The Copper Onion in Salt Lake City

The Copper Onion was one of the first restaurants to raise the bar of the food scene in Salt Lake City.  It continually draws attention time and time again for its food, drinks and atmosphere.  It’s one of those places I affectionately visit often but somehow never wrote a fully-dedicated post about it here on my blog.  I know my dear friends, I’m sorry.  So here it is!  If you haven’t been there, here is why you should go.  And if you have, together we can reminiscence about what makes The Copper Onion one of Salt Lake City’s gems.

The table full of food and wine at Copper Onion in Salt Lake City.

Good food, good wine, good company = a great night.

The Copper Onion is a lively, energetic restaurant bustling with friends, couples and solo diners sipping wine, cocktails and artisan beers while munching on an array of bites, small plates, entrees or a combination of all of the above.  The open kitchen gives guests a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action, the waiting area (which is usually just as packed as the dining room) has tables topped with cocktails and appetizers, and if it’s summer, the patio is filled to the brim with people enjoying the fresh air.  It’s a happenin’ place that could easily be a part of any major city.

Sauteed mushrooms at the Copper Onion in Salt Lake City.

The sauteed mushrooms topped with a fried egg, parsley and garlic.

The menu gives way to a sort of choose-your-own adventure vibe.  If you want to go the wine-focused route, there are tiny bites like olives ($4), cheese ($4-5) or charcuterie ($4-6) to add on to comply with the “must have food with your alcohol” law.  A fun tidbit at Copper Onion :: wine is available by the glass, bottle and a few in quartinos (half bottles that have about two glasses each in them).

The bone marrow and toasted bread at Copper Onion in Salt Lake City.

It may look intimidating, but bone marrow is simply delicious.

Then there’s the small plates path, with plenty of appetizers to build a meal-worthy feast, like the rich and cheesy ricotta dumplings (one of my favorite dishes in all of Salt Lake City, $9), the savory and crunchy sauteed mushrooms (another mind-blowing must-order, $9), and the warm, buttery roasted wagyu bone marrow ($15).

The beef stroganoff with creme fraiche, chives and mushrooms.

The beef stroganoff with creme fraiche, chives and mushrooms.

Or you can go the regular route of entrees.  Copper Onion classics that have made waves since they’ve opened are the meat loaf ($19), a medley of beef, lamb and pork, seasonings and flavor that is nothin’ like your momma made.  Not only will this change your perception of meatloaf, it’ll ruin you from ever having it anywhere else again.  The wagyu beef stroganoff ($20) shares a similar fate; it’s a savory dish with house-made pappardelle noodles, mushrooms, chunks of beef and a bit of creme fraiche that will put your home-cooked version to shame.

Olive oil cake and Fernet at Copper Onion in Salt Lake City.

Olive oil cake served with house-made ice cream and a bit of Fernet to finish the night.

And lest I forget the dessert.  If you’ve managed to save room til this point, you should reward yourself with (what else?) more food.  I like the olive oil cake, a lightly fluffy way to finish the evening ($7) or the house-made ice cream (in flavors that change daily, $4-5) are always a good way to go.  If you haven’t saved enough room (I don’t blame you with all the offerings on the menu), you can opt for a liquid dessert–one of the many rich cocktails with the sweet tooth in mind ($8-11).

The meatloaf at the Copper Onion in Salt Lake City.

One of my favorite Copper Onion dishes is the meatloaf.

The service at Copper Onion can be hit or miss, although I’ve noticed an improvement over my last few visits.  The menu doesn’t change with the exception of minor tweaks, which is good when I crave my favorite dishes but bad because I’d love to see what else Chef Ryan Lowder can come up with (although that’s what the specials are for).

I’m proud to have Copper Onion in our city and representing the food scene not only in Utah, but throughout the country in places like Wine Enthusiast.

Go to Copper Onion for :: a casual but outstanding dinner full of your favorite dishes, only better.  Notes :: It can be noisy, so maybe not the best place for an intimate conversation.  Open Reservations are practically required.  Walk-ins are available but wait times can be long even on weekdays.  Make reservations online here.  Follow Copper Onion on twitter here and friend them on facebook here.

The Copper Onion on Urbanspoon

Alamexo in Salt Lake City

The American restaurant Zy recently morphed into a Mexican restaurant, trading in its focus on cheese and wine for guacamole and tequila.  Chef Matt Lake traces his culinary roots to a gourmet Mexican restaurant in New York City and after the cheese and wine concept went stale at Zy in Salt Lake City, decided to return to his beginnings by changing the restaurant’s cuisine to Mexican and calling it Alamexo.

