By Sara Ventiera, Zagat — Salt Lake City may be best known as the gateway to Sundance and ski resorts. That’s a shame, because the city is home to a captivating dining scene with a wide range of compelling big city options. Here are the 10 buzziest restaurants and bars to seek out.
This local-centric Lebanese food company recently opened a lively Central City brick-and-mortar outpost. Nosh on Middle Eastern small plates, like maghmoor and shakshouka in the modern, Mediterranean-influenced dining room or pick up pastries and takeaway fare from its on-site gourmet market.
Insider tip: Laziz offers a wide range of gluten-free and vegan options.
912 Jefferson Street West; 801-441-1228
Briar Handly’s (Handle Park City) latest concept Downtown offers great cocktails and creative interpretations of American fare served in a rustic-meets-industrial space. The open dining room has a natural feel with exposed wood beams and bright pops of green. The dishes are also aesthetically pleasing and feature mostly local and organic ingredients like Frank’s Red Hot glazed pork shank and General Tso’s cauliflower.
Insider tip: The beef cheek burger is one of the best patties in town.
418 East 200 South; 801-539-9999
Prepare to drink excellent cocktails at this laid-back Central City speakeasy. With a retro, austere ambiance and great vinyl playing in the background, sip from an in-depth selection of beers, wines and well-balanced mixed drinks matched by innovative bar snacks (think pork rillette crostini and pickled peppers).
Insider tip: Let the mixologists whip up customized cocktails on the fly.
163 West 900 South; 801-462-0967
Executive chef Phelix Gardner offers his own spins on regional seafood classics prepared with sustainable ingredients. Dishes range from smoked clam dip and shrimp and grits, to fish stew with a Southeast Asian–inspired coconut lemongrass broth. The industrial-chic restaurant is lined with soaring glass windows that are reminiscent of a giant fish bowl — in a good way.
Insider tip: Head in for weekend brunch; the spot offers an inexpensive mimosa bar option.
279 East 300 South; 801-326-3474
Find elevated riffs on Greek classics made from local and seasonal ingredients at this stylish small plates concept in Central City. Chef-owner Manoli Katsanevas serves original meze such as grilled shrimp with Greek coffee barbecue sauce and three-cheese orzo oozing with white cheddar, Parmesan and feta with caramelized onions and breadcrumbs. It’s matched with Mediterranean-influenced cocktails and a well-curated wine list.
Insider tip: Try the lamb belly sliders.
402 East 900 South, #2,; 801-532-3760
This sprawling multilevel restaurant, complete with a mood-lit dining room, patio and balcony, is visually stunning. Craft cocktails and Italian-focused wine list is paired with a wide range of contemporary Italian small plates, pastas and large format meat options including bistecca alla Fiorentina, cioppino and duck breast with grilled corn and ricotta ravioli.
Insider tip: Sample one or all of the half-dozen Negroni variations.
454 East 300 South; 801-746-4441
Black Sheep at Epic Brewing Sugarhouse
Try modern Native American and Southwestern pub grub at the new Sugarhouse outpost of the trendy Provo cafe, Black Sheep. Set in the former gastropub inside Epic, this new partnership brings together excellent spice-infused fare, like hog jowl nachos and green chile pork Navajo tacos, with Epic’s impeccable craft brews.
Insider tip: Order the hog jowl tacos.
1048 East 2100 South #110; 801-742-5490
Set in the Crane building in Downtown, this casual cafe run by the team behind now-defunct La Fountain serves killer Mexican fare. Dishes range from common fajitas, burritos, chimichangas to rarer selections like parrilladas and moles. Guests wash it down with beer and well-done margaritas.
Insider tip: The molcajetes have been an instant hit.
307 West 200 South; 801-883-9255
Cucina Wine Bar
Sample more than 50 wines by the glass at this recently reworked Avenues concept. To ensure the wines taste just as the makers intended, everything is stored in a special temperature-controlled area under the restaurant. These selections are matched with creative small plates prepared by chef Joey Ferran.
Insider tip: The place regularly hosts wine-centric events.
1026 East 2nd Ave; 801-322-3055
When Hot Dynasty opened its doors, SLC’s local food critics were blown away by the fiery Sichuan cuisine. Dishes, like dan dan noodles, stir-fried lamb with bamboo shoots in cumin and dry-pots, are so bold and aromatic each one tastes like it's come straight out of the Chinese province. A full wine and beer list is offered to temper the heat.
Insider tip: Bring a big group and plan to eat family-style.
3390 State St.; 801-809-3229