Just minutes from summer’s outdoor adventure and winter’s world-class ski resorts with what is known world over as “The Greatest Snow On Earth”, Salt Lake City hasn’t relied solely on what mother nature has provided to feed the souls of local residents and worldwide visitors.
In this mountain city that just happens to border the desert, the restaurants and diners, bars and brewpubs, coffee shops and bakeries are just as vital to the local climate and lifestyle as skiing and biking and hiking in the towering Wasatch mountains of which the city is best known for.
As the epicenter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—aka the Mormons—Salt Lake City may be considered modest by some larger city’s standards.
Far from mundane or chaste, Salt Lake City’s original landscape was ripe with a convivial spirit, even boasting a stretch of what is now downtown’s Main Street as “Whiskey Street”, named by the founder of Salt Lake City himself, Brigham Young, where gentiles (including Mr. Young) were able to quench their thirst and enjoy in the revelry.
Today, that spirit for food and drink is alive and well and totally on point with those bigger locales thanks to award-winning craft breweries, nationally recognized 4-diamond restaurants, plus favorite local haunts that have stood the test of time.
Following are a few Salt Lake City standouts from local food bloggers, who are dining in and dining out, and always taking in the scene.
Heidi Larsen | FoodieCrush
Almost as much as we love cooking and eating at home, my husband and I are avid eater-outers. In my life prior to blogging, I was the art director for our city magazine, Salt Lake Magazine. Thanks to our beloved food editor Mary Malouf (who is known about town as one tough critic but actually just calls it like she sees it) I learned a ton about local dining and was always in the know of where to eat, who was opening a new space or what was closing, and why.
Now that I’m a food blogger working solo, I don’t always have the inside scoop I did before. But you can bet I have my favorites and am always willing to try out more as I Snapchat and Instagram my way through my hometown’s variety of eating establishments.
Given the breadth and scope of SLC’s well-rounded foodie scene of high and low brow fare, some of my personal favorites are found outside of the expected perimeter of downtown SLC.
And I’m good with that, because I’m more than willing to go the distance for a good meal.
When dinner favorite Finca decided to head downtown to capture the convention crowd, it’s owners put Hub and Spoke Diner in its place. This hip but retro (you know the kind) diner now feeds breakfast, lunch and dinner to families, the college crowd and everyone in between. It’s probably the only place in the city where you can order a Kentucky Hot Brown alongside a Breakfast Bahn Mi. Craving good old bacon and eggs? Hub and Spoke has that too.
Tip: An eclectic cocktail menu might turn breakfast into brunch and then into supper. That’s okay, they’re open from 7 am to 9 pm with lunch and dinner menus too.
Serving patrons for over 30 years and with menu items like The Trainwreck, Over the Counter Cafe may be Salt Lake’s most classic cure for a hangover. This seat yourself breakfast institution centers around the two-sided grill smack dab in the middle of the restaurant where customers watch as the ever moving cooks flip flapjacks, whip eggs into omelets and keep those breakfast potatoes coming. The portions are huge, and the coffee is always hot. Be sure to check the special board for off the menu eats (a 1 lb. slice of grilled ham and eggs anyone?) and the blue menu card insert for more upscale fare like Ancient Grain Pancakes or Holly’s Special: a bacon, mushroom, tomato and spinach omelet topped with hollandaise.
Tip: Skip the tables and belly up to the counter to get a fill of all of the action. Who needs table talk anyway?
Not to be forgotten, if you’re looking for the ultimate Sunday brunch, nothing in the city can beat downtown’s Grand America Sunday Buffet, featuring 7 different cooking stations, and everything ranging from raclette to poke to pancakes.
There really was only one Salt Lake City restaurant I missed when I was living in Los Angeles. I simply could not find a really, really good lunch spot. One that made awesome sandwiches and had killer soup. If you EVER are craving French Onion Soup, this is your gold standard, right here. I’m talking about Desert Edge Pub with sister restaurants Red Butte Cafe and Stella Grill, where each offers some of their classics but a little something different too. Try the famous Turkey and Avocado Sandwich (Smudge’s fave) or one of the special Pasta Salads of the Day, which is what I order one every. single. time. Chicken Nicoise is my favorite and riffed here on the blog.
Tip: If you are looking for a place for outdoor lunching or dinner, each of the restaurants has great outdoor patio spaces to dine al fresco.
