As a longtime restaurant critic, the question I get asked the most is, of course, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” And that’s always a tough question to answer because on any given night, my favorite restaurant might be a pizza joint because I’m craving pizza. Or maybe a great Middle Eastern eatery because I’m in the mood for falafel. At other times, I want all the bells and whistles of a fine dining establishment. However, while I can’t always pinpoint my favorite single restaurant, I can zero in on some of my favorite dishes at restaurants I love. Here are 10 of them.
One of the best Chinese restaurants in town is Mom’s Kitchen, aptly named for the two moms who operate the restaurant: Mama Chen and Mama Zhang. They are from Taiwan and Beijing, respectively. My favorite Mom’s Kitchen dish is the Sichuan-style dan dan noodles: perfectly cooked noodles served cold in a spicy peanut sauce and dressed with julienned cucumber. Those are some gnarly noodles!
The best restaurant at The Gateway, in my opinion, is MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company. The authentic, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas here are hard to beat. My favorite is a spicy pizza called The Devil’s. It starts out looking like a typical Margherita pizza, with bright tasting tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. But things get kicked up a few notches with the additional toppings of spicy Italian calabrese salami, housemade spicy sausage and hot red chilies. This heat-seaking pizza is heavenly.
There are lots of reasons to love The Garage on Beck, including top-notch live music and an uber-friendly vibe and staff. What you might not know is that this rockin’ road house has a killer kitchen, headed up by chef J. Looney. I can’t resist the fish & chips at The Garage: Beer battered Alaskan pollock that’s deep-fried to perfection, served with equally perfect house-cut fries and fresh-made tartar sauce.
There are plenty of dishes at Log Haven restaurant that I can’t get enough of. But a recent addition to the menu is a must-try and a great dish to share prior to entrees. Chef Dave Jones’ Mussels are marvelous. Black mussels are cooked in a spicy tomato and white wine sauce with crispy fried chickpeas and then drizzled with saffron aioli.
I stand by my proclamation – now many years old – that there is no finer Jewish-style deli in Utah (and maybe in the West) than Feldman’s Deli. Frankly, I’ve never had anything at Janet and Michael Feldman’s delightful deli that I didn’t love. The Sloppy Joe is ridiculously good, and not your daddy’s Sloppy Joe, made with corned beef and pastrami. Other overstuffed sandwiches like the Reuben, Corned Beef on Rye, Pastrami, and “The Beast” never fail to satisfy. And, Janet’s bagels are second to none. But if I had to choose just one thing to eat from Feldman’s extensive deli menu, it would be the knish – pastry stuffed with potatoes and onion, served with a choice of mustard or ketchup (mustard is the correct choice, BTW).
I love sushi. Who doesn’t? And when I’m in the mood for sushi, I know that the best of the best is to be found at Takashi. Chef-owner Takashi Gibo is a sushi genius and I don’t ever remember not loving everything he puts in front of me when I dine omakase-style at Takashi. But my absolute favorite menu item at this top-notch Japanese restaurant is ankimo: monkfish liver that is salt-rubbed, rinsed with sake, and then rolled into a cylindrical shape and steamed. Takashi serves the ankimo as a salad with fresh daikon, cucumber, radish, tobiko and scallion. If monkfish liver sounds a little off-putting, did I mention that it tastes like foie gras? It’s spectacular.
At the family-run Taqueria Los Lee, you can’t go wrong ordering gorditas, burritos and tacos with fillings such as pork in red sauce, steak, ground beef with potatoes, pork in green sauce, or sweet potato. But Thursdays are really special at this terrific taqueria, because that’s when you can also enjoy homemade red chile pozole, with lots of tender shredded pork, hominy, and fixins like diced radish, onion, lettuce, homemade tortilla chips and more. Did I mention that the Lee family are as friendly as they come?
If you haven’t visited the new-ish location of chef-owner Fred Moesinger’s Caffe Molise yet, you’re in for quite a treat. The restaurant is gorgeous and spacious and the cuisine – as it’s always been – is nothing short of excellent. I’ve been eating at Caffe Molise since the doors opened in 1994 and never tire of the Italian-inspired fare there. But of all the delicious dishes, my go-to is Pappardelle al Sugo. It’s a plate of fresh, thick pappardelle pasta made in-house, tossed in a hearty and robust, slowly-simmered sauce of beef and pork with tomatoes, then topped with grated Asiago cheese and julienned basil. It’s a dish that never fails to please.
I’m not typically a fan of hotel restaurants, but there are exceptions. A notable one is Thistle & Thyme, which is located in the Marriott University Park Hotel. Dishes like Lobster Ravioli, Coconut-Curry Cioppino, and Poke Nachos are all extraordinary, but I believe that the real test of a kitchen and its cooks is roasted chicken. If a chef can’t roast a chicken properly, then I don’t have much interest in trying the rest of the menu. Well, I’m happy to report that chef Matt Tauszik, and his talented crew serve up a perfectly cooked, tender and juicy Roast Organic Chicken. It’s a farm-raised bird served with natural pan jus and a choice of two side dishes. It’s simple and sensational.
Up in Park City, you can’t go wrong choosing Tupelo restaurant for any occasion, whether it be a romantic dinner with a loved one or kicking back with friends for brunch. Chef-owner Matthew Harris is a wizard in the kitchen, and never more so than when he’s putting his spin on classic Southern comfort foods. Take for example his bodacious Chicken & Waffle, wherein the waffle is made with sweet potato, the fried boneless chicken is bathed in scrumptious country pepper gravy and the whole shebang is topped with a flawlessly cooked sunny-side egg. Now that’s eating well!
What’s a favorite restaurant dish of yours? We’d love to hear about it.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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