Salt Lake City (January 2012) -- Salt Lake may have a buttoned-down image, but when visitors experience the local nightlife, that impression melts away with the first sip of an award-winning local brew, a freshly shaken martini, or a night in a dance club with a sound system to rival New York's finest.
With watering holes of every size and style, the city's nightlife sparkles with something for everyone. A recent rewrite of Utah's liquor made the old "private club" system a thing of the past. Most restaurants serve wine, beer, and mixed drinks with the purchase of food. Visitors will find myriad Wine Spectator Award-winning wine lists at local restaurants.
Here are some best bets for nightly fun in Salt Lake (* denotes newly opened):
Bambara: The Vault: Skillful bartenders draw a lively crowd and expertly ply their craft in The Vault, Bambara's bar and lounge, located in the Hotel Monaco. Though the energy is kinetic, the bar maintains a sophisticated atmosphere where you can enjoy conversation along with superb cocktails and even a casual meal from the generous bar menu. 202 S. Main; 801.363.5454. www.bambara-slc.com.
The Bayou: With more than 150 varieties of beer on the menu, the Bayou is described as "Beervana" by loyal brew enthusiasts. The Bayou serves up a snappy Cajun menu and rollicking live jazz in a casual setting. This is the place for a cold one in Utah. 645 S. State St.; 801.961.8400. www.utahbayou.com.
Beerhive Pub: A favorite downtown spot for after-work cocktails and pints, this bar specializes in a super wide range of obscure and hard-to-find beers. There's even a icy beer "luge" on the bar to keep your beer from getting warm. 128 S. Main St.; 801.364.4268.
* Bourbon House, Salt Lake City's newest bar, is located in the basement of the Walker Center Building in the heart of downtown. A great location for a business lunches, after work drinks or night out of friendly camaraderie, Bourbon House offers pool, karaoke nights, live music and DJs. Formerly housed in the building where Monk's House of Jazz and the infamous D.B. Cooper's resided, Bourbon House has a full bar and drinks are cheap. An extensive selection of bourbons, whiskeys and Scotch are featured, including $4 Jameson or Makers Mark. And it's the only bar in town to carry Hamm's. The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, a wide range of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, burgers and traditional sandwiches.19 E. 200 S.; 801.746.1005. www.bourbonhouseslc.com.
In the Venue/Club Sound: One of the largest nightclubs in town, In the Venue and Club Sound have emerged as Utah's live music showcase. Located in the mammoth club setting formerly known as Bricks, Club Sound welcomes genres as diverse as Sonic Youth and The Strokes. 579 W. 200 S.; 801.359-3219 / 801.328.0255. www.myspace.com/inthevenue / www.myspacecom/clubsound.
* The Garage, Salt Lake's newest addition to the "refinery" district about 12 blocks north of the Salt Palace, has quickly become one of the city's favorite haunts for food critics, media mavens and Salt Lake's movers and shakers. Featuring live bands, a menu offering delicious comfort food such as fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes and Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie, the Garage is a great place to enjoy an off-beat evening away from the fray of downtown. There's a great patio with "refinery" views. 1199 N. Beck St.; 801.521.3904. www.garageonbeck.com.
Gracie's: With two floors, two patios, and a beautiful view of downtown and the Wasatch Mountains; Gracie's is a great for a quick bite or night on the town. It's within walking distance to the convention center, offers live music or a D.J. almost every night of the week and 22 large flat screens, pool, shuffleboard, or darts in the game room. 326 So. West Temple; 801.819.7565. www.graciesslc.com.
* Green Pig Pub: A new downtown neighborhood sports bar just a short walk from the Salt Palace and Gallivan Plaza offers downtown's only rooftop patio with a beautiful view of Salt Lake. It's a great place for a game of pool or some lively conversation or dancing. The earlier evening hours gear toward a more mature crowd with acoustic live music; the later the hour, the harder the rock and the younger the crowd. Ample TVs broadcast a wide range of sports. Lunch and dinner is served, and the Pig has award-winning pub food and a great Sunday brunch. Texas hold'em poker is a new addition to its Tuesday and Wednesday nights. 31 E. 400 S.; 801.532.7441. www.thegreenpigpub.com.
Keys on Main: Keys On Main features Dueling Pianos almost every night of the week. The show is highly interactive and driven by the audience. Singing along and clapping ARE A MUST. Located centrally downtown on TRAX line a short walk from the convention center. 242 S. Main St.; 801.363.3638. www. keysonmain.com.
Kristauf's Martini Bar: An upscale martini bar with a neighborhood feel. Master mixologists whip up designer martinis nightly. A unique and eclectic experience. Located on Market Street on "restaurant row," and within walking distance of all major downtown hotels and the convention center. Soon to open a new location in the Cottonwood area on the way to the ski resorts.16 W. Market St.; 801.366.9490. martinibarslc.com.
