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What's on the Menu in Salt Lake?

Published: 05/17/2007

Salt Lake’s dining scene is more alive and varied than ever. The past year has seen an influx of new restaurants—from a terrific Thai find in a strip mall to an intimate bistro in a garden cottage near the mouth of the Cottonwood Canyons. Add these new finds to some classic and out-of-the way favorites, and the choices abound. Here, in alphabetical order, is a sampling of local favorites. Asterisks indicate restaurants opened in the past year.

Bambara Downtown dining in the Hotel Monaco. High energy, new American menu, including a touch of Cajun/Creole thanks to Chef Robert Barker’s New Orleans roots. Menus showcase local organic ingredients. 202 S. Main St.; 801.363.5454. www.bambara-slc.com.

Butterfly* On the ground floor of the renovated Union Pacific Depot at the Gateway Center, Butterfly is a San Francisco import with an Asian/Western menu by chef Rob Lam (named a Rising Star Chef of 2003 in the San Francisco Chronicle). Modern and upscale. 13 N. 400 West; 801-456.8999. www.butterflyslc.com

Café TRIO  A great place for affordable, fresh, modern Italian-style food. From thin-crust wood-oven pizzas to generous whole-meal salads, there’s something for everyone. Two locations, one in Salt Lake’s eclectic 9th and 9th neighborhood, and one near the Cottonwood Canyons. 680 S. 900 East; 801-533-TRIO; 6405 S. 3000 East, Cottonwood. 801-733-6600.

Caputo’s  Classic Italian deli known for big sandwiches, hearty pasta dishes and meat entrees. Dine in or take-out. Be prepared to stand on line at lunch. Caputo’s is wildly popular, but they’re fast. 308 W. 300 South; 801.531.8669.

Faustina* Colorful, hip restaurant and bar serving sophisticated takes on traditional American fare, including lamb, ribs, seafood, excellent soups and desserts. A few blocks east of downtown, easy parking. 454 E. 300 South, 801.746-4441.

Franck’s* French chef Franck Piessel wows diners with his French and American favorites in this romantic, cozy (seats approximately 50; additional outdoor dining, weather permitting) cottage in Holladay, not far from the mouth of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Dinner only; reservations essential. 6363 S. Holladay Blvd., 801.274-6264. www.FrancksFood.com .

‘Fresco Italian Café A gem of a restaurant in a white clapboard house, tucked away behind the King’s English Bookstore in a pleasant east side neighborhood. Modern Italian menu, excellent wine list, fireplace. Noisy but intimate. Patio dining in warm months. Dinner only, reservations recommended. 1513 S. 1500 East. 801.486.1300. www.frescoitaliancafe.com .

Garden Café Jeffrey Russell, one of the city’s top chefs, and transplanted San Francisco pastry chef Kurtis Baguley hold forth at the Grand America Hotel’s flower-filled restaurant where the fresh New American menu and international wine list are top-notch. The Garden Café’s Sunday brunch is an opulent feast, including fresh-rolled sushi and superb hot entrees.  555 S. Main St.; 801.258.6708. www.grandamerica.com .

Log Haven This destination restaurant sits in the midst of a national forest in Salt Lake’s Millcreek Canyon. Wildflowers, waterfalls and wildlife surround the elegant/rustic log home where Chef Frank Mendoza’s seasonal menus offer dishes that range from exquisitely light to seriously rich. Dinner only, reservations recommended. 4 miles up Millcreek Canyon (3800 South off Wasatch Blvd.). 801.272-8255. www.log-haven.com .

Lone Star Taqueria Perfect for a quick fix of inexpensive, authentic Mexican food (fish tacos are a specialty) served in a lively atmosphere with plenty of cold brews. Especially good after a day of skiing or hiking in Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons. 2265 E. Fort Union Blvd. 801-944-2300.

Mazza Authentic Middle Eastern cuisine that goes far beyond the city’s best falafel. Owner Ali Sabbah presents an exotic, enticing menu, especially at dinner. This is a tiny, casual neighborhood spot. Odds are they’ll take your name and call you when your table is available. You can browse at the King’s English Bookstore while you’re waiting. 1515 S. 1500 East. 801-484-9259.

Martine Chef Tom Grant’s Mediterranean/Moroccan/Spanish-inspired cuisine (served at dinner only; lunch is pub food) has garnered national press and a loyal following. Martine occupies a historic downtown brownstone and is one of the city’s hidden treasures with a tiny bar that looks into an old bank vault. 22 E. 100 South. 801-363-9328.

Metropolitan  Widely known as one of Salt Lake’s best, most cutting-edge restaurants. Chef Todd Mark Miller presents innovative, seasonal fare on a tasting menu, a la carte or in the bar. Chic, sleek, impressive. 173 W. Broadway. 801-364-3472. www.themetropolitan.com .

Panache*  On the mezzanine level of the Wells Fargo building, this lunch-only restaurant and evening wine bar serves an array of small plates and delectable items from a wood burning oven. Great place to sample unique wines by the glass. 299 S. Main St. 801-535-4311. www.panache.net .

Pine* Inspired by seasonal American wine country fare and casual/chic style, chef/owner Greg Neville’s newest restaurant sits on the banks of Big Cottonwood Creek, four miles from the mouth of the Cottonwood Canyons. Ambience is contemporary, with lots of natural light and a comfortable deck. 4760 S. 900 East. 801-288-2211. www.pinerestaurant.com .

Red Iguana Famous for its array of fresh-daily moles, loved for its warm and friendly service and well-worn, eclectic style, the Ig is a local favorite and consistent award winner for “Best Mexican” in Salt Lake Magazine’s Dining Awards. Be prepared for crowds and a wait on weekend nights. 736 W. North Temple. 801-322-1489.

Takashi  Master sushi chef/owner Takashi Gibo’s talents with the best of the raw and the cooked are practically legendary around Salt Lake City. Aficionados appreciate Takishi’s specialty sake list, too. His downtown sushi/bar restaurant is modern, with touches of contemporary art and a high-energy vibe. 18 W. Market Street. 801-519-9595.

Thai Garden*  Winner of “Best Thai” and “Best New Restaurant” in Salt Lake Magazine’s recent Dining Awards competition, Thai Garden is family run and situated in a tiny strip mall. Worth the trip for terrific Thai. 4410 S. 900 East. 801-266-7899.

The Bayou  Here’s where you’ll find Salt Lake’s biggest selection of beer: more than 200 bottled and over 30 on tap. The Bayou is also known for its with hearty Cajun/Creole and American traditional food, pool tables and occasional live music. 645 S. State Street. 801-961-8400. www.utahbayou.com.

The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. Salt Lake is a unique fusion of metropolitan city and quaint mountain town; the towering Wasatch Mountains that embrace Salt Lake offer a dramatic backdrop to the vibrancy and activities of downtown. Having recently undergone a $58 million expansion, the Salt Palace Convention Center now boasts 679,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space, ideal for groups of all sizes and needs. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, visit www.VisitSaltLake.com.

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