One of the better restaurant outings my family and I have experienced this year was a recent dinner at a relatively new restaurant: Mi Buena Vida, which translated from Spanish to English means “My good life.”
Mi Buena Vida is located in the 15th & 15th neighborhood in the space that was The Paris restaurant for many years and then the short-lived Trattoria di Francesco, operated by the Sicilia Mia restaurant group. Gone are all vestiges of either establishment. No traces are left of the faux French brasserie that was The Paris, nor the gilded Louis XV-ish decor of Trattoria di Francesco. What we have now is a vibrant, inviting, upscale Mexican eatery with non-upscale prices that looks and feels like a million bucks.
It’s the latest creation of restaurateur Alan Galeano who is also behind Park City restaurants El Chubasco (one of my longtime Park City faves), The Brick Restaurant & Bar, and the recently shuttered Crystal Park Cantina. To my knowledge, this is his first culinary excursion into Salt Lake City, and it’s a good one.
The spacious restaurant and sidewalk patio is full of color and was bustling on a recent Friday night. I love the gorgeous murals and other eye-catching artwork that pepper the restaurant’s walls and somehow – even though Mi Buena Vida is a large restaurant with multiple dining spaces – it didn’t seem loud even when crowded.
And there are adult drinks! The beverage list is extensive and includes cocktails, beer, and a pretty decent wine selection – better than at most local Mexican restaurants, if they have one at all – including bottles from La Crema, Matua, Mondavi, La Marca, Zonin, McManis, Daou, Erath, and others. I suggest sipping a fresh made cocktail like the Habanero Margarita while perusing the extensive menu. It’s a spicy concoction of Don Julio Blanco tequila, habanero chile reduction, signature house Margarita mix, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
Each meal at Mi Buena Vida starts off with a large complimentary bowl of house-made corn tortilla chips and freshly made salsa roja. Avocado lovers might opt for the house guacamole ($9.50) – handmade with pico de gallo. As at El Chubasco in Park City, Mi Buena Vida also features a salsa bar with a big salsa and condiments selection.
Our family loves tortilla chips so we also shared a very generous serving of Eva’s Nachos ($10.50), which was a big plate of those delicious homemade chips smothered with refried beans, guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo, and cilantro mayo. For an extra 4 bucks guests can add chicken or steak to their nacho plate. One thing I noted while dining at Mi Buena Vida is that dishes are very artfully presented there – even something as simple as nachos had excellent eye appeal.
Additional items in the “Shareables” section of the menu include two versions of ceviche, picante crispy shrimp ($14), jalapeño poppers ($15), and queso dip ($6). Ceviche Acapulco ($19) is made with shrimp, octopus and fish with avocado, cucumber, celery, cilantro and lime juice. We opted for Shrimp Ceviche Sinaloa ($16), which was outstanding, with a generous number of shrimp to share. It’s tender, medium-size shrimp with red onions, pineapple, jalapeño, avocado, in a green sauce of cilantro and mint, garnished with microgreens. Simply put, it is super ceviche.
If, like me, you’ve had enough of bourgeois taco joints, you might appreciate the more traditional flavors and dishes at Mi Buena Vida. There are lots of menu items that you might actually run into in Mexico, like birria, pozole, tortilla soup, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, chile rellenos and such. But they also offer American-style tacos with shredded lettuce, cheese and tomatoes, and a wide choice of stuffings. One of my stepsons really enjoyed the cauliflower tacos ($14), which is a serving of two vegan tacos with crispy tempura-style cauliflower in flour tortillas with red cabbage, avocado, microgreens, chipotle mayo, cilantro, and rice & beans.
I’m not a fan of cilantro and so I appreciate that, since many dishes at Mi Buena Vida come with rice and beans on the side, guests have options there too and can choose from either cilantro rice or traditional Mexican rice, as well as black beans or refried beans. The refried beans are especially creamy and delicious.
I was interested to taste a little bit of this and a little bit of that at Mi Buena Vida, and the Mixto ($19.50) plate is the perfect way to do just that. With Mixto, guests choose three items from four options: tostada, taco, enchilada, and taquito, stuffed or topped with a choice of carnitas, chicken, shredded beef or shrimp. And, the Mixto plate also comes with rice and beans as well, so it’s quite a bargain. I opted for a carnitas tostada, which was killer, shredded beef taquito, and chicken enchilada, and loved every morsel.
Main dishes at Mi Buena Vida include Spicy Salmon Tostadas ($19), Beef & Cheese “Volcano” ($19), Baja Burger ($17), Filet Mignon Catrina ($29), Octopus & Cheese Tacos ($22), Fish or Shrimp Tacos ($18.50), Camarones a la Diabla ($22), and others. My wife’s entree was sensational: grilled salmon topped with a very authentic tasting black mole on a bed of sauteed onions and sweet corn ($25), accompanied by rice and beans.
Another traditional dish – and one that is very, very good – is a plate of three enchiladas with cream and panela cheese, topped with shredded cabbage, with a choice of steak ($18), portobello ($17), chicken ($16), shredded beef ($17), carnitas ($17), or shrimp ($18), served with rice and beans, as well as a choice of sauce: tomatillo, tomato, mole, or queso.
There’s also a kids menu available and desserts like flan, fresas con crema, cake horchata, and scrumptious fresh churros with dulce de leche and chocolate sauce that you won’t want to pass on.
The wonderful atmosphere, decor, cuisine and outstanding service combined to make Mi Buena Vida one of our favorite new restaurants and we can’t wait to return. My good life, indeed.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “So how as a nation can we sit around and eat Mexican food, and drink beer and make friends? That’s the question. If we can do that on a broader scale, I think we’ll come out of it all right..” – Sandra Day O’Connor
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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.