today’s city guide is a favorite of mine- salt lake city! i’ve been dying to check out utah for years now (home of my !) and designer amy shaffer‘s guide is just the inspiration i needed to start planning. amy grew up in salt lake and then moved away for a bit, but recently moved back after founding her stationery design studio, junky heirloom. now she’s sharing some must-see shops, hang-outs, great restaurants (including great local spots to get a sweet treat!) and other local favorites. i hope you’ll enjoy her city guide as much as i did. thanks to amy for all of her hard work on this guide!
as always, if you have a favorite that you don’t see on the list please leave the details in the comment section below.
CLICK HERE for the full city guide or just click “read more” below.
Utah is a place shrouded in mystery for many people. Is it a cool place? Or is it just a tragically easy location punch line?
I’ve got some answers.
I grew up in Salt Lake City, moved away and now have come back again. The capitol of a desert state with some of the best outdoor attractions in the world (skiing, Zion’s National Park, Arches, Moab and more), Salt Lake is continually developing culturally as well. It’s being helped by a growing art and film scene (fostered in part by the Sundance Film Festival), a healthy entrepreneurial spirit (that’s egged on by Utah’s tradition of industriousness) and a few well-timed development and renovation projects. Combine that with some of the randomly strict liquor laws being relaxed this year and Salt Lake City is really on the cusp of coming into its own.
These are some of my favorite spots in town, arranged loosely by neighborhood. If there’s a place you know of and love that I’ve missed, please add it in the comments!
Frosty Darling 177 E Broadway: A bright, playful nod to the very best of both retro and modern, Frosty Darling consistently carries some of the best locally-made products, from stationery to furniture. It will take you a while to explore all of the fun– and it’s easy to get drawn in to connected neighbor Kayo Gallery.
Slowtrain : The kind of independent record store everyone wants in their neighborhood. Friendly, knowledgeable owners and staff, intimate in-store performances by both local and well-established artists, the selection (including a great vinyl section) you want to sit and browse through all day. Can’t recommend more highly. 221 E Broadway
Model Citizen : Carrying peak-of-cool local brands, Model Citizen has enough to keep both guy and girl busy. Particular not-to-miss items include hand-sewn flirty summer dresses and bright neon canvas shoes– but check back often. Their all-local inventory gathers new additions every month. 247 E. Broadway
The Green Ant : Current residence of my dream Florence Knoll settee (someday, someday), the Green Ant is a recent transplant to the humming Broadway area. Whether your heart pines for Saarinen or Nelson, this is the place to get your fix. Owner Ron Green curates this MCM-dominated vintage store with aplomb. 179 E Broadway
Kayo Gallery : This great, accessible gallery puts on twelve different exhibitions a year– and gives the artist full control of both the work and the displaying of it. 177 E Broadway
Signed & Numbered : This is one of my favorite shops in the city. Located in the basement of Slowtrain, Signed & Numbered specializes in limited edition concert posters, art prints and other creations by contemporary artists. Founded by venerable gig poster artist Leia Bell, Signed & Numbered is a store I hope always stays around. 221 E Broadway
Nobrow Coffee and Tea Company : This coffee shop/gallery/cultural gathering spot is a great place to sit around, meet people and find out about all the other cool stuff going on in Salt Lake. 315 East 300 South
Elemente: This vintage consignment store strikes the perfect balance for me. More MCM than cottage cute, Elemente still manages to hold a soft nostalgia. With a great blend of central pieces and stylized knick-knacks, this 20-year veteran fills its open renovated loft-style space with ease. 353 Pierpont Avenue
FICE : In one of the most drool-worthy buildings downtown, FICE brings a nice urban sportswear style all its own. Its selection of men’s and women’s clothes and shoes are expertly coordinated by owner/pro snowboarder Laura Hadar. She earns additional style points for the collection of books and prints and schedule of gallery showings that consistently share the space.
