Salt Lake City (January 2012) -- Dining options in Salt Lake have blossomed over the past decade, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them are the growing availability of local organic produce, a full range of fresh, quality ingredients, and an influx of well-traveled chefs who are making a delicious difference as they add excitement and energy to the city's menus.

The past year has seen an influx of new restaurants-from a terrific New American restaurant near downtown and the independent film house to an intimate bistro in a garden cottage in Salt Lake's residential middle section. Add these new finds to some classic and out-of-the way favorites, and the choices abound. Wine, beer and liquor service is easily available at all establishments.

Here, in alphabetical order, is a sampling of local favorites (* indicate restaurants opened in the past year):

Bambara: Downtown dining in the Hotel Monaco. High energy and lively with one of Salt Lake's best new American menus. Chef Nathan Powers has been cooking with some of the culinary industry's best, including Jeremiah Towers' Stars, Hawthorne Lane and Mark Franz's Farallon. Menus showcase local organic ingredients. 202 S. Main St.; 801.363.5454.

Café TRIO: A great place for affordable, fresh, modern Italian-style food. From thin-crust wood-oven pizzas to generous whole-meal salads, there's something for everyone. Two locations, one in Salt Lake's eclectic 9th and 9th neighborhood, and one near the Cottonwood Canyons. 680 S. 900 East; 801.533.TRIO; 6405 S. 3000 East, Cottonwood; 801.733.6600.

Caputo's Italian Market and Deli: The city's leading purveyor of distinctive regional Italian and Southern European foods and known for big sandwiches, hearty pasta dishes and meat entrees. Dine in or take-out. Be prepared to stand on line at lunch. Caputo's is wildly popular, but they're fast. 308 W. 300 South; 801.531.8669. Newly opened location in the 15th and 15th District: 1516 South 1500 East; 801-466-6615.

* Dojo Asian Inspired Cuisine & Lounge is another new Asian-inspired hotspot in downtown. Truly inspired fresh sushi and sashimi complement mouth-watering dishes like Pork-Belly Ramen in beautifully designed dining areas. From Bento boxes and specialty rolls to noodles, curries and imaginative entrees, the true-to-roots cuisine truly shines. Dojo has a full menu of wine, beer and spirit selections. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. 423 W. 300 S.; 801.328.3333.

*Copper Onion: The Broadway shopping district's newest gem. Former NYC chef (and native Utahn) Ryan Lowder now brings his personal take on New American cuisine to his own kitchen with an approach inspired by his passion for Utah's outstanding farmstead ingredients and his experience as a chef cooking his way through Barcelona, NYC and South America. The perfect start or finish for taking in an independent film at adjacent Broadway Theater. 111 E. 300 South; 801.355.3282.

Faustina: Colorful, hip restaurant and bar serving sophisticated takes on traditional American fare, including lamb, ribs, seafood, excellent soups and desserts. A few blocks east of downtown, easy parking. 454 E. 300 South; 801.746-4441.

*Forage: New on the dining scene, this cutting-edge culinary venture by chefs Bowman Brown (Gary Danko) and Viet Pham (The Fifth Floor) was recently named one of Food and Wine Magazine's "Best Meals of the Year. The three-course or chef's tasting menus are imaginative, precise, and are often sourced from the garden in this intimate home-like setting in a Salt Lake neighborhood. Leave plenty of time for this gustatory adventure. 370 E. 900 S.; 801-708-7834.

Franck's: French chef Franck Piessel wows diners with his French and American favorites in this romantic, cozy (seats approximately 50; additional outdoor dining, weather permitting) cottage in Holladay, not far from the mouth of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Dinner only; reservations essential. 6363 S. Holladay Blvd.; 801.274-6264. .

Fresco Italian Café: A gem of a restaurant in a white clapboard house, tucked away behind the King's English Bookstore in a pleasant east side neighborhood. Modern Italian menu, excellent wine list, fireplace. Noisy but intimate. Patio dining in warm months. Dinner only, reservations recommended. 1513 S. 1500 East; 801.486.1300. .

