The Best Restaurants In Salt Lake City
Where to find biscuits in a renovated trolley car, a surprisingly good lobster roll, and more great things to eat in Utah’s capitol.
Known best for the Olympics, skiing, and bizarre alcohol laws, Salt Lake City only became a true food destination in recent years. That’s thanks to a sudden Utah-is-cool attitude, which we can attribute to the state’s booming ski scene and all the out-of-staters moving in (we see you, California).
Dining in Salt Lake is quite spread out. The whole city operates on a numerical grid system, with the Salt Lake Temple as its epicenter. Use it to navigate, and you can get practically anywhere without the aid of Google Maps. In terms of location, the downtown vibe is busy and stretches over a dozen blocks, with new neighborhoods like the West Quarter and Post District forming all the time. But that doesn’t mean you should skip worthwhile spots further out—Liberty Park’s Central 9th neighborhood and Emigration Canyon are must-hit destinations. And even though Happy Hour is still outlawed, you can find fantastic cocktails and standout restaurants across the city.
Restaurants range from a local order-at-the-counter fried chicken chain to a white tablecloth Sicilian star. Below, you can find our favorite only-in-Salt Lake classics, plus newcomers bringing incredible dishes to Utah’s capital.
FANCIER SIT-DOWN SPOTS
photo credit: Blake Peterson
The Copper Onion
Before catching an independent film at the Broadway Theater or strolling through an art gallery, head to The Copper Onion for dinner. They first opened in 2010, and this brasserie-style restaurant is still going strong over a decade later. It’s loud, lively, and a bit cramped inside, but that all adds to its charm.
The menu does change occasionally, but the ricotta dumplings—just like our favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Raggles—have been around since day one. Each is made with housemade ricotta cheese and thyme, sauteed in butter, and then topped with a shower of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Always start with the dumplings, then move on to the housemade pastas with wagyu beef or prepared simply with fresh marinara sauce. The classic cocktails are great too—try one of four signature negronis mixed with rum, gin, or rye.
When it comes to sushi in this city, nobody can touch Takashi. It’s where you can find Salt Lake’s best Japanese food, and it’s easily one of Utah’s top restaurants. They do creative sushi rolls, with multiple Beatles-themed options—like the escolar and chili pepper-filled Strawberry Fields or the yellowtail and yuzu-flavored tobiko Yellow Submarine.
Always check out the daily “fresh” board to find all the cuts they flew in. There are no reservations for small groups, and you’ll rarely (read: never) find a night where a crowd isn’t waiting when the doors open at 5:30pm. Enjoy your first round of Japanese whiskey cocktails or sake at the restaurant’s Post Office Place bar while you wait for a table.
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photo credit: Blake Peterson
Handle in Park City expanded a few years back and opened a sibling in the city: Handle Salt Lake, or HSL for short. This east side spot is located within walking distance of downtown proper and has an ever-evolving menu that’s always on point. One must-order dish you’ll always find is the mushroom bolognese pasta—a carryover from Handle’s menu in Park City. And guess what? This combo of chunky mushroom sauce and cream tastes just as good in the city as it does in the mountains. Most Salt Lake restaurants lean casual, and while HSL’s vibe says “come as you are,” its big velvet chairs and moody design make it a place worth dressing up for.
Current Fish & Oyster
Current is the place in SLC to eat seafood—whether it’s East and West Coast oysters or shrimp and grits, you’ll find various regional cuisines and cultures on the menu. They do a great, simple chilled seafood platter that’s made up of freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, jumbo shrimp, Dungeness crab, and Maine lobster tail.
Dishes pair great with flights of Utah-made sake, affordable wines by the glass, and cocktails like the Ready Aim Fire, a medley of mezcal, pineapple, lime, honey, and tabasco. They have a really great private upstairs dining area that can seat 20 people, so it’s perfect for you and your 18 cousins (it is Utah, after all). Get there early and have a cocktail at Under Current, the restaurant’s adjacent 21-and-up bar where they specialize in tropical and amaro-forward drinks.
Valter’s Osteria is one of Salt Lake City’s best fine dining establishments, serving top-notch Sicilian food. Don’t miss whatever they’re whipping up tableside: a fresh two-person caesar salad or maybe lemon gelato bathed in honey and sea salt. But pasta is the real star here, and the best way to try it all is the off-menu pasta sampler. It includes taster portions of two kinds of ravioli, pillowy marinara gnocchi, and a zesty lemon spaghetti in a portion that’s easy to split.
