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Destination Guide

"Wheres the best place to eat in Salt Lake?"

"Park City."

The old joke about meager fine-dining options in Utahs capital used to be too true to be funny; connoisseurs in search of an excellent meal often felt compelled to trek 30 miles east over the mountains to sample the offerings in the tony but isolated resort town. But happily, in recent years things have taken a turn for the delicious locally, and now the Salt Lake Valley is bursting with exciting eateries to please all palates and pocketbooks.

Heres a sampling of the tastiest cuisine the valley has to offer:


The downtown area is certainly the cultural center of the Salt Lake Valley. Restaurants for every taste and occasion are there to serve the lunch crowds of shoppers, Temple Square sightseers, and professionals from local businesses; dinner options abound to round out an evening of theater, music, or the Utah Jazz. To impress a date or just enjoy the finest food in an elegant atmosphere, The New Yorker leads the way as Salt Lakes most prestigious dining address. Absolute! and the Metropolitan Cafe are also excellent choices for a refined and graceful dining experience. Market Street Grill and Market Street Broiler are a pair of seafood restaurants offering the absolute freshest fish flown in daily from both coasts. Interesting ethnic choices are available in the downtown area as well; try The Blue Iguana for tasty and unusual Mexican fare, Le Parisien for casual and elegant French dining, or visit P. F. Changs, Salt Lakes newest and best Chinese restaurant.

Murray/Holladay Area

A little further south in the valley are some of Salt Lakes oldest and most established residential neighborhoods. This area also features great shopping at the Cottonwood Mall and a variety of tourist attractions including Wheeler Historic Farm. You'll find terrific family dining in this area, including great deli choices like Caputos and Granatos. There are also a number of fine Mexican restaurants, such as El Chihuahua, Toucan Cantina and Los Hermanos, and Sakura Sushi is one of the valleys best for Japanese fare. Family-friendly Italian restaurants include Tuccis Cucina Italiana and Macaroni Grill. For an eclectic and upscale experience, try the Argentine Grill and the European Café, a lovely and little-known restaurant in one of the neighborhoods delightful old homes.


Just south of Holladay, The Cottonwood neighborhood is booming. Because this area spans the region between the mouths of Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons, skiers and tourists will want to check out the area. Convenient to both I-215 and I-80, some fabulous dining experiences await those willing to venture a bit south of the city center. Some of the loveliest formal dining experiences await you in this area; try the casual elegance of Rivers, the romantic ambiance at Tuscany, or the breathtaking setting and fine French cuisine at La Caille. Somewhat west of these favorites is Salt Lakes newest fine restaurant, Tiburon, recommended for both its upscale European bistro-style ambience and it unusual medley of French, Italian, and Asian cuisines. More casual options abound in this area as well; for a fast and fun meal try the delicious garlic burgers at Cotton Bottom or the fresh and affordable fish tacos at Baja Burrito Company.

The Canyons

Salt Lake is a valley, and all along the east side, canyons lead to ski resorts and breath-taking vistas. Each canyon has its own personality, and restaurants that seem to reflect it perfectly. Closest to town, Emigration Canyon is the trail the Mormon Pioneers took to enter the Salt Lake Valley on their trek west. The base of the canyon offers tourist attractions like The Hogel Zoo and This is the Place State Park. The pioneer spirit is alive and well up the canyon, where beautiful mountain homes perch on the side of the mountain. Ruths Diner and Santa Fe and are casual and delicious eateries in this rugged and beautiful setting.

Further south in Holladay, Millcreek Canyon leads to some lovely state parks and camping areas, the ideal place to take a picnic lunch from Caputos or Granatos. Millcreek Canyon is also home to two very fine continental restaurants, Millcreek Inn and Log Haven. The lovely woods, spectacular views, and the creek for which the canyon is named all combine to make dinner at either of these restaurants a very special and romantic occasion.

Big Cottonwood Canyon leads out of the valley and to two of the local ski resorts, Solitude and Brighton. A number of restaurants have sprung up in and around these resorts, including The Last Outpost, Silver Fork, and Alpine Rose. (This last, although cafeteria-style during ski season, transforms itself into a gourmet experience during the summer months!)

Little Cottonwood Canyon, further south in the Salt Lake Valley, leads to two more popular ski resorts, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and Alta Ski Area. These larger resorts have more off-season trade, including conventions and day-spas; the restaurant choices are also more numerous and varied. At Snowbird, try The Aerie, Keyhole Junction, or the Steak Pit; Alta offers The Shallow Shaft for a casual but hearty meal and Alta Lodge for formal dining with fantastic views.

"The World is Welcome Here"

As Salt Lake City gears up for the 2002 Olympics, international influences become more noticeable and a variety of ethnic eateries have sprung up in the last several years. In addition to those already mentioned here, try the Thai cuisine at Bankok Thai, Sushi and other Japanese delicacies at Tokyo Boys, Bombay House for curry and other Indian fare, L?Hermitage for traditional country French, and even Kabul West for Afghan cuisine.

Drinking in Utah: Its Not an Oxymoron!

If conventional wisdom sent patrons to Park City for dinner, it used to be said that you had to venture to Evanston, Wyoming to get a drink. Well, no more! Utahs liquor laws have become more liberal each year, again reflecting preparations for the Olympics, the influx of national and international business, and the valleys commitment to greet the new century with cosmopolitan flair.

But vestiges of blue laws remain in the valley, and its important for visitors to be savvy. Don't worry, restaurateurs and servers will be happy to acquaint you with some of the quirkier rules. You'll find, for example, that drinks are one to a customer; since it is not permissible to have more than one glass in front of you, its not unusual for a server to stand next to your table, refill in hand, waiting for you to finish your first beer or cocktail.

Dining and drinking establishments in Utah have a strange hierarchy of liquor licenses and are governed by a system of laws that differentiate between restaurants and private clubs. The major distinction is that private clubs seem to all allow smoking, and they are the only establishments that can serve mixed drinks without a meal. But some of the finest eateries in the valley (for example The New Yorker, The Oyster Bar, and Club Baci) are private clubs for members. Don't despair! Day or weeklong memberships are available for purchase at a modest price (usually around $5), to allow patrons admission and club privileges.

Most restaurants in the valley have beer and wine available; indeed, many have home-brewed beer and/or truly excellent wine lists. "Brew pubs" and microbreweries are springing up around the valley; some of the top choices for locally brewed beer and delicious café fare include Squatters, Hoppers Brew Pub, Red Rock Brewing Company, and Desert Edge Brewery.

More and more Salt Lake restaurants are obtaining complete liquor licenses, but some eateries are still "dry." Its probably worth inquiring about the availability of beer, wine, or other alcohol when you call to make reservations at whatever restaurant you select.

As Salt Lake continues to grow, so does the selection of restaurants. Exploring your dining options in the valley will delight you with an exciting array of possibilities. You're certain to find a number of favorites in every cuisine and price range. Salt Lake has developed into a cosmopolitan city rich with culinary delights; for fine dining or casual fare, "This is the Place!"

Mary Powers