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Twelve of the very best Utah restaurants named in this week’s dining awards

Copper Common - nduja and mussels

In case you didn’t notice the big foodie news this week – Salt Lake Magazine’s yearly dining awards celebration returned with a bang. Absent for a few years – thanks generational pandemic – the party would have made the previous show runner proud; the dearly loved and lost Mary Malouf would have no doubt been enamored with each of the recognized restaurants. Held at the he newly minted The Local (more on that here) the ceremony gave a nod to some of the very best on the Utah dining landscape.

I was humbled (yeah…we’ve met you Stuart) to be selected as part of the judging panel, so am naturally proud of the list we assembled. This arduous task took place late last year amidst multiple late evenings and many boxes of wine. Note: only amateurs bring bottles when there’s a cadre of food writers. Unslakable people. Yeah that’s a fancy way of putting it.

The resulting twelve names are the list of outstanding destinations for a meal in Utah:

  • Oquirrh
  • Rime Seafood + Steak
  • Log Haven
  • SLC Eatery
  • Central 9th Market
  • Post Office Place
  • Copper Common
  • The Pearl
  • Handle / HSL
  • Sauce Boss
  • Table X
  • Tona Sushi

These impeccable performers were joined on stage by a selection of Utah classics, new places and spaces to watch, as well as a couple of special from the heart awards. Please, grab a copy of the SL Mag, or head on over there directly to read the full details.

If you’re a restaurateur reading these lists and wondering, “hey, why wasn’t I on the list”, now’s the time to look at what you’re bringing to Utah’s collective table. The mix we selected are a disparate bunch, but linked together by a singular thread. The businesses represented all bring something interesting, unique and exemplary to the plate. Fancy pants joints rub shoulders with neighborhood hangouts alike. Unquestionably, they all move the needle forward for Utah’s dining scene. And that pace of growth and sophistication is only accelerating as far as I can tell.

If you’re a food l lover – watch out for the return of our very own reader’s choice awards in a few weeks time. I’m going to flip the whole process on its head this year. No best breakfast, burger or burrito. No neat collection of boxes for you to scribble in. Nope. This year I’m going to ask for your best meals of the last year. Be they a gyro that ruined your favorite shirt, or a fantastical fine dining splurge that is etched in your memory. Three names, three experiences, lets talk.

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7 thoughts on “Twelve of the very best Utah restaurants named in this week’s dining awards”

  1. Southern Utah has excellent restaurants. Balcony One is a good example. It is locted 12 miles from Zion National Park in the town of Virgin. The reviews are nearly 5 star across the social media platforms. Please come visit us.
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    1. Those listed for sure aren’t the most expensive (by a long stretch) and represent a fairly broad range of price points 🙂

    1. The choices were based on our collective experiences in Utah as a group. There are choices in Summit County and Weber County in the list but for sure it sees to SL County (it being Salt Lake Magazine’s awards).

  2. Copper onion – go for the Wagyu Beef Stroganoff. The place is chic, with that city like ambiance. The staff is great and the food was great but not excellent.

    Sauce Boss: has many great features! One of them is having the chef in the kitchen. The loaded fries are a meal unto itself. Great quality of ingredients for a nice casual atmosphere. Their cat fish, friend chicken, braise pork are, great food, but again not excellent.

    I have only been to a few on the list but I’m sure I can go down the list for each of these places and say the same thing. Utah and SLC have many wonderful businesses, chefs and restaurants, but there is a sense that many are holding back and not pushing things to the next level. Part of this I’m sure is chefs/ restauranteurs are pleasing the masses. Money still needs to be made. The other is that Utahns are not the most adventurous eaters. They are simple, straight to the point while wanting something good. They seem frugal but don’t really hold back when it comes to food. They will eat a steak all day, but will hold back from a beef tartare, Foie Gras or quail. They will have scallop potatoes but not actual scallops.

    But the question is whether this will change or not. Utah is growing. It’s getting more popular and populous bringing in a more diverse group of eaters. Myself included.

    The potential is there for us to have our version of a Per Se, a Momofuko, a Central or heck, a Noma. We have the ingredients, the land and the enough crowds and tourist to make that happen forma financial point. The one chef that could push the things to the next level and has even gotten a James Beard Nomination has decided to leave the fine dining scene and cook fried chicken. A pretty good fried chicken, but nothing else.

    Again, these restaurants are great. They are worth going to and spending your money in. But my hopes are that someone in Utah will step in and put Utah in the map besides triple D.

    1. Interesting and thoughtful points James! I agree we’ve got a long way to grow. I think the most interesting BIG new concept last year was Urban Hill. High quality ingredients, a great chef, millions spent on the interior, and they treat their staff excellent will real wages, 40ls, health care etc. The prices reflect all of this, and are certainly a level up again for what Utahns are more used to. So far it’s going well for them. I love them, they’d perform in any major city I think.

      Once we get to the Michelin level of things, I think that world is in flux right now. Noma is now closing, like El Bulli before it, these places never turn a profit, typically always loss makers for something else. I can’t quite predict what is next but we absolutely have the product and talent here. I see the success of the movie The Menu a kind of bookend to the molecular gastronomy era. If I did have to predict something it would be a more casual approach, even at the high end. When I ate at Alinea in Chicago a decade ago, the service team wore nicer suits than me.

      A good example, this Summer I enjoyed the Arthur pop up at Nohm. Chef Kevin Finch was chef de cuisine at San Fran’s two star Atelier Crenn, it was a fabulous meal and every night of the subsequent ops events sold out in a weekend. So there’s at least some level of demand, and diner sophistication.

      If you look around town there’s actually quite a few folks with James Beard and Michelin credits on their resumes, but to your overall point, will Utahns pay for an ultra high end concept every night?

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