It can be great for birthdays—we say “can,” because the servers will sing to you, and that either sounds cute or like your own personal hell. Every meal does end with complimentary hot chocolate and biscotti, though.
Tradition, a cozy neighborhood restaurant and bar near Liberty Park, is maybe the best example of the weird remnants of Utah liquor laws. They have a bar tucked behind swinging saloon doors, where cocktail ingredients remain hidden from the eyes of curious and impressionable minors. The menu leans southern and specializes in Utah cuisine and comfort classics, like fried green tomatoes, meatloaf, and a hot dish casserole called funeral potatoes. The sun-lit patio is the place for a people-watching brunch, and the bar churns out creative cocktails like Fire & Ice, a fusion of gin, blackberry sage shrub, lemon, and spiced serrano honey.
photo credit: Niki Chan Wylie
We like to think of Eva as your sweet ex that you just can’t let go—it’s a safe bet of a restaurant that everybody (including your mom) loves. Eva has been a downtown Salt Lake City classic for over 15 years, and the menu is full of consistent yet creative Mediterranean small plates. You can’t go wrong with the harissa carrots or vinegar-laced brussels sprouts, but you should also save room for heartier options like the truffled wild mushroom pizza. Regardless of the season, try and get a seat on the heated outdoor patio behind the restaurant for something a bit cozier.
Red Iguana has been open for 40 years and serves some of the best Mexican food in Salt Lake City. It’s right by the airport, so it makes for a great stop if you just touched down. Every meal starts with complimentary tortilla chips and spicy salsa, and the moles (which you should order as a sampler) are a must. Wash everything down with one of Red Iguana’s nine signature margaritas that come served up, on the rocks, or blended—and all with a perfectly salted rim. Just know they don’t take reservations, and you might have to wait an hour for a table.
photo credit: Ruth's Diner
Ruth’s Diner is not your grandma’s breakfast spot. OK, maybe it actually is since it’s been open since 1930, but the vibe is decidedly non-octogenarian. Built inside a renovated trolley car and located 20 minutes outside the city, the small indoor space means long waits, but they also have the area’s best fresh-air patio. Every meal starts just how Ruth (the original owner who has since passed away) used to make it: with a Mile High biscuit served with housemade fruit preserves. Pair the biscuits with benedicts featuring pulled pork or chicken fried steak, classic three-egg omelets, or banana walnut french toast.
There are plenty of parallels between Oquirrh, the restaurant, and the mountains of the same name. The west side Oquirrh range often gets overlooked for the bigger, snowier Wasatch range in the east, and this restaurant in a small former diner space often gets overlooked for flashier, fancier spots in town. But we’re here to say that the food at Oquirrh can measure up to any dinner place in Salt Lake City. While much of the menu is seasonal, the milk-braised potatoes cooked until the milk turns into creamy curds are always available and always good. Also, service here is consistent without being overbearing.
NEW & NOTABLE
Mar | Muntanya
The thing you need to order when you have dinner at this spot in the Hyatt Regency is the Roast Beast Feast. This large-format dish that sounds straight out of a Dr. Seuss book is made up of a wagyu bone-in ribeye tomahawk that comes with a flight of sauces and is worth whatever it costs at market price. The menu also features tapas and pintxos, like papas bravas and the very not-Spanish funeral croquette casserole fritters, but the large-format paella that’s loaded with chorizo, chicken, shrimp, and mussels is a can’t-miss. Always end the meal with cinnamon churros with local Leatherby’s hot chocolate and caramel sauces.
photo credit: Courtesy of Adelaide
There aren’t many great Salt Lake City hotel restaurants, but new spot Adelaide is an exception. Located on the first floor of Le Meridien in Salt Lake’s West Quarter, its velvet banquettes and high-style oyster bar do indeed feel very swanky. When it comes to the menu, there’s some French and New Orleans influence—two standouts are the Plateaux de Fruits de Mer spread of shellfish and sauces and the whole branzino topped with chimichurri sauce.
