First Bite: Urban Hill

The new Urban Hill, located in the Post District in Downtown Salt Lake City, was designed to be a showstopper. And I’ll tell you right now, the team here knows what they are doing. They’ve already cut their teeth on their two Park City locations, Hearth and Hill and Hill’s Kitchen. 

Urban Hill
Photo by Lydia Martinez

With a seafood-forward menu and experienced chef Nick Zocco leading the culinary charge, I’d put this one on your list sooner rather than later. Chef Zucco, most recently from Tupelo in Park City, has been working on the menu and the experience at Urban Hill for over a year. Originally from New Mexico, you’ll find beautiful southwestern flavors sprinkled throughout the menu. I was giddy to see things like green chile honey, blue corn grits, New Mexico red chili sauce, and yucca show up on the menu.

I stopped in during opening weekend. Generally, I hesitate to write about a restaurant in its first couple weeks after opening. After all, most places are ironing out their kinks and putting staffing in place. Urban Hill was seamless right out of the gate. The service was thoughtful and polished. Our server was well-informed on the menu and able to make recommendations tailored to our preferences. I was even impressed when someone got up from the table and laid their napkin aside, it was carefully folded and put back for when they returned. It felt like pre-pandemic times in terms of craft and hospitality.

Urban Hill
Photo by Lydia Martinez

Let’s talk food! I’m a sucker for oysters, and I thought the yuzu to mignonette was the perfect tart to complement the richness of the oysters and the brine. We also ordered the dill-seasoned latkes which were served crispy hot with creme, fresh, shaved egg, and caviar. The apple butter on the plate was delicious but felt slightly out of tune. But it could have been because I’m a sucker for caviar and always default to savory. The chorizo croquetas were delicious, but the star was the house-pickled cauliflower. It was bright purple, and I had to fight my husband for the last one. 

One of the things that is unique about Urban Hill is its wood-burning flame grill. Walk by the open kitchen, and you’ll see it roaring away. The ember-roasted carrots with salty feta and a New Mexico red chili sauce was one of my favorite bites of the evening. 100% must order. You’ll find multiple menu items that take advantage of the grill.

I looked hard at the fire-roasted squash as an entree and the Maine diver scallops. But the pacifico striped bass won me with the promise of ember roasted yucca, pickled onion, and pineapple. Does everyone else pick their entrees based on what is served on the side? Tell me I’m not alone. The fish showed up with the crispiest skin, and the achiote gave it a beautiful color. My dining companion went for the pork chop Milanese. It was as big as his plate, served on the bone, and beautifully tender. I was impressed that it was not pounded flat. Confession: I ate half of the potatoes served with the Milanese. They were that good.

Urban Hill
Potato Latkes. Photo by Lydia Martinez

Portions are generous, and I suggest heading a starter or two, knowing that the entrees will fill you up. Urban Hill does offer additional vegetal sides, but I’m not sure you’ll need them. The one exception is the skillet rolls. Well worth the carbs, the trio of rolls arrived hot from the oven, salty, and with churned herb butter.

The company that operates all three “Hill” locations is “Leave Room for Dessert Eateries.” And you should take that bit of advice. Save some space for something sweet at the end.  Award-winning executive pastry chef Jessie Rae Nakoneczny has me addicted to her chocolate souffle. Paired with a tawny port, it was the perfect ending to our meal. Looking around, the banana cream pie looked terrific as well.

Be sure to make a reservation. And if you’re planning a night out with your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, Urban Hill is hosting a special prix fixe dinner. From the restaurant:  “Following a sampling of Peekytoe Crab Cake or Beet Carpaccio, guests can indulge in their choice between Malsapina Oysters, served with caviar and strawberry sorbet, or a refreshing Citrus Salad with pickled raisins and fromage blanc. For the main dish, Chef Nick Zocco and his team have prepared three options — succulent Roasted Duck Breast, tender Wood-Fired Grass-Fed Hanger Steak, or creamy Potato Gnocchi.”

The cost is $90 per person, with an optional wine pairing for $45 per person. Reservations are required. Reservations available here: https://www.urban-hill.com/reservations/


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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.

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