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BEST AUTHENTIC JAPANESE DINING
No matter how good the food—and the food at Shogun is excellent—there is an element to the essential Japanese dining experience that other places have overlooked: real tatami (straw) mats. There is nothing like eating sushi at a leisurely pace, drinking sake, and lounging around on a mat. They have a particular odor that brings back late-night parties in Shinjuku. In Japan, people party and eat sushi for hours; if you’ve had too much, you can nod off horizontal for a while before waking up and resuming consuming. The folks at Shogun might discourage this, but nevertheless, the feel and smell of the mats makes dining at Shogun the closest thing in SLC to what you’ll find in old Nippon. 321 S. Main, 364-7142.
BEST DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT
Globe Café by Moonlight
The question is, do we as Jell-O- and buffet-loving Utahns deserve such a daring adventure as The Globe Café by Moonlight? Are we intrepid enough, fearless enough to say, “Yes, I’ll take the catfish.” Or the ostrich, Elysian Field lamb, or Kobe beef? It’s risky, but we all know that Utah abounds in risk takers. Didn’t someone say “To hell with Mr. Bush’s war!” the other day, and they happened to be walking on the Main Street Plaza when they said it? Maybe that was a dream, and maybe this restaurant is one too. The Globe by Moonlight is a café by day, serving sandwiches and salads to the lunch crowd. By moonlight (Wednesdays through Saturdays), the Globe becomes the Star Trek of restaurants, boldly going where few in Utah have gone before. In the style of a big-city bistro, the Globe’s fusion cuisine brings together different styles of cooking into one dish, i.e., Japanese and French. The wine list is diverse and reasonably priced, which, when paired with the entrees, makes the overall meal a good value. At three years old, The Globe is intriguing and cutting edge, offering beautifully created meals and cocktails in a jazzy atmosphere. 264 S. Main, 321-0160.
2. The New Yorker
A first-rate Chinese restaurant in Bountiful owned by a Greek-American family? “Only in Utah,” the cynically surprised would say. “Yes, only in Utah!” everyone else says with pride. The ways of this restaurant are so finely tuned it’s frightening. Little wonder that the 2003 Zagat Restaurant guide named it one of the top 25 Chinese restaurants in the United States. Just throw a dart at the menu. It’s hard to go wrong. But do keep in mind that if it’s Peking Duck you desire, kindly give a two-day advance notice. This isn’t a dish the restaurant’s Hong Kong and San Francisco chefs take lightly. 348 E. 900 North, Bountiful, 298-2406.
3. Little World
BEST RESTAURANT BON VIVANT
The authentic northern Italian fare at Cucina Toscana is enough to keep in-the-know customers coming over and over again and again. But what really gives this Italian gem an unmatched layer of authenticity is a real Italian: Valter Nassi. He’s the hand-kissing, Armani-clad bon vivant who welcomes customers to his restaurant as though he were welcoming them into his home. And in a sense, Cucina Toscana is Valter’s home. He’s put his heart and his passion into the place. And couldn’t we all use a little more passion? 308 W. 300 South, 328-3463.
There is a reason for the line stretching outside the Red Iguana on Friday and Saturday nights. You’ll see why this food is worth the wait when you bite into a juicy chile relleno. The North Temple institution offers authentic comida mexicana, with everything from carne asada tacos to molé burritos, at prices that won’t require you to spend all your pesos. And it all tastes like something your abuela might make—if your grandma was an expert cook who grew up in Guadalajara or Chihuahua. 736 W. North Temple, 322-1489.
2. Café Rio
3. La Puenta
BEST Southern Hospitality
This real barbecue joint is so far west and off the beaten path that you need a GPS locator to find it. But once you do ferret out Q4U out on 4800 West in West Valley City, you’ll beat a trail back. Q4U owners T and Becky serve up Southern hospitality along with plentiful portions of rib-sticking barbecue, from racks of ribs and pulled pork to big slabs of beef brisket and hot links. But remember to leave room for the sweet potato pie. Tired of mediocre ‘cue? Like the sign at Q4U says, “Call the dogs in, put the fire out, the hunt’s over.” 4655 S. 4800 West, 955-8858.
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH
The New Yorker
For the entrepreneur crusading for crucial venture capital, this is the Rolls-Royce of business lunches, and the only place to put your taste in restaurants on the line. The New Yorker’s plush, nestled setting just a flight of stairs down from the sidewalk won’t hurt your chances either. And even if the wait staff doesn’t impress, you can bet the Classic Caesar salad will. There are no second lunches when it comes to first impressions. The least you can do is make the meal risk-free. 60 Market St., 363-0166.
2. Happy Sumo
3. Market Street Grill
BEST DIM SUM
Hong Kong Tea House & Restaurant
As the old saying goes, when it comes to dim sum you win some and you lose some, unless you’re indulging in dim sum at Hong Kong Tea House. When it comes to Hong Kong’s dim sum dishes, there are nothing but winners. From dim sum favorites like steamed chicken feet and beef tripe that are as authentic as they are exotic to more mainstream dumpling dishes, a dim sum lunch or dinner at Hong Kong Tea House is much more than the sum of its parts. 565 W. 200 South, 531-7010.
There are restaurants that pull in their target markets on occasion, then there are restaurants that reach cult status. Thai food is so mercurial in preparation, it’s easy to flub on a regular basis. Bangkok Thai has the formula down so pat it’s almost impossible to find the kitchen on an off-night. Curries, seafood specials and peerless service mean this restaurant will be going through crate after crate of coconut milk for a long, long time. Cult status justly deserved, then. 1400 S. Foothill Dr., 582-8424.
2. Thai Siam
3. Lemon Grass
Market Street Grill
Forget, just for a moment, this establishment’s set record as seafood central and cast your eyes on the dessert tray. Perhaps Market Street Grill never intended on flooring diners with its sumptuous after-meal offerings, but not trying too hard is sometimes the surest path to success. Rich, brick-sized offerings of cheesecake and dense slices of apple pie with ice cream aren’t half the story. Raspberry almond torte, pecan tart, dense chocolate cake, and a crème brulee crisp enough for the audible plunge of a spoon round out offerings expert enough for the most demanding sweet tooth. 48 Market St., 322-4668.
2. Red Butte Café
3. The Bakery
BEST HIGH PROTEIN APRES SKI
The Aerie Lounge & Sushi Bar
After a day of skiing Mineral Basin’s deep powder, a snack and sake is in order. And for a quick energy fix with outstanding views to boot, it’s hard to beat the sushi and sashimi at the high-altitude Aerie Lounge & Sushi Bar atop Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge. The sushi is sensational, and after an Aerie Sushi Shooter or two a Snowbird sunset looks even more magical than usual. Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Resort, 801-933-2160.
Sometimes you just need to let it all hang out and blow a week’s grocery money on one great meal. Grab your appetite, that special someone and a second mortgage and head for Metropolitan, where gourmand heaven awaits. Hudson Valley Foie Gras appetizer: $16. Main course of seared Utah elk in natural jus: $30 per person. Bottle of wine: $30. Crème Brûlée Chocolate Cake for desert: $8 per person. Total bill (including tax and gratuity): $150. Memory of experiencing magnificently prepared dinner in classy surroundings, and impressing the hell out of your date: Priceless. 173 W. Broadway, 364-3472.
2. New Yorker
3. La Caille
BEST SOUTH VALLEY RESTAURANT
Market Street Grill
Though he has spent time in the kitchens of downtown Gastronomy restaurants, chef Scott Loring knows that South End residents are a different kind of clientele. “They’re looking for more value,” he says, which is why Market Street Grill’s Cottonwood location features absurd specials like Angus steak and Maine lobster for $14.99. And it’s clear that the locals love the combination of elegant atmosphere, geographic convenience, wonderful food and great prices, since the parking lot is jammed to capacity even on weeknights. From the dining room to the oyster bar to the market stocked with seafood so fresh it looks ready to swim home with you, Market Street has found the perfect crowd-pleasing formula. 2985 E. 6580 South. 942-8860.
3. Ruby River Steakhouse
BEST TRAIL BAR
Pierre’s Country Bakery
Sad as it is to say, the trail bar has all but been replaced by sports energy bars that deftly, but sometimes dubiously, mix healthful grains with all sorts of ingredients you’d be hard-pressed to pronounce. Reminisce of the days when energy bars weren’t even a spark in marketers’ eyes with a fresh, too-wholesome for words Pierre’s trail bar. Generously portioned with prunes, apricots and almonds, they’re perfect with a cup of Sunday coffee. A hike afterward in one of the nearby canyons is recommended, but Pierre’s sunny confines are so inviting you might be tempted to while away the entire morning and early afternoon without a step outdoors. 3239 E. 3300 South, 486-0900.
BEST ON THE CHEAP
With nothing on the menu topping seven bucks, local Mexican franchise Café Rio isn’t going to take a bite out of your wallet, but your schedule’s another matter. The lines and the waits are notoriously long, but most seem to agree it’s made up for in fresh, high-quality eats for little scratch—especially the burritos, a hot item. Then again, you could just call your order ahead and skip that line. 3025 E. 3300 South, 463-7250 and two other locations.
3. Blue Plate Diner
BEST EAST VALLEY RESTAURANT
Fine Italian cuisine, classy rustic atmosphere, great wine list and amazing desserts in Millcreek? Apparently, suburban dining does not invariably end with “a-Rama,” after all. 3364 S. 2300 East, 412-9994.
2. Bangkok Thai
3. Rivers, Tsunami (tie)
The smells … oh sweet heaven the wonderful smells. Just walking in the door of Bombay House lets you know you’re in for a complete sensory extravaganza. The felicitous serving staff keeps the water glasses full, which is particularly beneficial if you’re noshing on the lip-sizzling curry. But even the milder flavors are unforgettable, including a chicken tikka masala so rich with spices you’ll just want to leave it sitting on your tongue like a fine wine. Whether you’re taking it home or enjoying the inviting restaurant atmosphere, you’ll keep coming back. Maybe just for the smells. 1615 S. Foothill Blvd., 581-0222.