CG Sparks : The tagline for CG Sparks is “furniture with soul.” It may sound a little grandiose before you go in– and realize it’s true. Founder Chrisianne Olsen and crew travel the globe every year to find pieces that capture the essence of that statement. Their pieces from India and Tibet (many antique or of reclaimed materials) are stunning. 454 S 500 W
Filthy Gorgeous : For all of you Project Runway fans out there, this is Utahn Keith Bryce’s (from Season 5) studio. It’s set up as an “artist’s network,” where you can come and find a collection of hand-made clothing by various local designers. Every piece they sell is one-of-a-kind. It can be a little over the top for me, but it’s worth checking out. 351 W. Pierpont Ave
Decades Vintage Clothing: Some people come for a costume. Some people come for that never-to-be-found-again wardrobe addition that everyone will covet. If you like vintage, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t miss their costume jewelry and belt buckle collection. 627 S State
Takashi : Absolutely the best sushi in Utah (and competitive with sushi I’ve had anywhere else as well). Boasting an imaginative menu, head chef/owner Takashi Gibo plays with exotic fresh seafood and fruit in unmatched ways. Be sure to try the Strawberry Fields, ceviche quail egg shooters and the Crunchy Ebi. 18 West Market Street
Bambara : Located on the main floor of Hotel Monaco, this New American bistro brings flair and sophistication to the Salt Lake dining experience. A fun place to celebrate special occasions– if you ask with your reservation, they’ll make a specialty menu for your evening. 202 S Main St
Faustina : Don’t know what “carrot dust” is? You’d better head to Faustina. Not only is it a pretty place (their outdoor terrace is spectacular on summer nights) but they also take ordinary ingredients to a whole new level. Sometimes whimsical, other times sophisticated, Faustina is an imaginative place to get a classic American meal. 454 E 300 S
Este Pizza : NY-style pizza FINALLY makes its respectable way to Salt Lake. Este’s two locations (one right next door to FICE) almost satisfy your inner longing for Joe’s. If you like white pizza, it doesn’t get much yummier than here. Also, try the zeppoles (little Italian donut miracle morsels) dipped in a side of agave nectar. 156 E 200 S
The Robin’s Nest : Working downtown-ites flock to this little, homey sandwich oasis. Every sandwich comes with their amazing special-recipe Orzo Pasta. Make sure to try The Sink, The Gobbler and occasional special The Big Blue. 311 S. Main St.
Metropolitan : The Metropolitan’s unique three-chef collaboration results in some pretty remarkable New American cuisine. Their popular nightly prix fixe menu is a relatively affordable way to try the seasonally-inspired menu or you can go all out with their seven-course tasting menu. 173 W Broadway
Settebello Settebello is an authentic Italian pizza place with an imported Italian wood oven (the only one in the state) and a menu (and authentic ingredients) worthy of more expensive prices. Don’t forget to try their on-site fresh gelato. Whether you get nutella or pistachio, it’s guaranteed to blow your mind. 260 S 200 W
Hong Kong Tea House
565 W 200 S
Universally known as the best dim sum in Salt Lake, this uber-authentic Chinese restaurant has been named Best Chinese in Utah by Salt Lake Magazine several years running. It’s an experience– and it’s surprisingly inexpensive. Great to go with friends.