*La Bonne Vie: Jeffrey de Leon, one of the city's top pastry chefs, transplanted from The French Laundry and other Thomas Keller projects, holds court at the Grand America Hotel's new pastry shop. Amazing artisanal chocolates and hand-crafted macaroons, French pastries, Italian gelato and decadent hot chocolate. 555 S. Main St.; 801.258.6708.

Lamb's Grill, opened in 1919, is now under the steady hand of new ownership and culinary staff, overseen by Executive Chef Matt Barrigar who was most recently with St. Bernard's at Solitude Mountain Resort. The grand-daddy of Salt Lake power lunching, the venerable Lamb's Grill on Main Street has long been the "place to eat" when in town. At breakfast, lunch or dinner, shoppers mingle with lawyers, bankers and business people. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. 169 S. Main; 801.364-7166.

Log Haven: This destination restaurant sits in the midst of a national forest in Salt Lake's Millcreek Canyon. Wildflowers, waterfalls and wildlife surround the elegant/rustic log home where Chef Dave Jones' seasonal menus offer dishes that range from exquisitely light to seriously rich. Dinner only, reservations recommended. Four miles up Millcreek Canyon (3800 South off Wasatch Blvd.); 801.272.8255. .

Lone Star Taqueria: Perfect for a quick fix of inexpensive, authentic Mexican food (fish tacos are a specialty) served in a lively atmosphere with plenty of cold brews. Especially good after a day of skiing or hiking in Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon, Lone Star has been featured on Guy Fieri's "Diner's, Drive-in's, & Dives" 2265 E. Fort Union Blvd.; 801.944.2300.

Mazza Authentic Middle Eastern: cuisine that goes far beyond the city's best falafel. Owner Ali Sabbah presents an exotic, enticing menu, especially at dinner. The original in the city's 9th and 9th district, is a tiny, casual neighborhood spot and new second location larger in the 15th and 15th neighborhood. 912 East 900 South; 801.521.4572; 1515 S. 1500 East; 801.484.9259.

Martine: Chef Tom Grant's Mediterranean/Moroccan/Spanish-inspired cuisine (served at dinner only; lunch is pub food) has garnered national press and a loyal following. Martine occupies a historic downtown brownstone and is one of the city's hidden treasures with a tiny bar that looks into an old bank vault. 22 E. 100 South; 801.363.9328.

MacCool's Public House: Irish right down to its homey shepherd's pie and Guiness stew, MacCool's is a bright, modern Irish restaurant/pub. The food is hearty and fresh-made, the place is family friendly and servings are generous. MacCool's is independently owned and operated. Lunch and dinner. 1400 Foothill Dr.; 801.582.3111; in Layton; 855 W. Heritage Park Blvd.;801-728-9111; in South Jordan; 11610 S. Main District Dr.; 801.727.3111.

* Maxwell's East Coast Eatery, a popular dining and drinking spot in Park City, opened a downtown Salt Lake location in 2011. Maxwell's East Coast Eatery delivers "authentic homemade Italian food...just like mom makes." Famous for Fat Kid Pizza, the menu boasts soups; salads; appetizers; fresh pasta; and house specialties which include lasagna, chicken scaloppini, risottos and their famous Philly cheesesteak sandwiches with authentic Amoroso rolls. This downtown location sports a beautiful bar and plentiful broadcasts of sporting events. Open for lunch and dinner daily. 357 S. Main St.; 801.328-0304.

*Naked Fish: A favorite just outside the Salt Palace Convention Center started by Executive Chef Toshio Sekikawa, the co-founder of the Sushi Academy in San Francisco. Fresh, sustainable and delicious. Can be very busy during conventions so reservations are recommended. 67 W. 100 S.; 801.595.8888.