2. Royal India
3. Star of India
BEST FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Fanny Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the subsequent 1991 film adaptation might have brought the traditionally Southern appetizer into the wider pop culture consciousness—but have you ever actually tried a fried green tomato? You’re tongue will thank you for making up for lost time at the Gardner Village eatery, where the juicy delicacies are crispy and golden. Sit down with one of Archibald Gardner’s wives and soak up some local history, even as you’re soaking up a Southern-fried delicacy. The secret’s in the sauce. 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan, 566-6940
BEST TASTE OF THE FIVE BOROUGHS
Sure, you won’t find many New Yawk accents or New Yawk prices at Gandolfo’s, but you will find sandwiches authentic enough to meet the approval of the good folks of Flatbush. Started in Provo in 1989 by a native New Yorker, Gandolfo’s now boasts eight delis—all but one of them in Utah County. With the walls covered in Big Apple sports memorabilia, and with sandwiches like the New York Jet, the Sicilian, the Shea Stadium and the Holland Tunnel, Gandolfo’s offers a helluva alternative to Subway, you know what I’m sayin’? 158 S. Main, 322-3354 and seven other locations.
BEST INEXPENSIVE THAI
Go ahead, order a small soup. The damn thing comes in a bowl the size of a football helmet, and lunch entrees are under five bucks. Think about that for a sec. Got kids? Forget friggin McDonald’s. They’ll eat cheaper, and better, at Thai Lau, and they’ll soak up a bit of another culture while they’re at it. Never know when that will come in handy, on your next vacation or mission. 7675 S. Main, Midvale, 561-6735.
BEST KIDS DESSERTS
Porcupine Pub & Grill
Among the fine desserts served up at this Cottonwood area restaurant is the Porcupine, a sweet concoction many parents are grateful for. And why not? What kid won't behave through his meal when he knows that a cream-filled chocolate cake in chocolate shell awaits? Shaped like the restaurant namesake, the Porcupine is laden with almond slivers that lend it artistry and authenticity. Perfect follow-up to their famous fish and chips and sublime house vinaigarette. 3698 E. 7000 South, 942-5555.
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
When you arrive, don’t turn right into the restaurant, but go straight ahead and into the buffet. There you will find plush upholstered booths and an incredible spread. You could come every day for two weeks and not sample everything. There is one whole table of nothing but fruit, a pastry table, plus a kitchen you can order from. Main buffet courses include lox, eggs Benedict (on alternate weekends), sausages and bacon, plus French toast, waffles, and other carb delights. But just listing these things hardly does it justice. Take someone you love, when Sunday brunch is the perfect coda to the perfect Saturday night out. 500 S. Main St., 363-6781.
3. Market Street
Persepolis, an Iranian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall, offers Salt Lake’s best ghormeh sazbi, dolmeh and kashke bademjon at prices just slightly above a combo meal at McDonald’s. Persepolis is popular with the small but growing Persian community in Salt Lake (always a good sign) and after eating there just once, you’ll find yourself thinking about moving to Tehran instead of the oh-so-overdone moving to Canada thing. 4410 S. 900 East, 261-0409.
BEST BOWLING ALLEY BURGER
Junction Bowling Lanes
One national chain pretends to offer a six dollar restaurant burger without the restaurant. But when did you ever go to a restaurant for a burger? Hell, you went to a joint for a burger, and the way burgers used to be was huge, unwieldy and dripping with all manner of sauces from the stuff you dumped on it. And it didn’t cost six bucks. Want that burger again? Since the chains have almost killed the burger joints, we went looking elsewhere and found it at Junction Lanes in Midvale. Get a real burger, and clobber a few pins for the fun of it while you’re there. 7720 S. State, Midvale, 255-6841.
BEST LUNCH SPOT TO REFLECT ON LIFE
The Point Restaurant & Reception Center
We all need perspective from time to time. When you find yourself spending too much time in the pit of futility, then a lunch spot with an expansive view, filled with brilliant people, many of whom appear to be finding the cure for cancer, might be just the ticket to get you back in your game. The 180-degree vista aside, the meaning of life can also be found in the Point’s smorgasbord of healthy, freshly prepared food, including a soup and salad bar, a variety of entrees such as heart-healthy bison, and the friendly chefs who, before your very eyes, make what could easily be a bland cafeteria meal into a true work of art. Which is, after all, the point of life, is it not? Huntsman Cancer Institute, 2000 Circle of Hope, 585-0616.
BEST CHEAP LUNCH
What? No duck confit taco? Where’s the foie gras burrito? Sure, El Chubasco might be in Park City, but check your pretension at the door, get in line, order your delicious but inexpensive Mexican food, smother it in mango salsa and fork over your five bucks, pal. The little eatery tucked inside a strip mall has great views of Park City Mountain Resort’s ski runs but with such low prices, you’d think you were eating down in the valley or—gasp!—Heber City. With everything from molé burritos to fish tacos, El Chubasco offers Parkites a dose of culinary reality—and a meal that doesn’t break the bank. And you know it’s a good sign when the guys sitting next to your table hable de los tacos en espanol. 1890 Bonanza Dr., 435-645-9114.
BEST BREW PUB
Red Rock Brewing Co.
This is the fifth winning year in a row for Red Rock. Award-winning ales, wheat beers and stouts hook up with an impressive menu that runs the gamut from filet mignon to wood-fired pizzas. There are also the usual sandwiches, salads and soups. We tried the pale ale on a recent visit and were not disappointed. Count on friendly service and reasonable prices. It’s also a popular early-evening gathering place, so be prepared to troll for parking. 254 S. 200 West, 521-7446.
3. Desert Edge
BEST DOWNTOWN PIZZA DELIVERY
We wouldn't recommend a place we don't use ourselves. Not only does Free Wheeler provide prompt delivery to City Weekly’s Salt Lake office, but they do it in tasty fashion—that's important when burning the midnight oil. A recent haul included the following pizzas: barbecue chicken, Greek, basil, caesar salad, vegetarian, regular with extra cheese and the standard pepperoni and sausage. And that was just for the editorial department. 150 S. 400 East, 322-FREE
Café Trang has become the Robert Kirby of this particular category—it’s familiar, it’s reliable and it’s actually pretty darned good. Vietnamese and Chinese specialties fill a menu with nearly 200 items, some of them so wonderful-sounding that you’re almost always inspired to come back one more time to try something new. A fantastic food bargain for tastes from mild to fiery-hot, Café Trang keeps both of its locations up to high standards that give you the hunch we’ll be talking about them again same time next year. 818 S. Main, 539-1638; 4835 S. Highland Dr., 278-8889.
2. East-West Connection
3. La Cai Noodle House
BEST MEAT EXTRAVANGZA
Lee’s Mongolian Barbeque
Stand in line. Grab a bowl. Heap uncooked pork, beef, chicken, crab and some anonymous-looking vegetables into your bowl, then add a spoonful each of 12 different unmarked sauces (one smells like garlic). Pack it all down—the more the merrier—then pass it on through to the chef, who is surrounded by Plexiglas. He’ll cook it up on one of those huge circular grills. He’ll whack the food around with a large wooden stick, then heap the steaming, thriving mess of meat and veggies (at this point, you won’t be able to tell the difference) back into the bowl and pass it through a bank-teller-style window. Tip your chef, grab your digs and chow down. 2866 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-621-9120.
In a town with a number of very good Japanese restaurants (and one stinker we can’t mention), Kyoto stands out. This place doesn’t try to impress you with a bunch of fancy sushi rolls you’d never find in Japan—a sign that Kyoto is authentic. The menu, in fact, is rather typical—the usual selection of sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki and other dishes. But it has the intangibles as well—good, kimono-clad service; an understated but traditional décor; and reasonable prices. There are a few other nice touches, such as children’s plates. A little sake and green tea ice cream, and your meal will be complete. 1080 E. 1300 South, 487-3525.
2. Happy Sumo
BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR GROOVE BACK
It’s easy here. And it’s sexy in a way. While so many downtown restaurants are oppressively packed on the weekends, the Samba Grill still seems roomy and friendly. A Brazilian guitarist strums a jazzy, bossa nova beat and croons a sexy tune. The waiter takes a moment to show you how to let the servers know when to bring meat to your table. Now that’s another sexy element: Having hot grilled meat arrive at your table by men carrying what appear to be swords laden with juicy beef, pork and chicken which they carve onto your plate. And then there’s the salad bar with more than 40 items, hot and cold. Your best bet is to make it a long evening, eat slowly, enjoy the music, sip a tropical fruit drink, with or without alcohol. The astounding part is you’ll pay less than $20 per person (minus the alcohol), and you’ll get your groove back in the process. The Gateway, 162 S. 400 West, 456-2200.
El Matador Restaurante & Cantina
Mexican chow in Ogden doesn’t get better than El Matador’s. The restaurant also has a Cantina, where you can order da bomb margaritas, while sitting next to a basket of bananas. Or, order a cocktail with dinner. The downtown restaurant is close to theater venues and other sordid nightlife. 2564 Ogden Ave., Ogden, 801-393-3151.
This is the place for a hearty omelet and homemade biscuits every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the place to order eggs Benedict and eggs florentine smothered in hollandaise, a sauce whose recipe remains a tightly guarded secret. This is also the place to see a ghost named Ruth, the colorful crone who hauled a Salt Lake trolley car up Emigration Canyon in 1949 to establish her namesake roadside diner. Forty years later, at the age of 94, Ruth passed on, and the diner is now owned by a man named Dan. But should you detect the faint odor of Lucky Strikes or hear the muffled yapping of Chihuahuas, it’s probably Ruth coming back to warn Dan, “Whatever you do, don’t tell ‘em how I made the &%@# hollandaise sauce.” 2100 Emigration Canyon Rd., 582-5807.
2. Blue Plate Diner
3. Over the Counter
BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Many elements go into a good coffee house. The coffee should be excellent, of course, or the rest doesn’t matter. The coffee drinks at the Coffee Garden are indeed great, and not just because most of the baristas are foam artists. There’s also an excellent selection of teas, syrup drinks and pastries. But once you get beyond all that, the Coffee Garden offers another essential coffee house ingredient: great people-watching. There is an almost-too-hip crowd that is a mix of young and old, and big windows facing the streets to get the big passersby picture. Add ’50s-style chairs and tables, a few plants, lots of stuff lying around to read, and this coffee house would fit in in any city. 898 S. 900 East, 355-3425.
