Food & Drink

The 12 Best Restaurants in Salt Lake City Right Now

Published On 06/16/2016 Published On 06/16/2016

Best Greek: Manoli’s

402 E 900 South
Greeks immigrated to Utah in the early 1900s with the development of the railroad and mining industries, and they brought their sun-kissed Mediterranean cuisine with them. Instead of basic gyros and souvlaki, you'll find fresh, modern interpretations of Greek cuisine in dishes like grilled lamb riblets with caper chimichurri; braised beets with horseradish skordalia; and loukoumathes: delectable Greek donuts with spiced honey syrup.

Best Japanese: Takashi

19 W. Market St
When Chef/Owner Takashi Gibo opened his namesake restaurant, he seriously raised the stakes for Japanese cuisine in Utah. A gentle and kind perfectionist, Gibo is known for serving up the freshest and most innovative sushi, sashimi, and nigiri around, but be on the lookout for his often-overlooked cooked dishes as well, like shiitake lamb shank and sensational Saikyo miso sablefish. For a special treat, try the ankimo (monkfish liver) hand roll; it tastes like foie gras, without the moral dilemma of actual foie gras.

From Scratch

Best pizza: From Scratch

62 E Gallivan Ave
The aptly named From Scratch takes its mission literally, making everything (from doughs and pizza cheese to ketchup and mustard) completely from scratch. The margherita pizza is a beautifully blistered, wood-fired wonder that begins with a base of flour (milled in-house), topped with Bianco diNapoli tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, and fresh basil. This is pizza, perfected.

Best burger: HSL

418 E 200 South
HSL executive chef/owner Briar Handly is one of Utah’s most talented and innovative cooks, as evidenced by creations such as his General Tso’s-style cauliflower with kohlrabi, or his breaded olives with smoked quail, pine nut vinaigrette, and Meyer lemon. That said, the real stunner here is HSL's bodacious burger: a 7oz patty made with beef cheeks, topped with house-made American cheese on a fresh brioche bun, with decadent duck-fat fried spuds served alongside.

Bambara

Best power lunch: Bambara

202 S Main St
The bustling Bambara restaurant in the Hotel Monaco is the place in Downtown SLC for a power lunch. Or, more specifically, a Powers Lunch -- as in the daily lunch menu created by executive chef Nathan Powers. Each prix-fixe option includes soup or green salad, as well as a delicious chocolate chip turtle cookie, while mains run the gamut from mussels & frites to a legit Cubano sandwich. The only losing move here is not to play/eat.

Best Ethiopian: Blue Nile

755 S State St
The best way to experience the wide range of Ethiopian flavors here is to order the Blue Nile Special: a table-sized (literally) serving of injera bread with an assortment of items such as doro wot, yesiga alicha, gomen, yemisir wot, tegabino shiro, and much more -- all eaten with fingers at an hourglass-shaped straw table called a messob. The ultra-friendly and helpful service doesn't hurt, either.

Log Haven

Best ambiance: Log Haven

6451 E Millcreek Canyon Rd
Situated in a historic log mansion in the Wasatch National Forest (just a seven mile drive from town), Log Haven is surrounded by waterfalls, wildflowers, and some of the most breathtaking natural views you'll find anywhere. Even so, it’s chef David Jones’ contemporary cooking that keeps people coming back to this award-winning restaurant for occasions both special and simple. Combining a world-class scenic setting with cuisine to match, it’s no surprise the Log Haven slogan is “Nature is delicious here.”

Best BBQ: R&R

307 W 600 South
If you think you have to travel to Texas, Memphis, or Kansas City for world-class barbecue, think again. Yes, R&R has won a pit-full of awards at state and national barbecue competitions, but prestige aside, it’s the flavor that matters. Dig into the tender texture of the slow-smoked brisket, or grab a helping of pulled pork and spare ribs with hushpuppies and fried okra poppers on the side.

Les Madeleines

Best cafe: Les Madeleines

216 E. 500 South
Starting out with an Easy Bake Oven before moving on to New York’s French Culinary Institute and gigs at the Big Apple’s Mesa Grill and Mandarin Oriental’s Azul in Miami, Les Madeleines chef/owner Romina Rasmussen was the first to bring exotic gourmet cupcakes and her famous butter Breton pastries -- kouign-amann -- to Salt Lake City. However, as glorious as the pastries are, don’t overlook the sensational sandwiches on offer as well: the gougère-Portobello, the Miami, and the Madrid (Serrano ham and manchego cheese) are all worthy of your affection.

Best pho: Pho Tay Ho

1766 S Main St
Situated in a small house on a quiet part of Main Street with plenty of parking, Pho Tay Ho offers 20 different pho options, ranging from basic tai (thin-cut beef steak) to an all-in version with steak, flank, meatballs, brisket, tendon, and tripe. There’s even a vegetarian pho with tofu and bok choy, if you're dining with someone meat-averse. The key is in owner Hoang Mai’s slow-cooked broth: beef bones simmered overnight with fragrant ginger, cinnamon, anise, onions, and other aromatics, served up in immense bowls with perfectly cooked rice noodles.

Flickr/auvet

Best Mexican: Red Iguana

736 W North Temple
Owned and operated by the Cardenas family for more than forty years, this beloved south-of-the-border-style eatery is as close to a culinary shrine as exists in this town. Don’t let the line for seating dissuade you: it’s well worth the wait to sink your teeth into Red Iguana’s signature mole dishes and classics like cochinita pibil, enchiladas, and a killer chile Colorado.

