Salt Lake City for Wine Lovers (and others)

Beef Stroganoff at The Copper Onion in Salt Lake City

Beef Stroganoff at The Copper Onion in Salt Lake City

Wine lovers heading to Salt Lake City, Utah shouldn’t worry at all about being able to find high quality wine while visiting there.  Non-drinkers shouldn’t worry about being able to find high quality food here either.  There are several ways to enjoy great wine (and food) during a visit here.

Salt Lake City has several restaurants that have been recognized for the quality of their wine lists, the State Wine Store has an impressive selection to choose and purchase from, and many restaurants offer gracious and professional wine service if you bring your own wine in.  After we discuss that, we’re going to recommend some places to eat during your stay that we’ve fully enjoyed so please keep reading.

Restaurants in Salt Lake City With Great Wine Lists

100 Best Wine Restaurants 2012If you’re looking for an outstanding wine list when you go out for dinner, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2012 list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants included two restaurants in Salt Lake City:  The Copper Onion and Pago.  Alternatively, the 2012 Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Awards recognized six restaurants in Salt Lake City with an “Award of Excellence”Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Fresco Italian Café, Log Haven, Market Street Grill, Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops, and New Yorker.  So, there are eight establishments right there to choose from if you need a restaurant with an impressive wine list.

The Laws About Alcohol in Utah

The Capitol Building in Salt Lake City

The Capitol Building in Salt Lake City

If you are traveling to Utah, you should be aware that the state has stringent laws regarding alcohol purchase, consumption, and transportation.  These are the basics…

  1. The legal drinking age in Utah is 21 years of age.
  2. If you want to buy wine at a store, you should know that all packaged liquor, wine and full-strength beer must be purchased from a Utah state liquor store or a package agency.   Less-than-full-strenth-beer (with only 3.2% alcohol content by weight) in bottles or cans may be purchased to go at most grocery and convenience stores.
  3. If you want to buy a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a beer in Utah, these are available by the glass at licensed restaurants and clubs, as is wine by the bottle.  Beer may also be purchased in many places that have a “beer only” type license.
  4. Alcohol beverage service in a licensed restaurant requires that you order food with your drink, that your beverage be delivered to your table or counter by your server, and that you consume your drink at or near the table or counter.  Beer service in “beer only” establishments does not require that you order food, nor does alcohol beverage service in a “Club.”

The good news is that many restaurants here allow you to bring in your own wine, and have efficient wine service similar to what you would find in other states (although the corkage fees tend to be only about $8 – $12 here).  Just make sure to buy the wine here.  Private individuals may not lawfully import or transport liquor products into Utah, only the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control can do that.

Buying Wine in Salt Lake City

State Wine Store (but don't judge a book by its cover)

State Wine Store
(but don’t judge a book by its cover)

There are two specialty wine stores in Salt Lake City, but we like the State Wine Store at 255 South 300 East the most (801-553-6444).  You can find choices here from well-known wineries such as Archery Summit, Chappellet, Clos Du Val, Domaine Serene, Duckhorn Vineyards, David Arthur Vineyards, Grgich Hills Estate, Justin, Kistler Vineyards, L’Aventure, Pride Mountain Vineyards, Radio-Coteau, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, St. Clement Vineyards, Seghesio Family Vineyards, and Siduri.  However, the selection here also includes some less-famous wines we were thrilled to see such as:

If you’re travelling alone, you may want to know that the State Wine Store also has an extensive selection of 375 ml bottles.  Also, consider planning ahead as the State Wine Store is closed on Sundays, Holidays, and Election Days.

Favorite Food Destinations in Salt Lake City

Enough about the drinks.  There may be many places to find good food at in Salt Lake City, but these are our favorite food destinations there:

Cheeseburger from Better Burger Truck

Cheeseburger from Better Burger Truck

Better Burger Truck – Whether or not you are usually a Food Truck fan, this is one to hunt down.  The focus here is on local, quality ingredients and the beef burgers come from grass-fed cows, the turkey burgers come from a turkey farm in Ogden, and the veggie burgers are made by Cali’s Natural Foods.  Your side choices include Yukon Gold or Sweet Potato Fries (we go with 50/50), and Shakes made with Utah’s Farr Ice Cream.   How could you not love an establishment whose tagline is “Better Burger cows eat salad so you don’t have to?”  Sadly, they have recently closed for the season but should be back in May 2013.

