Not long ago, Salt Lake City’s culinary scene was pretty standard. Chain restaurants and run-of-the-mill eateries dominated the Utah capital’s landscape — aside from a few independent favorites.
But today the city’s food scene has transformed, fueled by people seeking farm-fresh, locally sourced menus and diverse, inventive eats.
Don’t miss these internationally influenced SLC hot spots showcasing everything from homestyle Mexican to flown-in sushi.
Best Overall: HSL
Vegetables take a leading role at seasonally driven HSL, where the home-grown menu can feature snap-pea salads in summer and hearty squash in winter.
Ranked as a favorite by Utahns and culinary professionals, HSL’s lost none of its charm since its 2016 launch, and its welcoming, plush interior invites you to linger, savoring each bite. Novel desserts like celery sorbet are worth tasting for yourself.
Best Italian: Valter’s Osteria
Long at the helm of Salt Lake’s popular Cucina Toscana, Valter Nassi opened his namesake space in 2012 to much praise, and today you’ll still need a reservation to dine at peak times.
Expect a white-tablecloth experience at Valter’s Osteria — with the man himself bustling throughout the kitchen and restaurant all evening long. Tuscan favorites and his mother’s recipes dominate the extensive menu, and the pasta sampler with house-made gnocchi dumplings and ravioli is simply a must.
Best Sushi: Takashi
Long reigning as Salt Lake’s sushi king, Takashi is an extolled award winner that recently upped its game by opening an adjacent bar: Post Office Place. There’s nearly always a wait at Takashi, and now you can pop next door for curated cocktails and Japanese-Peruvian–inspired tapas until your table is ready.
Once seated, order specialty rolls like the Beatles-themed Yellow Submarine, a yellowtail, yellow fin, spicy sauce fusion, or Strawberry Fields, an escolar, chili pepper and strawberry combination.
Best Seafood: Current Fish & Oyster
Landlocked Salt Lake City is one of the last places you’d look for fresh, inventive seafood, which makes Current Fish & Oyster’s creative coast-to-coast cuisine so refreshing. This historic auto shop turned eatery features original takes on New Orleans, Seattle and San Francisco dishes, as well as totally unique creations.
Start with a mix of West and East Coast oysters to sate your palate. Keep main courses classic with shrimp and grits and smoked clam dip, or go bold with avocado chimichurri potted smoked salmon and Thai-inspired seafood stew.
Best Mexican: Red Iguana
If you go to only one restaurant in Salt Lake City, make it Red Iguana. Owned and operated by the same Mexican family for more than 40 years, this Utah original has racked up local and national awards aplenty since its founding.
Red Iguana’s highlight is its moles — thick sauces made with dried and fresh chiles, nuts, spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables. (Request a free sampler plate to taste them all before choosing.)
Insider Tip: Find the same menu and shorter waits at Red Iguana 2, a newer location just a half-mile from the original.
Best Comfort Food: Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade
What began as a farmers market limeade stand run by a husband and wife team has fast become one of Salt Lake’s go-to breakfast joints. Sweet Lake’s simple menu focuses on hot, Southern-style biscuits topped with inventive pairings: ham plus hollandaise, fried chicken plus sausage gravy, and portobello mushrooms plus asparagus.
Even if you’re a coffee-with-breakfast kind of person, don’t miss the hand-shaken limeades that made Sweet Lake famous — a fusion of cane sugar, squeezed limes and plenty of fresh mint leaves.
Best Newcomer: Laziz Kitchen
Tucked in the booming Granary District on Salt Lake’s south side, Laziz Kitchen‘s menu showcases fresh interpretations of traditional Lebanese cuisine. Start with the flagship hummus and pair with mezes for sharing — grilled halloumi cheese, stuffed grape leaves and za’atar-spiced fries transport your tastebuds from Salt Lake to the Middle East in an instant.
Best Vibe: The Rest
Hidden behind a restroom door and down a flight of stairs you’ll find Salt Lake City’s most clandestine dining experience: The Rest. This speakeasy-style bar and eatery is tucked on bustling Main Street beneath the unassuming bar, Bodega.
The Rest’s moody lighting, taxidermy on the walls, vintage vinyl music and shelves of books give it a cozy, hipstery feel but with food that’s worth the hype. The whole-roasted beer can chicken is a consistent favorite, but don’t overindulge, as New Orleans-style beignets await for dessert.