Six Spots for Comfort Food in Utah

Comfort, it turns out, is not relative, at least with food. No matter the cuisine or the culture that any given dish springs from, it will contain one neurological common denominator, buried in the primal place in our brains: Nostalgia. In our first issue of 2023, we asked six Utah chefs and restaurateurs “what do you think of when you think of comfort food?” They make us their quintessential comfort meal, and the results are unexpected, varied and delicious. It’s the first feature in our new 2023 Food Spotlight Series.

Southern Comfort

The People: Amy and Vivi Wanderley-Britt
The Restaurant: Pig & A Jelly Jar
The Meal: Chicken and Waffles, Biscuits and Gravy

Pig & A Jelly Jar’s Chicken and Waffles, Biscuits and Gravy. Photo by Adam Finkle

Amy Wanderley-Britt will tell you that she’s from the South but that she’s genuinely from, well, everywhere and the menu at Pig & A Jelly Jar reflects both mindsets. 

“I call our food ‘southern-inspired,’ but it’s really a reflection of everywhere I’ve been,” she says. And, most importantly, the food her team serves “is fundamentally inspired by everyone I’ve ever met.” 

(Read more about Pig & A Jelly Jar’s philosophy to comfort food here!)

If You Go…

Pig & A Jelly Jar Salt Lake City
401 E. 900 South, SLC, (385) 202-7366, 

Pig & A Jelly Jar Ogden
227 S. 25th St., Ogden, (801) 605-8400, 

Pig & A Jelly Jar Holladay
1968 E. Murray Holladay Rd, Holladay,
(385) 695-5148,

Open every day from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m

Comfort Food Fusion

The Person: Jordan Wong
The Restaurant: J Wong’s Thai & Chinese Bistro
The Meal: Potstickers, Kao Soi (egg noodles, chicken in red curry coconut broth), Wonton Noodle Soup

Comfort Food Utah
Photo by Adam Finkle

“Comfort food to me is the go-to food that you can eat all of the time and not get sick of it,” says Jordan Wong, owner of J. Wong’s Thai & Chinese Bistro. “For me, it’s simple dishes.” He knows every restaurant industry professional might not feel the same, but having been around restaurants his entire life, the more he appreciates the simple things. Be believes that comfort food doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the most exotic or complex. “My mom had a restaurant before I was born, so I was born inside the business,” he explains. “I grew up around dishes like walnut shrimp or General Tso’s chicken. They may be simple, but I love them.” 

(Learn more about J. Wong’s fusion menu here.)

If You Go…

163 W. 200 South, SLC, (801) 350-0888,
Monday-Friday open for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday open for lunch noon-3. p.m, dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday open 4 p.m.-9 p.m.

Vegan Cuisine Gets Comfortable

The Person: Ian Brandt
The Restaurant: Vertical Diner
The Meal: The American Diner Plate (fries, Tender Tiger, gravy), Fried Brussel Spouts in garlic aioli, Mac & Cheeze, Housemade Chai

Photo by Adam Finkle

Ian Brandt was not always
a vegan. He grew up eating the quintessential American meat and potatoes fare and classic family dishes. “Growing up, lasagna—that was always a great comfort food item,” Brandt remembers. “I always wanted to be Italian. Growing up in Philadelphia, surrounded by Italians, it always seemed like the Italians had the most food.”

“Anything that you grew up eating with your family that takes you back to your roots—that is how I define comfort,” says Brandt. The foods that become the most comforting to us as adults are often attached to warm memories of childhood. These are the foods that help us feel safe. But, after going vegan at 22 years old, Brandt discovered many of his go-to comfort foods were no longer available to him. “I eventually found ways to still eat them by making them vegan,” he says. “And over the years, I came up with other vegan items that I enjoyed.“

(More on Vertical Diner’s plant-based comfort menu here!)

If You Go…

234 W. 900 South, SLC,
(801) 484-8378
Open every day, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. (breakfast served all day)

A Utah Tradition

The Person: Irvin Maddox
The Restaurant: Maddox Ranch House
The Meal: Maddox Chicken Fried Steak with all the fixins’

Comfort Food Utah
Photo by Adam Finkle

During WWII, Irvin Maddox opened a seven-stool lunch counter on Main Street in Brigham City. As a welder, he fashioned a stove plate from an old coal oil burner, secured a used refrigerator and asked Wilma Kotter, who would eventually become Mrs. Maddox, to work as a hostess. A few years later, Maddox opened the Double “J” in Ogden. But he lived in Brigham and spied a bit of land in neighboring Perry, much closer to home, in what most folks thought of as “the middle of nowhere.” In 1949, he bought the land and built a log cabin on skids so it could be towed away if it didn’t pan out. It never moved, and three generations later, another Irvin Maddox (named after his grandfather) is at the helm of what has become a landmark Utah restaurant and Irvin the younger’s whole life. 

(Learn more about the historic Brigham City restaurant)

If You Go…

1900 S. Highway 89, Perry,
(435) 723-8545
Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

From Lebanon with Love

The Person: Ali Sabbah
The Restaurant: Mazza
The Meal: Maghmoor (upper left), a stew of eggplants, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and onions braised in olive oil, aromatics and spices. served over our turmeric-infused Basmati rice. Green lentil and spinach soup (below) alongside a chutney a pot of Turkish coffee.

Comfort Food Utah
Photo by Adam Finkle

Mazza was the first place many native Utahns tried middle eastern food and we loved it. Now a whole host of falafel and shawarma spots dot the restaurant landscape but what continues to separate Mazza from the rest is its owner, Ali Sabbah.

Although, forced to close his other Salt Lake locations, the cozy spot on 15th and 15th that started it all maintains the standard Sabbah holds himself to. 

“We are not here to cut corners,” he says explaining that many other restaurants use pre-made shortcuts and frozen supplies. “We make our food, every day from scratch. I slice the lamb myself. In doing so we show respect for the dishes the tradition.” 

(Read more on Sabbah’s approach to authentic Lebanese cuisine here.)

If You Go…

1515 S. 1500 East, SLC,
(801) 484-9259
Open 4:30 to 9 p.m. (closed Sunday)

Killer Comfort Food

The People: Lucy Cardenas and Bill Coker
The Restaurant: Red Iguana and Red Iguana 2
The Meal: Beans and Rice, Mole Amarillo, Sunrise Burrito (Pork Chile Verde with a fried egg)

Comfort Food Utah
Photo by Adam Finkle

Lucy Cardenas grew up in her family’s restaurants, eating some of the same dishes she still serves today at Red Iguana and Red Iguana 2. “Comfort food always reminds me of something in your childhood. My father’s chile verde was the best,” she says. “My family has been serving my father’s chile verde since 1965 along with my mother’s rice.” Still, her take on the potential of comfort food is nuanced, “Comfort food isn’t any one thing. I think it’s very individual. Some people grow up having beans all of the time, and now they never want to eat beans. I could eat a plate of beans every day.” If you’ve had their beans, you probably would too.

If You Go…

866 W. South Temple, SLC,
(801) 214-6050
Sunday–Thursday open 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday–Saturday open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Hungry for more? We’ll be sharing more about each restaurant and their philosophy to comfort food throughout the month of January!

See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

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