What makes this a great place to celebrate a birthday or anniversary is dessert, specifically the brown butter praline bar topped with bananas foster caramel. After eating, head to the rooftop Van Ryder bar for cocktails paired with fire pits and city views.
photo credit: Jacque Lynn
The first big restaurant in Salt Lake City’s Post District is Urban Hill, and it comes from the owners of Park City’s Hearth & Hill. From the transparent wine room to magic bathroom doors that open with the wave of a hand, Urban Hill obviously spent a ridiculous amount of money on building this 192-seat restaurant, and all the effort is worthwhile. Start with an order of grilled oysters, then share a round of vegetable-focused appetizers like coal-roasted beets and New Mexico red chile sauce or some skillet rolls served with churned butter and sea salt.
While there are some excellent boozy drinks like Amalthea’s Last Regret, a combo of vodka, elderflower liqueur, prosecco, blackberry chamomile shrub, and black lemon bitters, Urban Hill also has a menu of creative and standout mocktails. Order the Salt Lake Shirley, an upgraded take on this old classic, or sip the Way of the Rose, a decidedly grownup option made with blackberry chamomile shrub, soda water, and grapefruit.
CASUAL LUNCH & DINNER
photo credit: Carla Boecklin
Freshie’s Lobster Co
Landlocked Salt Lake City is the last place you’d expect to find an amazing lobster roll, but in the underdog upset of the century, Freshie’s actually beat out Maine’s favorites to be crowned lobster king a few years back. Today, Freshie’s is still serving up excellent seafood at its fast-casual Salt Lake City location. Every roll contains tail, knuckle, and claw meat served with hot butter, chives, lemon, and mayo on a New England hot dog bun. Expect a surcharge for Maine lobster in the mountains—a small roll is $15, while their bigger option is $27—but know it’s absolutely worth it.
Salt Lake City may not come to mind as a Nashville-style hot chicken destination, but Pretty Bird has built a legit hot chicken empire around town. Ordering from the restaurant’s iPad station is simple, as they only really do one thing: fried chicken sandwiches. Each boneless chicken thigh comes double battered, buttermilk brushed, and coated in flour before being pressure fried to create a crackly crunch. It’s held together on a buttered bun and topped with coleslaw, pickles, and Pretty Bird sauce, making for a great casual meal, even if you might have to wait in line (it moves quickly).
The Rose Establishment
The Rose Establishment has always been a small, casual breakfast joint where you would find skiers wearing beanies and farmers market attendees looking for a quick bite. But then in 2021, The Rose expanded into its previous neighbor’s space, adding a full-service brunch option that’s a total crowdpleaser. If you’re still riding the avocado toast train, you’ll find one of the city’s best here—each slice of local baguette has ripe avocado topped with pickled mustard seed, pickled onions, and garlic confit. Other standouts include weekend-only poblano shakshouka, quinoa and vegetable-filled bowls, and housemade sea salt chocolate chip cookies.
BAR SNACKS & COCKTAILS
photo credit: Blake Peterson
Franklin Ave Cocktails & Kitchen
Whether you’re coming for booze, a bite, or both, Franklin Ave Cocktails & Kitchen is one of the hottest spots in town. Built inside the revamped Franklin Avenue Variety Theatre building, its basement feels like it’s giving the finger to the minimal aesthetic trend by going big and bold—there’s art on every surface, exposed historic brickwork, walls lined with plaid banquettes, and leather-trimmed bar seats. Grab two spots at the upstairs bar, or head underground to a basement booth that fits your whole crew.
When it comes to the menu, they do a lot with simple ingredients—take the snap peas, which they dress up with Fresno chiles, fresh mint, Thai basil, crushed cashews, and coconut cream. All the entrees are showstoppers, like the hearty wagyu burger and housemade pappardelle pasta, but the Raspado dessert is something you need to save room for. It’s basically a sweet scoop of cheesecake ice cream topped with tart raspberry hibiscus shrub, shaved ice, condensed milk, and a pile of fresh berries.
A cocktail bar with seriously good food isn’t all that surprising these days, but how many times will you find one serving a sweet potato soup that you can’t stop thinking about? That—and other dishes like Thai mussels and a delicious cashew-kimchi bowl—is what makes Varley a standout. Located in the heart of Salt Lake City near the Salt Palace Convention Center, this spot shares a kitchen with Ivy and has Salt Lake City’s largest outdoor patio. It’s the place to unwind after a long, boring convention or a shopping outing at City Creek Center.
The moody ambiance and minimalist design bring that fancy but not pretentious night-out energy. And since there are strict no-babies-in-bars rules in Utah, Varley’s crowd is always 21 and up. If you value your hearing, snag an early reservation before the DJ starts playing at 8:30pm on weekends.