Red Iguana : Red Iguana has been the local hole-in-the-wall Mexican of choice for years. It can get busy but it’s worth the wait. The fresh horchata and mole are amazing (tip: if it’s your first time, ask for the mole sampler plate. Not only is it a great appetizer with chips, it’ll help you see exactly which one you’re in the mood for). 736 W North Temple
Thai Lotus : Thai Lotus is the only Thai place I’ve found in Salt Lake that captures the complex blend of flavor that authentic Thai food represents. Amazing massaman curry and mango sticky rice. 212 E 500 S
Moochies : Can you handle the Moochies? These are some serious sandwiches, people. With their crowning achievement Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, Moochies has crafted a singular (if a little eclectic) following. See everyone from teenagers to suits, cramming their faces with monstrous meat sandwiches. 232 E 800 S
Tony Caputo’s : More than just great sandwiches, the family-owned Caputos Market and Deli specializes in regional Italian and southern European foods. Try one of their amazing mufalettos and stop in the market to pick up one of their over 60 varieties of olive oil. 314 W 300 S
Carlucci’s : This bakery/sandwich place has it all going on. Great sandwiches on freshly made bread (don’t miss the rosemary bread– ahhh), beautifully delicious pastry creations and famous sliders on Friday. Outdoor seating in warm weather is particularly pleasant. 314 W Broadway
Bruges Waffle and Frites : Waffles. And french fries. And that’s it. Dip the perfect double-fried frites into different specialty sauces flavored by chives, green onions and basil (among others). And then it’s on to your traditional European gaufre (or waffle). Whether you top it with chocolate, cinnamon or creme fraiche, this is a great combo. 336 W Broadway
Koko Kitchen : Japanese food has largely gone the Americanized route. Not at Koko Kitchen. This is authentic Japanese homestyle cooking. It’s affordable, cozy, unassuming, with a surprisingly large menu with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. 702 S 300 E
Cafe Rio : This fresh Mexican fast casual restaurant can be described as nothing less than a local phenomenon. People have been known to wait in line for an hour to get their food. Their signature sweet pork salad with fresh guacamole, tomatillo dressing and tortilla strips in a fresh, hand-made tortilla is one of my staples. 532 E 400 S (locations throughout the city)
Cafe Niche : This great modern cafe not only has amazing paninis and sandwiches (you have to try the Dame), coffee and baked goods, it also has impeccable design in every aspect of the restaurant, from their toile frosted windows to their stained concrete floors to their gallery-style art from local up-and-coming artists. 779 E 300 S
Acme Burger : Acme Burger knows how to keep a burger classy. Whether you want an ostrich burger, sushi grade ahi burger or a kobe burger, you can expect something intriguing and delicious. But then comes the brunch. Available on Saturdays and Sundays, they have a little something called Rabanada, which is Brazillian French Toast but is essentially a super churro. For breakfast. Amazing. 275 S 200 W
Les Madeleines : Charming and delicious, with amazing food inspired by chef/owner Romina Rasmussen’s world travels. Wild Boar BLT. Multiple kinds of French macaroons (raspberry and pistachio are my favorites). Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart. Cozy little location, right by the Salt Lake Library. 216 East 500 South
Mini’s Cupcakes : Mini’s is a gem hidden in an odd part of downtown, but there’s nothing odd about the heart and soul they put in their food. The leader of all of the cupcake places cropping up (in my opinion), they also offer box lunches with high-end sandwiches and salads. 14 E 800 S
Dough Girl : Born out of a desire for a perfect cookie, the Dough Girl offers fresh cookies– but also sells frozen gourmet cookie dough to take home in nine different varieties. Don’t miss the Silly Lilly– their signature cookie with lemonheads baked inside. 770 S 300 W
Salt Lake Roasting Co. : A hotspot for students trying to stay awake while studying, the Salt Lake Roasting Company combines bold coffees from around the world and delicious italian sodas with freshly baked pastry and cakes. Oh, and really great free wifi. 320 E 400 S
Caffe D’Bolla : Caffe D’bolla is Salt Lake’s first artisan micro roaster and siphon bar. But what really brings me in is the bubble tea (my favorite is the honeydew). 249 E 400 S
Twilight Concert Series Twilight Concert Series : Every year, some of the best bands in the world play a series of outdoor summer shows in the heart of downtown. Past participants have included Yo La Tengo, Andrew Bird, the Roots, Broken Social Scene, Calexico and Camper van Beethoven. Oh yeah, and it’s free. One of the coolest things going in Salt Lake (and getting better every year), every night of music includes an outdoor market as well. Can’t wait for season opener Bon Iver/Jenny Lewis this year. 239 S Main St
Gallery Stroll : Dotting over a dozen galleries and cafes throughout the city, Gallery Stoll is a great walkable way to access the best local art in Salt Lake. Taking place on the third Friday night of every month, it’s also a way to meet other art enthusiasts and see the most up-to-date installations and shows.
