The Best Restaurants In Salt Lake City

Biscuits in a renovated trolley car, hot pot when you need to warm up, and more great things to eat in Utah’s capital.
The Best Restaurants In Salt Lake City image

photo credit: Blake Bellet

Salt Lake City may be best known for the Olympics, skiing, and bizarre alcohol laws, but in recent years, it’s become something of a true food destination. That’s thanks to a sudden Utah-is-cool attitude, which we can attribute to the state’s booming ski scene and all the out-of-staters (we see you, California) moving in. Now, there’s much more to enjoy beyond classics like cheesy funeral potatoes.

The whole city operates on a grid, with the Salt Lake Temple as its epicenter and lots of great dining options nearby. In the newly-developed West Quarter, you’ll find a pastel-clad New Orleans-style bistro just down the street from the Delta Center. Further out in neighborhoods like Millcreek and Emigration Canyon, there's spaghetti carbonara, legendary biscuits, and banana walnut french toast. And while Happy Hour is still outlawed, you can get fantastic cocktails with booze from Utah distilleries—along with zero-proof, dressed-up Shirley Temples—throughout town. And if you’re open to a 40ish-minute drive through snow-capped mountains, we have a guide to eating in Park City, too.


photo credit: Oquirrh



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There are plenty of parallels between Oquirrh, the restaurant, and the mountains of the same name. The west side Oquirrh range often gets overlooked for the bigger, snowier Wasatch range in the east, and similarly, this small restaurant in a former diner space isn’t as flashy as other spots in town. But we’re here to say that the food at Oquirrh can measure up to any dinner in Salt Lake City. While much of the menu is seasonal, the milk-braised potatoes cooked until the milk turns into creamy curds are always available and always good.

Whether you’re coming for a drink, a bite, or both, Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen is one of the hottest spots in town. Built inside the revamped Franklin Avenue Variety Theatre building, the basement has art on every surface, exposed historic brickwork, and leather-trimmed bar seats—all giving the finger to the minimalist aesthetic trend. Every entree is a banger, like the hearty wagyu burger and pappardelle bolognese. But save room for dessert and get their take on a raspado, which has maple bacon-pecan ice cream, bourbon-honey syrup, and honey.

Handle in Park City expanded a few years back and opened a sibling in the city: Handle Salt Lake, or HSL for short. This east side spot is located within walking distance of downtown proper and has an ever-evolving menu that’s always on point. You won’t even need a knife to take down the pork shank with a Frank’s Red Hot glaze and whipped ranch because the meat falls off the bone. Most Salt Lake restaurants lean casual, and while HSL won’t turn you away for yoga pants or band T-shirts, its big velvet chairs and moody design make it a place worth putting something on that at least has buttons.

Takashi makes the best Japanese food in SLC. They do creative sushi rolls, with multiple Beatles-themed options like the escolar and chili pepper-filled Strawberry Fields or the yellowtail and yuzu-flavored tobiko Yellow Submarine. There are no reservations for small groups, and you’ll rarely (read: never) find a night where a crowd isn’t waiting when the doors open at 5:30pm. Enjoy your first round of Japanese whiskey cocktails or sake at the restaurant’s Post Office Place bar while you wait for a table.

Before catching an indie film at Broadway Centre Cinemas, head to The Copper Onion for dinner. They first opened in 2010, and this brasserie-style restaurant that’s often loud and lively is still going strong. The menu changes occasionally, but the ricotta dumplings topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano have been around since day one—just like that childhood friend who remembers your first AIM screen name. Always start with the dumplings, then move on to the pastas like the bucatini marinara or the wagyu beef stroganoff. The classic cocktails are great, but their La Rosa negroni with tequila and campari is worth breaking your martini streak.

Valter’s Osteria is one of Salt Lake City’s best upscale restaurants. Pasta is the star of the Italian menu, and the best way to try it all is the sampler. It includes taster portions of the ravioli in a four-cheese cream sauce and their pillowy mushroom gnocchi. But don’t miss whatever they’re whipping up tableside: a two-person caesar salad or maybe lemon gelato bathed in honey and sea salt. Every meal ends with complimentary hot chocolate and biscotti, which will give you some non-alcoholic liquid courage before trudging through the snow to your car.

