My stepsons and their friends recently waited an hour on a Saturday evening to be seated at the Red Iguana. Don’t get me wrong, like everybody else, I love Red Iguana. But I’ll be damned if I’ll wait an hour for a table anywhere. Not gonna happen.
If, like me, you have a lot of hunger but very little patience, here are five outstanding restaurants that could explode any day. Not explode literally, but they are destined to become so popular that you might soon have a long wait for a table. Enjoy these fine restaurants while you still can.
Nomad Eatery is a hip, really great restaurant that has a bit of a location problem. Although it’s situated on the way to the airport, just minutes from downtown SLC, and offers plenty of free, off-street parking—it seems further away than it is. In the time it takes to find a parking spot downtown, you could be enjoying an excellent meal at Nomad.
Chef/Owner Justin Soelberg refers to Nomad as a “fast-casual diner,” but if this is diner fare, it’s a very elevated version. I know of no diner that serves his amazing fried mortadella sandwich, for example. It is not permanently on the menu, but when available it is served on a kaiser bun, the fried mortadella comes with American cheese, shredded lettuce, French dressing and outstanding homemade potato chips that are dusted with malt vinegar powder. The pizzas here, including the Margherita, are equally as pleasing. Oh, and don’t miss out on Alexa Norlin’s killer desserts, like the Choco Taco.
2110 W North Temple, Salt Lake City
If you’re in the market for marvelous Mexican food and don’t care to wait in line for a table, check out Chile Tepin in downtown SLC. This is a spacious, inviting, well-appointed restaurant owned by Carlos Rodriguez, formerly of La Fountain. One of my go-to dishes is camarones a la diabla, plump and tender shrimp in an incendiary chile tepin-infused red sauce. And I can never visit Chile Tepin without sharing a molcajete with companions. Imagine a bubbly, steaming concoction of carne asada, shrimp, onions, charred jalapeños, grilled chicken, nopales, and Oaxacan cheese with hot tomatillo sauce, all served in the stone molcajete that this incredible dish is named for.
307 W 200 S, Salt Lake City
I have been a fan of Paulo Celeste’s Italian fare dating back more than a couple of decades when he worked at a Heber restaurant called Il Giardino. He would go on to open the original Michelangelo restaurant in Sugar House, before returning to Italy to care for his ailing mother. Well, Paulo has returned to Utah and, in my opinion, you’ll not find better Italian cuisine here than at his namesake Celeste Ristorante.
You really can’t order wrong at Celeste; everything that emerges from Paulo’s kitchen is outstanding. But if pressed, I’d suggest starting a meal with his carpaccio di manzo, which is paper-thin rounds of sliced, raw top sirloin with shredded baby artichoke, watercress, Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
A decadent, delicious treat is the gnocchi al granchio: airy, light homemade gnocchi (the best I’ve ever eaten outside of Italy) in a subtle tomato-cream sauce with lump crab meat. This is Italian cuisine at its best. Enjoy it before the rest of the world finds out.
5468 S 900 E, Salt Lake City
In Provo, the best new restaurant to emerge on the dining seen in quite some time is Block. I wrote about Block for Utah Bites a couple months ago, but I’ll mention it again here because it is truly a hidden Utah County gem.
For starters, I’m not used to seeing a fully stocked bar in Provo eateries, but Block has one. So kick back and enjoy a cocktail like the Hi Thyme—Beehive gin, hibiscus blackberry tea, spiced simple syrup, lemon and fresh thyme. The Block burger, which comes on a high-quality bun from Antonella’s bakery, is excellent and topped with a fried Clifford Farms egg. For something more substantial, opt for the herb-crusted rack of lamb with mint-infused pea puree, lamb jus, sauteed asparagus and fresh sugar snap peas.
Block would be a welcome addition to any city, but in Provo it seems especially unique. Visit soon, before all the Utah County foodies discover it.
3330 N University Avenue, Provo
The sister eatery to Park City’s renowned and beloved Riverhorse on Main, Riverhorse Provisions is a combination grocery store and full-service cafe. Especially during a sunny day on the deck, Provisions is a terrific spot for breakfast, where you’ll find menu items like the quiche of the day, fresh buttermilk biscuits and gravy, and outrageously delicious breakfast sandwiches. The eclectic menu ranges from roasted pork ramen and Alaskan halibut fish tacos, to the killer seafood Cobb salad with poached shrimp and Provisions’ soon to be famous wild game chili poutine. There’s a full bar as well, serving up cocktails, spirits, beer and wine along with fresh smoothies, espresso, coffees and hot tea.
221 Main Street, Park City
Have a favorite under-the-radar restaurant of your own that deserves to be famous? Let us know about it!