2. Salt Lake Roasting Co.
3. Salt Lake Coffee Break
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
It stands to reason that this would appeal to plenty of our readers—is there anything they don’t serve here? Staking out a spot in Sugar House next to the Cinemark theaters, Tsunami put together a menu that runs the gamut from zesty vegetarian fare to baby back ribs, with plenty of unique offerings in between (asparagus wrapped in pan-seared, thin-sliced rib roast—mega-yum). The sushi delivers the goods as well, with traditional nigiri and a tempting array of creative rolls. The locals may have enjoyed having it mostly to themselves thus far, but once the word gets out, a seat at that sushi bar may be even harder to come by. 2233 S. Highland, 467-5545.
2. Thai Siam
3. Loco Lizard
BEST ENCHILADA IN OGDEN
Javier’s serves authentic Mexican food for cheap. And, chances are, it will probably be Javier who serves it to you. He’s famous in Ogden for serving the best Mexican food around. The restaurant is usually packed, so show up early and be prepared to wait. 205 W. 29th St., Ogden, 801-393-0955.
BEST TRADITIONAL LUNCH SPOT
Lamb’s Grill Café
The dark wood booths, burgundy chairs and stools, antique-style lamps and forest green marble counter are all quintessentially old boy. Indeed, you will spot some local masters of the universe during lunchtime, making contacts and cutting deals. And if that isn’t enticement enough, Lamb’s lunch menu is top notch and inexpensive. 169 S. Main, 364-7166.
The beauty of Greek food is its sheer simplicity, matched with hearty ingredients. And unless you’re a massive fan of spinach phyllo pie, stuffed grape leaves or baklava, the centerpiece of Greek cuisine has really never been surpassed by the gyro. It’s the signature dish at Greek Souvlaki, an establishment of choice for anyone seeking the sweet-spot cure for any hunger. That’s a lot more complicated than it needs to sound but, hey, we always wax a bit more detailed when the food is this dead-on delicious. 404 E. 300 South, 322-2062; 1446 S. State, 487-3481.
2. Yanni’s, The Other Place (tie)
BEST RAW MEAL DEAL
Hey pal, keep your pants on. Really. But if by eating a meal in the raw, you were thinking “sushi,” then Wasabi Sushi is the place. Some sushi joints can have you spending in excess of $100 and still leave you hungry. Not here. The most spendy combo platter is the Sensei, complete with the unique Seattle roll, Maguro, Hamachi and Sake for $18.50. But definitely try the Spider roll, with the eerie yet yummy claw protruding upwards in defiance to its inevitable consumption. The staff rocks, making their daily delicacies to satisfy the sumo-like appetites of their loyal customers. And the place stays open till 10 p.m. Since seating is limited, feel free to get it to go. Maybe even sneak a few rolls into the Tower Theater across the street during their next showing of The Last Samurai. 865 E. 900 South, 328-3474.
You can tell when a restaurant is trying too hard to be French. Invariably there is a cheesy Air France poster of the Eiffel Tower or some other nonsense. At L’Avenue, it is the small touches that succeed, beginning with a menu that reflects what you might find in a restaurant in France. Walking into the L’Avenue transported us to a friendly place of many years ago in Paris’ 15th Arrondissement called Le Commerce. L’Avenue is not cheap, but it is not more than you would expect to pay, and by the way, did we mention ambience? Fact is, the place gets it right. Oh yeah, and the food is superbe. 1355 E. 2100 South, 485-4494.
2. Paris Bistro
3. La Caille
BEST SPEEDY LUNCH
Sure, you could wait in a long drive-thru line over at Wendy’s, but they don’t have the Jazzy Blue bacon cheeseburger anymore anyway, so what’s the point? Or you could skip on over to Taco Bell, but really, do you actually need more gastrointestinal problems? Or you could drop in at Crown Burger, order yourself the best burger in the state, throw in some fries and fry sauce, and maybe get one of those shakes so thick they wouldn’t melt in St. George. And you could do it all in the time it takes to get through that line at Wendy’s and to digest that bean burrito, while also keepin’ it real and local. Locations throughout the valley.
2. Big City Soup
3. Curry In a Hurry
BEST WEST VALLEY RESTAURANT
Dos Serranos Border Grill
It would be cliché, but true, to say that the West Side abounds in Mexican restaurants. That Dos Serranos stands above them as our readers’ favorite restaurant says a lot not only about Dos Serranos’ Mexican food, but the establishment itself. Every one of Dos Serranos’ offerings is as reliable as your teenage son’s heartbeat, with tomatillo and habañero sauces as the recurring motif. It’s reliable Mexican fare with flair. But you could easily get more exotic and try the Mexican paella en-casserole, a decidedly Spanish dish done with a Dos Serranos twist. Those East Enders don’t know what they’re missing. 5419 S. Redwood Rd., 266-0898.
BEST GAME IN TOWN
Valley Game & Gourmet
Providing restaurant chefs and retail customers alike with the freshest game in town is no game for Valley Game & Gourmet. There’s a fine selection of fabulous fowl, including pheasant, quail, poussin, guinea hen and Muscovy duck, as well as red meat items like bison steaks, venison medallions, wild boar sausage and buffalo ravioli. If you’re in the hunt for wild game, look no further than Valley Game & Gourmet. 615 W. 100 South, 521-2345.
Sampan Chinese Restaurant
Since 1998, Sampan has been recognized for its takeout cuisine. Keep in mind, it tastes just as good when it is delivered (at no charge if you live in the area, and for a nominal fee if you live in the boonies). And you can always go for the ultimate thrill and dine in at the restaurant. It’s great food because of all the shopping, washing and chopping that they do. It’s great food because they use fresh ingredients, grind their own meat and make everything at the restaurant, even the egg rolls. Everything’s made from scratch, the way you would cook if only you could. They make food like it’s holy medicine, and you can get it everyday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 675 E. 2100 South, 467-3663. Also in West Jordan and Sandy.
3. The Pie
BEST IRON CHEF
During the warm months of spring and summer, Executive Chef Jean Louis Montecot urges his hungry Goldener Hirsch customers to take part in the Iron Chef Challenge. Diners are presented with a list of ingredients—everything from asparagus to veal—and they check off the items they’d like to have incorporated into a customized dish. Chef Montecot then retreats to the kitchen and whips up a one-of-a-kind dish that is inevitably sublime. The best part about playing stump the chef is eating the extraordinary results. Silver Lake Village, Deer Valley, 435-649-7770.
Has anyone driven past the rhythmically swaying amigos that adorn the frontage to Tres Hombres restaurant and not giggled? Impossible not to. Rocking back and forth as they do, the sign is a reassuring beacon in the Millcreek district and has a long history to boot. Before becoming a restaurant, the building was a carpet store and the Tres Hombres were called the Carpet Trio. Great food awaits inside, as well as a tequila list as good as you’ll find around here. Also telling is that on the building roof is a billboard for Weight Watchers atop an all-you-can-eat message from the hombres themselves. They must be smiling. 3298 S. Highland Dr., 466-0054.
Made In Brazil
Made In Brazil might not be the fanciest Brazilian eatery in town, but it’s the most authentic. You can tell by the number of Brazilian customers who fill the place on a Saturday afternoon, chitchatting in Portuguese and ordering plateloads of grilled meats from the churrascaria. Or digging into big helpings of the Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, and then loading up on hard-to-find items like dende oil and farofa from Made In Brazil’s market. When it comes to Brazilian cuisine, Made In Brazil is muito bem! 2316 E. Fort Union Blvd., 944-2427.
Despite the cover stories in national weekly magazines, despite the medical evidence that animal-free diets are healthier and despite the fact that meat-free meals are less expensive, vegetarians still get a bad rap. Why? Because the general public thinks the food, like, sucks or something. The joke’s on them. Make no mistake, vegetarian—nay, vegan fare doesn’t get more earnest than Sage’s, a restaurant with a mission. But the results speak for themselves. Sauces brim with lively flavor, and meat substitutes like the Nut Burger are so hearty you’ll wonder why the first cave men even bothered with the hunt. Or just admit your one-sided passion for vegetables and order Sage’s legendary spinach salad. 473 E. 300 South, 322-3790.
3. Long Life Veggie House
BEST PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS
Sure, it might be a copy of Denver’s Casa Bonita, but who cares? The kids certainly don’t, not with the cliff jumpers, the animatron parrots and the smoke machines. Even with people diving into a pool right next to your table, and mariachi bands playing all over the Larry Miller-owned restaurant, eating at the Mayan is a peaceful experience because it’s the one place where parents actually get to eat instead of entertain. And the food’s not bad—which is something a lot of kiddie-friendly joints can’t say. 9400 S. State, Sandy, 304-4600.
2. The Pie
WITH A FRIED EGG
Healthy, smealthy. It’s all about taste, and nothing tastes better than grease. And there is no higher form of grease than the fried egg hamburger. And nobody else does a fried egg hamburger like the Ranch Burger at Big Ed’s. But just in case the lure of sizzling meat isn’t enough, consider that the burger comes with two sides. You can get your French fries and onion rings and, along with a Diet Coke (just to be on the safe side), you’ve got the breakfast of champions. Now you’re ready to face the day. 210 S. University, 582-9045.
BEST SETTING FOR SUSHI
The stained-glass windows at Ichiban Sushi are a subtle reminder that the large space is a converted Lutheran church. But few churches have as much eye appeal as Ichiban, with its bold modern décor, 300-gallon custom-made saltwater fish tank, and murals of dancing sumo wrestlers that adorn the walls. Ichiban’s interior is a symphony of metal, stained glass, iron, wood, and clever lighting, all combining to create a truly sumptuous sushi space. Although Chef Peggi Whiting’s sushi may be very traditional, the vibe at Ichiban Sushi is anything but. 336 S. 400 East, 532-7522.
BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
My darling little dove, I have a proposal. Let us dine, you and I, at the one restaurant in Salt Lake City that whispers “l’amour” at every turn, in its every nuance. Let us, you and I, drive to the entrance of the petite Cottonwood Canyon to the charming country chateau known so sweetly as La Caille, which means “the quail.” Here, my beloved, we shall fall in love all over again, especially after we taste the escargots in herbed butter sauce and La Caille’s exquisite continental cuisine. With its antique furnishings, manicured gardens and the costuming of its wait staff, La Caille has somehow re-created 18th-century France. This may inspire me to speak in what I believe is a French accent, my pigeon, even though I was born and raised in Utah. Pardonnez-moi, I cannot stop myself. While driving up the winding brick drive to La Caille, you and I shall thrill at the surrounding 24-acre estate that features its own vineyard, four lily ponds, flocks of geese, swans, peacocks and even llamas. In their season, we shall see thousands of flowers blooming throughout the estate, which are cut and arranged ever so elegantly for the many marriages and receptions held at La Caille. Which reminds me, my partridge, I have a proposal. … 9565 S. Wasatch Blvd., 942-1751.
2. Log Haven
Food & Drink
There is a need in humans: the need for amino acids. Women, charged with creating and sustaining new life; men tasked with running, competing and overcoming all odds in deadly pursuit of those women. A never-ending need for protein, strength, ferocity. The competitors, the creators, those who pounce upon and tear their prey apart with large incisors—these are people who love steak. But that thought shouldn’t disturb you in the least at Ruby River, where your steak will be so succulent and juicy, you will be downright oblivious of any implications, good or bad, of your carnivorous behavior. You’ll be much too involved in deciding how you want your steak prepared, and which beverage to order from the menu of spirits, wine and beer to go with your meal. Here, you can withdraw from Darwinian pursuits to enjoy the relaxing, laid-back Ruby River atmosphere, where even on Friday night, you won’t feel rushed or ignored. You may even howl like a coyote with delight when the bill arrives and you realize you just had one of the most reasonably priced steak dinners in town. 435 S. 700 East, 359-3355; 85 E. 9400 South, Sandy, 569-1885.
BEST WONKA-ESQUE EXPERIENCE
Kencraft Peppermint Place Candy Factory
No, you won’t find any Oompa Loompas tending to the treats—the employees here sport a decidedly less scurvy-like hue. But in plenty of other ways the Kencraft factory tour is like stepping into Roald Dahl’s world of Willy Wonka. Ever wonder how candy canes end up so precisely striped? Wonder no longer after taking a gander at the complex process of mechanical and human preparation. And you don’t even need to plan ahead for a guided tour, since the observation areas let you go move along at your own saliva-dripping pace. Just try not to fall into the river of chocolate, Augustus. 119 E. 200 North, Alpine, 800-377-4368.
With creamy cucumber sauce (or red sauce, if you prefer-you heathen), fresh onions, a handful of fat tomato slices and meat that melts on your tongue, Greek Souvlaki’s gyro is close to orgasmic—and goes down better than a Nia Vardalos joke. Forget the big fat Greek weddings—bring on the big fat Greek gyros! 404 E. 300 South; 1446 S. State, 322-2062.
3. Crown Burger
BEST SPECIALTY FOOD STORE
Granted, Draper and Holladay have never been considered hot pockets on the gourmet shopping list. Not, at least, until Orian Collinsworth, a former supplier to Trader Joe’s, opened his bounteous Pirate O’s locations. With more than 9,000 gourmet items to fill your greedy little cart, this is the sort of store that proves, once and for all, that quality can exist alongside quantity. So pass over the expected offerings of exotic cheese and six-packs of microbrews. It’s easier to marvel over offerings like Georgian onion spread, Irish cake, Australian licorice, a mind-boggling array of chocolates and hot sauces, and mustards you never knew existed. Need one more reason to visit? The sample trays are almost a permanent fixture. 11901 S. 700 East, Draper, 572-0956; 4695 S. Murray Holladay Rd., Holladay, 274-6227.
BEST MUSHROOM PIZZA
Wild Mushroom Pizza
The name of the place should be the tip-off, and Wild Mushroom’s fully loaded Mushroom Trio pizza—portabella, shitake and button ‘shrooms with Italian sausage and red sauce—doesn’t disappoint. 2046 S. 500 East, 484-6100.
Reached for comment on this prestigious Best of Utah victory, his royal highness King Tasty (the crowned cartoon representative of Tasty’s) simply offered, “I finally feel hole inside—ha!” The lovingly crafted potato-flour confections of local franchise Tasty’s are no joke, however, as you simply won’t find a better donut, tossed in gratis with a killer deli-sub sandwich (another shop specialty) or not. According to company literature, King Tasty was also named Emperor of the World in 1974, “though his duties remain largely ceremonial.” As far as you know, it’s true. 1151 E. 2100 South, 463-0700, and two other locations.
2. Banbury Cross
BEST EDIBLE GIFT WRAP
Shepherd’s Cake & Candy
Anyone can wrap that special birthday surprise in foil or a decorative bag. But how many people can say they’ve received a gift in something more fun to consume than it would be to recycle? This Provo-based confectioner can special-order pure chocolate boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes, perfect for wrapping up something for your sweetie. Sure, you run the risk of burying the lead, as it were, but isn’t it worth melting someone’s heart with a box that melts in their hands? 1700 N. State, Provo, 801-373-5542.
BEST CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD
Off Main Café & Bakery
Sometimes, the recipes that seem simplest are the hardest to get just right. Aficionados of the chicken caesar salad know how difficult it can be to find that ideal combination of zesty croutons, tender chicken in portions that aren’t stingy, and neither over- nor under-dressed Romaine. This splendid Park City bistro serves up a scrumptious version in either side-dish or main-course sizes, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one just like it that inspires you to down every last bite. The classics never go out of style, and A-plus interpretations of classic dishes just show how much style you’ve got. 1782 Prospector Ave., Park City, 435-649-6478.
If you grew up with a hankering for the jaw-cracking joys of peanut brittle, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This Sandy confectioner isn’t content to wrap the tempting candy around common legumes—not when there are so many other options available to pair with founder Paul Cushing’s secret family recipe. Pecan brittle, macadamia brittle, cashew brittle, and even a Cracker Jack-esque popcorn-and-nut brittle fill out a menu so deep you could brittle all week and never come up with the same taste twice. Your teeth may not thank you, but your taste buds will. 8360 S. 524 West, 576-2547.
It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up. A shake at Iceberg is more like a creamy, sweet, delicious meal. And that’s just the “mini”—God help anyone who tackles a “regular.” Depending on the time of year and your willingness to throw in toppings, you can tart up your creation with nearly 50 flavors, from cherry to butterscotch. Take a hint from the fact that they hand it to you with a spoon rather than a straw—you’ll need time, patience and a very empty stomach to make it to the bottom. 3906 S. 900 East, 262-0652, and three other locations.
2. Jake’s Over the Top
3. Ab’s Drive-In
Snider’s Bros Meats
A butcher used to be part and parcel of the fabric of any town. Now you can hardly ever find one. It’s gotten so that even major grocery stores like Smith’s have abandoned meat cutting altogether in favor of one price in one-piece-of-plastic-fits-all meat departments. However, one very notable remnant is still standing: Snider’s Bros Meats. If you’re looking for a cut of meat that is worth every penny and cut just the way you want it, go to Snider’s. Besides the fresh cuts you’ll find a variety of frozen items like ground lamb and sausages, plus an array of fresh for the grill or oven meals. 6245 S. Highland Dr., 272-6469.
BEST BREAKFAST BURRITO
We all know it’s the most important meal of the day, so why wimp out on coffee and a bagel? Sure, you can fall back on tried-and-true egg-and-bacon or egg-and-sausage variations, garnished with all the appropriate trimmings. But maybe what you really need is to wrap that tortilla around some steak and eggs, or better yet, eggs and hamburger. Eat a breakfast where you’ll know you ate a breakfast, and you’ll never go back to a McMuffin again. 673 E. 12300 South, 571-2453.
BEST FRY SAUCE
There’s something uniquely Utah about figuring out a way to take deep-fried potatoes and somehow add more fat to the experience. When plain, bland ketchup just won’t do, there’s nowhere better to go than the place where fry sauce was born in this state over 50 years ago—everyone else is just serving up a bandwagon approximation. Arctic Circle’s big metal squirt buckets still feature its original recipe, a perfect blend of ketchup tanginess and mayonnaise creaminess (along with the obligatory unnamed secret spices). Non-Utahns just don’t know what they’re missing. Mmmmm, more fat. Locations valley-wide.
2. Crown Burger
Red Rock Brewing Co.
Sure, the more than two dozen different brews might have put Red Rock on the map, but it’s the appetizers served with the McRock’s Scottish Ale and the Red Rock Honey Wheat that keeps people coming back. Red Rock features the pub staples—like Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks and onion rings—as well as starters that could be finishers. You can’t go wrong with the House Smoked Salmon (served with toasted sourdough, red onions, capers and cream cheese) or the portabello mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese, herbs and mozzarella. The seafood starters—particularly the calamari—are also excellent. After washing down the Beer Cracker Flatbread with a Hef, you may never go back to fries and Bud again. 254 S. 200 West, 521-7446.
BEST CREEKSIDE CHINESE
Jasmine China Bistro
It’s too easy to get caught up in "supposed’ta’s." Like when it comes to Chinese food—you probably get the feeling that you’re supposed’ta enjoy it in a restaurant dining room full of lacquer, or in your living room out of paper cartons. But you realize life is too short for supposed’ta when you check out Jasmine’s patio dining. When the weather turns lovely, this restaurant opens up the outdoors and serves its great traditional Chinese fare on the banks of Big Cottonwood Creek. And even if climate conditions keep the creek fairly dry, the cuisine still boasts an extra zing in the open air. 4810 S. Highland Dr., 278-6688.
Au Bon Appetit
Longing for a big pot of steamed mussels like the ones you ate in Belgium? Look no further than Au Bon Appetit, the downtown French bistro that serves heaping helpings of Brussels-style mussels cooked in a celestial brew of shallots, white wine and butter. The only way to improve those tender mussels is by enjoying them with a large bowl of Au Bon Appetit’s pommes frites on the side. 18 Market St. 519-9595.
