Chef Mike DiMeo, The Garage
1199 N. Beck St., SLC, 801-521-3904
They call it a roadhouse with reason–entering, exiting and finding a place to park at the Garage, located off busy Beck St. at the point just before drivers realize they’re not on the highway anymore, can be life-threatening. Fortunately, once you’re in the Garage, you won’t want to leave. Rambling, casual, intentionally rustic more in the style of Fred Sanford than Martha Stewart, the Garage offers live music, pool, sports-worthy TVs, a firepit on a multi-level patio, an outdoor bar and an unparalleled view of the refineries. And, most unusual for a good bar, good food–hearty salads, like the Caesar Avocado; the usuals, like good burgers; and the unusuals, like fried chicken and chicken pot pie.
Fearless Frying: Fried Mormon Funeral potatoes. Seriously.
508 Main St., Park City, 435-940-1000
Cobalt blue mohair. It’s the first thing we heard about this posh Park City restaurant and the last thing we remember. Truly, this is one of the most eye-popping interiors ever seen on Main Street and one of the few restaurants that lives up to the annual hype-fest called Sundance. At the same time, it’s at home in Park City because of all the visual references to the town’s silver mining past. It’s a beautiful melding of history, future and comfort.
Our Favorite Detail: Silver ceruse, a silver pigment that fills the pores and gaps in the once-rustic wood floors and table tops.
Best Wine List:
255 S. West Temple, SLC, 801-238-4748
It’s a steakhouse in a Hilton—a far cry from the sous-vide and liquid nitrogen tricks with Asian overtones that are making waves in the cutting-edge restaurants. Coming in from the outer limits of molecular chef technique to the absolute basics of prime (literally) ingredients and technical experience, Spencer’s serves steak. And Louis Koppel comes up with the wine to go with it. This could be an easy task–fill the cellar with classified Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon, but Koppel makes it hard on himself, stocking unusual, new and hard-to-find wines that make the expected beef-and-red combination surprising and extraordinary.
The Perfect Pair: 14-oz. Prime ribeye and Koppel's pick.
Sean Neves, The Wild Grape
481 E. South Temple, SLC, 801-746-5565
Utah restaurants have joined in the cocktail revival with great enthusiasm and ingenuity—it takes both to get creative around the state’s liquor restrictions. One of the best cocktail menus in Salt Lake is at a place that specializes in wine. Head bartender Sean Neves at The Wild Grape ransacks the pantry for ingredients to kick up the flavor in his drinks and fearlessly experiments with them until he comes with a cocktail that does what it’s supposed to do: tease the palate and relax the spirit in preparation for a good dinner to come.
Drink up: Cucumber Cooler with Hendricks Gin, cucumber, mint, celery and cilantro, all muddled together in a tall glass with a salted rim.