Seven Restaurants to Try in 2013

At the beginning of the year I was asked to write a post about the best restaurants in Salt Lake City by the event blog, Design Loves Detail.  I picked seven must try restaurants and why they are worth going to.  In case you missed the originally featured post, here it is. 

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I love the way that food connects people and how memories are shared (and made) around a dining room table.  If you’re anything like me, events and celebrations both big and small take place surrounded by food.  Family get-togethers, friend gatherings, dates–they all share the focus of food, connecting people one bite at a time.  Ok, cheesiness aside (no pun intended), where you celebrate makes a difference.  So where are the best restaurants around town for each of 2013’s events and celebrations?

Salt Lake City and its surrounding areas, like Park City, have a ton of great restaurants.  Some are good for groups, others favor a more fancy night out.  Below is a list of seven places to celebrate seven occasions through the year, with explanations why the restaurant fits the occasion and the menu item that can’t be missed.

Restaurant No. 1 :: Aristo’s

Aristo's garlic-packed dip, skordalia, is a must order.
Aristo’s garlic-packed skordalia is a must order.

Event ::  Family Dinner
Where ::  Aristo’s Greek Restaurant & Cafe
Why ::  This spacious restaurant is comfortable but still intimate, with tables of every size to fit your group.  There are plenty of plates to share and a wide range of entrees to pique everyone’s palate.  The wine list, while delicate, is inexpensive and easily approachable.
Order ::  Don’t skip the skordalia, a garlic-based dip that comes with freshly-made pita.  It’s one of my favorite dishes in all of Salt Lake City.  Although a warning: it’s not for the faint-at-garlic-heart; the menu describes it simply as “garlic, garlic and more garlic” and it’s not an exaggeration.

Restaurant No. 2 :: Finca

Finca's juicy lamb belly and Coca de Ajo are delicious conversation starters.
Finca’s juicy lamb belly and Coca de Ajo are delicious conversation starters.

Event ::  Couples Dinner
Where ::  Finca
Why ::  This Spanish tapas restaurant is lively and friendly, with a menu that changes with the seasons.  The wine list has bottles (ranging from affordable to splurge-able) and wines by the glass, but don’t forget to check out the cocktail menu, too.  Dishes are made to share and servers encourage diners to keep a menu at your table, so you can create a night as long as you want.
Order ::  Lamb belly, it’s like the bacon of your dreams (but even juicier), with pumpkin puree and cider-braised apples; and the Coca de Ajo, a garlic flat bread with ham, manchego cheese, onions and sherry (think of a pizza on flavor steroids).

Restaurant No. 3 :: Forage

Elk heart and frozen celery and horseradish sandwiches are examples of the edible creativity at Forage.
Elk heart and frozen celery and horseradish sandwiches are examples of the edible creativity at Forage.

Event ::  Anniversary
Where ::  Forage
Why ::  This mind-blowing, all-night dinner is guaranteed to be memorable.  Chefs Viet Pham and Bowman Brown were named the Best New Chefs in 2011 by Food & Wine magazine and their expertise is obvious.  The restaurant exclusively serves a tasting menu of about 13 courses that changes nightly.  The miniature courses are incredibly creative and are sure to spark up a good conversation with your sweetheart.
Order ::  All decisions are out of your hands here, so sit back, relax and enjoy the culinary adventure that is Forage.  Read my full review on the tasting menu at Forage here

Restaurant No. 4 :: Pago

The chicken hash is a savory and flavorful way to start your day.
Pago’s chicken hash is a savory and flavorful way to start your day.

Event ::  Sunday Brunch
Where ::  Pago
Why ::  This cozy restaurant is a perfect way to start a lazy Sunday.  Perk up your senses with a cup of coffee made table-side, then follow with a freshly-squeezed orange juice mimosa or house-made bloody mary.  The menu is small so you won’t have too many dishes to decide between, but don’t let it fool you: it won’t be an easy decision to make with so many scrumptious-sounding options.
Order ::  The Chicken Hash, with pulled chicken, savory spices and a rich cream sauce.  Both your senses and your belly will be full all the way ’til dinner.

Restaurant No. 5 :: The Farm at the Canyons Resort

Rocky Mountain Lamb with chive-blossom cous-cous and lavender ricotta at The Farm.
Rocky Mountain Lamb with chive-blossom cous-cous and lavender ricotta at The Farm.

Event ::  Dinner with Out-of-Town Guests
Where ::  The Farm at the Canyons
Why ::  Show off Utah’s marvelous mountains with a drive up to The Canyons Resort.  The restaurant sits at the bottom of the ski lifts, so your guests can say they’ve been to one of the venues from the 2002 Olympic Games, and is decorated like a high-class cabin, complete with large windows to watch the sun set.
Order ::  The menu changes seasonally, so ask your server about his/her favorite dish du jour.  Rest assured that all the dishes arrive in a presentation that’s as beautiful as the restaurant itself.  Read my full review on The Farm here (which was also posted on The Canyons Resort blog). 

Restaurant No. 6 :: Copper Onion

The ricotta dumplings at Copper Onion are zesty and savory.
The ricotta dumplings at Copper Onion are zesty and savory.

Event ::  Lunch with your Girlfriends
Where ::  Copper Onion
Why ::  The restaurant is cozy and laid back with tables small enough to share secrets without everyone hearing. The menu offers a variety of dish sizes, from light bites of cheese and shareable small plates to midsized sandwiches and large entrees.  The extensive wine list follows the trend with wines by the glass, quartino (about a third of a bottle) and full bottles.
Order :: The ricotta dumplings, rich balls of soft cheese with thyme and a kick of lemon.  Another one of my favorite Salt Lake City dishes.

Restaurant No. 7 :: Lucky 13

You can't go wrong with the Stinky Bacon Cheese burger at Lucky 13.
You can’t go wrong with the Stinky Bacon Cheese burger at Lucky 13.

Event ::  Burger Craving
Where ::  Lucky 13
Why ::  Ok, so a burger craving isn’t exactly an event, but if you’re anything like me, I get on a kick for burgers every once in awhile.  This dive bar lacks a nice atmosphere and comfortable seats but makes up for it all with their burgers.  Their Spicy Candied Bacon Cajun Burger recently won the title for the World’s Best Burger in a Travel Channel competition in Las Vegas and their other burgers are just as good.  Keep an eye on their specials; ostrich, kangaroo and elk burgers are frequently offered.
Order :: Anything with bacon.  Their house-smoked bacon is the best in Salt Lake City.  No matter what you order, add bacon to it (even their bloody marys can be ordered with a bacon garnish!).
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Of course, these restaurants are so good that you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to try them out.  Grab a buddy or go alone (it’s not as weird as you think) and go have a good meal!

This article was originally posted on the Design Loves Detail blog on January 8, 2013.

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