Copper Onion was the first to bring eating trends seen in the big cities to Salt Lake City. Chef Ryan Louder’s menu showcases fresh ingredients in unique blends of small plates like braised kurobata pork belly, black pepper mussels and patatas bravas. They also serve what my dad thinks is the best burger in the city. I’m partial to the Beef Stroganoff and even shared the recipe here on the blog. Our favorite spot to eat is at the counter of this open-air kitchen to learn a few tricks as the chefs prepare each and every hand-crafted meal.
Tip: Wait times at dinner can be long, so the owners opened Copper Common next door where overflow diners can enjoy a drink or an app while waiting for their tables.
If curing serious sandwich cravings is on your to-do list, it’s Feldman’s Deli ’s mission to deliver. As the only Jewish deli in town, Feldman’s has earned a loyal following for anyone craving a true Reuben sandwich thanks to their house made pastrami on locally baked Stoneground ribbon rye bread. Or give the Sloppy Joe a try, loaded with corned beef, pastrami, thousand island and coleslaw on rye bread. No substitutions with this one, naturally. True to Jewish deli tradition, sandwich portions are huge so order a half and you’ll still be served a regularly sized sandwich.
Tip: Their lox and bagels plate is the best in the city.
Iceberg Drive-In This family-owned, 1950’s era burger drive thru is a Salt Lake institution, not necessarily for their killer cheeseburgers and fries, but for their sky high milkshakes and malts made in xx flavors. Even the mini shake is so big it’s served in two cups.
Tip: This is the place for the best onion rings in town. Perfect for dipping into any flavor of shake.
It’s not so often we go out for happy hour downtown anymore, but when we do we most often head to the Green Pig. The place is large enough to always get a table and the acoustics make it okay to be able to visit with friends without shouting. Beers and cocktails are all on tap or ready to be shaken or stirred.
Tip: During spring, summer and fall the outdoor roof patio is where you can enjoy a cocktail with a view.
SLC has it’s fair share of sushi restaurants, but while the rest of the city is downtown waiting in line at the ever popular Takashi, we gladly head to our neighborhood sushi and ramen bar and hope the rest of the city dwellers will stay far away. Sitting on the Salt Lake foothills in the Olympus Hills Marketplace, Kobe Sushi has become known for it’s killer ramen. Tonkatsu, Mabo and Miso are our ramen mainstays but Kimchi ramen is popular, too. Owners Mike and Emi, and mainstay sushi chef Josh, make this place feel more like a night at Cheers than a strict-don’t-look-at-the-sushi-master kind of sushi bar. The nigiri sushi is fresh and well prepared with the rice at just the right temperature, the rolls are inventive and well portioned and the ramen is the best in Salt Lake. The only caveat: The waitstaff could be more expedient but that’s a trade off I’m willing to take.
Tip: Each week Mike receives a random box of fish from Japan so be sure to ask what’s on special. If you like rolls, our favorites are the Shrimp Nips and the Summer Breeze, and if you’re a fan of Poke Salad, ask them for Heidi’s Salad with mango, seaweed, poke, cucumbers and carrot all on a bed of greens and topped with a sesame soy dressing and sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt to die for. Get the recipe here.
The first time I walked into Layla Mediterranean Grill, I thought I was in a different city. The decor was modern with clean lines and an updated elegance not often found in a mountain town. Luckily, other local spots places have caught up to Layla’s design speed, but the food here is still ahead of it’s time thanks to the traditional Middle Eastern family recipes being served. Their mezze plates are delish, falafel, shawrma and kabobs too. But my favorite is the Mougrabieh, a dish of Lebanese pearl couscous topped with tender chicken, pearl onions, chick peas and exotic spices. It is amazing!
Tip: Forget the dining room and head to the small bar where you can order the full menu while watching the game with a glass of Lebanese wine in hand. It’s my favorite spot in the restaurant.
Can you see from my list that I’m a huge fan of ethnic food? Several years ago we were turned onto Myung Ga by our friend who is half Korean. She boasted this is THE place to eat Korean food and we couldn’t agree more. While the service can be a bit spotty, I crave the food so much that this is where I’ve celebrated my birthday dinner for the past three years. If you haven’t tried Korean food, do not be afraid. We always steer beginners (and ourselves) to the Spicy Pork or BBQ Beef and Ramen Noodles with Tofu combo. Thinly sliced, marinated beef or pork is served on a sizzling platter of fresh onions that cook on the table as you eat.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for extras of the banchan side dishes of marinated potato, bean sprouts, seasoned steamed broccoli, pickled cucumbers and kimchi, they’re always generous in supplying more.