BEST FUNKY ‘BURB COFFEE HOUSE
For a suburb, Holladay’s got some cool funk—it even starts with “holla!,” ever notice that? Java Jim’s Coffee House & Roaster is easily one of Holladay’s funkier hangs, a casual bean joint where said beans are ground on the premises and bagged for purchase (dig the “Holladay Nut” blend), and a chill-perfect patio. The coffee’s tasty, too, but mostly it’s just nice to find something—anything—open in Holladay on a Sunday (the town’s unfunkiest aspect). 4700 S. Holladay Blvd., 278-7906.
BEST WHITE-GARLIC SAUCE PIZZA
Rocky Mountain Pizza Co.
While they also serve up some of the best red-sauce pies around, RMPC’s white-garlic sauce Pike’s Peak (cheese, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, etc.), Summit (vegetarian) and Aerie (chicken) pizzas are every bit as luscious as their crimson counterparts. 3977 S. Wasatch Blvd., 272-9888.
American cuisine inevitably gets a bad rap, but we live in a nation that’s cornered the market on salads, a perennial fixture of the American restaurant. No one does the game with more breadth of variety or depth of taste than Sweet Tomatoes, which goes so far as to give the salad diner the luxury of even low-fat croutons. They could come right out and snow you with a mind-boggling menu that includes scores of "fresh tossed" creations and more than 40 different "signature prepared" bowls. Instead, Sweet Tomatoes uses a stealth approach, releasing only a handful every week or so, then rotating their selection over time. Half the fun is not knowing what’s on the menu before you sit down. The other half is knowing that, whatever salad you fancy, be it "Joan’s broccoli madness" or "pesto orzo with pinenuts" or the "Barlett pear and walnut," it’s sure to delight. 10060 S. State, 352-9001; 7455 S. Union Park Ave., 352-9980.
2. Cafe Rio
3. Olive Garden
BEST 3 A.M. WAFFLE
Belgian Waffle & Omelette Inn
Because, really, what else are you going to do in Midvale at three o’clock in the morning? Truth is, though, Belgian Waffle serves fine breakfasts day in and day out. 7331 S. 900 East, 566-5731.
BEST PRODUCE AT THE BEST PRICE
Kim Long Oriental Market
Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its healthy, fresh ingredients. West Valley City’s Kim Long market is a place that keeps Vietnamese chefs (and anyone else looking for variety, freshness and great prices) “in the green.” Kim Long’s narrow aisles teem with customers seven days a week culling ingredients from the jam-packed shelves and produce bins. In season, you’ll find bitter melon, mustard greens, winter melon, pickle cucumbers, banana sprouts, purple leaf basil, mint basil, lemon grass, bean sprouts, cilantro, whole and shredded bamboo, and shredded pickled carrot and radish. But wait, there’s more! Fresh duck eggs, Chinese health herbs, mouthwatering barbecued pork, fresh fish on ice, pig intestine, tofu, sauces, flavorings, teas, dishes, incense and of course, rice in every shape and form. 3450 S. Redwood Rd., West Valley City, 972-8440.
BEST PEACH SHAKE
Thank God for Brigham City: The town is half a century late. But if you’re into hotrods, Elvis and perky chicks on roller skates, then Peach City is right up your West Side Story alley. They serve burger fare and about 82 different kinds of shakes in a drive-up, park-your-car, order-by-intercom fashion. 306 N. Main, Brigham City, 435-723-3923.
BEST GARLIC BREAD IN DOWNTOWN
Crusty on the outside, soft and coated with olive oil and roasted garlic on the inside, you will yearn to be alone so you don’t have to share this indulgence. 221 E. 300 South, 961-7077.
BEST PLACE TO LOAD A (BURRITO) BOWL
Want to load a bowl, dude? You and your munchies are in luck. With various locations, including one housed in the Woodman Building in the eclectic 9th and 9th locale of Salt Lake, is Barbacoa. Expect a line during the busy lunch rush and a reward for your wait. The choice to make is the burrito bowl. All the classic ingredients, nicely loaded on a bed of rice inside an aluminum foil pan (tortilla optional.) Finally, a burrito without the mess for the city’s sloppy gringos. 859 E. 900 South, 524-0853.
BEST PRE-HANGOVER CURE
Beto’s 24-hr Drive-thru Mexican Food
It’s closing time. Your desire for libation gives way to a growing hunger for food. But you’re too impatient to wait for seating at Denny’s. And tired of the litany of burger combos awaiting you from the multitude of homogenous Wendy’s franchises dotting the valley. Why not Betos 24-hour drive thru Mexican Food? With an ample selection of authentic burritos, tacos, tamales and chimichangas, this late-night antithesis to Taco Bell is just the cure for an empty stomach. And for avoiding the ever-dreaded hangover. Better yet, with their increasing number of locations, there’s sure to be one within sight of your favorite evening watering hole. Viva los Betos! Locations throughout the Wasatch Front, including 3450 S. State, 463-2872.
Technically, Great Harvest could easily win in the Best Free Samples category. But such a title wouldn’t do justice to the masterpiece that is Great Harvest bread. Think thick and fluffy, good with butter or without, baked by hand in the store. The bread comes in old standbys like wheat and sourdough, exotics flavors like Jalepeño Cheese and Cranberry Orange, and everything in between. If you get bored with the bread, just try the muffins. And yes, if you go in the store, they’ll give you a free slice of bread. 905 E. 900 South, 328-2323 and three other locations.
BEST AIRLINE FOOD
If you’re less concerned about an onboard terrorist setting his Converse All-stars on fire and more worried about the debris your flight attendant calls food, then our motto is “Buy before you fly.” Whether headed for Cedar City or the City of Lights, an absolute must for your Gucci carry-on is a mozzarella cheese sandwich on a hard roll with fresh tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar from Granato’s. Salt Lake International Airport, Terminal A.
As Utah’s wine czar—wine coordinator and buyer for the state of Utah—literally not a bottle of wine enters the Beehive State without first passing the well-trained lips of Brett Clifford. Clifford spends most of his days tasting wine, including the bad stuff, so that you don’t have to. And thanks to his impeccable palate, what that means is that the chance of choosing an inferior wine at Utah’s state wine stores is slim. Thanks to Brett Clifford, if you want the crummy stuff, you’ll pretty much have to drive to Evanston.
BEST PERSONAL CATERER
Ever longed to have your own personal chef? Then remember the name Tyrone Robertson. Trained in London, Robertson has worked as a chef in top-notch restaurants for more than 25 years. And now he’s available to cook in your kitchen. TR Cuisine specializes in catering private parties, weddings, intimate dinners, receptions and bar/bat mitzvahs, at prices that even those of us without Lear jets can afford. From corned beef and cabbage for a special St. Paddy’s day celebration to rack of lamb with pistachio-garlic crust, if you’d like to eat it, Tyrone Robertson can cook it. 486-3375.
BEST SUSHI & A SCHOONER
Over at Ahh Sushi (located in O’Shucks), raw fish and beer go together like, well, like beer and raw fish. Not since Fred and Ginger has there been a better pairing than a schooner of ice-cold beer and sushi rolls from Ahh Sushi. You might combine the Mexicali Roll with a cold Corona or perhaps their Spider Roll with a Scorpion Pale Ale. Whatever your choices, we’re convinced that there’s nothing fishy about combining sushi and a schooner. 22 E. 100 South, 359-6770.
A little slice of Sevilla in a ski town, Picasso’s menu lists some 30 different hot and cold tapas—the small appetizer-sized dishes so popular in Spain. Tasting tapas is an interesting alternative to typical aprés ski outings, and at Picasso you’ll definitely want to try the fried artichokes with lemon aioli, jumbo prawns wrapped in crispy bacon and the chicken tenders in light sherry cream sauce with raisins and walnuts. Olé! 900 Main, Park City, 435-658-3030.
BEST HABAÑERO HEAT
At Dos Serranos, some customers like it hot, hot, hot! So chef Rene offers his incendiary Yucatan burrito smothered in hotter than hell “Fire Eaters Habañero Sauce.” The fiery potion has proved so popular that for an extra 50 cents you can add it to any Dos Serranos dish. Use it to kick the shrimp rellenos or pescado Veracruz up a notch. 5419 S. Redwood Rd., 266-0898.
BEST CLAM SAUCE
Mr. Z’s Cucina Italiana
There is no shortage of reasons to visit Mr. Z’s—friendly service, reasonable prices, and delectable dishes like seafood spaghettini, eggplant parmigiana, and lasagna Bolognese to name a few. But our favorite temptation at Mr. Z’s is the linguine alla vongole, which is al dente linguine pasta in a zippy sauce of clams, garlic, white wine, red chili flakes and fresh herbs. It tastes exactly like it sounds: simple and sensational! 111 E. 300 South, 994-2002.
Tony Caputo Market & Deli
Back in the day, most people headed down to Pioneer Park for a quick fix. Now they head down to the rapidly changing neighborhood for a quick bite of Tony Caputo’s mouth-watering sandwiches. And word to the wise, the Caputo is just as addictive as some of that white stuff they still sell over in the park. You’ll find Italian meats stacked higher than that tower in Pisa, balsamic vinegar seemingly straight out of the cask and veggies that didn’t come from no stinkin’ freezer. Tony Caputo’s is something even Bacchus would have been proud of. 308 W. 300 South, 531-8669.
3. Grove Market
BEST GAME HEN
Red Butte Café
Red Butte’s Chef Steve Hamburg makes regular forays into the eclectic, with dishes like phyllo-wrapped polenta and ancho crème, or his mushroom, artichoke and Gorgonzola soufflé. But we go gaga over Hamburg’s game hen. It’s house-smoked and then roasted and topped with a rich “ranchero” molé, chiliquiles and southwest vegetable ragout. Now that’s a great game hen. 1412 S. Foothill Dr., 581-9498.
The calamaretti fritti at La Terrazza on Fort Union is a calamari lover’s wet dream: tiny, tender pieces of deep-fried calamari served with two sauces. There’s a traditional tomato-based marinara sauce and also a divine spicy tomato-caper sauce that the chef says he created “by accident.” La Terrazza’s killer calamari makes us hope for more accidents in the kitchen. 707 E. Fort Union Blvd., 255-6122.
