Originally posted on https://www.phoenixmag.com/2022/05/05/summer-food-wine-getaways/ 

May 5, 2022 —

Given that it was founded and largely populated by alcohol-abstaining Mormons, Utah may not be top of mind when it comes to food-and-booze destinations. However, between the Wasatch Mountains and Oquirrh (pronounced “oaker”) Mountains of Utah, sits often-overlooked Salt Lake City, an unexpected culinary heavy-hitter. From world-class breweries and craft cocktail bars to diverse and delectable culinary experiences, SLC is full of surprises.

SLC Surprise No. 1: It Has a Thriving Brewing Community

As a craft beer enthusiast, I never thought Salt Lake City would have much to offer, mostly because of a misunderstanding of Utah’s rather complex liquor laws. While there are limits to how much alcohol by volume (ABV) a draft pour of beer can have, breweries and bars have no ABV limit for what they serve out of bottles and cans.

I ask Kevin Templin, the owner and brewer at Templin Family Brewing (tfbrewing.com) if he felt limited or restricted by the laws in Salt Lake. “Not at all,” he says. “We can really do whatever we want.”

Located in the Granary District, just over a mile south of Downtown, The Templin draft list includes an incredible array of German lager-style beers, all below the 5 percent limit. In bottles and cans, however, T.F. Brewing serves an 8.2 percent ABV Double IPA, a 10.2 percent Belgian Trippel and a 12.2 percent Pastry Stout. To say boozy beers aren’t available in Salt Lake turns out, thankfully, to be a hoary misconception.

Proper Brewing Co. (properbrewingco.com), another local brewery with multiple locations throughout the city including the Avenues and Stratford neighborhoods, also boasts an impressive array of creative and delicious brews, including a rarely seen Finnish-style ale called a sahti, and a passionfruit guava gose that’s perfect on a warm summer day. Salt Lake City’s downtown area is peppered with many more breweries for any beer buff to explore.

SLC Surprise No. 2: Craft Cocktails Abound

While I love a classic cocktail, I also find it delightful when bartenders take some quick notes of what I usually enjoy and flex their creativity and expertise to concoct something new. Like magical potions masters, they pour, muddle, stir, shake and strain something into a whimsical glass just for me. 

Every cocktail bar I visit in Salt Lake City provided this extemporaneous experience. From Bar X, an 89-year-old gin joint that opened right after Prohibition in 1933, to James Beard Award-nominated Water Witch, an excellent local watering hole bursting with personality, to Copper Common, an upscale yet comfortably casual spot with bartenders you can talk to for hours, every bar had something to love and truly exceptional drinks to enjoy. 

Bar X: Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, it has a historic, vintage vibe with wood paneling and dim lights. I particularly enjoy the Fate of Flowers cocktail, featuring gin, green Chartreuse, lemon, elderberry syrup, dandelion bitters and absinthe. Complex and refreshing, and not the slightest bit hallucinogenic. barxslc.com

Copper Common: Walking one block south of Bar X, I feel instantly at home here and enjoy delicious pre-dinner cocktails as the sun goes down, giving a warm glow to all the copper accents reflecting the evening light. Besides signature cocktails like the Cynar Sour (a whiskey sour variant featuring rye, Cynar and egg white) and the Naked & Famous (mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol and lime), Copper Common also boasts delicious noshes including oysters, boquerones, polenta cakes and pork riblets. coppercommon.com

Water Witch: Salt Lake City’s food and booze culture is full of personality and quirk, and nowhere is that exemplified better than at this local favorite, which notched a well-deserved 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalist for outstanding bar program. It’s difficult to pin down a favorite drink because their menu changes almost daily, but simply tell them what you like and they’ll surprise and delight you with something new, interesting and delicious. waterwitchbar.com

SLC Surprise No. 3: It Boasts a Diverse Dining Scene

According to TIME magazine, 90 percent of the world’s written languages are spoken in Utah, largely due to the Mormon Church’s missionary work. That kind of diversity and global representation naturally translates to the culinary scene in Salt Lake City. The city boasts a surprisingly diverse array of cuisines, including Greek small plates at Manoli’s (manolison9th.com), Tongan flavors at Pacific Seas Restaurant & Market, mujaddara and other Middle Eastern dishes at Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine (mazzacafe.com) and fine Japanese dining at Takashi (takashisushi.com).

SLC also has its own Chris Bianco-style dining stars. I had the opportunity to dine at HSL (hslrestaurant.com) a favorite to locals and visitors alike. Chef/owner Briar Handly opened HSL after its sister restaurant, Handle (handleparkcity.com) became a success in nearby Park City. The menu is full of organic, creative spins on well-loved dishes such as the General Tso-style cauliflower wings, fried chicken with curried black rice, and an albacore crudo with triple berry ponzu that left me all but licking the bowl. 

Organic, locally sourced ingredients are common features on many menus in Salt Lake City, mostly thanks to restaurateur Scott Evans. Starting with his seasonally driven eatery, Pago (pagoslc.com), Evans led the farm-to-table movement in Salt Lake and now owns local favorites such as Finca (fincaslc.com), Hub & Spoke Diner (hubandspokediner.com) and new wine bar Casot (casotwinework.com). Chatting with him over a glass of wine at Casot, I find his passion for food, wine and Salt Lake City contagious. After opening Pago in 2009, Evans created a community of passionate chefs, mixologists and servers that went on to help build and develop the dining scene that Salt Lake City now enjoys.

— Johann Warnholtz

Visit Salt Lake is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. In partnership with Salt Lake County, Visit Salt Lake improves the area economy by attracting and providing support to conventions, sports events, leisure travelers and visitors with a strong commitment to sustainability and stewardship of the area’s natural environment. Through its sales and marketing programs, Visit Salt Lake’s impact on Salt Lake’s annual $5.4 billion visitor economy equates to nearly $1,800 in tax relief for each household within Salt Lake County. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, go to www.VisitSaltLake.com.