One of the most lauded restaurants in the state is possibly one of the most popular Mexican joints in the whole west, Salt Lake City’s Red Iguana. What looks from the outside like a hole in the wall is a well oiled Mexican food making machine and a destination for every traveling musician, celebrity, everyday tourists and of course, the locals. This is authentic Mexican food and Red Iguana’s specialty is their moles in seven different varieties, and available for take-out too. Not a fan of mole? No problem. They also serve traditional Mexican specialties that keep the hungry lines waiting out the door.
Tip: Waits for tables at popular eating times could run over an hour so arrive early or at off hours for best seating times, or visit their second location down the street at Red Iguana 2.
When we aren’t in the mood to wait in line at Red Iguana, we head to Holladay’s El Chihuahua. Known for their schooner sized DeathStar margaritas that pack more than a liquor-filled punch, this family-run restaurant has the best enchilada sauce I’ve ever had, and my favorite salsa in the city. The wait staff is friendly, fast and the portions always mean we have leftovers for lunch.
Tip: When the waiter delivers the chips and salsa, ask for their homemade hot version. Just a dip will do you.
The food at Sea Salt is only upstaged by the restaurant’s marbled, mirrored and elegantly fresh decor. This totally authentic Italian eatery pulls inspiration from real Italian, not Americanized Italian, and has been named one of Salt Lake’s bests multiple times. With 4-5 different varieties of gnocchi on the menu FULL ON PILLOWS OF HEAVEN, I always have a hard time deviating from my Gnocchi ala Norma but the wood oven Neopolitan style thin crust pizza, fresh seafood and braised lamb shank with saffron risottto always beckon.
Tip: In summer, arrive early to find a spot on the patio for authentic Italian appetizers with a cold glass of Italian Pinot Gris.
Minimalist and with clean white lines, 3 Cups Coffee is one of my favorite spots to meet with clients or other blogging friends. The shop in the newly revitalized Holladay Square, is an extension of the super popular and lauded Coffee Garden in Salt Lake’s 9th and 9th district, and showcases the city’s yearing for modern ambiance. While the coffee is great, the house made brioche, ham and cheddar morning tart and peanut butter banana toast created by Amber Billingsley—one of SLC’s pre-eminent bakers—are to die for. I’ll take an extra shot of both, please.
Tip: This is THE SLC spot to get your spoonful of an Acai Bowl with berries, granola and banana.
Like every good cup of coffee should, Publik Coffee has re-energized an entire legion of fans. Housed in a redesigned factory space, this modernly retro you know the type hipster hangout is where you go to see and be seen. House drip coffee and brewed espresso drinks are the focus to fuel the majority of working customers glued to their computers.
Tip: Coffee is the main star but their 11 types of toast (avocado toast, orange habenero & goat cheese and pear lavendar and goat cheese) are thickly sliced with Park City’s own Red Bicycle Breadworks.
Becky Rosenthal | The Vintage Mixer & SLC Foodie
Follow more of Becky’s culinary adventures on Instagram
We’ve been enamored with Becky’s blog, The Vintage Mixer for some time now. Her blog not only celebrates a style of cooking, but also a way of living. She harkens back to her grandmother’s time, when food was homemade, and fresh (ahem, with real ingredients), and there was conversation around the table, rather than electronic devices.
Utah has been Becky’s home for over 10 years now. She lives there with her husband Josh, their little boy, a dog and a couple of businesses. They feel spoiled to live in the heart of such a creative, ever-transofming city, and they enjoy being at the hubbub of all the new culture sprouting up. Together they run Grace Food Group — the umbrella under which Becky manages her blog, occasional food events and freelance work, along with La Barba Coffee, a local coffee roaster and cafe. Becky considers the strong sense of community to be another perk of living in SLC, not to mention the seriously good food scene. In fact she loves it so much she wrote a cookbook about it, Salt Lake City’s Chef Table, that you can get here.
If you want to really brunch right, try Provisions. While a meal any time of day here is fabulous, their brunch is especially good. It’s a little off the beaten path from downtown, but their Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, mimosas and Green Eggs and Ham with speck and pesto on an english muffin are worth the drive.
If you’re into the hipster vibe, check out Rye for breakfast, where you can get coconut quinoa with fresh fruit or a breakfast bowl with kimche and pork belly. Also, if you’re looking for a more diner-type experience, Ruth ‘s Diner, though typical, is always a good bet. Mile High Biscuits come with every order at Ruth’s as well as a good mountain attitude.
