The Best Food and Drink in Utah for 2019
December 20, 2018
The Beehive State is buzzing with culinary wonders
The Best Food and Drink in Utah
Utah is known for the Olympics-worthy Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges, the Great Salt Lake, and some of the most stunning national parks in the country, including Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon.[related] But the Beehive State is buzzing with culinary wonders as well: Heber Valley artisanal cheese, Bear Lake raspberries, and Mile High biscuits. To celebrate all the great food and drink our country’s 45th state has to offer, we’ve rounded up Utah’s claims to culinary fame as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Utah offers so much more than just breathtaking geography: Its natural bounty includes trout, stone fruit, heritage lamb, and honey. Though they are now known for abstaining from alcohol, in the 1800s Utah Mormons were famous for Valley Tan, a whiskey made from local wheat and potatoes. A near replica of the original recipe can found at the High West Distillery in Wanship. Utah was also a key state in the repeal of Prohibition, becoming the 36th (and thus deciding) state to approve the 21st Amendment. Navajo tacos are popular across the state, and utilize fry bread as the base of the taco, instead of a tortilla. This local favorite is influenced by the Navajo Indian tribe in the southeastern part of the state; try one at Black Sheep at Epic Brewing Company’s Sugarhouse location. Though the Great Salt Lake may get all the glory, the pink salt (called “Real Salt”) that’s harvested from an underground deposit near the town of Redmond is especially prized across the state, and contains over 60 trace minerals. You can enjoy a cocktail with a rim of Real Salt at craft cocktail bar Under Current.
Utah is home to many iconic foods, and over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs.. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Utah gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Cat Cora’s Kitchen (Salt Lake City International Airport)
Enjoy a meal from celebrity chef Cat Cora at Cat Cora’s Kitchen, which has also locations in Atlanta Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Houston’s George Bush International Airport. This restaurant, which also serves as a cocktail and tapas lounge, emphasizes fresh and organic ingredients in its creative offerings, with natural or artisan ingredients being used where it isn’t possible to source locally. They also put great importance in going green, with eco-friendly to-go plates and boxes, as well as utensils and napkins made from bio-degradable materials.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: The Roof Restaurant (Salt Lake City)
Overlooking Temple Square on the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Downtown Salt Lake City, The Roof is a fine dining restaurant that also happens to serve a stunning dinner buffet Monday through Saturday nights. Prime rib, honey-baked ham, rotating entrées and pastas, potatoes, salads, shrimp cocktail, cold poached salmon with lemon and dill, cheeses, soups, and plenty of sides. It costs $42 for adults, $18 for kids 7-11, and $9 for children 4-6.
Best Bar: Under Current (Salt Lake City)
If you want quality handcrafted beverages, Under Current is the way to go. This suave upscale-casual bar features 59 different cocktails, many of which are pleasantly packed with tropical flavors. Customer favorites include the “Kokomo” (bourbon, rye, coconut, pineapple and lime) and the “Veranda” (reposado tequila, aquavit, pineapple, lime and hellfire bitters). If spirits aren’t your thing, there are plenty of beer and wine choices to fall back on. Under Current is attached to a seafood restaurant too, so make sure you order the freshly shucked oysters, carnitas taco and pork bun. Word on the street is they’re all irresistible.
Best Beer: Big Bad Baptist, Epic Brewing Company (Salt Lake City)
You may not think of big, bold beers when you think of drinking culture in Utah, but Epic Brewing Company’s Big Bad Baptist defies everything you might think. With an 11.8 percent ABV and big, bold coffee and chocolate flavors, this imperial stout stands boldly in all its bourbon barrel-aged glory.
Best Brunch: The Park Café (Salt Lake City)
A quintessential SLC brunchtime destination since 1984, The Park Café serves a brunch menu that’s simple and essentially perfect. Three-egg omelettes with a wide and creative variety of fillings; steak or pork chops and eggs; its signature pork potatoes scrambled with eggs, Cheddar, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and peppers; French toast: pancakes: biscuits and gravy; cheeseburgers; deli sandwiches; homemade soup and chili… Nothing here really jumps out as blazing any new ground, but that’s exactly what makes The Park Café so good: It sticks to the classics, and it does them really, really well.