Coffee Garden – Of all the places to sit down and have coffee in Salt Lake City, this is by far our favorite.  The original location is in the 9th and 9th neighborhood framed around 900 East and 900 South and has long hours, fabulous coffee, a wide selection of teas, and a friendly neighborhood vibe.  When the weather is nice, they also have seating outside which makes people-watching and dog-watching a lot easier.   Located at 878 East 900 South (801-355-3425) with a second smaller location downtown at 254 South Main Street (801-364-0768)

Trio of Side Dishes at The Copper Onion

Trio of Side Dishes at The Copper Onion

The Copper Onion – Former NYC chef (and native Utahn) Ryan Lowder offers New American cuisine inspired by his passion for Utah’s outstanding farmstead ingredients, supporting local and sustainable purveyors wherever possible.  Menu items are ready to be shared, and the food is delicious and fresh:  sausages and burgers are ground daily, and the bread is baked and ice cream made in-house.  The Copper Onion is well-known for their Meatloaf and Beef Stroganoff, but even the side dishes are delightful.  Located at 111 East Broadway (300 South)  (801-355-3282)

Em’s Restaurant –  Near the Capitol, in Salt Lake City’s historic Marmalade Hill district, Em’s is the place with an enormous “Center Street” sign on the renovated building and a much smaller, daintier “Em’s” painted on the glass door.  Chef/Owner Emily Gassmann offers a local neighborhood bistro with a farm-to-table approach.  The lunch and dinner menus are interesting, but we are also fond of this place for their Sunday brunch options including Eggs, Pancakes, Crepes, and/or a starter of their House Made Cinnamon Sticky Rolls or the House Made Roll of the Day.  Two levels to choose from inside the restaurant, or we suggest the patio area outside when the weather allows.   Located at 271 North Center Street (801-596-0566)

Fresco Italian Café – Over in the Sugarhouse neighborhood, Fresco may be hard to find but is well worth the effort, particularly for their homemade pasta.  Whether you are dining indoors near the fireplace, or outside on the brick courtyard, the service is excellent and the food divine.  The salads are fantastic, particularly the Charred Beets with Arugula and Hazelnuts.  We highly recommend the daily Risotto or pasta dishes here, and a recent Fresh Corn Ravioli was awesome.  Mikel Trapp is the owner and Operating Partner here, and the empire has grown to include Café Trio and Café Trio Cottonwood.  Located at 1513 South 1300 East (801-486-1300)

Gnocchi at Pago

Gnocchi at Pago, this time with Zucchini, Corn, Enoki Mushrooms, Parmesan, Pesto, and Lemon Confit

Pago –  Scott Evans is the owner and operator of Pago, this farm-to-table restaurant which is also located in the 9th and 9th neighborhood.  The name Pago comes from the Spanish word for a single vineyard and the wine list here is very impressive.  Even more so, however, is the food menu.  We highly recommend the gnocchi, whose presentation evolves with the seasons.  The burger here is locally famous, but you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything here.     Located at 878 South 900 East (801-532-0777)

Pallet – Headed by Executive Chef Zachary “Buzz” Willey, the culinary team here offers an eclectic collection of menu items that are prepared well and served by friendly and well-informed staff.  The building Pallet is located in was originally a busy loading dock for Salt Lake Valley’s first creamery, and the mixture of honoring that history while adding plenty of windows and an updated interior has resulted in a rustic-slash-trendy atmosphere that is typically full of happy customers.  We love the Grilled Hearts of Romaine, and the Asparagus Salad with Marscapone, Strawberry, Honeycomb, and Arugula, but it’s the Meatballs we desperately want the recipe for.  Named after the chef’s grandmother, Gloria’s Meatballs are a typical combination of beef, pork, and veal, but beautifully seasoned and the tomato sauce that comes with the meatballs is what makes it art.  Located at 237 South 400 West  (801-935-4431)

Red Iguana  –  This outstanding Mexican restaurant was opened in 1985 by Ramon and Maria Cardenas.  Since then, the Cardenas children have assumed responsibility for the business and it has expanded to a second location.  Closely examine the Mole dishes before considering anything else, but the Chile Verde and Tacos San Ramon are also great choices.  Pace yourself:  The salsa is potentially addictive.  Located at 776 West North Temple (801-322-1489) and 866 West South Temple (801-214-6050).  There is also a third version, the Taste of Red Iguana, at the Food Court in the City Creek mall at 28 South State Street (801-214-6350). 

Tulie Bakery –  Our favorite bakery in town, the pastries and cakes here are made with the highest quality and freshest ingredients possible.  Tulie also tries to focus on seasonal and organic ingredients, so it’s well worth your time to come check out the display case as you’ll never know for sure what to expect.  After noon, you can also get hot pressed sandwiches.  The croissants and tarts are excellent, but we’re a sucker for their Tea Cakes in flavors such as Pumpkin, Zucchini, and Almond Lemon.  Located at 863 East 700 South  (801-883-9741)

We hope the above helps you plan for, and enjoy, your next trip to Salt Lake City.  Please let us know if you have some favorite food destinations that didn’t make our list.

Better Burger (Food Truck) on UrbanspoonCoffee Garden on UrbanspoonThe Copper Onion on UrbanspoonFresco Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon
Em's on UrbanspoonPago on UrbanspoonPallet on UrbanspoonRed Iguana on Urbanspoon
Tulie Bakery  on Urbanspoon


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