Farmer’s Market : Every Saturday morning during the summer months, the Farmer’s Market draws folks of all kinds (and their dogs) to Pioneer Park. Not only a collection of the area’s finest locally grown and sustainable food, it is also one of the premier places for local artisans to display and sell their goods. 300 W 300 S
Capitol Theater: The place to catch Ballet West, the Utah Opera and touring Broadway shows. The theater itself is a beautifully preserved early 20th century architectural piece. 50 W 200 S
Rose Wagner Theater: The home to Utah’s Repertory Dance Theater, the Rose Wagner Theater always has some kind of performance going on, including film screenings (for Sundance and otherwise), poetry readings and dance. 138 West 300 South
Salt Lake Library Salt Lake Library : Designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie, the Salt Lake Library is an architectural and design gem in downtown. Using glass and a unique serpentine structure, the library brings an open-air feel into a dynamic interior space. For all of you fans of design trivia, Pentagram did all of the identity, signage and type throughout the library.
Salt Lake Art Center : I am continually impressed by this little organization. Committed to the support of contemporary art in Salt Lake, they bring in high-quality exhibitions from both up-and-coming and established artists from around the country. They also host art forums, classes and a modern art media room that the public can use. And entrance is always free. 20 S West Temple
Temple Square : As the world headquarters of the LDS church, Temple Square is a unique experience. Beautiful architectural and landscaping details (the temple was built by Mormon pioneers and took over 50 years) make this a great place to take a walk and explore. The flowers in the spring and lights during the holidays are well-known attractions and you can stop in to hear the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir any Sunday morning.
Urban Lounge : One of the best hole-in-the-wall clubs to catch the most obscure of bands amongst an intimate, diehard audience. Stellar upcoming shows include Frightened Rabbits, Phoenix and A.A. Bondy. 241 S 500 E
Kilby Court : This venue is a right-of-passage type of place: catch bands on the cusp of moving on to bigger things– playing a show in what is essentially a cheerily appointed shed. 750 Kilby Ct.
The Depot : By far the most conveniently located and superior sounding club around, but needs to get a new booking agent. If you can catch a good band here, don’t hesitate. 400 W. S Temple
Brewvies : Brewvies brings together pool, tasty bar food and three built-in movie theaters with current releases (where each row of seats has its own “bar,” where you can put all the food and drinks your heart desires). Half-off movie Wednesdays and free classic movie Mondays make the traditionally worst days of the week so much more fun. 677 S 200 W
Graywhale : The mainstay in the Utah independent music scene. They now have five stores across the state, but the original University store has something special. In the trademark blue house, you can find hidden gems in their unparalleled used section or any album you’re looking for, no matter how obscure. 208 South 1300 East
Em’s : This quaint eatery (housed in one of the original markets in Salt Lake) is an absolute delight. Tucked up on Capitol Hill, Chef Emily Gassmann has created a constantly changing menu that relies heavily on fresh ingredients from the local farmer’s market, making every dining experience there new. One of the best places for New American in the city.