Alamexo's Christmas tree.

Alamexo’s Christmas tree.

One of the biggest gripes about Zy was its price point, which, unfortunately, didn’t change much when the restaurant evolved to Alamexo.  Appetizers still hover around $6-12 while entrees are in the $16-27 range.  Most of the menu items are identical to those served at any Mexican restaurant :: enchiladas, mole poblano and tacos, but there are a few that are unique, like cod filet with roasted squash (Pescado con Pipean y atole, $23) and spiced chicken breast with queso fresco taco (Pechuga de Pollo, $20).

The Alamexo Vida Rita at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

The Alamexo Vida Rita

The cocktail list obviously focuses on tequilas with a few wines and beers listed too.  I tried the Alamexo Vida Ria ($10) with Vida Tequila, Cointreau and jamaica.  It was a little sweet for my tastes.  I liked the Ginger Fizz ($12), with Patron Silver, ginger and bitters better.

The mole poblano at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

The sesame seeds added a fun crunch to the Mole Poblano.

On my first visit to Alamexo I picked the Mole Poblano ($18), one of my favorite Mexican dishes.  Theirs is served with pulled pork seasoned with avocado leaf and topped with white onions, cheese and toasted sesame seeds.  There was a complex mixture of flavors that I enjoyed but I kept wishing for more spiciness every time I took a bite.

Guacamole, queso and roasted corn at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

Guacamole, queso and roasted corn.

On my next visit to Alamexo, my friends and I decided to split a bunch of appetizers.  We started with the Guacamole ($10), made table-side.  Avocados are one of my favorite things in the world, so I only wished there was more of it.  The Queso Fundido ($8), baked queso Chihuahua with rajas, house-made chorizo and onions, was unmemorable and overshadowed by the Elotes de la Calle ($3), roasted corn with queso fresco, lime and chile molido, a surprisingly delicious dish.

Lobster topped with salsa, steak with queso and the quesadilla at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

Lobster topped with salsa, steak with queso and the quesadilla.

For our next round of appetizers we ordered the Sopes de Langosta y Hongos ($12), Maine lobster and mushroom sopes with tomatillo and habanero, a well-rounded dish; Bistek con Hongos y Rajas ($25), perfectly-cooked steak with rajas, queso and cotija cheeses, and Quesadilla de Calabaza ($8) with roasted squash and poblano peppers, a predictable version of the classic dish.

The ceviche at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

I liked the creamy sweetness of the ceviche.

My favorite appetizer of the evening was the Ceviche del Dia, a creation that changes daily.  The seafood mixture was semi sweet, with a nice balance of texture.  We finished the meal with a side of Plantanos con Creme ($3), fried sweet plantains that worked as a savory dessert.  Alamexo also delivers churros on the house.

Complimentary churros at Alamexo in Salt Lake City.

The churros are complimentary at Alamexo.

I had high hopes for Alamexo, but left the restaurant unimpressed both times I ate there.  The dishes have potential but many are missing something, especially for the price.  Even with a new concept and menu, I’m afraid Zy’s main issue–the price–might come back to haunt Alamexo as well.

Go to Alamexo for :: a nice dinner when you’re craving Mexican food.  Try the ceviche and the fried sweet plantains.  Notes :: Open seven days a week, Monday-Friday, 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday 5 pm to 10 pm and Sunday 5 pm to 9 pm.  Reservations are available online here.

Alamexo on Urbanspoon

Layla Grill in Salt Lake City

I have a severe weakness for lamb.  Whenever there’s a lamb dish on a menu, it’s a pretty sure bet that that’s my order.  So when several people gushed to me about how amazing the lamb is at Layla Grill, I was a little more than intrigued.  Last week I finally got around to trying it and, well, Layla’s lamb is to die for.

[Image via facebook.]

[Image via facebook.]

Located in the southern end of Salt Lake City, Layla Grill serves Mediterranean food in a cute restaurant with a neighborhood feel to it.  My friends and I went after a long Saturday of errands and forgot to make reservations.  Bad idea; the wait was over an hour.  We opted to sit at the bar to cut down our wait time and ended up having a great experience with excellent service while sitting stool side.

The combination appetizer plate at Layla Mediterranean Grill in Salt Lake City.

The combination appetizer plate was a great start to our meal.

