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My favorite bars in Salt Lake City – a local’s guide

Don’t believe the hype about Utah’s strict liquor laws and teetotaling population. Sure it’s not NOLA or Vegas down here in the Beehive, but we do boast a thriving array of watering holes that cater to a wide range of tastes. Upscale cocktail joints to cozy dive bars, it’s all here. I’ll start with my own personal favorite drinking spots around Salt Lake City.

Copper Common - bar setup
Copper Common – bar setup

Best downtown hang out

Copper Common

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
11 E Broadway Suite 190, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

The cozy Copper Common offers a big city feel in a snug spot, just next door to sister restaurant Copper Onion. Some of the best mixologists in town work here, meaning your visit should definitely start with a look over their current cocktail menu. If the weather is amenable, absolutely get a seat on the covered patio along Broadway. Copper Common is the antithesis of that loud, obnoxious barn of a bar that you’re looking to avoid. This is my number one downtown spot for drinks and small bites in the city, here’s a writeup with some more detail.

Bongo Lounge in Millcreek
Bongo Lounge in Millcreek

Best dive bar

Bongo Lounge

Neighborhood: Millcreek
2965 S Highland Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84106

In my humble opinion, SLC’s best dive bar is The Bongo Lounge – a kinda blink and you’ll miss it spot on Highland Drive. Indeed nestled between the two ritzy Forsey’s furniture locations, and with no windows of its own, most people don’t even know this gem is here. And what a gem it is. In operation continually since opening in 1952, and showing no signs of slowing down, this a diamond in the rough. Inside, you’ll find a familiar and friendly crowd always eager to strike up a conversation about anything and nothing – or maybe just catch the game on one of the screens. There’s pool, darts and a pinball machine too.

You can grab an ice cold stein from as little as $2.75 if that’s your poison, but there’s also a decent selection of local craft brews for $4 a stein too. There’s plenty of liquor if that’s your thing, just don’t be the chump that asks about the cocktail list. Know what you want before you order. Extra bonus points: the Bongo is cash only, yep you read that right. In my experience, this is a good thing, one drink at the Bongo can turn into five, real easy…

Flanker - The Big Tacowski
Flanker – The Big Tacowski

Best bar to watch the game

Flanker Kitchen + Sporting Club

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC / The Gateway
6 N Rio Grande St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Located on the North side of The Gateway, Flanker Kitchen is a mix of food, fun and great drinks. This 21+ only spot covers some 17,500 square feet and boasts a kitchen of upscale bar classics, supported by a range of local beers, wine and cocktails by master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi. Flanker also offers hands on entertainment too – everything from karaoke through to sports simulators and classic pub games too. The bar is littered with TV’s and a huge big screen, and always has the big game or fight to watch. Weekends also see club nights attract lines out of the door.

Scion Cider Bar - interior
Scion Cider Bar – interior

Most unique bar in Salt Lake City

Scion Cider

Neighborhood: Central 9th
916 Jefferson St W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

This innovative spot is located in the trendy Central 9th neighborhood. The neighborhood bar has the largest collection of hard cider in Utah. In fact, it’s probably one of the largest in the entire country. In 2023 the lineup comprised more than 200 options which the business reckons is the second largest on site selection of hard cider in America. If you love cider, this should be your first and last stop for hundreds of miles.

The modern space at Scion Cider affords a tap list featuring a rotating selection of ciders, some made in Utah and other parts of the Mountain West region and beyond. The bar also offers cider flights, which allow customers to sample several different ciders at once.

In addition to its focus on ciders, Scion Cider also offers a food menu designed to pair well with ciders, and includes options like charcuterie boards, conserves, and sometimes daily specials from other local makers. Scion Cider is a popular destination for cider enthusiasts and those looking for a unique drinking and dining experience in the Salt Lake City area.

Whiskey Street interior

Best selection of whiskey in Utah

Whiskey Street

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
323 Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

With a name like Whiskey Street, you better believe they have an inventory to back it up. If this isn’t the largest selection of whiskies in the state of Utah – I dont know where is. The long bar that unfurls as you walk in, features row upon row of library style whisky storage. Bonus points: the food here ain’t half bad too.

BTG Wine Bar - bar counter
BTG Wine Bar – bar counter

The best wine bar in Salt Lake City

BTG Wine Bar

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
63 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

This one goes to BTG Wine Bar easily. With more than 50 different wines By The Glass (get it?) this is the spot for wine lovers of all types. The bar offers wines by the glass in two different pour sizes, full bottles and also wine flights. The flights and larger wine list are always in flux and flow – ably maintained by sommelier Louis Koppel – who you might remember as the talented chap that helped build up the extensive wine cellar at Spencer’s steakhouse (still a great wine spot too!).