Best Chinese: Hot Dynasty

3390 S. State St
There's no shortage of excellent Asian restaurants in SLC, but Hot Dynasty's your go-to for budget-friendly Chinese cuisine with upscale ambiance. The gargantuan “chili sauce” bowls of beef, lamb, fish, or pork bung are large enough to feed the Osmond family (SLC reference!), and the dan dan noodles are some of the best you'll find anywhere. Plus, wine lovers will rejoice at the unexpectedly robust list, which includes bottles ranging from Provençal rosé to Dom Pérignon.

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1. Manoli's 402 E 900 S Unit 2, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Small plates and weekend brunch favorites are what's on order at this comfortable, yet upscale neighborhood spot. Offering up Greek and Mediterranean inspired tastes, including braised lamb belly sliders, grilled octopus, and a BEC with feta, roasted red peppers, and garlic aioli, Manoli's is a solid choice for diners looking for inventive twists on traditional plates.

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2. Takashi 18 W Market St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Chef and Owner Takashi Gibo's namesake sushi spot brings upscale omakase fare to downtown Salt Lake City (and arguably Utah at large). Gibo's super fresh sushi, sashimi, and nigiri employ unique ingredients (be sure to check out the delectable and Beatles inspired Strawberry Fields and Yellow Submarine rolls made with fresh fruit) for a tasty result. This spot is very popular with locals, so expect a large dinner rush or a line to dine in.

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3. From Scratch 62 E Gallivan Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

The aptly named From Scratch takes its mission literally-- locally sourced ingredients make up the bulk of these fresh and seasonal pizzas. Sample crowd favorites like the house Margherita pizza, topped with Bianco de Napoli tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, and fresh basil. The relaxed, casual vibe makes dining in a treat.

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4. HSL Restaurant 418 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84102

If you're looking for a truly outstanding burger in the SLC, then you've found the right place-- HSL. This upscale American craft bistro and serves up a totally bodacious burger-- a 7oz patty made with beef cheeks, topped with house-made American cheese on a fresh brioche bun, and with decadent duck-fat fried spuds served alongside. Eclectic small plates like grilled cauliflower and a "coddled duck egg" round out the rest of the menu.

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5. Bambara Restaurant 202 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Located in the slick Hotel Monaco downtown, Bambara is a prime locale for power-lunching when in SLC. Or, more specifically, a Powers Lunch -- Executive Chef Nathan Powers offers a rotating pre-fixe lunch option daily. Powers's a la carte menu of chic shareables and sides (ahi tuna tartare, duck liver crostini) pair perfectly with vino or your choice of speciality cocktail.

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6. Blue Nile 781 State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

If Ethiopian fare in Salt lake City sounds too good to be true, then you obviously haven't been to Blue Nile, the pint-sized restaurant in Central City serving up satisfying and savory eats. Be sure to go here with a group: you won't want to miss out on any shareable options. Menu items run the gamut from a table-sized (literally) serving of injera bread, to veggie combo plates, to spicy beef Sambusa.

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7. Log Haven 6451 E Millcreek Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84109

Situated in a historic log mansion on the edge of Salt Lake City, kissing the border of Wasatch National Forest, Log Haven lives up to its slogan: “Nature is delicious here.” Not only is the setting incredibly picturesque (waterfalls! wildflowers!), but the contemporary, regionally influenced American fare is worthy of repeat visits. Think elk carpaccio (trust us), beautifully grilled lamb, and a solid wine list, complete with suggested pairings.

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8. R&R BBQ 307 W 600 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Don't think Utah has great barbecue? Think again? R&R, a Southern-fried roadhouse style restaurant in the heart of Downtown, is doling out smoky and savory BBQ in their casual, counter service spot. Its smoked brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs will be giving you the meat sweats in the best possible way-- be sure to order hushpuppies and fried okra poppers on the side.

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9. Les Madeleines 216 E 500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Where can you get great French fare in the SLC? Les Madeleines, of course. This quaint bistro and cafe offers classic Francophile eats--like butter Breton pastries-- alongside other Euro-chic options including a menu of sandwiches named after European cities: the Madrid with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese; and the Paris with Gruyere, for example. Feel free to hang out with a laptop and savor your meal.

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10. Pho Tay Ho 1766 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84115

This cozy, counter service Vietnamese eatery in South Salt Lake City should be your go-to when craving pho. Offering over 20 different pho options, which run the gamut from basic broth option, to a pho filled to the brim with a variety of meats (take your pick from steak, flank, meat balls, brisket, tendon, and tripe), you'll definitely feel taken care of and well fed when dining in at this tiny, Mom and Pop resto run by owner Hoang Mai out of a tiny, unassuming residential storefront.

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11. Red Iguana 736 W North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84116

For over 40 years, local favorite Red Iguana has been doling out hearty Mexican fare. The restaurant is so popular, in fact, the Cardenas opened a second outpost, Red Iguana 2, right next door! Visit the diner-like digs and feast on crowd faves like Tacos Don Ramon with chorizo and Red Iguana's world famous molé enchiladas; soon, you'll definitely see what all the fuss is about.

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12. Hot Dynasty 3390 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84115

There's no shortage of excellent Asian restaurants in SLC, but Hot Dynasty's your go-to champagne worthy Chinese food on a basic beer budget; budget-friendly dishes in an upscale ambiance is what Hot Dynasty's all about. Portions and sizable and don't lack in flavor. Go for customer faves like the spicy seafood hot pot and fried green beans. Plus, they even really do serve Champagne!