Here in New Salt Lake, we move freely around a much more expanded city, popping into the Beerhive for an after-work pint and then strolling down to Eva for a bite and a sip. No longer held in thrall by the arcane private club rules, the night feels different in New Salt Lake. It’s a bigger place with hot spots like The State Room and Dick n’ Dixie’s that lure us beyond the invisible mental boundaries that once loosely defined “downtown.” And the food! We started out with Market Street and Cafe Pierpont and saved our special occasions for the New Yorker or Baci. It was much better than before, and these places accustomed us to the feel of cloth napkins and crisply attired servers. But we were hungry for new tastes and adventures in eating. And we got them. Places like Copper Onion and Zy in downtown proper and Forage and Wild Grape on opposite edges have become our spots to dine before a movie and celebrate special moments.
THE NEW: The Food, the Nightlife of New Salt Lake
Packing Them In
Gracie’s has earned the conventioneers’ meat-market crown during the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer conference and such, but its patio in warmer weather makes it one of the best spots in town.
Forage’s wunderkinder Viet Pham and Bowman Brown, have graced the cover of Food and Wine magazine and were nominated for a James Beard award for their excellence. Pago’s Scott Evans continues to refine his local-centric cuisine and exciting by-the-bottle wine list (and will soon be opening a new venture across from Liberty Heights Fresh). We have many, many restaurants to be proud of, from Sea Salt to Fresco, Vinto to Mazza, Frida to Eva, New Salt Lake is a place to wine, dine and eat well.
Dishes like the one above from Forage are part of the new burgeoning food scene in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City owes a debt to Chris Mautz and Darin Piccoli, the geniuses behind its best music venue. Open only on show dates, The State Room is an insanely comfortable place to watch music. The drinks are moderately priced, as are tickets. They have a coat room and comfortable, tiered sitting for those who don’t want to stand. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Old Salt Lake’s late-night food was always Village Inn, Dee’s or the Training Table. A few spots have come and gone as the night scene ebbed and flowed with downtown’s fortune. Now, two new spots—The Bay Leaf and The Pie Hole—are here. Try The Bay Leaf for fried pickles and southern comforts like waffles and chicken-fried chicken. The Pie Hole is pizza to put where your mouth is and soak up your buzz.
A Room With A View
The Green Pig’s downstairs bar made it into what was a fairly standard watering hole, but last summer its owners upped the stakes and opened a rooftop bar. With its urbanite view of the courthouse, the deck at Green Pig is summer nights in the city incarnate.
A Bar for Everyone
Poplar Pub is many bars in one: A solid after-work bar that morphs into a kickballer haunt into a pick-up joint and finally into place where bad reggae bands go to bother people. The food is good (try the cannelloni), and it’s a solid bet to start or end an evening.
NEW SLC, ROAD FOOD: Suan Chow, Owner of Chow Truck. "Salt Lake has a lot of imports, and that helps keep it very forward and progressive. The success for the food truck here shows that people in Salt Lake are open to change and what's happening in the food culture all over the country."
That the Zephyr Club still stands with its doors shuttered is frustrating to say the least. In its day, the Zephyr was an anchor of SLC’s nightlife, and countless fabulous shows marked the years. The Drive-By Truckers, Leftover Salmon, Pearl Jam and many more filled its stage. We say that a rebirth of the Zephyr would fit in perfectly with the New Salt Lake that has risen around it.
Former stakeholders of Port O'Call created Gracie's, home of one of Slat Lake's best patios.
The Tale of Port o’ Call and Earl Holding
The block of buildings that housed Port O’ Call and the former Gardner Building was demolished to make room for an expansion of the Federal Courthouse. Port was a thriving local business, and its demolition was unnecessary. Sadly there is a large open plot of landscaped land that still sits empty across the street. That lot is owned by Grand America owner Earl Holding and was the first designated as the spot for the new courthouse. But Holding refused to sell, and when the federales forced the sale, he called some friends in high places. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who then sat on the judiciary committee, threatened to withhold funding for the building if a new site was not found. And thus, Port O’ Call and the attached two-story brownstones were demolished. Odd Fellows Hall, a historic building that also sat in the way, was moved (at great expense) across Market Street where it sits empty and… drum roll… after the wrecking balls finished their work, Holding sold the lot to the LDS church.
Although many contributed to the upward trajectory of SLC’s food, one giant stands out: Gastronomy. The local chain of restaurants nearly single-handedly elevated dining in Utah. Starting with its iconic seafood restaurant Market Street Grill and expanding into an empire that included ’80s dining icons like Baci and Cafe Pierpont, Gastronomy then focused on its Market Street and Oyster Bar brands in the early 2000s, opening locations in Jordan Commons and Cottonwood Heights. The location on Market Street, next door to the stalwart New Yorker, remain fixtures in the downtown dining scene.
R.I.P. Dead Goat
The Dead Goat is Dead
The demise of this bar known for its regular blues line up is a bizarre story. In its final days, owner and general rabble rouser Daniel Darger turned the bar into a strip club to thumb his nose at an adult-oriented business statute. For a short time in 2006, strippers replaced the blues, but then a flood put an end to the Goat, giving us all the blues.
A lot has changed over the years in SLC but these stalwarts have stood the test of time. Some of them have closed and reopened, many have moved from original locations, but they all remain a part of life here in Utah’s capital.
Heavy Metal Shop
Utah Woolen MIlls
OLD SLC, WHIRLY SPEAKS: Daniel Darger, Blue Iguana Partner and Former Owner of the Deal Goat Saloon. "There was a great club scene for a while with the Dead Goat, the Zephyr, Port O'Call, [but] downtown started to feel a little neglected. Now there's a whole non-Mormon cultural movement downtown and a mutual live-and-let-live synergy."