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Salt Lake Ciy, UT, Feb. 6, 2002–Whether you are heading to Utah for the Olympics or for a spring ski trip, the state has plenty to offer when it comes to entertainment. Below, a sampling of the best Salt Lake City and Park City restaurants and bars.
Salt Lake City
>Bambara: A far cry from the standard restaurants found in many hotels, downtown’s Bambara is one of Salt Lake City’s best bets for inventive cuisine and an eclectic ambiance. With his own rooftop herb garden, Chef Scott Blackerby creates “New American Bistro” dishes ranging from roasted corn crab bisque to cassoulet with rattlesnake sausage. An adjoining bar offers a fine line of beverages, including a selection of Czech beer. (202 South Main Street, 801.363.5454)
>The New Yorker: Though you’ll have to fork over a $10 membership fee just to eat here, this steak and seafood house lives up to its name: a classic, serious establishment serving up fine cuts of meat and fish. Chef Will Pliler adds a Western flair to the Manhattan-type club, located downtown, with elk chop and other seasonal offerings. The wine list is as inspired as the menu. Save room for one of the signature souffles, in chocolate, cr?me de menthe, or Grand Marnier. (60 West Market Street, 801.363.0166)
>Red Iguana: Whether you’re headed to or from Salt Lake City International Airport, chances are you’ll miss Red Iguana, a small Mexican restaurant tucked among the gas stations and convenient stories of North Temple. Don’t! The fare easily beats stale airport food and even if you’re not flying, the moles and margaritas are worth the trip. (736 West North Temple, 801.322.1489)
>Ruth’s Diner: More than 150 years ago, Mormon pioneers arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon and decided this was the place to settle down. In 1930, Ruth, a cowgirl and cabaret singer decided to shake the area up a bit by opening a diner where she smoked, talked brashly, and served up some of the best grub in town. Though Ruth has passed away, her high spirits and home-style cooking live on in a restaurant with surroundings as good as the gravy. Weekend breakfasts are the most popular, though Ruth’s also serves lunch and dinner. (2100 Emigration Canyon Road, 801.582.5807)
>Ichiban: Located in a restored Lutheran church in downtown Salt Lake City, Ichiban is truly a divine experience. Peggy Whiting, who owns the restaurant with her husband Clint, is one of the only Western, female Japanese-trained sushi chefs on the planet and mixes old-world tradition with modern twists. Among the locals’ favorite rolls are the Jazz and the Mars: try them for yourself. (336 South 400 East, 801.532.7522)
>Twilite: Smoke free? Hardly. Free jukebox? You bet. The Twilite Lounge, home to both cops (a police station is next door) and corporate types at quitting time seems to have frozen in a long-ago decade. The red vinyl banquettes and bar stools are vacated frequently for trips to the up-to-date jukebok, named Salt Lake’s best by alternative newspaper City Weekly. (347 East 200 South, 801.532.9400)
>Zephyr: While many of Salt Lake City’s smaller concert halls are located on the fringes of town, the Zephyr is conveniently located in the downtown area, and attracts talent ranging from Maceo Parker to the local Jerry Joseph and the Jack Mormons. The dance floor can get crowded, but the acoustics are top-notch and there’s plenty of room to roam in the surrounding bar and balcony. (301 South West Temple, 801.355.2582)
>Port O’Call: The city’s amusement park of bars, Port O’Call is, thankfully, no where near the odorous waters of the great Salt Lake. This sports bar is downtown, and features three floors: a rooftop patio (closed in winter, but filled with 9 to 5-ers during the summer), the ground level dining area, and a downstairs game room filled with pool tables and a video arcade. Pretty much all you could ask for in a watering hole. (78 West 400 South, 801.521.0589)
>Squatters: More of a resttaurant than a bar, Squatter’s is still a great place to go if you don’t want to hassle with sponsorships or member fees. That’s because no hard liquor is served and the beer, brewed on site, is 3.2 percent alcohol. Brews include ales, lagers, pils, stout, and a hefeweizen, while the menu is more appealing and sophisticated than most standard brew-pub fare. (147 West Broadway, 801.363.2739)
>Riverhorse Cafe: This elegant eatery buzzes with energy year-round: from Sundance celebrity-spotting to summer patio dining, the place is packed with locals and vacationers alike. Its walls are decorated with large, Western murals and pianists often provide live entertainment. But folks flock here for the food; the meats are prepared with impeccable sauces and the seafood is impossibly fresh. (540 Main Street, 435.649.3536)
>Picasso: In the age of the appetizer, few places have the appeal of Picasso, a Spanish tapas bar at the foot of Main Street. The restaurant offers a wide array of paellas and entrees, but most skip the main course and stick with sharing starters, such as chicken with a sherry cream and walnut sauce, spicy beef tips, and a poached pear with candied walnuts and warm gorgonzola. The Caribbean banana postre is worth saving room for. (900 Main Street, 435.658.3030)
>El Chubasco: During the Olympics, let’s face it: Main Street will be mayhem. Lucky for you, one of the area’s best Mexican restaurants is hidden from most tourists in a shopping plaza in Prospector Square, tucked between a skateboard store and a home design boutique. El Chubasco has no dramatic lighting or fancy menus: just simple and authentic dishes made with delicious, fresh ingredients. (1890 Bonanza Drive #115, 435.645.9115)
>No Name Saloon: Located smack in the middle of Main Street, the No Name used to be a dive known as the Alamo before new owners spruced up the place and gave it a new name. Make that no name. Locals still call it the Alamo, and a shiny gloss of varnish can’t hide its soul, a refreshingly down-to-earth spot amidst the Park City chic where shuffleboard rather than celebrity spotting is the sport of the night. (447 Main Street, 435.649.6667)
>Harry O’s: Disguised by a nondescript exterior, Harry O’s is one of the hottest nightspots not only in Park City, but in the entire state of Utah. The club, which hosts DJs and concerts by big-name bands, crams hundreds of partygoers inside, who are usually scantily dressed and a few drinks deep. The shows-by musicians or visitors-are worth at least one trip. (427 Main Street, 435.647.9494)
>Wasatch Brew Pub: This bar and restaurant at the top of Main Street is another great place where you can waltz right in without a membership or sponsor (see Squatters). Wasatch serves a wide variety of beers brewed on premise and offers a family-friendly environment plus plenty of sports-tuned TVs and hearty food. (250 Main Street, 435.649.0900.)
For further information on restaurants, bars and more in the Beehive State, check out Utah Underground ($16.95, Mountain Sports Press) by local writer and Skiing Magazine contributor Bill Kerig.