Best Burger: Lucky 13 (Salt Lake City)
Lucky 13 may look (and sound) like a sports bar, but don’t be fooled: It’s home to Utah’s best burgers. Their patties are made of 7 ounces of never-frozen locally-sourced ground chuck, cooked to medium with an enviable crust, and served with a dizzying array of toppings on a freshly-baked bun. There’s no shortage of insane toppings; popular ones include the Breath Enhancer (with fresh garlic, rosemary, and Cheddar), the Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger (bacon and blue cheese), and The Fungus Amongus (with red wine-sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and Swiss). Our advice: Skip the gimmicky ones like The Big Benny (28 ounces of beef topped with bacon, ham, Cheddar, Swiss, onions, and special sauce) unless you have the metabolism of a race horse, and keep it simple with cheese and house-smoked bacon. Make sure you get some rosemary garlic fries on the side.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Mom’s Kitchen (Salt Lake City)
Photo by John C. via Yelp
A Salt Lake City institution, the unassuming Mom’s Kitchen is actually run by two moms, and they serve a menu of classic Chinese home-style dishes. There are plenty of surprising offerings — luffa and bamboo fungus soup, Beijing meat pie, hot and sour shredded potato, griddle cooked pig intestines, dry-fried yellow-croaker — that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of America’s biggest Chinatowns, so don’t come here if you’re looking for egg foo young. Sichuan specialties like spicy lamb with cumin and ma po tofu are definitely worth seeking out, as is the variety of Taiwanese options.
Best Chocolate Shop: The Chocolate Conspiracy (Salt Lake City)
Best Coffee Shop: Caffé D'Bolla (Salt Lake City)
The first artisan roaster and siphon coffee bar in Salt Lake City, Caffé D'Bolla is a family-owned business that's won awards for its coffee roasting — done in small batches with single-origin beans. Sourcing micro-region, micro-lot, or single-estate coffees, Caffé D'Bolla ensures their product comes from sustainable farms that produce the best coffee possible.
Best Cupcake: So Cupcake (Salt Lake City)
So Cupcakes began with a wish, when Celina — the owners’ daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy — was granted a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In February 2008, So Cupcake was opened in honor of Celena. Their cupcakes range from the everyday So Cocoa Delight to the special So Andes Mint and the seasonal So Gingerbread.
Best Dive Bar: Cheers to You (Salt Lake City)
Best Doughnuts: crEATe Donuts (Sandy)
As the name suggests, you can create your very own doughnut at this Sandy, Utah, shop. First, choose between a classic doughnut or a trendy croissant doughnut. Then, pick one of 12 fillings, which range from a Madagascar vanilla whipped cream to an apple fruit filling to a Key lime mousse. Then, top it off with a drizzle, glaze, and one of 22 toppings. These one-of-a-kind creations are as much a work of art as they are a midday snack.
Best Farmers Market: Downtown Farmers Market (Salt Lake City)
The Downtown Farmers Market was founded in 1992 and has since expanded to four markets: the Downtown Farmers Market (Saturdays, June to October), the Downtown Art and Craft Market (Saturdays, June through October), the Downtown Harvest Market (Tuesdays, August to October) and the Winter Market at Rio Grande (Saturdays, November to April). The produce from the market comes from 16 counties in Utah. Some of Utah’s most iconic vendors have become so popular that they’ve traded in their tents for brick-and-mortar locations.
Best Food Truck: Waffle Love (Salt Lake City)
If Leslie Knope of NBC’s Parks and Recreation lived in Utah, she’d probably spend most of her time chasing the Waffle Love truck around Salt Lake City. (Also, founder Adam Terry totally looks like Ron Swanson.) Here are three reasons you should be chasing it too: the “Dulce de Liège” (a cinnamon sugar waffle topped with fried ice cream and Dulce de leche), the “Nutella Love” (with your choice of fruit), and the “Banana Cream Pie” (stuffed with chocolate and topped with bananas and cream). All the options cost about $8, but the various weekly specials can be enjoyed for just five bucks. The company started with a single truck in 2012, and has since grown to include a brick-and-mortar location and five trucks, and another coming soon to Los Angeles.
Best Fried Chicken: Pretty Bird (Salt Lake City)
Chef Viet Pham proved that he’s a great chef when he was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2011 and beat Bobby Flay in a 2012 episode of “Iron Chef,” and he’s recently proven that he’s a master of the art of fried chicken with Pretty Bird, which opened in Salt Lake City in February 2018. The focus here is on Nashville-style hot chicken, and if the daily lines out the door are any indication, he’s hit the nail on the head. He spent five years developing his fried chicken, which is served boneless in a sandwich or as a quarter bird. For the true Nashville hot experience, order the quarter bird, which is brushed with hot oil and doused in a spice mix of customizable heat before being served atop a slice of bread with pickles. The crust retains its enviable crispiness, the chicken stays moist underneath, and all the flavors and textures are in perfect harmony.
Best Grocery Store: Harmons (Salt Lake City)
Photo by K K. via Yelp
“Harmons is almost untouchable in quality in Utah from the rest of the grocery stores. They pride themselves on fresh food and a large variety of it,” a reviewer said on Google. As an extra step toward quality, Harmons also sends its bakers to a top professional bread baking school in San Francisco to make sure the people of downtown Salt Lake City are getting great products.