Layla’s menu has a lot of Mediterranean favorites on it, like beef or chicken shwarma (similar to gyro meat, served in a sandwich-like wrap), kabobs, Moussaka (a rich, layered eggplant dish), a swarm of salad options (including Fattoush, a pita bread salad) and more.  Anxious to get a taste of Layla’s flavor, we started with a combination appetizer platter (available in combos of three/$13, and four/$16) of Muhammara Walnut Spread, a rich and savory dip made with walnuts, red peppers and pomegranate molasses; Grape Leaves stuffed with a blend of rice, onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint and heavy hit of lemon juice; and Mediterranean Crab Cakes, a spicy, dense version of the classic.

Braised lamb at Layla in Salt Lake City.

Layla’s famous lamb was spectacular.

Without hesitation, my friend and I ordered the Moroccan Lamb Shank ($21), a massive chunk of lamb slowly braised in a burgundy demi-glaze sauce with dried apricots and savory spices.  It was fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy and rich; a simply magnificent lamb dish.  Oh and it was served with Lebanese vermicelli rice and brussel sprouts, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice them on my plate until about halfway through my lamb.

The Musakhen at Layla Grill in Salt Lake City.

The Musakhen is one of Layla’s signature dishes.

My other friend ordered the Musakhen ($14.50), a sandwich-like wrap filled with chicken, caramelized onions, sumac and pine nuts.  The thin flatbread was browned on the outside in more spices, giving it even more flavor.  It may look like a typical wrap, but the intense flavors made it far more spectacular.

Chocolate pie at Layla Grill in Salt Lake City.

Ending the meal with a bit of sweetness.

We finished our meal by splitting the Chocolate Pie, the special of the evening.  It was nice to end on a sweet note, but I wasn’t impressed by it.  Next time I’ll opt for more appetizers and skip the dessert.

Layla Grill is my new go-to place when I’m south of Salt Lake City with its amazing food, welcoming atmosphere and outstanding service.  We felt like the only diners in the restaurant, even though it was packed!  Now I just have to convince myself to try something else before giving in and getting that lamb dish again!

Go to Layla Grill for :: a delicious dinner packed with flavor in a relaxing setting.  Notes :: Open Monday through Friday for lunch, 11:30 a.m-2:00p.m; Monday through Thursday for dinner 5:00 p.m-9:30 p.m and Friday and Saturday for dinner 5:00 p.m-10:00 p.m.  Reservations are available (and recommended) by calling 801-272-9111.  Friend Layla on facebook or follow them on twitter for updates.

Layla Mediterranean Grill and Mezze on Urbanspoon

First Look :: Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City

Main Street in Salt Lake City just got a lot better.  A new bar opened its doors last week, Whiskey Street, and as its name suggests, they put a heavy emphasis on whiskey.  In addition to their specialty, they offer an extensive list of international beers and high end spirits, plus a full menu of food.

The Whiskey Street sign on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

Tucked back into the buildings on Main Street, Whiskey Street is easy to miss.

Whiskey Street is located at 323 South Main Street, where the short-lived CO2 used to be (in between Eva and The Bodega).  The narrow space features a bold bar on one side, displaying bottles and bottles of spirits behind it, and booths with tables on the opposite side.  In between the two is a tall standing bar and hidden in the back are couches.  It’s laid back enough to have a relaxing drink with friends and/or enjoy a good meal.

Behind the bar, bottles of whiskey are displayed at Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

American, Canadian, Irish, Japanese, Scottish… whiskeys from around the world are available.

So first things first :: the whiskey.  The drink menu has several pages dedicated to whiskey alone, categorized by region.  I was surprised to see Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon ($8) listed, something I’ve never seen in Utah before.  I’m happy to report that the prices are decent, too; with most bourbons around $10/each.

The interior of Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

The interior of Whiskey Street.

Scotch is priced more expensive, as it is in general, but the list of those available is impressive.  Keep an eye on the price when you order, though, because while most are $9-16, a few will set you back $40/shot (like Glenlivet 25 year and Macallan 21 year) or as much as $68 (Macallan 25 year).  I’ll note that Whiskey Street also has Japanese single malts :: Yamazaki ($13 for 12 year/$22 for 18 year), Hibiki ($13) and one I’d never heard of (but loved instantly) Suntory Hakushu 12 ($13).

Parmesan truffle fries at Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

Parmesan truffle fries are amazing.

Now, the food.  Whiskey Street is a bar so you don’t have to order food.  But you might want to.  The appetizers and snacks are priced under $9 and are great to share between a few people to pick at while you drink.  Get the Parmesan Truffle Fries ($6), served with a house-made smoked ketchup.  They are amazingly addicting.

The roasted Shishito Peppers at Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

A spicy kick of peppers pairs well with whiskey.

