By Joshua Lurie, Food GPS-- Salt Lake City is most famous for mountains and Mormons, but it’s slowly gaining culinary momentum. Here are my 9 Top Tastes of Salt Lake City Food + Drink from May 17 – 19, 2013.
1. Banbury Cross Donuts: This Salt Lake City institution packs a rocking horse logo, peaked roof, and racks upon racks of donuts, 97 cents apiece. Strawberry and chocolate glazed, raised beauties join “regular” raised and heartier old fashioned donuts. They also have rosettes, butterflies and pinwheels, all glazed with cinnamon.
2. Copper Onion: Chef-owner Ryan Lowder built adjacent restaurants: pan-Asian Plum Alley and this seasonal comfort food emporium. Copper Onion has a covered patio at base of an office tower, a dining room with copper ceiling, and a communal table with a black and white photo of Fergus Henderson at the head. They make pasta in-house, cure their own beef for Reubens, and feature market fresh vegetables. I’d recommend ordering a trio of Sides ($11), which during my visit, included blistered shishito peppers (some spicy) dressed with olive oil and flakes of Maldon sea salt; spring peas with green garlic sofrito; and roasted carrots folded with crushed green olives and a fluffy house-made cross between ricotta and feta.
3. Epic Brewing: Co-founders David Cole and Peter Erickson recruited head brewer Kevin Crompton to help them produce strong handcrafted ales and lagers south of downtown Salt Lake City. Due to Utah regulations, Epic can’t pour anything above 3.2% ABV on tap, but they do sell fridges full of 750s and bombers…which you can’t legally drink on-site. Confused yet? Me too. Since Epic carries a restaurant license, you have to order an entree to access beer in the tapless taproom. Not a problem considering one of those options involves an Artisan Meat Board featuring Creminelli meats. Bonus: tasters cost only $0.40 to $1 apiece. I enjoyed Imperial IPA with lingering bitterness and Brown Rice Ale brewed with barley and brown rice, but my favorite sips were of Brainless IPA, a balanced Belgian style IPA.
4. Les Madeleines: Proprietor Romina Rasmussen charges $5.50 for a Brittany inspired baked good she calls the Kouing Aman (better known as Kouign Amann) ($5.50) in the flats of Salt Lake City, and justifies the price tag by delivering a thin, crisp coating, and flaky, pull apart layers of concentric pastry that clearly contain butter, but don’t come off as too rich or sweet.
5. Lucky 13: This rock and roll bar resides on the south side next to the Salt Lake Bees stadium, a Triple A affiliate for the Angels. When they’ve got a game going, the patio and bar are all packed. Two firefighters (Ron Lay and Jason Stucki) and a beer industry vet (Rob Dutton) took over a dingy VFW and now feature a colorful red tractor out front and a boar head on the wall, along with baseball bats and colorful motorcycle parts. Their menu touts plenty of tempting burgers, including The Breath Enhancer, Pigpen and Celestial Burger. I kept it simple with a juicy, House-Smoked Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.50). I added garlic rosemary fries, crispy, skin on beauties fried in shortening until glistening, then tossed with spice. The sound system ensured I received a complimentary side of “Highway to Hell.”
6. Nobrow Coffee Werks: Joe Evans founded this company in 2005, which previously operated east of downtown. Duffy Gallivan relocated the coffeehouse next to an architectural firm on the south side. The space features Midcentury modern chairs, ship lanterns, and the core of a piano hanging on the wall. Nobrow houses a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine, Mazzer grinders, and one of the only Steampunk machines in the U.S. I went local, ordering a soothing cup of Charming Beard Nicaragua coffee, which barista Skyler Bosh brewed on the Steampunk. Of course, coffee’s a seasonal product, so your coffee will likely be different, but I’m pretty sure it will still be charming.