Best Hot Dog: That Hot Dog Place (Roy)
The hot dogs served at this casual, off-the-beaten-path hot dog joint are all custom-made by a local purveyor, and only include grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. They’re tucked into soft house-made split-top buns and topped with everything from chili, cheese, and mustard to pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, pickles, and special sauce.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Powder (Park City)
Located inside Park City’s luxurious Waldorf Astoria, the season-driven menu at Powder is creative, delicious, and quite expensive. Relaxed yet upscale, with reclaimed wood floors and large windows overlooking the hotel’s courtyard, Powder is an ideal restaurant for both an après-ski meal or an anniversary dinner. Chef Michael Zachman’s menu highlights local, seasonal ingredients in dishes like pappardelle with rabbit ragout, wild mushrooms, truffle jus, and Parmesan snow; local venison with yam purée, baby carrots, wilted kale, and thyme veal jus; guajillo-rubbed buffalo tenderloin with winter succotash, beetroot purée, and huckleberry jus; and foraged mushroom pot pie with celery root, truffles, and Gruyère veloute.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Farr Better Ice Cream Co. (Ogden)
“Best ice cream store anywhere. Good old-fashioned ice cream store that you remember from your childhood. Excellent flavors. New soda fountain addition is impressive. It's crowded but they have a great system of service and the help is always friendly, happy and eager to please,” wrote a reviewer of this Ogden creamery.
Best Italian Restaurant: Valter’s Osteria (Salt Lake City)
Valter Nassi is the natty ever-present proprietor of his eponymous restaurant, and his lineup of Tuscan classics inspired by his mother have kept crowds coming back to his stylish, modern restaurant for years. The homemade fresh pastas are all standouts, as well as many other dishes, which include fennel-crusted duck breast in cognac and grape sauce; salmon topped with clams, scallops, and baby calamari in tomato sauce; and butterflied pan-fried pork tenderloin with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Red Iguana (Salt Lake City)
One of Salt Lake City’s most popular restaurants (owing in no small part to a feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives), Red Iguana has been lavished with more awards than you can count, and now we’re officially naming it the best Mexican restaurant in Utah. And it’s not just hype: This place is really, really good. Founded in 1985 by Ramon and Maria Cardenas, who’d been opening restaurants since 1965), today it’s run by their children, who continue to use their family’s tried-and-true authentic Mexican recipes. The massive menu features six different moles (each meticulously handmade), pork doused in red or green chile sauce, slow-roasted cochinita pibil; eight enchiladas, a variety of tacos and burritos, and some outrageous breakfast dishes, among dozens of other specialties. If you live in Salt Lake City and you’re not a regular here, reconsider.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: The Kitchen Sink, Angie's Restaurant (Logan)
Ice cream lovers will really enjoy indulging their sweet tooth at Angie's Restaurant, where The Kitchen Sink reigns as the most eye-catching dessert. Mounds of vanilla ice cream fill what really does look like a kitchen sink, topped with two entire bananas plus three other toppings of your choice, and finished off with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry. If you manage to finish the entire thing, you'll even get a bumper sticker.
Best Pancakes: Stacked (Logan)
Yes, the name is referring to pancakes, which are made with batter made from scratch in small batches using butter, buttermilk, eggs, and locally-sourced unbleached flour. Available in buttermilk, whole wheat, gluten free, and vegan varieties, you can customize them with a massive assortment of fillings and toppings, ranging from fresh fruit to hot fudge to pulled pork and Cheddar cheese. Or you can opt for one of the Signature Stacks, like Banana Cream Pie (chocolate chips, bananas, Nutella, and whipped cream); The Aggie Blueberry (white chocolate chips, fresh blueberries, and whipped cream); and Turkey pesto (turkey, provolone, pesto, and tomatoes).
Best Pizza: Settebello (Salt Lake City)
Yelp/ Lala P.
Settebello really goes above and beyond in its efforts to make pizzas that are as close as possible to what you’ll find in Naples. Flour, tomatoes, prosciutto, and Parmigiano-Reggiano are imported from Italy; pancetta and Finnochiona come from Seattle’s renowned Salumi, and salame comes from Berkeley’s Fra’Mani; and pies cook in a thousand-degree wood-burning oven (handmade in Naples) in less than a minute. The menu doesn’t get too crazy (no pot roast pizza here!) but that’s a good thing; keep it simple with a Margherita DOC or the popular pizza carbonara, with crushed tomatoes, pancetta, egg, mozzarella, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Penny Ann’s Café (Salt Lake City)
Penny Ann’s Café/Yelp
Open at 7 a.m. seven days a week, Penny Ann’s dubs itself the “home of the heavenly hot cakes,” and their sour cream pancakes (as well as their waffles, scones, and French toast) are indeed spectacular, especially when topped with cinnamon cream cheese, fresh berries, and whipped cream, or fire-roasted caramel apples. But the menu here is enormous, and you’re going to want to return again and again to sample dishes like the waffle with fried chicken cooked into it; pork chili verde skillet; smothered breakfast burrito; home fries mixed with chicken, ham, and Swiss, and topped with two eggs and hollandaise (an inspired take on cordon bleu); a fresh-baked buttermilk biscuit topped with bacon, ham, sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, Cheddar, eggs, and sausage gravy; house-made corned beef hash; and their legendary breakfast nachos: house-fried tortilla chips topped with two eggs and smothered in house-made pork chili verde sauce, Cheddar, and sour cream. Oh, and there are 15 omelettes, too!
