Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Forage
Photo: Forage

Salt Lake City is known for a lot of things—its gorgeous location near the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, its Sundance Film Festival held every January, and its huge population of Mormons. But it’s never been known as a foodie destination. Until now.

It’s easy to overlook the first restaurant. Forage is located on a residential block in East Central Salt Lake City. You enter through a side door to find a minimal space with absolutely no decorations. But the art is in the food. The exact number of courses changes constantly, depending on what is growing in the wild or available at small, nearby farms. The menu is puzzlingly simple, offering just a few clues as to what is to come. Chef Bowman Brown introduces the first course. Green juniper and wild cress, carrot and sunflower seed, or black walnut. The little appetizers just keep coming. Homemade bread on a hot stone arrives during a pause, as if more food is needed to keep you interested. And then, at a slower pace, trout with new pine and peas, new potatoes and crayfish, and Idaho sturgeon and grilled kale appear. By the time the first dessert—elderflower with yogurt and raspberries—is set in front you, you’re practically green. You’re even more amazed when you see the bill, which would be two or three times higher in other major cities.

Photo: The Copper Onion
Photo: The Copper Onion

You may not be able to handle eating 13 to 16 courses at Forage, but you can still eat well downtown. Chef Ryan Lowder, who is originally from Utah, worked at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world before returning home to open the Copper Onion. The New American restaurant has a copper-paneled ceiling and wooden tables. Order a Salt Lake City Red Rock Elephino Double IPA and watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen as you peruse the menu. Start with the addictive ricotta dumplings. The little pillows are cooked in brown butter and topped with parmesan cheese. Move on to the Wagyu beef stroganoff with homemade al dente pappardelle, Snake River Farms beef, and crème fraîche. And leave room for dessert. The cheesecake is light, creamy, and topped with Montana wildflower honey. There may not be as many courses at the Copper Onion, but you’re still happily stuffed by the time you leave.

You probably can’t eat another bite of food at this point, but a nightcap sounds perfect. Yes, you can find a real drink in Salt Lake City. Just a block away, the Bar-X is a classic speakeasy that first opened when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The master bartenders can make you a traditional Old Fashioned, a Moscow Mule, or a Pimm’s Cup. But you have your eye on the Corpse Reviver #2, in which dry gin, Lillet Blanc, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau are poured into an Absinthe-coated glass. Cheers to a surprising new foodie destination.

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