271 Center St
Ruth’s Diner : Located a short, picturesque drive up Emigration Canyon, nostalgic Ruth’s Diner serves all meals of the day. But it’s really the brunch that takes first prize. Maybe it’s the gigantic fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit and homemade raspberry butter that precedes your meal. Maybe it’s their idyllic creekside patio seating. Maybe it’s their mouthwatering Salmon Eggs Benedict or Banana Walnut French Toast. 2100 Emigration Cnyn
The Pie : Fueling college students and families alike, this dimly lit, cheerily graffitied basement hangout provides a classic pizzeria/pub atmosphere complete with sports on the TV and friendly staff. Don’t miss out on the divine cheesy pull-aparts; they are almost a meal in and of themselves. 1320 E 200 S
Hatch Family Chocolates: This family owned and run chocolaterie has all your basic hand-dipped goods, but is notable for its tweaks of creativity, including frozen hot chocolate, vegan chocolates and their trademark pots du creme. 390 E 4th Ave
Memory Grove Dog Park: When you are needing to socialize your dog and go for a delightful walk, nothing beats Memory Grove. With a pond meant for puppy swimming and plenty of room for dogs to run around and play, the park is also beautiful and includes trails along City Creek that are perfect for jogging or biking. 300 Canyon Rd
9TH AND 9TH
koo de ker : Find a shirt or accessory you can’t live without– at the right price to snap up right then and there. Spot-on selection and some of the most unique jewelry around. Stylish owner Kyong An is often in the shop and is a joy to meet. 1037 E 900 S
The Children’s Hour : Don’t let the name fool you. While Children’s Hour is definitely the style source for hot-to-trot tots, you can find a whole lot of stuff that’s all grown up too. Amazing women’s shoes selection (including names like Giraudon, Camper and BCBG), thoughtful kid’s toys and books and impeccable baby and kid clothes. 898 S 900 E
apartment 202: You have to love a place where the first thing you come across upon entering is a whole wall of the greatest hats you’ve ever seen. Smart and sophisticated, you can find a great little Cynthia Vincent smock, pick up some great stationery and meet the resident yellow lab Iger at the same time. 850 E 900 S
hip and humble : A definitive source of stylish houseware and more, Hip and Humble is exactly what you wish your house was like every day: something new to discover around every corner, fresh cookies for the taking, and bright original things to love for your kitchen, bathroom, closet and more. 1043 E 900 S
If you want unassumingly friendly vintage at the absolute best prices, you have to check out Emilie Jayne. And check back often– the sweet price tags on their eclectic collection keep the turnover remarkably brisk. 801 S. 800 East
Mazza : Mazza is the best Middle Eastern food in Salt Lake. But it also might be one of the more inviting places to eat out as well. The restaurant itself manages a perfectly restrained sense of mystery that matches both casual and more formal dining expeditions. Don’t miss the chicken kebab sandwich, lamb shawarma and mutabbak plate. 912 E 900 S
Cafe Trio : This New Italian-style cafe is the best place to come when you can’t figure out what you’re in the mood for. Because everything is good. Try the Panzanella Steak Salad (topped with oversized fresh croutons lightly dipped in balsamic), Butternut Three-Cheese Ravioli and Rosemary Goat Cheese Flatbread. 680 S 900 E
Tulie Bakery : Right next door to Cafe Trio, this pastry and cake shop makes decadent creations out of organic ingredients. Which means it’s good for you. 863 E 700 S
Coffee Garden: Long-time Utah coffee hangout with a great location for just lounging. Great patio area for summery Saturdays. 898 E 900 S
Tower Theater : The sister-theater of Broadway and fellow member of the Salt Lake Film Society, Tower Theater is a Salt Lake landmark. One of the coolest things they do is the occasional “Open Mic Short Film Night,” where local film-makers and amateurs can screen their films for an audience– and you can attend for free. 876 E 900 S
Liberty Park: This park has it all, no matter what age you are. With private lit tennis courts (you have to call ahead to schedule), the Tracy Aviary (one of only two freestanding aviaries in the US), a swimming pool, ponds with paddle boats, a small old-style amusment park and a water maze for kids (patterned after the seven canyons in Utah), there is enough to laze away an entire afternoon. 700 E 900 S
