Sometimes, living in a city can inure you to that very place. Friends from out of town come to visit Salt Lake City and typically say, “Wow! I didn’t realize this place was so cool!” But locals too often take what our city has to offer—and there’s a lot—for granted. Or, we fail to see all the options directly in front of us.
For that reason, my wife and I periodically pretend to be visitors to SLC and set aside a day and night or two to explore bars, restaurants, galleries, and such that we might otherwise overlook or are underappreciated.
This past weekend we spent some time exploring THE BLOCKS area of downtown Salt Lake and we were thrilled at what we found:
Lake Effect Bar
On the way to a late lunch at Lake Effect, we took in the digital vinyl wrap mural at McCarthy Plaza, which was created by one of Utah’s most talented artists, Traci O’Very Covey. Commissioned by the Salt Lake City Arts Council, the public art piece called “Imagine” is installed at the Eccles Theatre. It’s a festive snapshot of everything happening in downtown SLC: restaurants, waiters, performers, food, an appreciative audience and more—a beautiful reminder of the capitol city’s vibrancy.
Ensconced in one of the high-back wrap-around booths at Lake Effect, I was reminded that although some folks still think Utah is a dry state, in fact it’s host to world-class bars like this one.
A sucker for Chartreuse French liqueur, I ordered a cocktail called Pow Powell, Oh Wow! It’s a scrumptious melange of Green Chartreuse, Hamilton Demara 86 Proof Rum, Luxardo Maraschino, Becherovka Bitters, Absinthe, Orgeat, Passionfruit, Pineapple, and Lime. Wow! Is right!
- Nope, Chef Adrian Harris’ menu is brimming with eclectic items like jackfruit tacos, papas fritas, crispy lamb ribs, bahn mi sandwiches, barbecue, and much more. We enjoyed an excellent charcuterie board before tucking into spicy Cajun ahi tacos, made with sushi-grade, barely seared ahi, topped with creamy avocado dressing, grilled pineapple, serrano chiles, and bulls blood sprouts.
The Book Mural
Downtown SLC is chock full of free public art to enjoy and after cocktails and bar bites at Lake Effect, we strolled over to Main Street to take in the Book Mural, which is painted onto a brick wall in an alleyway. THE BLOCKS interactive map helped us to find the wall, decorated with 10-foot tall or so book spines depicting titles like Gone With The Wine, Gravity’s Rainbow, Animal Farm, and others.
The Ramen Bar
From there was a short walk up Main to Ramen Bar for a couple bowls of steaming hot ramen. Ramen Bar really does feel and look like a bar; it’s dark and cozy and serves alcohol. But the main draw here is the rockin’ ramen, which begins with broth that is simmered for 36 hours before finding its way into the big bowls of ramen.
I love the classic tonkotsu ramen with pork, but vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free customers like my wife will appreciate the veggie ramen made with purple yam noodles.
Salt Lake City Live Music at Gracie’s
There’s an abundance of terrific live music to enjoy in SLC, and one of my favorite spots is Gracie’s, which frequently hosts jazz, blues, and bluegrass jam sessions in addition to spotlighting local acts such as Chris Orrock and the Lazlos, The Joe McQueen Quartet, Fat Apollo and the Cellulites, Geeks Who Drink, and many more.
White Horse Spirits and Kitchen
Not quite ready to call it a night, we commandeered a sidewalk table at White Horse Spirits and Kitchen for a libation and a nosh or two … or five. The White Horse is another of SLC’s stunning adult playgrounds, and another with top-notch cuisine, to boot. Chef/Partner Matt Crandall takes his “bar” food seriously—an inviting array of seafood dishes, shared plate options, bar snacks, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and more.
I can never resist oysters on the half-shell, and so I didn’t. Along with those tasty oysters, we nibbled on housemade potato chips. Oh, but these weren’t your average potato chips. Crandall take the freshly made chips and tosses them in a brown paper bag with malt vinegar powder, truffle oil, and a 63-degree egg yolk, creating what he calls “Egg n’ Chips.”
Chef Crandall’s Hamachi Crudo is outstanding—generous slices of raw, sushi-grade hamachi served with pickled pepper, cucumber, radish, yuzu, olive oil, micro greens, and furikake. Yum.
And meat lovers will adore his take on steak tartare, which is sort of a deconstructed cheeseburger, albeit with raw beef. Top-quality beef is chopped and tossed with capers and white onion, served with egg, cornichons, and toasted rye. But here’s the kicker: Chef Crandall cleverly serves cured, shredded egg yolk alongside which, amazingly, tastes like cheese. So when you add a little of the cured egg to the raw beef the flavor profile is like that of a cheeseburger—brilliant!
Not quite ready to throw in the towel, we enjoyed a “nightcap” of Chocolate Molten Cake at the White Horse, served with Utah sour cherries and fresh Chantilly.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day on THE BLOCKS in downtown Salt Lake City.
To read more work by Ted Scheffler, click HERE