BEST COOKING CLASSES
Sur La Table
If it can be cooked, Sur La Table will teach you how. With cooking classes held almost every day of the week at Sur La Table, you can become a celebrated chef without ever setting foot in an expensive culinary institute. And there’s truly something for everyone, from learning about basic sushi construction from Peggi Whiting or “Seafood 101” from Gastronomy’s Scott Loring, to Malavika Deo’s homemade Indian cooking or “Simple But Sensational” fare from Ted Scheffler. Best of all though, Sur La Table cooking classes put fun back into the kitchen. 10 N. Rio Grande (The Gateway), 456-0280.
BEST LOBSTER DISH
WITHOUT THE LOBSTER
They call monkfish “poor man’s lobster.” But the monkfish at Martine is rich and opulent in the form of Chef Tom Grant’s “Monkfish Lobster Style.” It’s one of the many wonderful “tapas” offered at Martine, in this case monkfish chunks bath in subtle anise-flavored Pernod-shrimp butter with preserved lemon black lentil pilaf. We’re thrilled that Grant decided to monkey around with monkfish. 22 E. 100 South, 363-9328.
There are lots of reasons to love Park City’s classic French restaurant Chenez, where great food and service is combined with a romantic, elegant setting. But most of all, we like their legs. Frog legs, that is. Lots of folks say they taste like chicken. We think they taste like heaven. 710 Lower Main Street Plaza, Park City, 435-940-1909.
Or should we say … Best Zappi, The Pie’s version of a calzone, which tends to be the neat-freaks’ pizza of choice. With a Zappi, you get all the basic ingredients of a pizza, but bundled into a no-mess mass of pizza dough. At The Pie, you get a choice of three standard versions, all hearty and heat-seekingly savory: cheese, vegetarian or meat. The latter features goodies the likes of Genoa salami and Canadian Bacon. Toss in half a buck for ricotta cheese, and you’ve got a meal fit for anyone tired of the same old phone-in pizza order. Habit is such a killjoy, you might as well break it with The Pie’s Zappi. 1320 E. 200 South, 582-0193.
2. Rusted Sun
3. Italian Village
BEST CHOCOHOLIC FIX
This is the place to get your dark (chocolate) side satisfied. Carlucci’s has a Chocolate Decadence cake that is so rich, just one could give a whole elementary school a sugar high. There are plenty of other delicious pastries, so be advised not to go in right after hitting the gym. Side note: Carlucci’s has also saved at least one last-minute Valentine’s Day buyer from a night on the couch. 314 W. 300 South, 366-4484.
BEST FRENCH DIP
Hey, we didn’t say it was traditional; we just said it was the best. Up at Bistro 412 they make their delicious French Dip sandwich with thin and tender slices of roasted pork loin, then top the pork with melted Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions. It’s matchless with Bistro 412’s natural au jus and a glass of Pinot Noir on the side. 412 Main, Park City, 435-649-8211.
BEST BANANA CREAM PIE
Piñon Market & Café
Customers who are fond of Piñon Market’s fantastic soups, salads, and sandwiches might not know that owner Victoria Topham started out as a pastry chef. But if you’re ever lucky enough to taste her phenomenal banana cream pie, you might never eat anyone else’s. It’s not a regularly featured dessert at Piñon, but Topham takes special orders for her ethereal pie. If you haven’t had Piñon’s pie, you haven’t had banana cream pie. 1300 S. 2095 East, 582-4539.
BEST CHOICE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
Desert Edge Beer School
Once each month, students gather at The Desert Edge Brewery for “beer school.” That’s when beer geeks can learn the secrets of making handcrafted brews like the ultra hoppy Utah Pale Ale, award-winning Road Rage Rye, or our favorite, Desert Edge Latter Day Stout. At the Desert Edge beer school, Brew Master Chris Haas not only provides insights into quality beer making, but also urges students to sample the results. No one has flunked yet. 273 Trolley Square, 521-8917.
Loco Lizard Cantina
The big chunks of tender roasted pork bathed in a slightly sweet but spicy sauce at Loco Lizard prompted KSL’s Bryan Schott to proclaim “Loco Lizard’s carnitas are so good I want to put them down my pants! I want to be buried in a vat of those carnitas and forced to climb my way out. And if I don’t make it, that’s fine.” We concur with the high praise for Loco Lizard’s praiseworthy carnitas. 6550 S. 3000 East (Old Mill Village), 453-9400.
The Tree Room (Sundance)
OK, we’re impressed. With Chef Jason Knibb’s marvelous “seafood trio” appetizer, that is. Knibb’s seafood trio looks like fine art on the plate and tastes even more spectacular. It consists of rare sushi-grade tuna sashimi with soybean, avocado and cucumber; a lightly seared scallop with apple coulis and celery salad; and then a large Australian prawn kissed on a fragrant citrus salad with coriander. Sundance Resort, 801-223-4200.
BEST LOCALLY BREWED BEER
The Best of Utah brewski pendulum swings back to Squatters, home of the tasty Provo Girl-and her most-excellent Bavarian pilsner, too. She may get all the attention nowadays, but lest we forget the pioneering Squatters beers that came before ‘er, like the classic Hefeweizen, the rich Full Suspension Pale Ale and not-just-for-breakfast-anymore Capt. Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout. Think another beer tax is gonna keep us away? Bring it, pinheads! 147 W. 300 South, 363-2739.
As the head of Food and Beverage for Snowbird Resort, Mikel Trapp oversees more than a dozen eateries, from The Keyhole Cantina and the Steak Pit to on-mountain dining spots like Midgad Restaurant. Since taking over Snowbird’s F&B duties he’s turned many of the Bird’s once-beleaguered restaurants into dining destinations. He also puts in long volunteer hours as co-chair for Taste of the Nation. Oh yeah, and in his spare time he tends to a trio of beautiful triplets.
Up in Big Cottonwood Canyon at Solitude’s Creekside restaurant, Chef Lane Pellinger slowly smokes his own fresh trout over hot cherrywood coals and then serves it to his customers with a horseradish-caper aioli, crunchy cornichons, and homemade baked croutons. It’s a simple dish in the best sense of the word: simple and sensa ional. Solitude, 801-536-5787.
You get a good feeling as soon as you walk in the door and see that Crown’s burgers are actually being flame-broiled to order—those grill marks aren’t just painted on, and they’re going to hit your hands still hot. Every delicious variation on the classic Crown Burger tastes just like it came from your own backyard barbecue, stacked high with tasty toppings and just pink enough in the middle to leave plenty of juice dribbling down your chin. Repress that involuntary shudder, meat-shunners among you. This here’s where carnivores can appreciate a mouth-watering interpretation of nature’s most perfect food. 377 E. 200 South, 532-1155 and two other locations.
2. Hires Big H
3. Cotton Bottom
Keyhole Junction Cantina
If you’re accustomed to ordering the same old Cuervo Gold shot whenever you indulge in tequila, maybe it’s time you headed up to Snowbird’s Keyhole Junction. At the Keyhole, there are more than 20 premium tequilas offered—from blended tequila like Cuervo 1800 to high-end añejos such as Herradura Selección Suprema. And if you prefer your tequila a little less straight up, you can select any of the Keyhole’s tasty tequilas when building your own customized Margarita. Snowbird Resort, 801-933-2025.
Sushi in Sandy? Who knew? But if you’re in a hurry in the South Valley, Sushi Express offers sensational sushi to takeout. From California rolls to giant surf clam and jellyfish, Sushi Express has all the selections of more upscale sushi emporiums without the high overhead. So they can transfer the sushi savings to you. A local favorite is the Sandy Roll with soft-shell crab, shrimp tempura, salmon, snow crab, tobiko and teriyaki sauce. Just don’t try to eat that whopper in the car. 7824 S. 700 East, 352-9308.
Juhl Haus Market & Deli
Here’s a partial list of the bratwurst selection available at the Juhl Haus: Squatters St. Provo Girl, Oatmeal Stout, and Pale Ale bratwurst, Wasatch Polygamy Porter & Irish Stout bratwurst, Bavaria Bratwurst, Cajun Bratwurst, Italian Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Munich Weisswurst, Nurnberger German Style Bratwurst, Polish Kielbasa, Smoked Kaiser Bratwurst and Old Fashioned Wieners. 1336 Foothill Dr., 582-7758.
SugarHouse Barbecue Co.
Shhhh! We are about to tell you the secret to preparing the best ribs. But keep it to yourself because the boys at SugarHouse Barbecue might not like it. Are you ready? The secret is NO SAUCE. That’s right. Do not cook your ribs in sauce. Instead, RUB your ribs. That’s right, Ralph and Bill Smithers marinate slabs of pork ribs (St. Louis cut) in an original spice rub for 24 hours prior to cooking. They then grill them over hickory and cherrywood. The slabs are served with two side dishes and cornbread plus a choice of four different sauces, including sweet barbecue, hot cayenne, mustard and vinegar spice. Now you know the secret to the best ribs, and it sounds like a whole lotta work to do at home. Don’t ask about the secret to pulled pork. We’d be rubbed out for telling that one. 2207 S. 700 East, 463-4800.
2. Rib Alley
BEST LOVE NEST
East Sea Restaurant
No, we don’t mean “most romantic” restaurant. At East Sea, it’s the prawns and scallops “Love Nest” that we’re infatuated with. It’s a wonderful melange of succulent prawns and steamed bay scallops with vegetables, served in a crispy taro basket called a “Love Nest.” Top it all off with East Sea’s savory sauce and you’ll fall madly in love with this dish. 120 N. 900 West, 596-8963; 3695 S. Redwood Rd., 972-9009.
Up at the Westgate Grill at The Canyons Resort, Chef Don McCraddic knows what to do with a buffalo. He makes osso bucco out of it. McCraddic’s braised buffalo osso bucco is remarkably tender and rich, served with a roasted garlic and rosemary glaze alongside marvelous mashed potatoes and veggies. It’s a hearty dish that’s perfect after a day of skiing at The Canyons. 3000 The Canyons Resort Dr., Park City, 435-655-2260.
BEST PAD THAI
Bangkok Thai On Main
It’s Thailand’s most popular dish and no one makes a better version than Park City’s Bangkok Thai on Main. Their pad Thai is a complex dish of wide rice noodles stir fried in a spicy sauce with shrimp, chicken slices, scallions, scrambled egg and sprinkled on top with crunchy ground peanuts. A taste of Thailand in snow country. 605 Main, Park City, 435-649-8424.
