It’s that time of year folks, love it or loathe it – awards time is upon us again. Not just in Hollywood either. Closer to home, both the City Weekly and Salt Lake Magazine celebrate the great and good of the SLC dining world at this time of year.
I thought I’d also join in on the act, albeit in a less than scientific manner. Through 2012 I’ve had the good fortune to sample a bewildering array of dishes across the length and breadth of the valley. New restaurants continue to open and our dining scene grows more diverse, bold and exciting.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are those restaurants, dishes and people that stuck most in my consciousness this past year:
Avenues Bistro on Third (my review)
Every neighborhood needs an Avenues Bistro. I’m more than a little sad that my own ‘hood doesn’t have one, if it did, I’d be there every week. Avenues Bistro has bags of flavor, verve and creativity all wrapped up with enough charm to shake a stick at.
Curry Fried Chicken (my review)
While a certain Salt Lake City original might have globalized fried chicken, State Street’s independent Curry Fried Chicken perfected it. At least perfect for my tastebuds – which can’t get enough of this amazingly crunchy treat with a spice mix that leaves the senses tingling (CFC pictured right).
Plum Alley (my review)
If I could marry Plum Alley’s steamed pork belly buns, I’d have to give the proposal serious consideration. I’m sure my wife could get on board, given the downright deliciousness of these cincalok glazed porcine delights. Ooer, that came awfully close to an episode of sister wives, better move on, what’s next…
A golden oldie, but still churning out the ever waistline unfriendly Crown Burger. Waistline be damned. When the calling comes for piles of pastrami on a smoky burger, nothing gets in my way. And the calling comes pretty routinely (infamous crown burger pictured left).
El Rocoto Peruvian Cuisine (my review)
I’ve poked and prodded my way around Peruvian food a few times, but 2012 was the first year I truly got to grips with the many nuances of a cuisine shaped by its varied immigration. Perfect roast chicken. Piquant Ceviche. Surprising Italian and Chinese inspired dishes, it’s all good at El Rocoto. Mind-bogglingly affordable too.
Kathmandu (my review)
One of my personal favorite Indian/Nepalese restaurant’s around Salt Lake City. I’m as much a fan today as I was when these chaps first split away from Himalayan Kitchen to do their own thing. Heck, I know so many of the staff on a first name basis now, its almost a home from home. Truly genuine folks serving up great food and not afraid to bring the heat too – if you’re up to it. Note: featured top picture, Samosa Chaat.
Still my favorite restaurant in town and still where I take out of towners when I want to show them SLC isn’t in the slightest what they thought it was. Copper Onion enters its fourth year of business in 2013 and is really finding its stride now. From the menus typeface through an ever changing array of dishes down to a certain manager’s mustache – there’s a charm, vibe and swagger I find endlessly enjoyable. Stay tuned for a followup review on the Copper Onion shortly (unctuous Copper Onion bone marrow pictured opposite).
Sushi Groove (my review)
Sushi Groove isn’t the chic’est sushi spot in town. It’s not the most authentic. It’s a small joint that’s often pretty noisy to boot. So why do I like it so much, and why is it packed out on virtually every night? Great sushi prepared by equally top chaps – trumps most other restaurants in town for me. Wonderfully fresh nigiri ($2.50 a serving on Tuesday’s), creative maki rolls and always something fun on their specials board make for a vibrant and delicious dining experience time after time.
Finca is a veritable oasis of local farm-driven tapas in an otherwise Utah desert of Spanish cuisine. Owner Scott Evans and chef Phelix Gardener are really on to something here. I don’t think they’ve even realized half of their potential yet either. I’m expecting plenty of cool stuff from these guys as they experiment with what Finca can offer. Wonderful food, fair prices and something really unique (pork belly pictured below).
Penny Ann’s Cafe (my review)
I love these guys. Most of my favorite restaurants like Penny Ann’s Cafe draw me back, time and again with their infectiously personable service. Of course, the food can’t be any slouch, and Penny Ann’s delivers up wondrous plates of Americana – burgers, onion rings, reubens, cheesesteaks, the list is endless and outrageously low priced.
Red Maple (dim sum review and take out review)
My love affair with their Lemongrass Chicken was cruelly cut short by a kitchen fire than abruptly closed the restaurant for much of the latter half of 2012. This year however, the restaurant is set to rise like the proverbial phoenix and fingers crossed I can get my hands on their delectable dishes again any day soon.
A few other random items
* I met Squatter’s brewer Jason Stock who introduced me to their Nitro Cream Ale, as good as any creamy English bitter right here in SLC – and a perfect excuse to hit up Squatters even more.
* SLC’s dining scene continues to evolve and improve. Chef’s like Viet Pham and Bowman Brown of Forage have even started to put SLC on the map regionally and nationally.
* I’m still obsessed with Gyros and still can’t decide which is the best in town, maybe this year!
* For the vast oceans of sushi swimming about our dusty state, there’s still a relative lack of restaurants that have menus loaded with the cooked variety.
Well, those are my highlights for 2012, what about you? Psst, don’t forget to vote for us in this years City Weekly awards, we will be eternally grateful!
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.