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The Cottonwoods: New Salt Lake Dining District Emerges

Published: 01/17/2007

For years, local skiers, hikers, bikers (mountain to Harley) and fishers heading down from the Cottonwood Canyons after an invigorating day at altitude have made the trek to the Cotton Bottom Inn—a tiny roadside beer joint known for its juicy grilled garlic burgers. An authentically retro, faded sign with a Bugs Bunny look-alike marks the still-popular spot in an area known as Knudsen’s Corners and the burgers are still unrivaled. 

But over the past decade, the Cottonwoods—a loosely defined area from Wasatch Boulevard west to 900 East and from 4500 South to Fort Union Boulevard at the mouth of the canyons—has become a restaurant enclave. Today, the area’s dining options go far beyond the Cotton Bottom’s burgers—as addictive as they can be.

Here are some favorites—all locally owned and all just minutes from Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, accessed from the 6200 South exit off of I-215 South. 

Tuscany: A big, bold Italian restaurant in a chalet with the most enchanting and expansive patio garden in town—surrounded by towering cottonwood trees.

Franck’s: Salt Lake’s newest, most intimate restaurant serves French food with a global sensibility. Located in a cottage on Tuscany’s grounds.

Market Street Grill & Oyster Bar: The Cottonwoods outpost of the Gastronomy group’s popular seafood restaurants. A rooftop deck opens to stellar mountain views.

Trio: Modern Italian/American in a big, lively restaurant and bar, patio dining and a small ‘crow’s nest’ loft with views all around. A sister restaurant to the original Trio in Salt Lake’s 9th and 9th neighborhood.

Loco Lizard Cantina: Fresh, original Mexican fare, full bar, family friendly, big and noisy. Tortilla soup and chile rellenos are specialties.

Mikado: Sushi and full Japanese fusion menu by a master chef, plus a DJ spinning tunes on Thursday nights.

Porcupine Pub and Grille: Right at the mouth of the canyons, this casual spot has a ski chalet feeling, 32 beers on tap and lunch and dinner menus that go way beyond pub grub.

La Caille: Keep going toward Little Cottonwood Canyon to the roadside sign for La Caille, a grand French chalet and Continental restaurant on 22 acres of exquisite manicured grounds. La Caille is an “old school” Salt Lake favorite, one of the earliest restaurants in this area.

Lone Star Taqueria: Authentic fresh Mex in a colorful diner—popular, cheap, local.

Boulevard: White linen tablecloth dining with an American/eclectic menu served in a beautiful space.

Cafe de Normandie: French country atmosphere, fresh pastries and breads. Menu includes daily soup, quiche and sandwiches.

Pine: Chef Greg Neville recently opened his second restaurant (see New Dining Options) on the banks of Big Cottonwood Creek. Seasonal, wine-country inspired food and all American wine list.

Lugano:  Chef Greg Neville’s cozy bistro-style neighborhood Italian restaurant.  Featuring atmosphere with the rich textures of Italy, Lugano is celebrating six years of award-winning Italian fare.

The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. 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. Having recently undergone a $58 million expansion, the Salt Palace Convention Center now boasts 679,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space, ideal for groups of all sizes and needs. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, visit