Market Street Grill
Walking into the Market Street Grill feels like a mini-tour of Seattle’s Pike Place market, or San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf (back when they still sold fish there). We tried the crab in season recently and nearly melted into the butter dish. A full range of piscatorial delights awaits. It’s easy to over- or under-cook so many kinds of fish, and here Market Street excels at getting it right. Add great service, and you’ve just saved yourself hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket to the coast to find the same thing. 48 W. Market St., 322-4668.
2. Oyster Bar
Usually we think of ravioli as Italian pasta squares stuffed with cheese or ground meat, covered in thick red spaghetti sauce. Well, at Deer Valley Resort’s Mariposa restaurant they have a different take on ravioli. At The Mariposa Executive Chef Clark Norris fills his ravioli pasta with shreds of rich duck confit and then layers on a silky port reduction sauce with glazed currants. Match Norris’ ravioli with a fine bottle of French Burgundy from The Mariposa’s extensive wine collection and you’ve got a rare ravioli treat. Silver Lake Village, Deer Valley Resort, 435-645-6715.
BEST $1 MEAL
B&D Burgers on Tuesdays
Economical lunch means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. Start with bread, 10 cents a slice, or 20 cents for a sandwich. Now add the peanut butter, 10-15 cents, depending on quality. … Fruit? OK, forget PB&J on Tuesdays, when B&D sells quarter-pound burgers for $1. 222 S. 1300 East, 582-7200; 7793 S. State, 255-5900.
BEST COFFEE VALUE CAFFEINE/PENNY
Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Cultured people go to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to watch glass menageries and classic b&w photographs. If that alone isn’t enough to motivate you, what if we say it is the only place in the valley that sells a refillable cup of coffee for $1.10? Friendly servers and no glares, even on the sixth refill. 410 Campus Center Dr., 581-7332.
The New Yorker
Granted, getting people to eat bunnies for dinner is a hard sell in Utah. But New Yorker Chef Will Pliler’s rabbit dish is so good that when he took it off The New Yorker’s menu after running it as a special, disappointed customers nearly mutinied. Now Pliler’s sensational rabbit is a permanent fixture at The New Yorker. It’s amazingly tender braised Sonoma rabbit loin on a bed of steamed spinach in a tart Meyer lemon and caper berry sauce. And it’s out of this world. 48 Market St., 363-0166.
This, dear readers, is why we love you so. Not content to think inside the box of brick-and-mortar sites, you gave mad props to the fine men and women who bring their authentic fare to Salt Lake City street corners. The most frequently named specific vendor sets up shop at 800 South and Main, where they serve up heaping helpings of beef or pork into soft corn tortillas, with plenty of toppings available to customize your experience. If you make it, and you make it good, and you make it ridiculously cheap ($1 for a taco that’s a meal by itself), they will come. And they’ll vote to acknowledge the entrepreneurial spirit at its tastiest.
2. Lone Star Taqueria
3. Taco Time
BEST WINE LIST
This is a place that knows how to serve wine—even though stupid state liquor laws get in the way. Unlike restaurants in civilized places, Utah restaurants must buy their wine from the state at retail prices and can’t even taste the wines before buying them. That’s why the dining public pays exorbitant prices for mediocre wines. But at least at Fleming’s, you’ll have a lot to choose from, including 100 wines available by the glass. (They have an especially good selection of California wines.) Add to that an impressive menu that seems almost tailored to enhance the wine-drinking experience, and this is easily the best place on the Wasatch Front—besides your own dining room—to enjoy a glass of fine wine. 20 S. 400 West, 355-3704.
2. The New Yorker
BEST GREEK IMPORTS
Greek Market & Deli
You can buy a fisherman’s cap. You can buy worry beads. But the really good stuff lines the walls of this little market operated by Cretan Mike Limantzakis. Purists know Greek olive oils are among the best in the world (they simply aren’t exported in sufficient numbers) and that Greek olives are used in the manufacture of many Italian olive oils. Therefore try, for example, more than half a dozen varieties of Cretan extra-virgin olive oil, famous for its rich taste and low acidity. Next, you can find a several varieties of hard-as-a-rock Paximathi, the Cretan rusk breads, including the mysterious eptazyma (why don’t you try making chick pea dough rise sometime?). You can also find Hilopites, trahanas, olives, cheese (including Cypriot Haloumi), greek oregano and sage, octopus, squid and smelts. Linger awhile, and have a gyro, too. 3205 S. State, 485-9365.
BEST PICKLED CABBAGE
This tiny enclave on Redwood Road caters to our new neighbors recently moved here from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia—nearly 10,000 since the mid-1990s at last count and rising. Recently, we had a hankering for sarmas, the wonderful, meat-stuffed cabbage rolls from that region. Europa delivers the cabbage in two forms, bottled and as a full head sheathed in plastic. Both are pickled to high heaven and anyone knowing anything about pickled cabbage knows what that means. Europa also boasts numerous cheeses, salamis and sausages that one simply can’t get elsewhere in Utah, as well as a variety of sweets, coffees and other edibles. 2850 S. Redwood Rd., West Valley City, 973-6067.
First-timers to Cafe Rio may be put off by the long line that winds from the entrance to the order-taking station. But the line clips along at a fast pace. In fact, before you know it, it will be your turn to order, and you will need to decide things quickly or face the scowls and disdain from those in line behind you. The meat fillings are varied and include shredded chicken, braised beef, barbecue pork and grilled chicken or steak. Or you can go meatless with just beans and cheese. Along with meat fillings are rice and beans (black or pinto), a choice of salsa and the option to have the burrito prepared “enchilada-style” (the best!) which includes sauce and cheese melted on top. You can oversee the lively kitchen crew assemble the burrito before your eyes. At the end of the assembly line, your meal arrives in an aluminum pan that later serves as your take-out container (no way can you eat the whole thing). 3025 E. 3300 South, 463-7250; 6985 S. Park Centre Dr., 562-4431.
Used to be that around here the catfish was considered a lowly type of fish—easy to catch, hard to clean, ugly as all get-out. Besides, this is trout country. However, more and more local eateries are taking a page from their Southern cousins and adding catfish to the menu. The best of the lot can be had at Rib Alley, a place known for more than ribs and barbeque. This treasure of a restaurant is only a bit off the beaten path, but discerning locals know exactly what draws them there: authentic country cooking in a warm and welcome atmosphere. Partake with a healthy dose of hot sauce and you’ll know why Rib Alley’s catfish is second to none. 533 S. 500 West, 359-9926.
Rico Mexican Market
If you’re yearning for a taste, a real taste, of the Mexico, you know from experience, not just the postcard images, this unpretentious little market is a great place to shop and eat. For the purposes of this category, we can vouch for their magnificent tamales. They make them fresh, or you can take a few home from the freezer for later. They’re delicious and not expensive. Soft-rolled corn is stuffed with a variety of fillings that melts in the mouth. You know how some restaurants are always promising you’ll be hooked after you eat there? This time, we mean it. Have a tamale from Rico. You’ll be hooked. 779 S. 500 East, 463-6390.
2. Red Iguana
3. Lone Star Taqueria
Salt Lake Roasting Co.
Everyone’s a critic lately or at least a coffee connoisseur. “I like a nice, unpretentious Kenyan, with a medium roast and a fine grind; a light, low-fat foam; and just a hint of cinnamon. Parfait!” Criminy. For our money, it’s enough to care about doing it right, and if you have any doubt that the Salt Lake Roasting Company takes the brewing of coffee seriously, pick up a copy of their pamphlet on the counter, “Coffee Without Compromise.” But after you’ve absorbed all the useless knowledge you can, just have some. Good stuff—and a great atmosphere to boot. 320 E. 400 South, 363-7572.
2. Coffee Garden
3. Millcreek Coffee Co.
BEST GREEK SALAD
The Other Place
If there is anything that defines the Greek palate, it’s the Greek salad. Ask a Greek about the Greek salad, though, and he’ll look at you like you’re a dumb Greek. Why? Because Greek salads are consumed most copiously by tourists to Greece, not necessarily by the Greeks. Greek palates have elevated to more delectable fare—like squid and octopus and kokoretsi. However, a good Greek salad is a thing of beauty and tasty to boot, with much of that beauty lying in the simplicity of its ingredients—cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, olives, oregano, oil and vinegar (or lemon). Gourmands may even add green or spicy peppers. In the end, it’s quality and measurements that count. Count on the The Other Place to deliver a great Greek salad. 469 E. 300 South, 521-6567.
BEST FREQUENT FISH PROGRAM
The original Mikado downtown has been around for decades. And now with additional Mikado locations in Cottonwood and Park City (not to mention Mikado’s Park City sister restaurant Kampai), there’s no excuse for not dining on raw fish with frequency. For starters, the Japanese food at Mikado is great. And, if you participate in the free Frequent Diner Program at Mikado and Kampai, you’ll earn your way to free sushi and sashimi every time you raise your chopsticks. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? 67 W. 100 South, 328-0929 and two other locations.
BEST BOOZE WITH CLASS
Tuscany restaurant in Cottonwood is a longtime favorite of readers looking for good rustic Italian fare in an ultra-romantic setting. But Tuscany is also an ideal place to get liquored up. Whether ensconced in the intimate private Club Tuscany or at a table in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms, the award-winning Tuscany wine list is a wine-lover’s dream. And if wine’s not your bag, try one of barman Michael Jackson’s (yup, that’s really his name) innovative and delectable martinis. Bet you can’t have just one. 2832 E. 6200 South, 277-9919.
BEST FRENCH FRIES
You don’t want to be reminded of last year’s distressing flurry of news that French fries contain acrylamide, a toxic chemical known to damage DNA. Because, let’s face it, French fries are a staple of American life. When you’re in the mood for fries, take your vitamins, think a happy thought and walk briskly to the nearest Training Table. They’ll serve you a hot plateful with cheddar cheese melted on top (talk about gilding the lily). And to that they’ll add bacon bits, sour cream and fry sauce at your request. Be still my beating heart! (Or is it arrhythmia?) The Training Table’s cheese fries rule! Six locations in Salt Lake area, including 809 E. 400 South, 355-7523.