Koppel is always plotting something new on the list, so stop back often and you’ll always be sure to find something new to explore; if in doubt just ask, he keeps the whole team well drilled and educated too. Also notable are the wine dinners and tastings held often at this wine bar. Paired with food from sister restaurant Cafe Molise, wine dinners are held regularly showcasing a specific winery or varietal. Always a great time and value.

Acme Bar Co - Mike Edwards, Festivus Swizzle
Acme Bar Co – Mike Edwards, Festivus Swizzle

Best show-stopping spectacle in SLC


Neighborhood: Sugar House
837 E 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84106

The second outing from the Water Witch team sees them tap local tiki experts Sam Miller and Mikey Edwards. The duo have made the former Campfire Lounge spot in Sugar House their permanent base of operations for their roaming ‘Island Time’ tiki concept. The menu changes seasonally but is always centered around fire and flare. Here’s a full writeup on the business I wrote in 2022.

Water Witch - craft cocktail hotspot in Central 9th
Water Witch – craft cocktail hotspot in Central 9th

Salt Lake City’s best cocktail bar

Water Witch

Neighborhood: Central 9th
163 W 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

You might not immediately think impeccable craft cocktails when you think of Utah, but the city is home to some of the best mixology talent in the country. The team at Water witch often popup at some of the most respected bars across the United States, as part of various collabs, and are also one of a select few bars in Utah to receive a James Beard nomination nod for outstanding bar program. The ‘Witch is a snug and casual hangout that gets busy fast once the evening rolls in; get there earlier in the day to secure your seat and one of their menu creative drinks.

Franklin Ave Cocktails & Kitchen - upstairs
Franklin Ave Cocktails & Kitchen – upstairs

Best all purpose downtown bar

Franklin Avenue

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
231 S Edison St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

They’re open seven days a week. They serve lunch, dinner and late night eats – brunch too at the weekends. Licensed as a bar you’re equally welcome to stop by and enjoy craft cocktails at the bar, as you are to pop in for a date night Friday evening over food. Franklin Avenue is the latest outing from Bourbon Group (White House, Whiskey Street) and continues to showcase chef Matt Crandall’s creative cooking. The crowds are calmer than other locations in the group, slightly hidden as it is on Edison.

Best new bar in Utah

The Pearl

Neighborhood: Central 9th
917 200 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

The Vietnamese street food of chef Tommy Nguyen takes center stage at The Pearl. The Central 9th spot features a rotating menu of small bites as well as a craft cocktail menu that competes with the best in town; as you would hope it does, coming from some of the same team as downtown SLC’s Alibi You can read my full first look at The Pearl here.

Salt Lake Brewing Company - Jason Stock pouring Dog Lake Pale Ale
Salt Lake Brewing Company – Jason Stock pouring Dog Lake Pale Ale

Best brew pub in Utah

Salt Lake Brewing Co

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
147 W Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

SLC’s original brew pub in the contemporary sense, kicked off a local renaissance of sorts in the late 1980s. Before that, Salt Lake’s last brewery shuttered in the 60s. Yeah, we’re glad we weren’t around in that barren twenty years either. We’re fans of the downtown original, it offers a wide variety of food and beer in a cool historic building. The central downtown location means it also makes a great base to explore the rest of the city from.

Squatters long lived popularity meant it was acquired by Fireman Capital becoming part of the larger CANarchy group in 2012. That in turn was purchased by Monster Drinks in early 2022. The local brewpub part of the company returned to local ownership at that time – under the name of Salt Lake Brewing Co. Here’s the full story

Extra bonus points: head brewer Jason Stock crafted a beer named after yours truly. The absolutely amazing Mr Mellings Cream Ale, is a seasonal special you might catch time to time. Read about it here.

Van Ryder - view from rooftop bar
Van Ryder – view from rooftop bar

Best rooftop bar views in town

Van Ryder

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
131 S 300 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Found atop the Le Meridien and Element hotels in downtown SLC – this bar affords stunning Westerly views of the Salt Lake valley and Oquirrh mountains. The outside patio area is expansive and also includes all weather covered and heated seating – not least cosy firepits. On the menu, craft cocktails, beer and wine, as well as a light snacks menu.