If you can find parking downtown you’ll want to go to Eva’s Bakery for lunch. Get a slice of their flatbread pizza and a side salad.
Tip: I’ll warn you now to save room for dessert here; their canelé is like a tiny cake-like bite of creme brûlée.
For a more traditional sandwich shop, I love Even Stevens. They donate a sandwich to a local charity for every sandwich bought at their shop. Order the Capreezy with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and roasted hazelnut pesto.
Under Current, next door to Salt Lake’s best seafood joint (in my opinion), serves cocktails in a perfectly swanky environment. If it’s winter time, you’ll want to order a Hot Toddy, which comes with a lemon slice studded with cloves.
For a casual night out, with a good beer or glass of wine, East Liberty Tap House is our neighborhood favorite.
Tip: Try the Sloppy Shroom Sandwich with honey, rosemary and cherve.
If you have a special occasion to celebrate, Finca and Fresco always deliver. Finca is a downtown hot spot serving Spanish sharable plates, while Fresco is a quaint neighborhood Italian bistro serving out of a converted house.
Tip: Make sure to stop by the cute bookstore next to Fresco before or after your meal.
Though I’m biased, I think the best cup of coffee in town is found at La Barba (my husband and I are part owners of the shop). Try the Spanish Almond Cake for a sweet treat with your pour over or espresso as you listen to tunes from a different era on vinyl.
As for bakeries, Tulie Bakery is another favorite. Pretty much everything you see in their pastry case is worth trying, but their morning bun (their fancy take on a cinnamon roll) is really to die for.
Shauna Gilbert & Christine Fleming | Girls vs Food
Follow Shauna and Christine’s eating escapades on Instagram.
Shauna Gilbert has called Salt Lake City home for over four years now. She moved there from the Arizona desert to begin a career in marketing and has been pleasantly surprised with all this city has to offer. She loves living in the Avenues district with her husband and as always, trying out new restaurants.
After graduating from college, Christine Fleming packed up and moved to Salt Lake City on a whim and she’s been there for about four years. She’s convinced that Salt Lake City has something for everyone, whether it’s outdoors, arts, education, or of course, a dynamic food scene.
Located just a few miles up Emigration Canyon, Ruth’s Diner offers both an escape from the city and tasty home-style cooking. Brunching on their back patio during the summer months is one of our most favorite things to do. Be ready to try their famous mile-high biscuit while waiting for your order to come out – they’re delicious!
Tip: Weekend brunch during the summer draws large crowds and can make for a long wait time. But we suggest putting your name down and going for a stroll through the canyon. You’ll see several bikers, runners and fellow walkers up there.
Just west of the trendy 9th and 9th neighborhood, Pig & a Jelly Jar offers a vibrant twist on a classic diner. They serve up a killer brunch, like their chicken and waffles, and on Thursday nights they feature this menu item for just $5.
Even Stevens is a fairly new addition to the SLC food scene and we are already hooked. We can’t stop craving their tasty sandwiches and salads. Plus, every time you order a sandwich Even Stevens donates a sandwich to the hungry. ‘Eat to Give’ is what they’re all about.
Tip: Stop by one of their three locations (the Sugar House one is our favorite), and order the pot roast dip sandwich – you won’t regret it.
We love everything about Sawadee. The near-downtown location, the large patio out front (if it’s not too cold out!), and of course the authentic Thai food they serve.
Tip: Stop by during their lunch hours for an on point lunch special: 2 entree choices for less than $10.
Whiskey Street is always full of people enjoying happy hour. While neither of us drink, we both immediately fell in love with the fun and upbeat environment and full menu they offer.
Tip: The pork belly corn dogs are pretty much to die for.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to catch the game after work, meet friends for happy hour, or enjoy dinner from a full menu, Squatters is it. This two-story downtown bar and restaurant offers something for everyone. They have a wide variety of food and beers, all of which are their own line.
Small plates and tapas are all the rage right now and we’re not complaining. Eva Small Plates & Drinks is located downtown on Main Street. It’s a fun location that’s always hopping and bustling due to other restaurants and venues located on Main Street. Eva itself is pretty small (most places on Main street are) which gives it a cozy, friendly and inviting vibe. You will probably want to make a reservation on almost any night due to it being small.
Tip: Go with a group of friends and order a variety of their small plates. They also have entrees if sharing food isn’t your thing.
Rye is an upscale diner located in “Mid-Town.” Their small and simple menu has re-created many of your traditional diner meals with some trendy flare, such as truffle mac and cheese served in a cast-iron skillet. They also have unassuming menu items that wouldn’t show up on your average diner menu, like a pork belly banh mi sandwich. Their tasty menu combined with a trendy and hip vibe keep us coming back.
