Earlier this year, I went to Salt Lake City for a dear friend’s wedding over a quick weekend. Just like my Portland trip, I made a pre-travel list of restaurants that had good reviews and looked amazing. I have lived and traveled in various parts of Utah, so I kind of know the lay of the land. However, I haven’t been there as a single girl since the 90’s. I had my friend Enza with me – she’s Italian and a foodie, so I needed a few good suggestions in my back pocket for great restaurants and bars in the city. Also, she had never been to Utah, so I had to do some internet searching to figure out what the hot spots were of the 2000’s.
Finca, Because Sharing is Caring
First stop was someplace good for lunch. We gave Finca a try and it ended up being a romantic lunch for two. I would recommend brunch or early dinner if you don’t want to be the only people in the place. For brunch, consider delectable Magdelanas | Lemon Cake served warm with a citrus glaze and vanilla butter. The coffee and pastry counter looked amazing and the atmosphere definitely looked like it could house a nice cocktail hour, with lounge-y areas all around. Dang! Wish I could have checked out the crowd, but the food and atmosphere was amazing.
Spanish Tapas Perfect for Sampling
Finca specializes in Spanish tapas (small plates) which is perfect for sampling and sharing. Their menu is made entirely from scratch daily, using local and naturally-produced ingredients. Every bite was heaven – I was stoked to impress my foodie friend at this place. We shared the Datil (blue cheese stuffed date, wrapped in house smoked bacon) and the Albondigas (lamb & pork meatballs, with tomato sauce and manchego cheese). They also offer a Dine-o-Round menu, which allows you to choose 3 courses for only $35. Do it!
Warning: Homemade Churros
We checked out the dessert menu and were considering the Mel I Mato | Ricotta & Honey with toasted almonds and seasonal fruit. When the server pointed out they served homemade Churros, we knew we were in trouble! Served with a chocolate dipping sauce, it was definitely a high note to end on. Total success. This restaurant was now like a notch on my foodie-list belt.
Whiskey Street History
Later that evening, we foraged our way through gales of snow for dinner at Whiskey Street. Designed for downtown executives and “hip urban locals”, Whiskey Street takes its name from a piece of Salt Lake history. Main Street had first been designated “Whiskey Street”, until its name change in 1906. The establishment initially opened in 1915 as The Rotisserie Inn, which served French and Italian food. 40 years later, The Rotisserie Inn closed and was succeeded under the expertise of chef Matt Crandall.
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Whiskey Street for People-Watching
Whiskey Street has a very open atmosphere and looked like a great hangout. The place was packed, with lots of open seating – rustic high-top tables and horse-shoe booths along the wall. We were able to sit in our booth and watch everyone flow through like our own private movie, starring: the locals of Utah. We probably should have feasted on the Bourbon Bacon Popcorn but the Parmesan Truffle Fries did the trick for the show. Excellent!
Family-Style Dining and Brunch
Portions at Whiskey Street are hearty and they feature family-style dining. More than enough to share! Bring your taste buds to this place because they use only the freshest produce and finest cuts of meat. They provide a beverage pairing menu which is a great idea for recommendations at a glance. If you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, consider Whiskey Street also for brunch. I hear the Irish Car Bomb Pancakes are to die for!
Hearty Food and Large Portions
We grabbed a booth facing the bar and ordered food. The portions were hearty and the fresh produce was appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed the Braised Pork Belly Corn Dogs from the appetizer menu, and Enza enjoyed a big Spinach Salad with red onion, smoked bacon, and Portobello mushroom. I’ll have to bring more of an appetite when I go back since the New York Steak au Poivre was looking delicious at the table across from us.
Bar-X and Beer Bar for Night Life
After dinner, we headed over to Bar-X / Beer Bar for some live music. Opened the year Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Bar-X is a cozy, hipster-y joint that reminded me a little of San Diego. Funny how we enjoy the comforts of home away from home. They serve craft cocktails with names like Corpse Reviver, Blood and Sand, and Dark and Stormy. It’s quiet during the day, and loud and busy at night when you can enjoy a local band like we did.
Locally Made Provisions
If you get hungry from all that mixing and mingling, meander through the open doorway to Beer Bar. Beer Bar serves locally made provisions and the most intensely loaded Belgian fries I have ever seen. They’ve got sausages, strudels, and sauces to go along with the local brew of your choice. Viet Pham and Frody Volgger created the simple beer garden menu which features Salt & Smoke Meats, Eva’s Bakery, La Barbara Coffee, and Vosen’s Bakery.
What’s Your Poison?
Having both places next to each other makes it a something-for-everyone kind of deal, which I really liked. Nights are way more packed and you’ll find a pretty decent crowd. The best part of the place (aside from the food + drinks) is the free-flow of traffic, from one place to another, inside and out. I didn’t even mind the light snow falling outside. It added to the experience, although next winter trip I will pack an umbrella or a hood! I’m sure this is one of the best places to be on a summer night.
Are you the band-type? Or the sports-type?
Also, both places have very different atmospheres which makes the combo location one you could hang out at for hours. If you get bored of one, you can get a completely different experience in the other. Bar-X (sans local band) is more quiet and subdued, unlike Beer Bar, which has communal tables and sports on. I recommend stopping by any time of day – both would definitely be my go-to places if I lived nearby.
Pallet for Tasty and Inventive Food
Finally, if you’ve got one more day, PLEASE check out Pallet. It’s located near the ever-expansive City Creek Center (if you need a mall in your life). Pallet is a New American Bistro that rewards your good taste in both atmosphere and food. The building was originally the first creamery in Salt Lake City. As a result, they have done a fine job of preserving the historic quality of the place. I loved it the minute I walked inside, from the brick walls to the quaint bathroom.
Atmosphere for Days
In addition, the room is filled with 100-year-old reclaimed wood and artwork commissioned specifically to speak to the era. Behind the bar is the pièce de résistance – a gigantic wood-framed mirror with gorgeous patina. Also, I loved the people, the place, the food – they are doing a really nice job at Pallet for the Salt Lake City cuisine scene. Very courteous and friendly, with refined attention to detail. Their menu offers Charcuterie & Cheese pairings and craft cocktails as well. I was literally mesmerized by the crafting of a Mezcal cocktail that was served inside a huge Poblano chile. I have no idea who was drinking that, but it was a sight to behold.
My Favorite Restaurant in Salt Lake City
Like any great establishment, it fills up quick, so I highly recommend getting a reservation. I didn’t have my own advice to take, so I ended up sitting at the bar and was able to dine on their scrumptious Scallops. A mouth-watering concoction of tomato, lentils, shallots, bacon, and artichoke made the plate of scallops top of my list. Everything on the menu looked amazing. Pallet would be a great place for a business lunch or an early dinner with family or close friends. Try the Risotto with wild boar, oyster mushrooms, and parmesan if you dare. Or stick to a Farmer’s salad with local greens & vegetables, basil buttermilk dressing, bacon, and egg yolk if you want something lighter.
Add Your Suggestions!
In conclusion, my foodie friend was impressed and delighted and we had a great time checking out places and making new friends. Success! If you’ve never been to Salt Lake City, I highly recommend it any time of the year. I have a short trip planned to good ole’ SLC next week, so add any suggestions in the comments below! There are still a couple of other little places I want to explore when I go back. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.