The Bars of Edison Street

But First, Some History

The alleyway street connecting 200 South and 300 South in downtown SLC, was originally named Franklin Avenue. According to the blogger Rachel Quist, when Franklin Avenue was in its heyday (the late 1880s and 1890s) it was home to the majority of African Americans in SLC. Franklin Avenue was considered a tenderloin district like the other mid-block alleys in the area, Commercial Street and Plum Alley. There were brothels on Franklin Avenue in the 1890s but also a multi-racial community living in boarding houses and many businesses were owned by people of color. 

In 1906 city leaders changed the name of Franklin Avenue to Edison Street and now the street is once again undergoing a revitalization with a slew of newly opened Salt Lake bars anchored by the original bar Ryan Lowder’s Copper Common on the southern end. Here’s your guide to Edison Street’s latest lightbulb moment. (See what we did there?)  

Edison Street Bars
Photo by Adam Finkle
Edison Street Bars
Photo by Adam Finkle

Franklin Ave. Cocktails and Kitchen

Once hailed for its variety of theater acts and late-night extracurriculars, Franklin Avenue has been resurrected as a swanky restaurant and bar from the minds of Bourbon Group. The building’s original brick facade and speakeasy interiors convey the bar’s history, but Chef and part owner Matt Crandall’s menu is hardly stuck in the past. “The food is multicultural fusion with roots in modern American,” he says. House-made pasta, seasonal veggies and Asian-inspired dishes are served alongside a diverse cocktail menu—and a wall-to-wall selection of whiskies (this is the Bourbon Group, after all). 

What you’re drinking — Glass Cage of Emotion: Laphroaig 10 yr. Scotch, Banana liqueur, Creme De Cacao and sea salt. 

Don’t pass up — Bar snack bargains: Mushroom Beignets, Kimchi Pickles and Coconut Snap Peas.

Back Door on Edison

One day it was Mortar & Pestle, then abracadabra! The bar space on the northern end of the street was transformed into Back Door on Edison, a new watering hole from the owners of Laziz Kitchen (which also magically replaced the connected restaurant, Curry Up Now, with a new location for Laziz). With Lebanese-inspired bar bites and a promising still-in-development cocktail menu, Backdoor is a welcome replacement for the previous occupants. Sorry, but Mortar & Pestle never really found its footing and it wasn’t helpful that the bar space smelled of curry wafting in from the restaurant. 

What you’re drinking — Oaxacan Old Fashioned: Bozal Mezcal Ensamble, Casamigos Reposado Tequila, Trinity bitters, honey

Don’t pass up — The dip sampler features excellent renditions of baba ganoush, muhammara and the hummus that started Laziz years ago.

Edison Street Bars
Photo courtesy of Copper Common

Copper Common

The pioneer on the block began as Plum Alley and has morphed over the years into Copper Common, one of Salt Lake’s most reliable watering holes with a food-forward menu. The original inspiration for owner Ryan Lowder was Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, a high-end cocktail and oyster’s joint at the heart of hipster Brooklyn. And although oysters are still on the menu and the cocktails are still among the highest of ends, Copper Common has continued to evolve with Lowder’s tastes. These days the bar menu is focused on hard-to-find (in Utah) aperitifs and digestives and one of the best natural wine lists in the state. 

Photo courtesy of Copper Common

What you’re drinking — The Fourth Regiment: High West Double Rye, Carpano Antica Vermouth and three bitters—Peychaud’s, celery and orange 

What’s so special — The civilized setting and the sophisticated menu—including flown-fresh oysters and what we believe is the best bar burger in the entire world.

Extra! Extra! Read all About it: The Chicago Trunk Murder Mystery

According to SLC history blogger, Rachel Quist, on Feb. 16, 1893, a large box from Salt Lake City marked “Household Goods” arrived at an address in Chicago. The recipient refused delivery and it was sent to storage until it was sold as unclaimed freight three years later. Inside was a metal trunk that had been soldered shut and contained the hog-tied body of Prosper Chazal, a French immigrant, who owned a saloon on Franklin Avenue and was last seen flaunting a large sum of money around town.

Looking for more worth Salt Lake bars to visit this weekend? Check out our list for the top sports bars in the area!

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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