Red Iguana has been serving some of the best Mexican food in town since opening in 1985. It’s right by the airport, so it makes for a great stop if you just touched down and sipping a margarita is more important than unpacking. They have six signature mole sauces—spice lovers will enjoy the habanero-spiked mole amarillo, while the mole negro and mole poblano lean sweeter. And if you’re actually headed to the airport, take one of the mole sauces to go, if you can be trusted to properly wrap a pint in your suitcase. Just know the restaurant doesn't take reservations, and you might have to wait an hour for a table.

Urban Hill was opened by the owners of Park City’s Hearth & Hill, and was the first big restaurant in SLC’s Post District. From the transparent wine room to magic bathroom doors that open with the wave of a hand, Urban Hill obviously spent a ridiculous amount of money to build this 192-seat restaurant, and all the effort paid off. Start with the grilled oysters, then share a round of the coal-roasted beets or some skillet rolls served with churned butter and sea salt. Order one of the mocktails like the Salt Lake Shirley, or sip the Way of the Rose with blackberry chamomile shrub, soda water, and grapefruit.

Located on the first floor of Le Meridien hotel in Salt Lake’s West Quarter, Adelaide turns up the swanky energy with velvet banquettes and a stylish oyster bar. There’s some French and New Orleans influence on the menu, like andouille sausage and Cajun rice, along with standouts such as the branzino with chimichurri sauce and the seafood platter of shellfish and sauces. The dessert makes this a top-pick to celebrate a birthday, specifically if you’re eating the brown butter praline bar with bananas foster caramel. After dinner, head to the rooftop Van Ryder bar for fire pits, city views, and an Old Fashioned with black walnut bitters.

Laurel Brasserie & Bar took over the space that used to be The Grand America Hotel’s Garden Cafe, changing up the dated interior with flower-shaped lights, wicker cane chairs, and black-and-white sketches. Dinner starts with complimentary housemade rolls and a creamy goat cheese butter, but save some of that bread for the french onion soup that’s simmered for over 24 hours and topped with toasted gruyere. The double-sided bar is great for drinking some cocktails featuring Utah-made spirits, like the Laurel Leaf Old Fashioned mixed with Beehive barrel-aged gin. Thanks to state law, Happy Hour deals are only for smaller bites—which is fine, because you’ll want to take shots of the french onion soup anyway.

Antica Sicilia, which is about 15 minutes from downtown in mountainside Millcreek, cooks up classic Sicilian food in a cabin-esque space. Expect couples cheersing $149-a-bottle amarone and families celebrating birthdays over plates of pasta on white tablecloths. You won’t even have to bother ordering any of the antipasti, because the free bread that comes with sundried tomato dip, pesto ricotta, and anchovies is the best way to start the meal. Their must-get main is the spaghetti carbonara, which is perfectly creamy, savory, and dramatically finished tableside in a flaming wheel of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

We like to think of Eva as our sweet ex we actually like running into, because everybody (including our mom) loves this spot. Eva has been a downtown Salt Lake City classic for over 15 years, and the menu is full of consistent and creative Mediterranean small plates. You can’t go wrong with the harissa carrots or vinegar-laced brussels sprouts, but you should also save room for heartier options like the truffled wild mushroom pizza. Regardless of the season, try and get a seat on the heated outdoor patio behind the restaurant to cozy up with a new, also mom-approved, crush.

A great cocktail bar with food that can go toe-to-toe with their drinks isn’t all that surprising these days, but how many times will you find one serving a sweet potato soup you can’t stop thinking about? That—and other dishes like Thai mussels and a delicious cashew-kimchi bowl—make Varley stand out. Sip on the Tombstone with bourbon, campari, and grapefruit, or the vermouth-and-cherry Martinez, while you wait for your snacks to arrive. Located near the Salt Palace Convention Center, this is the place to unwind after a boring conference on accounting software. If you value your hearing, snag an early reservation before the DJ starts playing at 8:30pm on weekends.