Murphy's Bar and Grill: A shamrock motif, Guinness, and regular corned beef and cabbage specials define Murphy's authentic pub atmosphere. This Salt Lake institution's mid-downtown location makes it an after-work gathering place for professionals and visitors alike. 160 S. Main St.; 801.359.7271. www.murphysbarandgrillut.com
New Yorker: For more than 25 years, the New Yorker has been a focal point for deal-making and celebrations of business acumen and political coups. With its award-winning menu, this is the venue for Salt Lake's power brokers to see and be seen. 60 W. Market St.; 801.363.0588 www.ginc.com.
Oyster Bar Downtown and Oyster Bar Cottonwood: Drawn by a high-energy atmosphere, Salt Lake's beautiful people-and those who love them-congregate at these two locations for potent drinks and fresh seafood. The Oyster Bar Cottonwood is located at the base of the two major Cottonwood canyons and features a rooftop deck with stunning mountain views. 54 W. Market St.; 801.531.6044; 2985 E.6580 S.; 801.942-8870. www.ginc.com.
Piper Down: Old world pub with Irish eats, and "kerry o'key." It's a short drive from downtown but great for local-watching. Newly expanded to fit "100 more people or 200 Leprechauns," there remains a sense of visiting a friend's home when you step into Piper Down. 1492 S. State St.; 801.468-1492. www.piperdownpub.com.
Poplar Street Pub: Located in the central convention district, this new pub boasts over 6,000 square feet, three separate sitting areas, outside patios, over 30 beers and pool. Great place to relax with friends or colleagues. 242 S. 200 W.; 801.532-2715. poplarstreetpub.com
Squatters Pub Brewery: Squatter's produces several of its national award-winning brews on site in its historic downtown location. Walk through the door, day or night, and the place is buzzing with locals kicking back and savoring a full menu featuring organic foods. When it's summer in the city, thirsty citizens flock to Squatters mist-cooled patio with an outdoor grill. Squatter's is a Salt Lake City e2 Business and was awarded environmental company of the year by the Recycling Coalition of Utah. Squatters recently brought home gold, silver and bronze medals from the "Olympics" of beer competitions, the 2010 World Beer Cup. Three locations: Salt Lake International Airport, Concourse C in Terminal 2 (801.575.2002); In the main convention district at 147 West Broadway (801.363.2739); and in Park City at 1900 Park Avenue (435.649.9868). www.squatters.com.
Tavernacle Social Club: Dueling pianos take center stage at this neighborhood bar on the border of downtown. Urged on by a raucous crowd, piano masters take on all requests as they compete for laughs and tips. 201 E. 300 S.; 801.519.8911. www.tavernacle.com.
The Cantina at El Chanate, Snowbird Resort: Serving an array of top-shelf tequilas, the Cantina at El Chanate is the perfect getaway for sipping tequila, south-of-the-border style. This resort bar located in the Cliff Lodge is a year-round destination in Little Cottonwood Canyon, with cozy winter ambiance and stunning alpine patio views. The Cliff Lodge, Level A; 801.933.2025. www.snowbird.com.
The Depot: Salt Lake's hottest live music venue debuted at the historic Union Pacific Depot in 2006, with capacity for 1,200, state-of-the-art sound, great stage visibility, and a lively bar scene, The Depot has been a hit since day one. Look for major touring artists, from jazz to country to rock, including Chris Isaak, The Fixx., Leon Russell and Jeff Beck. 400 W. South Temple; 801.355.5522. www.depotslc.com
The Red Door: The "high octane" martinis are almost as big as the 12-foot mural of Che Guevera that greets patrons as they enter. The sophisticated interior design takes the bar scene up a notch and makes patrons ask, "Is this really Salt Lake?" 57 W. 200 S.; 801.363.6030. behindthereddoor.com
The State Room: One of Salt Lake's finest live music venues, presents nationally acclaimed musicians and the finest local acts in a 300-person capacity location. 638 S. State St.; 801.501-2885. thestateroomslc.com.
The Thirsty Squirrel: Nothing feels better than taking off your boots after a day on the slopes and downing a cold one at this upscale bar in Solitude's new village located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Thirsty Squirrel embodies Solitude's recent makeover, which is intimate, comfortable, and chic amidst to-die-for mountain views. www.skisolitude.com.
Totem's Country Western: Wall-to-wall lodge pole pines set the theme for this cavernous institution. A giant stage and lots of room to spread out make Totem's the best place to enjoy live country-western music. 538 S. Redwood Rd.; 801.975-0401.
Trapp: The Trapp and Trapp Door provide something for every age group. Great dancing on Fridays and Saturdays. Comfortable county atmosphere at the Trapp during the week. A bar that appeals to gay and straight alike from 21 to 80 102 S. 600 W.; 801.531.8727
Try-Angles: Salt Lake's largest all gay everyday dance club with something new every night. DJ's, Karaoke, darts, pool, and TV Screens around the bar that you can text messages to for everyone to see this is the place to be for Salt Lake's large GLBT population. 251 W. 900 S.; 801.364-3203. clubtry-angles.com