*Pago: Partners Chef Michal Richey and Operator Scott Evans opened in the 15th and 15th neighborhood to great acclaim this year. Not only do they feature products from local farms and artisans, they have a strong local "foodie" following and fantastic wine program. 878 S. 900 E.; 801.532.0777

* Plum Alley, Chef Ryan Lowder's latest venture, opened in December 2011 in downtown Salt Lake, next door to his award-wining The Copper Onion on Broadway. Named after the alley that was the heart of Salt Lake's Asian neighborhood in the early 1900s, Plum Alley is a Southeast Asian-influenced eatery specializing in communal dining, including soups and curries served family style. The beverage side of the menu has been crafted to complement the deep and complex flavors of Plum Alley's cuisine, and includes an affordably-priced wine, beer and specialty craft soda list. Plum Allen's kitchen focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays, seating is first come, first served. 111 E. Broadway, Suite 190; 801.355.0543.

Red Iguana: Famous for its array of fresh-daily moles, loved for its warm and friendly service and well-worn, eclectic style, the Iguana is a local favorite and consistent award winner for "Best Mexican" in Salt Lake Magazine's Dining Awards. Be prepared for crowds and a wait on weekend nights. 736 W. North Temple; 801.322.1489; 866 W. South Temple; 801.214.6050

Ruth's Diner: This classic landmark with rich history is located just moments from downtown in scenic Emigration Canyon. History dots the walls in this trolley car turned restaurant by Ruth, a "spirited woman whose language could make a gangster blush." In 1930 she started the diner as Ruth's Hamburgers downtown Salt Lake but moved it up Emigration Canyon where she reopened in 1949. Featured on Diners Drive-Ins & Dives 4160 Emigration Canyon Rd.; 801.582.5807.

* Sala Thai Kitchen opened to wide acclaim of Thai aficionados this summer. The inviting space is very contemporary and bright, the cuisine unmatched for those looking for authentic dishes prepared with great style and true flavors. Make a night of it with dinner at Sala Thai and a movie at nearby Brewvies, where beer on tap is sold with first-run movies. Open for lunch and dinner nightly. 677 S. 200 W., 801-328-2499.

Takashi: Master sushi chef/owner Takashi Gibo's talents with the best of the raw and the cooked are practically legendary around Salt Lake City. Aficionados appreciate Takishi's specialty sake list, too. His downtown sushi/bar restaurant is modern, with touches of contemporary art and a high-energy vibe. 18 W. Market Street; 801.519.9595.

The Bayou (Beervana): Here's where you'll find Salt Lake's biggest selection of beer: more than 200 bottled and over 30 on tap. The Bayou is also known for its with hearty Cajun/Creole and American traditional food, pool tables and occasional live music. 645 S. State Street; 801.961.8400.

The New Yorker: The grand daddy of fine dining in Salt Lake, this is a place where power brokers still gather, serving consistently good cuisine from chef Will Plyler. Parent company Gastronomy also operates the Market Street Grill, Oyster Bar, Broiler and Fresh Fish Markets. 60 W. Market St.; 801.363.0166.

* Zy Food Wine & Cheese opened in summer 2011 by Chef Matthew Lake, who has a notable résumé, including being named as one of Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chefs in America" a few years ago. Zy offers refined contemporary American cuisine, extensive cheese selections, and a wide wine and spirit selection in an historic landmark building. The modern restaurant was designed by local architects EDA and features hardwood floors, stunning atrium-seating, city views and windows into Chef Lake's bustling kitchen. Within easy walking distance of the Salt Palace, Zy is located just east of Gallivan Plaza, and is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner nightly. R Reservations are suggested. 268 S. State St.; 801.779.4730.

Visit Salt Lake is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. VSL's mission is to improve the area economy by attracting and providing support to conventions, leisure travelers and visitors while being a leader in environmental responsibility. Salt Lake is a unique fusion of metropolitan city and quaint mountain town; the towering Wasatch Mountains that embrace Salt Lake offer a dramatic backdrop to the vibrancy and activities of downtown.