The Roasted Shishito Pepper Poppers ($7) are served with an orange habanero whipped mascarpone sauce that balances the spiciness of the peppers and goes well with whiskey.  The Fried Pickles ($5) aren’t anything out of the ordinary, but (disclaimer) pickles aren’t really my thing.

Corned Beef Sandwich at Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

The corned beef sandwich tasted better than it looked.

I tried the Corned Beef Sandwich ($10), served hot on a roasted garlic baguette and more truffle fries (yay!).  (Other side options include soup, mixed green salad or caesar.)  It was surprisingly one of the best corned beef sandwiches I’ve had in Utah.  Next time I’d like to try their entrees, specifically the Pork Chop with spiced bourbon maple glaze ($17) or the Butternut Squash Risotto with prawns, pancetta and arugula ($14).

Whiskey at The Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City.

Whiskey is available “on the rock” — a giant ball of ice.

Whiskey Street is a mix between Bar X and Bourbon House, with great drinks, relaxing atmosphere and good food.  (Bourbon House and Whiskey Street share the same owners.)  The service was excellent the first night I went and shady the second, but it was also packed.  Hopefully that will improve with time and they’re able to get drinks out faster.  There isn’t a cocktail list, but I’d love to see if their bartenders can mix up anything decent, even though their focus is whiskey (and I have no problem with that).

Go to Whiskey Street :: to sip on whiskey with your friends or for a casual dinner or lunch of American food.  Notes :: Open for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week.  Reservations are no accepted.  Friend them on facebook here.

Whiskey Street on Urbanspoon

Pallet in Salt Lake City

Pallet is unlike anywhere else in Salt Lake City.  The downtown restaurant is known for its unparalleled atmosphere, the focus of which varies depending on the time of day from a cozy neighborhood bistro when it opens to a hip, cocktail-focused joint later in the evening.  Regardless of the time or vibe, as soon as you settle into the west side restaurant, it’s apparent you’re in for something special.

The menu and a Manhattan at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

Perusing the menu with a Manhattan.

Pallet has been a part of the downtown dining scene for awhile now, causing a stir with its unique decor (done by the folks at City Home Collective) and swanky cocktails (created by Matt Pfohl, one of SLC’s best mixologists).  I wrote about it when it first opened more than a year ago but was recently lured back into the cozy, candlelit restaurant and thought I’d take a closer look at where Chef Willey has taken the place.

The Mint Julep at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

It’s never too late in the year for a Mint Julep.

The ever-changing menu is heavily focused on appetizers, ranging around $8-12, and several salads (including asparagus- and beet-based) making a small plates/tapas-style dinner an easy option.  Main dishes steep upwards of $27 for a lamb T-bone or an array of vegetables for $15.  The descriptions are incredibly vague but the server will tell you that’s done intentionally to strike up a conversation with him or her about what to order.  I’m a big fan of talking with the staff but I’m more in favor of detailed menus.

Hamachi with avocado balls, ice, cilantro and lemon at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

Chef Willey’s take on Hamachi.

After starting with the bartender’s choice of a cocktail (he brought a perfect-for-my-mood Mint Julep), my friend and I decided to create a dinner of small plates.  Our server grouped them in courses for us, bringing out the Hamachi ($12) first.  It was served sashimi-style with shishito peppers, avocado balls and bacon sorbet topped with lemon, cilantro and chunks of ice.  Yes, ice.  I liked the combination of flavors but felt that the ice was somewhat distracting.

Figs and speck at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

Figs + Speck = crunchy, savory goodness.

With our fish dish came the Figs and Speck ($11); figs wrapped in Caputo’s house made Speck, drizzled with balsamic, ricotta chunks and almonds.  I was surprised how much I liked the texture and flavor contrasts of this dish, but really, when you put speck on something (especially from Caputo’s), can you ever go wrong?  I think not.

Clams and spicy pillows at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

The clams and spicy pillows (my favorite dish of the night).

Next up were the Clams ($13), served with fries, onions and sausage.  The classic dish was enjoyably spruced up with sausage, but otherwise predictable.  Alongside them we had the Spicy Pillows ($11), addicting puff-like pillows with a gnocchi-ish texture with chard, lemon, thyme and onion.  I could eat these all night, especially after a cocktail or two.

Warm oatmeal shortbread topped with ice cream at Pallet in Salt Lake City.

Ending the night with warm shortbread and ice cream.

And even though I was more than full, we finished the meal with Warm Oatmeal Walnut Shortbread ($8) with chocolate and salted caramel, berry and ice cream.  Every time I’ve been to Pallet, the dessert has been the highlight of the meal and this was no different.  It was warm and comforting and simply delicious.