131 S 300 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 658-4400

Bar Nohm interior
Bar Nohm interior

Best izakaya style bar in Salt Lake City

Bar Nohm

Neighborhood: Central 9th
165 W 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

This fusion of former Nohm and neighboring Water Witch was one of the most exciting openings in 2023. Top talent mixology and cuisine all brought together under one roof. The crowds immediately came. You can read my full first story on the bar here. The TL;DR is that Bar Nohm is made in the image of a modern izakaya, a place to come to share a few drinks, a few plates, and a few stories.

165 W 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(385) 465-4488

Utah’s best beer selection

Beer Bar

Neighborhood: Downtown SLC
161 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Stop your searching now and just head on down to the The Beer Bar in downtown Salt Lake City right away; sister bar to the adjoining Bar-X, Beer Bar is all about, well, the beer. The Beer Bar menu has enough selections to keep you going for weeks and weeks. Everything’s served not only at the right temperature abut in the correct glassware too. These guys take their beer as seriously as you do.

Due to the selection, care and quality this place can get exceptionally busy in the evening. If you want to take some time to mull that IPA or gose in peace and quiet definitely come here on off hours. Also available at the Beer Bar are a range of gourmet brats – that match the German beer hall vibe inside – made by local butcher Frody Volgger of Salt And Smoke meats.

161 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
(385) 259-0905

Cocktail bars in Salt Lake City

The following bars all have serious cocktail programs. Several have been nominated for prestigious James Beard awards and all take their craft very seriously. If you’re looking for the very best mixology in the city – these are the spots you need to lookup.

  • ACME Bar Co
  • Bar Nohm
  • Copper Common
  • Post Office Place
  • The Pearl
  • Under Current
  • Water Witch

Salt Lake City bar FAQ

Quick cheat sheet to drinking in Salt Lake City bars

The full rules for drinking in Utah can be found here, but as a quick overview you can order drinks as follows:

  • One cocktail and a single 5% ABV beer
  • Two 5% ABV beers, or a “flight” of beers in separate glasses, but totaling 16 ounces or less
  • A single 5% ABV beer and a 5 ounce glass of wine
  • One five-ounce glass of wine, or a wine flight in multiple glasses that doesn’t exceed 5 ounces, total
  • A five ounce glass of wine and a cocktail
  • A bottle of wine, which you pour into your own glass yourself after the initial five-ounce pour from your server
  • If you have at least four people at your table, you can order a jeroboam, which is 1.5 liters

What you can’t have, is two separate cocktails at the same time.

When do bars close in Salt Lake City?

Last order in Salt Lake City is 1 a.m. Some bars may close earlier, but most of the big names stay open until the legal maximum. The law says that a bar must give patrons one hour to finish their served drinks. That means that bars who serve until 1 a.m. must legally allow patrons until 2 a.m.

What about opening?

Bars can legally serve from 10.00 a.m.

Are bars open on Sundays in Utah?

Yes they are. Bars are legally allowed to open seven days a week in Utah.

Notable bars outside of Salt Lake City

You’ll find the most bars and clubs within Salt Lake County, but there are several notable and worthwhile destinations once you leave the county. Despite what you might read Utah isn’t a dry state. Here are some interesting bars outside of SLC.

Shooting Star Saloon - bar
Shooting Star Saloon – bar

Utah’s oldest bar

Shooting Star Saloon

Neighborhood: Huntsville
7350 E 200 S, Huntsville, UT 84317

O.k. so what has the Bongo’s 1952 beat? Only a select few, but Huntsville’s Shooting Star Saloon has the honor of the longest running bar in all of Utah. In operation since 1892, some say the bar is oldest West of the Mississippi, a hard fact to disprove and then some.

The modest bar is definitely worth a trip if you’re within an hour to two’s drive. It’s beer only but don’t let that put you off. While you stop in to sink a few cold ones in the amazingly unique space (rumor has it thats $15K of dollar bills on the roof) order up one of their famous burgers too. No kale, no artisan buns, just simple, honest burgers cooked fresh on the grill.

Other handy links

Late night eats in SLC – headed out for a night on the tiles? Bookmark this list of late night spots, and thank us later.

Utah County bars – for those looking for a spot to drink a little farther South in the valley.

Utah liquor laws – our continually updated guide to liquor laws in Utah; they’re not half as bad as you imagine, find the full details here.

Utah brewers and breweries – Utah’s craft brew scene is stronger than you think, here’s the current list of all our craft brewers

Utah’s distilleries – or maybe the strong stuff is more your speed, check out our guide to all of Utah’s top distilleries.

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