best of Utah write-up for perennial favorite Squatters with a recap of what they won at last year’s World Beer Cup competition, so here goes: German-style dark ale Alt & In the Way (a brew master’s special) took a gold medal, and longtime lighter favorite Provo Girl Pilsner won a bronze in the 2008 contest. Squatters’ latest beer generating buzz with brew geeks is Hell’s Keep, a Belgian-style golden strong ale; they’re already salivating for a fruit-tinged concoction called Fifth Element dropping later this year. For the regular folk, Full Suspension, Captain Bastard, Chasing Tail and the rest are sipping just fine, thank you.
147 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2739,
2. Wasatch Beers
3. Red Rock Brewing Co.

Taste of India

Masala is to Indian cuisine as butter sauces are to French cooking—the foundation for scads of great dishes. And nobody does masala any better than Taste of India. The secret of this great masala is cooking their sauce very slowly, allowing the dried spices like coriander, cinamon and cumin; along with fresh herbs, onions, garlic, ginger and other tasty ingredients to meld and mingle, and for the oil to separate from the sauce before proteins like chicken, shrimp, lamb or veggies are added. The result is magnificent masala. Accept no substitutes!
1664 N. Woodland Park Drive, Layton, 801-614-0107

Park City Coffee

While other local roasters might compete for the tastiest brew, it’s hard to argue Park City Coffee isn’t the best—in a strictly moral sense. Twin brothers Ray and Rob Hibl were inspired to switch to fair-trade coffee by Park City’s “Coffee Priest” Rev. Jim Flynn, who has long crusaded for the welfare of the coffee workers of Latin America, taking groups of Utahns to visit coffee regions of Nicaragua and Guatemala and returning home to spread the word about paying a little more to feel good about your cup. The brothers Hibl claim roasting coffee in small batches at Park City’s higher altitudes also give their coffees a distinctive taste. Many varieties from Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Kenya, Sumatra, Ethopia, Peru and Columbia available through an online store, Harmon’s groceries and are served at several Park City ski resorts.
P.O. Box 682788, Park City, 435-647-9097,

The Pie
The Pie has been winning this for as long as we’ve been doing the Best of Utah, seems like. It’s hard to beat the Pie’s big portions, cheap prices, and appeal to the foodie palettes (fresh-rolled dough, premium ingredients). The Pie has been smart about something else, too, and that’s to make its deliciousness available across the Valley by adding new locations. So while we tend to think of the Pie as a university mainstay, the Pie has gone on to capture the pizza cravings of the entire Valley.
Multiple locations,
2. Este Pizzeria
3. Settebello

Elizabeth’s Bakery

A ploughman’s lunch is a staple of the English summer diet. Presumably named after farm workers who would seek a filling lunch before they resumed their manual labor, the classic ploughman consists of crusty white bread, slabs of cheddar cheese, pickle and pickled onion. Elizabeth’s Bakery has all of the above available on its ploughman’s plate for a robust $8.95, with an addition of a second delicious cheese, Derby Sage. The only problem is this 2-year-old bakery with a bountiful collection of tea pots does not stock beer. Without some suds to wash it down, a ploughman’s lunch just isn’t the same. But since it’s the only eatery in Utah that offers a ploughman, hey, who are we to quibble?
575 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, 801-433-1170

Dolcetti Gelato

Sugar House always has a taste treat or two up its sleeves. But with Elizabeth and Mark England’s Dolcetti, a cream dream has been realized. The Englands learned how to make their frozen concoctions from Italian artisans, and the quality is obvious upon your first bite. Check out the exquisite flavors, such as pistachio, pomegranate, chocolate mole and crocantino al rum, to name just a few. This ain’t your grammy’s ice cream. Dolcetti makes its gelato and sorbetto by hand using fresh, locally grown fruits and berries and milk from family-run dairies. It’s an edible art form, waiting for your lips and tongue to melt it. Go ahead, take a lick; it’ll be the best 5 pounds you ever gained.
1751 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-485-3254,

Art City Trolley

How can you describe Art City Trolley’s homestyle wing sauce? It’s no easy task. The sticky and delicious sauce is the secret ingredient to the Springville diner’s main menu attractions from wings to chicken sandwiches. But the essence of the sauce is hard to pin down—it’s not necessarily a secret ingredient but rather an artfully crafted balance between sweet and tangy—the same dueling elements nearly every sauce maestro struggles to balance, but that, at Trolley, is a precise bullseye on the infinitesimally small interval between too tangy and too sweet. Like catching the setting sun right before it disappears behind the mountains, this sauce is a thing of beauty.
256 N. Main, Springville, 801-489-8585


We suspect the real reason Utah County earned its Happy Valley nickname has something to do with the region’s bountiful supply of top-notch restaurants—especially Diego’s. The modest-sized Mexican eatery is home to some of the best tacos anywhere in the state. Really, everything on the menu is a hit, from Al Pastor and Carnitas to quesadillas and burritos all topped with a fiery green avocado salsa.
22 E. 200 North, Provo, 801-377-4710

Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli
Tony Caputo has one hella deli occupying its own delicious corner of Salt Lake City’s old Italian and Greek neighborhood. And not to discredit the marvelous selection of chocolate or the amazing cheese cave—but the deli is still is the anchor of this mouthwatering eatery. Sample the finest Italian fare ranging from a sumptuous sweet pepper and fresh arugula sandwich dripping in balsamic vinegar and olive oil to something meatier with the famous Caputo stacked high with prosciutto, mortadella, salami, provolone, lettuce and tomatoes. You can’t go wrong with the savory meatball sub—an exercise in savory simplicity with sauce, meatballs and fresh Parmesan cheese. Any way you slice it, this deli’s got something delicious for you.
314 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-519-5754,
2. Moochies
3. Rosie’s Deli
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