Eating out in Salt Lake City is becoming increasingly diverse. A few years ago Vietnamese restaurants were popping up everywhere, and a word with an odd look and an even stranger pronunciation entered our lexicon: Pho (pronounced “Fuh”).
The copycats fill in the cracks, but the original innovators, who paid special attention to quality, stand out. How do you tell those who are copying a popular trend from those latecomers attempting to ride the coattails of the best? In this new section we call, “Where to Eat Now,” we present only innovators.
Queen Asia Philippine & Vietnamese Cuisine – by Mark Salgado
There is only one place in the valley where you can find an authentic Filipino food, from the people who own it to the people who cook the food and the people who serve you.
Queen Asia Philippine and Vietnamese Cuisine is a place where you can enjoy Southeast Asian cuisine and the feel the Filipino hospitality.
If you and your friends are hungry and feel festive, try the Boodle Fight. It’s a traditional way of eating in the Philippines with a variety of sea foods, fried and grilled meats, and rice served in banana leaves. This huge dish will serve 5 to 6 people. Or try Crispy Pata, deep fried pig’s feet served with steamed rice and side of Green Papaya Salad (achara).
9155 Redwood Rd, West Jordan, UT 84088
Watchtower Cafe – by Connie Lewis
Mike Tuiasoa had a dream. He wanted to open a comic book shop in Salt Lake City. He thought it might be cool to have a small coffee shop in his store. Then he met Cori Hoekstra, head barista and manager of Coffee Connection on State Street. She had a dream of owning her own coffee shop. When they got together and brainstormed, their ideas involved into a coffee shop with comics, games and art – a whole geek package.
Serendipitously, the owners of Coffee Connection were looking to sell their business and Mike and Cori, along with “a silent partner” stepped in and bought the space.
Watchtower Cafe offers comics to buy and graphic novels to peruse in house. There is a large selection of board games and two crates of Legos to play with. Local artists feature their art on the “gallery” walls and the giant chalkboard with nearby colored sticks of chalk invites patrons to leave their temporary marks.
Mike says, “The concept is still evolving.”
Directly across the street from Salt Lake Community College, Mike and Cori wanted Watchtower to become a “hangout” destination, rather than a place people ordered a coffee to go. And the space is inviting. With large rooms and comfortable spots, it has a welcoming vibe.
As the business builds it is the special events that keep them in business. Monday and occasional Thursdays are Board Game Nights. On Fridays they host sessions of Dungeon and Dragons or card games such as Pokemon Dice Master and Yu-Gi-Oh. They have Magic events as well, but offer alternatives on Friday to the game shops that host Magic on Fridays.
They have book signings with local authors. Bryan Young had a recent book signing there along with a release party for his new books, Aeronaut and Escape Vector.
The Sugar House branch of Salt Lake Slam Poetry holds events at Watchtower and fills the place to capacity.
With all that Mike explains they don’t want to just be a gimmick shop. They work hard on the beverages they serve and are moving from strictly coffee to a specialty drink cafe. They’ve recently added Italian sodas and are bringing in Boba tea in the near future. As a hangout spot they found people wanted food, so they’ve added “light snacks.” They serve grilled cheese, grilled PB&J, bagel sandwiches, hummus plates, as well as pastries.
“We want the drinks to be the best they can be. We make our syrup from scratch and our vegan caramel in house. We use locally roasted beans from La Barba. Everything we do takes longer, but nothing is sub-par.
Mike and Cori have been amazed at the community support. They get donations of everything from comics to art and toys that decorate the space. They even have friends offer to work for free or for coffee just so they can hang out.
As for the future, they would like to expand and open more locations. But as Mike says, “First things first. We want to get established, build our events and the community here. We want Watchtower to be a destination for gamers, comic geeks, and artists.”
They also have a vested interest in cleaning up the neighborhood. They’ve talked to their business neighbors and they all agree they will do whatever they can to clean it up and make it safe.
“It is an area that just needs a little TLC.”
1588 South State St.
Karma Coffee House – by Megan Brunelle
The minute you push through the brightly painted wood and glass front door of Karma Coffee House, you are overwhelmed by the flood of exotic smells and waves of positive energy flowing through the sun-filled café. Seating options inside are limited, with a few booths and tables lining huge windows, but there are also tables on the private patio outside, allowing patrons to enjoy the sunshine.
The beverage options are great: drip coffee, fresh fruit smoothies, exotic teas and organic juices. The Weekend Brunch Special changes weekly, since the chef creates the menu himself. Last Sunday, it consisted of Indian crepes made with rice and lentils, onion pakora (deep fried onions with spices), a vegetable curry blend, quinoa cooked with lemon, peppers, curry leaves, fennel, garlic and sage, and a heap of mint chutney that tasted amazing with everything. Topped off with a sweet mango smoothie, this breakfast was authentic, full of rich Indian flavor, and prepared with an obvious passion for providing an unforgettably delicious and positive experience to anyone looking for good Karma.
1751 South 1100 East
Este Deli – by Megan Brunelle
Este Deli serves a variety of hot and cold premium subs and a load of tantalizing appetizers, including house fries, fried pickles and house-made coleslaw.
The Chicken Parm, served hot, came out on thick, soft French bread, piping hot and loaded with a flavorful, tangy tomato sauce and tons of parmesan-breaded chicken, cooked to juicy perfection. The six-inch sub was satisfyingly filling without being too messy or greasy. The Artichoke and Mozzarella sub, served cold, is a great option for vegetarians.
The artichokes were tender and juicy, topped with thick slices of whole milk mozzarella and sautéed red peppers. The combination of ingredients made this a mouth-watering, but still healthy sub.
The house fries, covered with fresh chili and shredded cheese melting into it, were salty, messy and a little greasy–in other words, everything chili cheese fries should be, and they were amazing. There is more than enough to share. Served with a side of fresh and tangy fry sauce, this appetizer would be worth making a stop for all by itself.
1702 South Main St.
Tortas y Jugos El Morelense – by Richard Markosian
There is just one thing better than really great tacos; really cheap great tacos. Sometimes it’s a little hit or miss, like the tacos from the carts you get in the Sears parking lot that are great about 75 percent of the time. While the taste is good 100 percent of the time, after a while, you can literally feel the quality of the beef they used, and this is where one encounters the occasional miss when the stomach begins to churn. (Only those over the age of 33 know what I’m talking about).
I have been to a little joint called Tortas y Jugos El Morelense located in the Latino Mall in West Valley about five times now, and they have the most fantastic tacos I’ve ever eaten. And I’m happy to report that there is no stomach after-growl.
Morelense is something special, bringing an authentic piece of the best taco shops in Mexico right into West Valley. Their al Pastor is roasted rotisserie-style on a massive machine which uses ceramic plates to heat the many dozens of layers of succulent marinated pork. They then slice the pork off the rotisserie into thin strips, give it an additional sizzle on the grill, and cook it with some pineapple. One could easily enjoy one of these tacos just as is, but there is also a great assortment of fresh salsas, cilantro, lime, and my favorite green tomatillo sauce. I enjoyed my three tacos immensely. But to add some further special sauce to this write up, (sorry I’m not a regular food writer), I decided to order the torta to go. It was just as amazing as the tacos. They also offer these long salad-like burrito things called huaraches, giving me a great reason to return. A satisfying lunch was only $6. Go there now!
2470 South Redwood Road #104