Tip: It’s open late and located next to a concert venue. Many customers stop by after catching a show at the Twilight Lounge.
It’s hard to beat Ruby Snap’s customer service. They call their employees “Snapettes” and every time we’ve opened the door, we’ve been greeted with a friendly smile and an enthusiastic “Hello!”. Ruby Snap loves their customers and it’s easy to see. Snapettes gladly give you as many samples as you could possibly desire (which is half of a cookie) before making your purchase. The quality and taste of their cookies are an equal match for their top-notch staff. We’ve used Ruby Snap for many gifts and they’re always gladly received.
Tip: The Mia cookie is our fave.
Carlucci’s is a traditional bakery in every sense of the word. Cookies, brownies, pastries, etc. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. They also serve the classic “black-and-white” cookie that calls NYC home. Located downtown, it has a fun and city vibe.
Maria Lichty | Two Peas and Their Pod
Follow more of Maria’s foodie faves on Instagram.
Maria Lichty is a seasoned blogger. She’s been around since the earlier days of food blogging, so we feel we can always trust her recipes, and never be disappointed. On her site, you will find fresh and healthy family-friendly recipes, travel tales and more!
Maria moved to SLC for a job 11 years ago, and instantly fell in love. She thinks the mountains are gorgeous, and she enjoys the small town feel of SLC — the fact that there’s plenty of activities to do, and many good restaurants to experience, without being overwhelming. She also loves the convenience the city offers — being able to get to downtown or a mountain hike in just 10 minutes, or to seven different ski resorts in 30 minutes!
Tulie Bakery is a cute bakery in the 9th and 9th area. You can also visit their booth at the downtown farmers market in the summertime. I love going for breakfast. The morning bun is amazing! The brioche French toast with fresh fruit and creme fraiche is also outstanding. If you want something on the lighter side, their homemade granola is excellent and so is their avocado toast. Make sure you take home some cookies or a lemon tart for later.
My boys LOVE donuts so we always celebrate birthdays at Banbury Cross Donuts. They make the best donuts in SLC! Our favorite is the raised cinnamon crumb donut. Other favorites include blueberry, maple bar, and the buttermilk bar. Caleb always gets a sprinkle donut. The shop is small, but they have a drive-thru.
Tip: Service is always quick, but go early to make sure they don’t run out. You can order in advance too!
Spitz is hands down one of our favorite spots. We love the casual atmosphere, patio in the summer and the fresh and flavorful food. Order the Doner basket for a taste of everything. It is served in a bread pan and loaded with goodness. I get the veggie version which is basically a salad and sweet potato fries topped with tzatziki, feta, olives, cucumber, tomato, peppers, crispy garbanzo beans, fried pita bread, falafel, and hummus.
Lone Star Taqueria has the best tacos in SLC! A great spot to visit after a hike or morning on the slopes. The service is fast and the food is affordable. I love the veggie tacos, but they are famous for their fish tacos. The salsas are incredible, so make sure you start with chips and guacamole, you won’t be sorry!
I could make a meal out of Mazza’s starters and sometimes I do. My favorites include the hummus, muhamara, potatoes harra, baba ganooj, and vegetarian grape leaves. The falafel sandwich is perfection-balls of ground fava, garbanzo beans, herbs and seasonings fried to a golden crisp and served in a freshy pita pocket with tahini sauce, fresh greens & turnip pickles. YUM!
Tip: There are two locations, 15th and 15th and 9th and 9th.
If you go to Les Madeleines for just one thing, get the Kouing Aman. It will change your life! It is SO good! I also love the carrot cake cookie, homemade Oreo with dulce de leche and the butter toffee shortbread.
Tip: If you go for lunch, get the grilled cheese and tomato soup with pommes frites on the side. They are worth it — the perfect comfort food lunch!
I know I mentioned Tuile Bakery for breakfast, but it is my favorite! The morning bun, lemon tart and cookies are all favorites of mine! It’s a fun spot to meet up with friends for a casual breakfast, lunch, cup of tea/coffee or dessert!
Kirby lives in Brooklyn, by way of Chicago. When she’s not drawing, she can be found doing other’s makeup, watching movies, cooking meals with five ingredients or less, and dancing! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
As always, thank you for reading and for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
Thanks for reading and subscribe to FoodieCrush to have each post delivered straight to your e-mail box.