Pallet’s strengths are easily its atmosphere and innovative cocktails.   Some items on the menu can be hit or miss, but trust your server to be honest and take their advice.  In the meantime, sit back, relax and sip on something sultry while you enjoy the fact that you’re in a truly one-of-a-kind restaurant in Salt Lake City.

Go to Pallet for :: the awesome atmosphere, amazing cocktails and great desserts for a date night or casual dinner with friends.  Notes :: Open Monday through Saturday, 5-10 pm.  Some tables are communal-style seating but singles are available.  Reservations can be made online here.

Pallet on Urbanspoon

Silver in Park City

Park City is the perfect escape from Salt Lake City.  I always find the 25-minute drive up Parley’s Canyon therapeutic.  Utah’s impressive mountains set the stage for the foliage to show off whatever season it is, whether it be the bursts of fall colors, the monochromatic winter, the subdued spring or the lush greenery of summer.  I missed the display of fall trees last month on my recent drive up the canyon, but what colors remained were still charming, even in their forewarning that winter was well on its way.

The interior of Silver, with its fireplace and blue wine wrack, in Park City, Utah.

Silver’s wine rack casts a blue glow through the restaurant.

My favorite part about Park City is the way being there feels like being out of town.  Maybe that’s thanks to its residents, many of them Utah transplants, or the numerous tourists, or the way it’s the only place to find certain things in Utah, like a whiskey distillery.  And a restaurant that feels like it’s straight out of New York City :: Silver.

The interior of Silver in Park City, Utah.

The decor at Silver is spectacular.

My first taste of Silver was at last year’s Savor the Summit event and I’ve been aching to return ever since.  I was finally able to do that a few weeks ago.  The moment I stepped inside I realized this restaurant is like no other one in Utah.  The decor is striking; silver chains hang from the walls reflecting blue lights that dangle from the ceiling in between large chandeliers.  Glass panels glow, a fireplace burns and the wine rack at the back of the restaurant emits a blue, futuristic light.

A cocktail and drink menu and the pretzel bread at Silver in Park City, Utah.

The pre-dinner cocktail and pretzel bread.

Silver serves modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, meaning with lots of seafood mixed in.  The menu is modest in size but ambitious in selection.  The wine list is monstrous, with bottles reaching towards the $300+ range, but there are also a handful in the $20-$40 range and several affordable by-the-glass options.  The creative cocktail list caught our eye so I started with The Clean Shave ($10), a mix of bourbon, rum and benedictine bitters.  Satisfyingly not too sweet, just like I like it.

The Baby Octopus appetizer at Silver in Park City, Utah.

Baby octopus are cute and tasty!

Our server suggested we start with the Baby Octopus ($12).  The combination of salty olives, savory black potatoes, crispy fennel and meaty octopus was wonderful. The octopus wasn’t too chewy (always a fear of mine when ordering the critters), and everything played together nicely.

Roasted squab and foie gras at Silver in Park City, Utah.

The squab was like heaven.

As soon as I saw The Roasted Squab ($36) on the menu, I knew I had to order it.  One of my favorite types of meat, squab is better known as pigeon.  The dark red meat is tender, juicy and richly flavorful.  Silver’s dish, served with a variety of vegetables, sausage and foie gras, was outstanding.  It was intensely rich in the most rewarding way.

The Hanger Steak at Silver in Park City, Utah.

The steak was classic but satisfying.

My friend ordered the Hanger Steak ($34), another suggestion of the server.  It was a little predictable, but still delicious.  It was served with brussel sprouts, wild mushrooms and fingerling potatoes in a gin mustard sauce.  The steak was cooked with a perfect sear and the mushrooms added a great kick of flavor.

The upstairs of Silver in Park City, Utah.

The upstairs of Silver is cozy and intimate.

There were so many other things on Silver’s menu I wanted to try, like the Crispy Whole Sardines ($12), the Herbed Vegetable Crepe ($19) and the Fig-Wrapped Kurabuta Pork Chop ($29).  The menu changes all the time (it’s even changed since I was there), so when you spot something you want, get there quickly.

The atmosphere, the food and the service were all more-than-memorable at Silver.  It’s well worth the drive up Parley’s Canyon for dinner.  Not only will it feel like you’re out of Utah thanks to the decor, the food will transport you far, far away, too.

Go to Silver for :: a spectacular dinner with deep flavors, paired with wine or creative cocktails, in a dramatically beautiful restaurant.  Notes :: Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner, although days and times vary depending on the season.  Reservations are available online here.  They also host private parties.

Silver Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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