by Linda Marx, Cowboys & Indians
Every week, the dirt-bike-riding chef with spiky, bleach-blond hair takes viewers on a rollicking ride throughout the United States to find “classic greasy spoons” on his popular Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He’s traveled thousands of miles, from Alabama to Wisconsin, Connecticut to Oregon, finding mom and pop joints that are preserving American culture one funky eatery at a time. But the California-based culinary adventurer has found a somewhat surprising promised land in terms of daring dining: Salt Lake City, Utah.
The town better known for its twin peaks, tabernacle, and namesake lake also turns out to be a good bet for good dining. Which may not be that astounding, considering Guy Fieri’s theory that better food can often be found in really hot or really cold climates — anywhere people have to spend a fair amount of time indoors cooking and eating. Salt Lake City experiences both extremes, from hot, salt-flat summers to sub-zero, snowy winters. And the residents know a thing or two about food on the fringe.
“I enjoy Western dives because the owners can be outrageous and very individual,” Fieri says. “They really appreciate good food and go all out to prepare it.” As for Salt Lake City, which he has declared one of his favorite food destinations, he’s found that the diners and drive-ins offer a surprising level of diversity, with hundreds of inventive fast-food offerings. We asked Fieri to share some of his most mouthwatering finds. From fish tacos and mole negro to barbecue and cheese steaks, there’s a little something to make everyone feel welcome at the table, whether or not you call this mountain town home.
Lone Star Taqueria
What caught Guy’s eye: In front of the lime-green building — which is encircled by a fence topped with upturned cowboy boots — is a stickered station wagon sporting a shark’s fin that unironically proclaims, “Fresh Fish Tacos.”
What makes his mouth water: Carne adovada tacos. Thinly sliced pork butt is marinated with California and New Mexico chile powders, garlic powder, whole cloves, cumin, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, salt, and a whole lot of vegetable oil, then slow roasted until the meat is perfectly tender.
Come back for: The salmon tacos, which are topped with shredded cabbage, fresh cilantro, and diced onion and tomato, then served with a healthy dollop of the house jalapeño mayonnaise.
Biggest challenge: Parking and seating can be tight, so go early, carpool, or plan on taking your time and making some friends in line.
Where to find it: 2265 E. Fort Union Blvd., 801.944.2300, www.lonestartaqueria.com
Guy’s favorite dish: The mole negro served over chicken. A family recipe based on a classic blend of dried mulatto and pasilla chiles, Mexican chocolate, raisins, peanuts, and plantains, the sauce offers a mix of sweet and heat that will make your “taste buds rock.”
Why try: The family-owned restaurant has been making seven different kinds of authentic Mexican mole every day since 1985, including mole Amarillo (with golden raisins, yellow tomatoes, yellow zucchini, and dried yellow chiles for heat), mole Coloradito (with pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, dried guajillo chiles, and fresh poblano peppers), and red pipian (with pumpkin seeds, onions, tomatoes, and dried guajillo chiles).
Secret ingredient: Avocado leaves lend an anise or licorice like flavor to the mole negro.
Come back for: The seasonal mango enchilada plate.
Where to find it: 736 W. North Temple, 801.322.1489, www.rediguana.com
What Guy orders: The classic Philly cheese steak. Philadelphia native Joanna Rendi has developed a rabid following for her hometown favorite, consisting of thinly sliced rib-eye steak, grilled onions, and American cheese piled high on a toasted Italian roll.
Why try: After mountain biking the infamous Bobsled from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail down to the Avenues, you’ve worked up an appetite for an East Coast hoagie and you don’t have enough energy left to make it to the City of Brotherly Love.
Come back for: Rendi’s handmade meatball sub and her husband Don MacDonald’s pottery (the sandwich shop is actually located in back of his Circle Pottery Studio & Gallery).
Chef’s tip: When making marinara or other sauces, freeze fresh herbs for easy chopping.
Where to find it: 232 E. 800 S., 801.596.1350, www.moochiesmeatballs.com
Guy’s favorite dish: The “ballistic” smoked barbecue meatloaf, which comes with homemade biscuits and country gravy.
Why try: It’s a long way to Memphis or Kansas City, and there’s no need to make the drive with blue-ribbon barbecue competitor Pat Barber in the house.
Secret Ingredient: Butt Rub barbecue seasoning, which Barber doctors with steak seasoning and chile powder, plus an undisclosed eyes-only item for a one-of-a-kind dry brisket rub.
Save room for: The homemade desserts, including bread pudding and sweet potato pie.
Come back for: The burnt brisket ends, which take a week to prepare and are smoked for at least 16 hours. They’re only served on Fridays — head over early to beat the lines.
Where to find it: 155 W. Commonwealth Ave., 801.484.5963, www.patsbbq.com