2. Crown Burger
3. Ab’s Drive In
BEST AFTERNOON TEA
Grand America Hotel
It’s like going to the Hotel Ritz in Paris. It’s sophisticated, posh—civilized. And it’s here in Utah, every day from 2 to 5 p.m., at the Grand America Hotel. Quite simply: It’s Afternoon Tea, served in the hotel’s elegant tea room. Here, you’ll be offered a variety of teas, coffees and other beverages, including bar service. The live pianist makes the experience seem all the more extraordinary, while trays filled with finger sandwiches, pastries and chocolate are circulated. It’s definitely “puttin’ on the Ritz.” Reservations are required. 555 S. Main, 258-6000.
The Happy Sumo
There’s an abundance of good places to dine on raw fish around town, so maybe it’s the friendly service, sun-drenched sidewalk tables, and modern, appealing atmosphere that puts Happy Sumo over the top. If you like your sushi super spicy, you’ll love the “Death Roll,” made with soft-shell crab, cucumber, gobo root, sprouts, and a lethal dose of Happy Sumo’s “Death Paste.” The only antidote might be The Happy Sumo’s sensuous Tempura Banana Split. The Gateway, 456-7868.
Best Simply Simple Dining
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That just about sums it up for this Salt Lake legend of a restaurant. The formula for ambience, as well as the saliva-engaging recipes, have gone unchanged since the days of Barbarella. The Cinegrill, much like Cheers, is practically a cult lifestyle. The same faces greet you along with glowing pink neon tubes, live sultry piano, ’60s-style murals of some Sicilian village and garlic making love to tomatoes. Sip red or white wine while waiting, but you won’t need it to be intoxicated by this place. 344 S. 300 East, 328-4900.
It’s just common sense: If you want to know where the best Chinese food is, you go where the Chinese families eat, and if you want to know where the best pizza is, you go where the college students eat. A perennial winner in this category, this U of U neighborhood fixture pulls ‘em in with the dive-bar décor, but keeps ‘em with pies piled so high with toppings it takes a shovel to load them on. The addition of the take-out counter a mere block-and-a-half away has only made it easier to enjoy one of The Pie’s megacaloric masterpieces, whether you want to enjoy it with a brew and a buddy or at home with the family. 200 S. 1300 East. 582-0193.
2. Wasatch Pizza Co.
3. Rusted Sun
Best Touch of Paris
Third & Main
When Mayor Rocky Anderson invoked that he’d like to see a bit more Paris in Salt Lake City and a litttle less stuffiness, Third & Main is likely what he had in mind. Boasting a wonderful seasonal menu and serving what many City Weekly staffers feel are the best cocktails around, this relatively new addition to downtown is a major hit. Best, though, is the outdoor dining along 300 South—a perfect place to relax, inbibe, talk, dine and otherwise imagine what Salt Lake City could be really like with some progressive thinking. 300 S. Main, 364-4600.
Best Gourmet Soup
Big City Soup
Now also ensconed on Main Street—in that Olympic-inspired temporary front next to Hotel Monaco—Big City Soup previously built its reputation near the Gateway District. Try their Brie and Crab Soup. Simply heaven. Also noted for very quick service, BCS offers another speedy twist, a website (bigcitysoup.com) that actually is updated for even better customer serrvice. 235 S. 400 West, 333-SOUP.
This is a great restaurant to go with someone you’ve known for so long that you hardly need to talk. Someone who understands that your raised eyebrows means, “Umm, this is fabulous carpaccio with shaved Parmesan,” and that your furrowed brow means “Ooww, these olives still have their pits.” This is because Lugano is such a popular Italian bistro that its boisterous acoustics make it nearly impossible to hold a deep and soulful conversation. But who cares when there’s great Italian food to be scarfed down? There will be time for talking later, when you’re back home outstreched in the La-Z-Boy, trying to recover from overindulging in Lugano’s northern Italian cuisine. Tempting dishes include roasted mussels, grilled salmon with pearl couscous, pork chops seasoned with a tasty dry rub, marinated steak with potatoes au gratin, and fusili with basil and Italian sausage. Many of Lugano’s dishes are cooked in a wood-burning stove, creating intriguing flavors. The wine list is hand-picked; the tiramisu is excellent. Finicky returned missionaries agree: Lugano is the bomb for authentic, wholesome Italian cuisine. 3364 S. 2300 East, 412-9994.
Maybe it’s best to make your first visit to La Caille when you don’t have plans to dine there. You may get so caught up in the grounds that you’ll miss your reservation. From the moment you enter the winding driveway, you may suspect that you’ve passed through some time/space warp into 18th-century France. The peacocks and swans greet you as though they were the most natural accoutrement in the world for a restaurant; the gardens and vineyard suggest a royal palace transferred from the continent in its entirety. And then you step inside, and it’s just more of the opulent beauty. Eat if you must—and if you can tear your eyes away from the splendor. 9565 S. Wasatch Blvd., 942-1751.
3. The New Yorker
BEST CANYON DINING
A perennial choice of our readers and staff is this Millcreek Canyon eatery. Known far and wide as one of Utah’s premier restaurants—did anyone but the world’s elite eat there during the Olympic games?—Log Haven never misses when it comes to fantastic food, service, ambiance and romance. Only minutes from downtown, you’d never know it, especially at night, thanks to the way the restaurant fully blends into its surroundings. Once inside, you immediately feel a fireplace warmth and are escorted to over-sized tables suitable for presenting the award-winning dishes and wines that await. We simply can’t name them all. Millcreek Canyon, 272-8255.
BEST CRISP SUCKLING PIG
There are certain clichés known only in the movies or comic strips that few of us have ever actually seen. The life of a party wearing a lamp shade on his head? A whisky bottle marked with three X’s? Never seen ‘em. But the crisp suckling pig, on a platter, head still attached, with an apple in its mouth, is a mythic reality you can actually witness, or even purchase, courtesy of Siegfried’s Delicatessen. Of course, Germans are known for working wonders with pork. This is as simple and substantial as pork comes. And it’s deboned, for easy diggings-in. Proof positive that there’s nothing quite so garrish, or delicious, as roasting a whole damned animal. 69 W. 300 South, 355-3891.
BEST COZY ‘BURB
It may be small, but Brew’d Awakening (love the name) feels like home—if your home has a decent selection of javas, soups and sweets, as well as a panoramic view of the bustling 33rd South & 20th East intersection, your favorite freebie reading materials and a weekly bluegrass jam. Also a great place to kill time while your ride’s being serviced across the street—beats stale coffee and Pennzoil brochures anytime. 2005 E. 3300 South, 485-5427.
BEST BELLY DANCING
AND BABA GHANNOUJ
The Cedars Of Lebanon
On Fridays and Saturdays at The Cedars of Lebanon, you can take in the fine art of belly dancing while simultaneously filling your own belly with good Middle Eastern fare like baba ghannouj, falafel, tabboule and the stuffed grape leaves called sarma. Or, if you like your belly dancing along with more Americanized flavors, try the pastrami sandwich. But please, leave the belly dancing to the professionals. 152 E. 200 South, 364-4096.
Leave the exotic stocks and broth to the other guys. This is soup as you remember it from the domestic rainy day afternoons in grandma’s kitchen. In other words, home-style cups and bowls of savory chicken noodle, tomato and other daily specials with sopping help from tasty breadsticks. The Soup Kitchen has been a work-break lunch tradition for years, and a Sugar House institution at 2012 South and 1100 East for just as long. Thankfully, more than one location spreads the flavor valley-wide. 1411 S. Redwood Rd., 974-7910 and four other locations.
2. Big City Soup
BEST STEAK & CIGAR
OK, we don’t need to go into the steaks—Spencer’s is already known for serving one of the best steaks in town. But Spencer’s also has the best post-steak cigar collection. Offering more than 30 premium cigars in its private club, Spencer’s is a terrific place to unwind with a smoke after a meal. Highlights from the cigar list include a medium-bodied Cohiba “Lonsdale Grande,” Macanudo “Vintage 1993” No. II, and a silky “No. 2 Torpedo” from Montecristo. At Spencer’s, smoke gets in your eye—and we like it that way. 255 S. West Temple (Salt Lake Hilton), 238-4748.
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN
It’s doubtful there’s a better place to spend your hard-earned dinero on a meal that costs so little yet gives so much. With not even five years under its belt, Mazza has quickly become the Middle Eastern restaurant of reference for anyone who cares about the texture of their falafel, or kebabs broiled slightly over the edge of perfection. Proprietor Ali Saba keeps the place cleaner than a medical research lab, and the service is better than what you’d find at most Fortune 500 companies. Of course, having the best hummus recipe west of the River Nile doesn’t hurt, either. If you’ve no idea what this food is all about, stop searching and get your appetite through Mazza’s door. 1515 S. 1500 East, 484-9259.
2. Cedars of Lebanon
3. Baba Afghan
BEST MAC & CHEESE
Blind Dog Grill
This is not your mamma’s macaroni and cheese. Kraft Dinner aficionados should look elsewhere. At Park City’s Blind Dog Grill the mac & cheese is made with asiago, aged Parmesan, and Monterey Jack cheese, all baked crisp and crunchy with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs. It’s an upscale and eclectic mac attack. 1781 Sidewinder Dr., Park City, 435-655-0800.
BEST TAPIOCA ON TAP
It’s an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it, there’s no better place to indulge it. If you can quaff it and it doesn’t involve alcohol, chances are good that Gossip has a cassava starch-enhanced version for your refreshment. Blended fruit drinks, flavored sodas or smoothies? Spice it up with some tapioca bubbles. Iced tea? You may not go back once you try the tapioca milk version. Coffees, lattes and more? Howzabout a tapioca mocha? There’s scarcely room on the little shop’s walls to handle all the options. Maybe it’s time to invest in that cassava plantation you’ve had your eye on. 1629 W. 3500 South, 886-2868.
SugarHouse Barbeque Company
The runaway readers’ pick in every Best of Utah since they opened in 1996 (as Redbones, if you recall), the power of the SugarHouse Barbecue Co.’s Memphis-style ribs and Scheffler-exhalted Carolina pulled-pork sandwiches cannot be denied. They also pile on the veggies … if you’re into that sort of thing. 2207 S. 700 East, 463-4800.
3. Rib Alley