James Beard Spotlight: Chef Nick Zocco

This year, Utah had six semi-finalists on the 2024 James Beard Foundation List. Ahead of the June finalist announcement, we are spotlighting each of the nominees.

Nick Zocco at Urban Hill—Best Chef Mountain Region

Urban Hill opened to a lot of fanfare in late 2022. Chef Nick Zocco has solidified his impact on the Utah local dining scene in the year since. With a wood-burning flame grill, liberal use of the Southwestern flavors at his roots, and stunning proteins, Chef Zocco crafted the menu for a year before opening. And you can tell in the refinement and balance of the dishes. 

The menu at Urban Hill is seafood-forward, with a beautiful raw bar. Oysters with a cucumber-yuzu mignonette (and the option to add caviar) or a sablefish tartare make for a unique start. Coal-roasted beets take advantage of the wood oven, and house-made pickled vegetables are sprinkled liberally throughout the menu. 

Chef Zocco’s Southwestern roots show up in his ingredients, with mole negro, yuca, achiote, black bean huitlacoche, and fermented chiles making their way into dishes. Even something as simple as the skillet rolls are special. Individually oven-baked, they arrive at the table piping hot with house-made salted butter.  

Why Go: Not only did Urban Hill win our “Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” award at Salt Lake magazine plus James Beard recognition, but they also pay a liveable wage, give back to the community, and have the best service of any restaurant in Salt Lake City. 

Insider’s Tip: Sit at the bar and ask the bartender to make a drink to your taste. It is a pleasure to watch them in action.

What to Get: The Pork Chop Milanese is thick-cut and decadent. The mac ‘n‘ cheese, while a side dish comes with hatch chilies. And whatever you do, leave room for dessert.

If You Go: Urban Hill, 510 S. 300 West, SLC, urban-hill.com

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Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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