Best Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere: Hell’s Backbone Grill (Boulder)
If a bend in the road going through the mountains of Utah can be called a town (it can, it is, and it’s called Boulder) then consider the location of Hell’s Backbone Grill as one of the most remote towns in America. That hasn’t stopped owners Jen Castle and Blake Spaulding from running a fantastic restaurant that mostly features locally-sourced food — mainly because that’s the only option available. (Really.) Their organic farm contains over 75 heirloom fruit trees, 130 heritage-breed laying hens, and grass-fed beef and lamb, which leads to dishes like the farm vegetable delight (with house-baked spiced tofu), spicy meatloaf, braised beef, and lemon chicken. There’s also a diverse wine and beer list, and tasty desserts like the chocolate chile cream pot and dark chocolate pecan pie.
Best Sandwich: Meatball, Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli (Salt Lake City)
Caputo’s is a super-popular Italian deli with four locations in town. Tony Caputo and his son, Matt, import high-quality foods from Italy and the rest of Southern Europe, and over the years it’s become one of the best specialty food stores in not just Salt Lake City, but in all of America. A cheese cave is home to more than 200 farmstead cheeses, salami is made in house by a guy whose family has been doing it for more than 400 years, and crowds line up out the door on a daily basis for their selection of sandwiches and pastas. With that in mind, we present one of their most beloved sandwiches: the meatball, made with house-made meatballs on a fresh Italian loaf. The menu puts it best: “Meatballs, marinara sauce, Parmesan, and provolone cheeses. What more could you want?” Well said.
Best Soup: Soup Kitchen (Salt Lake City)
Yelp/ Gavin H.
The Soup Kitchen has been serving the best soup in Utah since 1976, all scratch-made daily using tried-and-true recipes. Favorites include chicken noodle (with thick dumpling-style noodles), cream of tomato, cheddar cheese and broccoli, and vegetable beef (pictured). You’ll be glad they also sell soups by the gallon.
Best Restaurant Steak for $20 or Less: Tin Roof Grill (Sandy)
Tin Roof Grill is a neighborhood favorite serving up an eclectic menu of made-from-scratch favorites including pizzas, hot smoked roast beef, Thai-style noodles, biscuits and gravy, and homemade breads and desserts at a very affordable price. Case in point? The most expensive item on the menu is a fine-dining worthy mesquite-rubbed eight-ounce flat iron steak, served with sautéed seasonal vegetables, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and horseradish-kicked au jus, for just $18.
Best Steakhouse: Harbor Seafood & Steak Co. (Salt Lake City)
Opened in 2014, Harbor Seafood & Steak Co. has gained legions of loyal regulars thanks to its commitment to sourcing seasonal produce, high-quality wild-caught seafood, and (most importantly) Wagyu steaks from Snake River Farms. As the name might imply, the seafood dishes here are exceptional, but the Wagyu, served with creative sides, is where the menu really shines. Choose from a filet (either four or seven ounces) with blue cheese, bacon, peas, and pancetta; sirloin with mac and cheese, broccolini, and almonds; or ribeye with green beans, toasted hazelnuts, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes; top it off with shrimp, crab, lobster, or scallops; and wash it all down with a glass of wine from the Pacific Northwest.
Absolute Best Thing to Eat: Funeral Potatoes, Garage on Beck (Salt Lake City)
Funeral potatoes are a regional Utah specialty, usually akin to a cheesy hash brown casserole. But at Salt Lake City standout Garage on Beck, this comforting side dish has been transformed into, well, the absolute best thing to eat in the entire state. Here they take mashed Idaho potatoes, ball them up with cheddar, jalapeños, bacon, and scallions, roll them in cornflake crumbs, and deep-fry them until golden brown and (insanely) delicious.
Best Taco: Carnitas, Tacos Don Rafa (Salt Lake City)
Photo by Jesus R. via Yelp
The crowds line up every day to get their tacos from this small cart, and its loyal devotees will tell you that these are the absolute best tacos around. They’re cheap (75 cents!) and delicious, and the crispy and flavorful carnitas will most likely become your favorite. Don’t miss the nearby cooler that’s filled with a wide selection of toppings and salsas. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.