Cactus and Tropicals : Go to find a special cactus of your own. Or just go for a little therapy. Walking through Cactus and Tropical’s beautifully lush garden center is enough to make anyone feel like things are right with the world. Personal favorites include their breathtaking Bonsai pieces and fountains. 2735 S 2000 E
Abode : This vibrant vintage store gets even more fun in the summer– when its parking lot plays host to one of the best local craft/vintage flea markets around. 1720 S 900 E
Ten Thousand Villages : Part of the Ten Thousand Villages network, this store carries products made by artisans from Fair Trade organizations around the world. That means that not only do you get something entirely unique but you can also feel good that the money you spent went directly to support the person who made it. 1941 S 1100 E
Liberty Heights Fresh : Liberty Heights Fresh is the holy grail of freshness. Everything from gorgeous fresh flowers to locally grown fruits and vegetables to homestead cheeses. They also arrange “foodie” trips around the world (the next one is a “Basque and Mediterranean Culinary Routes” tour of Spain!) 1290 S 1100 E
Second-hand Chic : This big-personality eclectic retro store has the self-proclaimed biggest selection of vintage aprons in Salt Lake. Haven’t checked them on it, but I believe it. Also has nice smaller vintage knick-knacks and women’s clothing. 900 E 2006 S
Emigration Market: A friendly local market and cafe with an emphasis on locally produced foods. Nestled in the beautiful Harvard-Yale area of Sugarhouse, find everything fresh here. 1706 E 1300 S
Fat’s Grill: Great paninis and burgers with free pool at lunch. If pool isn’t your thing, you can sit and people-watch the Sugarhouse crowd at the big windows at the front. 2182 Highland Dr
Bombay House : One of my favorite places to eat and the best place to find authentic Indian food in Utah. Too many favorites to list, but don’t miss the Malai Kofta, mango lassi and the Peshawari Naan (it tastes like Froot Loops– and like amazing). 2731 Parleys Way
Lugano’s : Awarded “Best Italian In Salt Lake City,” Luganos is reknowned for classic Italian set apart by their uncanny fresh ingredient selection. 3364 S 2300 E
Finn’s : Recently reopening after a ten year absence, Finn’s Cafe features the best traditional Norwegian breakfasts in a really cool updated modern diner. If you’re looking for a little more formal brunch, this is the place to go. 1624 S 1100 E
Blue Plate Diner : A perfectly idyllic classic diner with a surprising number of vegetarian options. Great malts.
Dolcetti Gelatto : Owners/couple Elizabeth and Mark England learned the art of gelato from some of Italy’s masters. And then brought it to Salt Lake. Dozens of flavors of fresh gelato make choosing difficult. 1751 S 1100 E
The Tea Grotto : For the serious tea connoiseur (or anyone who wants a great cup of tea), the Tea Grotto is a haven. Owner Rebecca Sheeran is one of only 15 certified tea specialists in the US and has spent time on tea farms around the world. Not only does she serve the very best tea, but also helps customers to learn more about it. 2030 S 900 E
Skiing : One of Utah’s biggest natural resources is our incredible snow. There are over fourteen ski resorts within a short distance of Salt Lake. My favorite resorts include Alta (for skiing purists– they don’t allow snowboarding– but it gets absolutely DUMPED on with snow), Snowbird (just a well-designed resort), Brighton (the best snowboard park in the state) and Park City (for pure nostalgia).
Park City: If you’re in Salt Lake, it’s worth a day trip to Park City. In the summer, you can have fun on the Alpine Slide or take in a concert at the Deer Valley Music Festival. In the winter, Main Street is a fairy-tale winter wonderland. But there’s also world-class food and boutique shopping. And it’s only half an hour away.
Sundance Film Festival : If you’re looking for a reason to come to Utah, this is it. Every January, people descend on Utah to sample the best of independent film. With Q &A sessions with directors, writers and actors, forums and special musical performances, Sundance is packed with interesting options to fill your days. Some people have complained in recent years of it losing its independent nature, but I have loved it every year I have gone.