As the headquarters of the Mormon Church—with most streets named in relation to their distance from the temple, lest you forget the focus of the city—Salt Lake City has long had trouble shaking its conservative reputation. But with recently relaxed liquor laws, a burgeoning cocktail scene, farm-to-fork dining, and some of the best skiing in North America, this "Crossroads of the West" is a hidden gem for mixing adventure, relaxation, and surprisingly top-notch options for fun.
Powderhounds will feel at home at one of SLC's 14 nearby ski resorts, which get steady snow as late as April, and off-the-slopes diversions abound both in the city center and its neighboring communities. So pack your snow jacket, hop a direct flight from OAK or SFO to Salt Lake in less time than it would take you to drive to Tahoe, and prepare to forget everything you thought you knew about this ideal mountain getaway.
(Courtesy of Finca)
With checkered flooring and delicate chandeliers, Finca may not scream contemporary Spanish tapas with its decor, but each dish manages to combine European-inflected flavors without overwhelming the palate. Nibble from pintxos ranging from a white anchovy boquerone to a smoked trout mousse, or live large and order off the platos grandes menu, where shareable options include a loaded paella and a juicy 24-ounce Niman Ranch bone-in rib-eye. The same restaurant group focuses the same attention to detail at varied restaurants around Salt Lake, including beloved Pago, Trestle Tavern, Hub & Spoke Diner, and East Liberty Tap House. // 327 W. 200 S., fincaslc.com
The Copper Onion
This hip downtown hotspot, helmed by former NYC chef and native Utahn Ryan Lowder, brings Big Apple appeal to Salt Lake in dishes showcasing seasonal ingredients from local purveyors. Highlights of the dinner menu include the wagyu beef stroganoff with housemade pappardelle noodles and shareable ricotta dumplings, which you can also snag during a bustling brunch service that includes a Turkish twist on eggs Benedict and the Bloody Bull cocktail, made with beef stock, horseradish, and house pickle juice. // 111 E. Broadway, thecopperonion.com
Another heavyweight in the hyperlocal, organic dining scene, this brightly wallpapered spot specializes in small plates, so bring an adventurous appetite and prepare to graze. Attentive but never overbearing service complements a seasonally changing menu that includes bites such as Asian-inspired steamed buns, wood-roasted mushrooms dusted with bonito flakes, and fork-tender pork ribs—don't miss the fluffy spiced beignets for dessert. // 3364 S. 2300 E., slcprovisions.com
Courtesy of Current Fish & Oyster
Current Fish & Oyster
Seafood takes center stage at Current, with the classically prepared dishes highlighting fresh fish from as far as New Orleans, New York, and Monterey. Ambitious eaters can attempt to summit the seafood tower—a formidable combination of oysters, shrimp, mussels, and Maine lobster tail—but the whole branzino and loaded fish stew are also showstoppers. While Utah liquor laws prevent you from sidling up to the restaurant bar (alcohol can't be in view of minors at eating establishments), adults-only Under Current is an ideal place to snag two bar stools, split an order of oysters, and sip an absinthe- or amaro-infused cocktail from a menu of nearly 60 options. // 279 S. 300 E., currentfishandoyster.com; 270 S. 300 E., undercurrentbar.com
Courtesy of Bodega
Upstairs, expect a backdrop of bullhorn-affixed brick for tacos and whiskey. Downstairs, the experience transforms into a decidedly upscale affair in the vein of 1920s speakeasies, with a real record player—reservations strongly recommended. The low-lit, unabashedly hip surroundings set the scene for expertly crafted cocktails and filling mains such as the order-ahead beer-can chicken, perhaps best enjoyed over a vintage tome or view of the obscure taxidermy.// 331 Main St., bodega331.com
Eva Restaurant/Eva's Bakery
Both named after the chef/owner's great grandmother, Eva Restaurant and Eva's Bakery draw inspiration from their namesake's love for French cooking and high-quality ingredients. Small plates at the main restaurant defy easy definition, at times veering towards comfort food and at others aligning more with Mediterranean flavors. With reclaimed wood and chalkboard menus (plus a hidden backyard patio), the laid-back vibe matches the relaxed presentation of the brick oven–blistered flatbread, stone-fired baker's pies, and creamy shrimp and grits. Over at the bakery, you're welcomed by the smell of fresh bread, which you can purchase by the loaf or savor in a stuffed French toast or croissant sandwich. // 317 S. Main St., evaslc.com; 155 S. Main St., evasbakeryslc.com
The Eating Establishment on Main Street
Recently revamped by the same Ty Burrell–helmed restaurant group that's behind popular SLC watering holes Bar X and Beer Bar, The Eating Establishment is the only place on Park City's Main Street that can serve booze as early as 10am due to a special license, making it an ideal place for a boozy brunch. While a visit before hitting the slopes is ideal, the 40-year-old restaurant is making a name for itself as an aprés-ski destination as well, with housemade ingredients for its cocktails, right down to the ice. // 317 Main St. (Park City