The Rose Establishment has always been a small, casual breakfast joint where you would find skiers wearing beanies and people who stalk the farmers market for stew fixings. Then in 2021, The Rose expanded into its previous neighbor’s space, adding a full-service brunch option that’s a total crowdpleaser. If you’re still riding the avocado toast train, you’ll find one of the city’s best here—it has roasted mushroom “cream cheese,” zaatar, and a smoked jalapeño vinaigrette. Make sure you grab some of the sea salt chocolate chip cookies to go before heading home to fire up the Crockpot.

Tradition, a cozy neighborhood restaurant and bar near Liberty Park, is maybe the best example of the weird remnants of Utah liquor laws. They have a bar tucked behind swinging saloon doors, where cocktail ingredients remain hidden from the eyes of all the curious and impressionable minors (who apparently have never seen gin before). Their dishes lean southern and layer in Utah cuisine with comfort classics, like fried green tomatoes, meatloaf, and a hot dish casserole called funeral potatoes. The bar churns out cocktails like the Fire & Ice, a fusion of gin, blackberry sage shrub, and spiced serrano honey, that’s great for when it’s so cold outside, your nose hairs start to freeze.

Come to Nomad East when the friend group wants a casual dinner where everyone can share pizzas and sides. Go for the pickled vegetable and lemon vinaigrette-dressed salad, then swap slices of the margherita and Basque ’n Glory with chorizo and chermoula. This spot also whips up some inventive specials that border nuclear science, like the Leftover Thanksgiving pizza with garlic cream, mashed potatoes, and turkey. Whatever topping journey you go on, wash the meal down with the double IPA from Templin Family Brewing. The interior is fairly simple, decorated with some hanging plants and framed photos of dough, but the patio is perfect for groups when the weather warms up.

Ruth’s Diner is not your grandma’s breakfast spot. OK, maybe it actually is, since it’s been open since 1930, but the vibe is decidedly non-octogenarian. Built inside a renovated trolley car and located 20 minutes outside the city, the small indoor space means long waits, but they also have some of the best views of Emigration Canyon. Every meal starts just how Ruth (the original owner who has since passed away) used to make it: with a biscuit served with housemade fruit preserves. Pair the biscuits with pulled pork benedicts or chicken fried steak, three-egg omelets, or banana walnut french toast.

Salt Lake City may not come to mind as a Nashville-style hot chicken destination, but Pretty Bird has built a legit empire around town. Ordering here is simple, as they only really do one thing: fried chicken sandwiches. Each boneless thigh comes double battered, buttermilk brushed, and coated in flour before being fried to create a crackly crunch. It’s held together on a buttered bun and topped with coleslaw, pickles, and Pretty Bird sauce, making for a great casual meal. You might have to wait in line, but it moves quickly.

When you need a quick bite before heading to the Eccles Theater, stop by Finca Pintxos for rounds of tapas and Spanish wine. They have the usual suspects like pan con tomate and patatas bravas, but you’ll want to kick things off with the wood-roasted mushrooms or cauliflower. The best small plate is the shrimp swimming in a broth made of brandy and garlic, which is so good you’d happily jump into an actual ocean of it. You can come here and leave satisfied without being stuffed, which means you (probably) won’t fall asleep during whatever production your musical theater-obsessed friend is dragging you to. 

This Japanese hot pot spot is great for chilly nights before catching a Jazz game or after an art stroll at the nearby Gateway shopping center. Start with a couple of appetizers like the cream cheese wontons and Korean fried chicken, then dive into choosing which broth you want for your personalized table boiler. Servers will bring you meats like rib eye, boneless short rib, and lamb shoulder, but you can help yourself to vegetables like bok choy and glass noodles at the salad bar. There’s a seemingly endless number of sauces, so attempting to try each one will probably make you late for evening plans.

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