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Savor and Explore: Salt Lake City’s Epic Escape

By June 13, 2024July 2nd, 202410 Comments

UPDATED JUNE 2024! It would take hours to reach towering mountains from my own home city. I can see why so many people love to call Salt Lake City (SLC for short) home, especially those who love the outdoors. Not only is the urban sprawl itself inviting, bright, and fun, you can reach several national parks and ski resorts in a short amount of time. I’ve visited a few times and this last experience won me over completely. In a short amount of time, I was able to hike Bryce Canyon National Park, eat and drink my way through SLC, stay at an adventure hotel near downtown, AND squeeze a ski day in Park City. What more could you want from a trip?

For me, it’s hard to pinpoint SLC. I definitely enjoyed the destination, but had to dig deep to find its soul. One of the best ways I find to get a feel of a city is through food. SLC restaurants are plentiful and run the gamut, perfect for a few days of drinks and nibbles downtown. I’ve organized my finds below, paired with info on accommodation and adventure to balance to round out your Salt Lake City guide!

Laid-back SLC coffee cafés

Digital nomads and people who work on the road are always on the hunt for the perfect café. I’m talking the one that doesn’t make you feel bad for being there all afternoon, has plenty of outlets, and strong coffee. SLC has several of these for the java crowd, but count as great SLC restaurants too for their healthy food offerings.

My favorite was the Nostalgia Café, but I heard it’s been closed for a while due to renovations and change in ownership. A close second is La Barba, found in the Gateway area behind the old train station downtown. It’s sporting the opposite feel of nostalgia, with clean concrete counters and succulent plants. The coffee is delicious, although La Barba was out of cold coffee by lunch time. I also had an avo toast to blend in more, which was decadent on thick sourdough.

Some more SLC coffee shops

  • Coffee Garden: Cute coffee shop with a patio and homemade bakery items
  • Rawbean Coffee: Downtown shop and to-go spot for homemade biscotti, biscuits for dogs, and locally roasted espresso

Salt Lake City hipster bars and bites

White horse whiskey bar wall as a top slc restaurants in salt lake city utah

For something late night and jazzy, we stumbled into the White Horse Spirits and Kitchen for dinner. You’ll see the wall of liquor right away, accessed by sliding wooden ladder and bartenders in suspenders who have excessive enthusiasm. Nonetheless, I had one of the best grilled cheeses of my life (with truffle oil) and a tasty beer flight. Seems like a hot date night spot and cozy for conversation.

Massive cocktail bars with endless choice seem to be a trend. I also had a lovely lunch at Lake Effect, just down the street from the Women in Travel Summit I attended at the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek.

More SLC bars

  • Bar-X: It’s both Bar-X and the Beer Bar with local brews on tap and a hot dog spread
  • The Red Door: Chic martini bar for schmoozing and lounging
  • Beerhive Pub: Leave the hipsters behind and grab a pool stick and a pint at this well-loved dive bar

BBQ and the basics

SLC restaurants vary from upscale and trendy to traditional and hearty. Here’s a few good joints for some finger-licking good eats.

OK, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a chain. Tough, as a northerner, I’m obsessed with it. I’ve sung its praises while in Florida too as super-fast, cheap-and-cheerful BBQ with lots of options for sides. And of course, the best part being the free vanilla soft serve ice cream machine to finish! We took a quick Uber to go here outside of downtown for a change of scenery.

Another famous spot is Red Iguana, specializing in authentic Mexican food. It was always popular, but blew up with tourists since its debut on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Unfortunately because of that, there was a two-hour wait to sit when we tried to go on a Thursday night. Hopefully next time, as it has a great reputation for mole, tamales, and fresh tortillas.

Back downtown, we enjoyed R&R BBQ for a nice stand-by for a casual meal. The highlight was the mac-and cheese, alongside the ribs and homemade sauces.

ALSO it’s more chicken than BBQ, but I heard rapper/artist Post Malone opened his own Raising Cane’s restaurant just outside of Salt Lake City. I didn’t get the chance to check out his pink embossed building, but maybe next time!

Where to stay in Salt Lake City: from classics to funky adventure

Evo Hotel

Evo is an outdoor apparel brand that’s opened the incredible Evo Hotel property for travelers who like something a little different. The rooms are gorgeous, bright, and have the comfiest beds. Mine also had a sunny balcony.

There’s a lively rooftop bar and meeting spaces on the same floor. But just below is a plethora of amenities:

  • Bouldering area
  • Indoor skateboard area
  • Massive retail shop
  • Service shop and gear rentals
  • Coffee and breakfast bar
  • Cozy communal lobby and work spaces
bouldering area at evo hotel salt lake city

Guests get free passes for access to the activities, as well as fitness classes and yoga. Clientele is diverse, from elder millennials with toddlers and young hipsters with rescue dogs to professionals on work calls and couples on urban and outdoorsy Utah getaways. I loved it!

Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek

If you have those hotel points burning a hole in your pocket, the Marriott downtown is an ideal choice (PS, there’s two! I went to the wrong one, don’t do the same as me!). Our travel conference was held there and it provided a nice space for networking and sessions. I had a peek at the suite upstairs too and many of the rooms have beautiful views of the city and mountains.

Two more fun things to experience in SLC

More food! Truck-style!

Speaking of getting lost, I ended up in the sunny Gallivan Plaza when I landed in SLC looking for the right Marriott. It was worth not knowing where I was, because I happened upon a small wagon circle of food trucks that looked all delicious. During lunch time, there were French crepes, Hawaiian lunch plates, and more. I opted for Thia Rex and a massive bowl of curry, which could have lasted me a couple of days. Keep an eye out for SLC food trucks! I heard a few even now have brick and mortar joint too, like the luscious African food at Kafé Mamai.

Natural History Museum of Utah

There was a big party (and pre-VIP party!) at the Natural History Museum just a few minutes from downtown. I wish I had extra time to immerse in all of the beautiful exhibits. The massive dinosaur fossils and prehistoric installations are a major draw, but my highlight was the Native Voices area. There are several indigenous tribes that call Utah home:

  • Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation
  • Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
  • San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe
  • Skull Valley Band of Goshute 
  • Confederated Tribes of Goshute
  • Navajo Nation
  • Ute Indian Tribe
  • White Mesa Community of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

You can learn about the people of these communities at the museum through storytelling, artisan crafts, artwork, and more. Enjoy an incredible view of the surrounding scenery from the rooftop area that’s well worth seeing, especially as the sun goes down!


Salt Lake City has much to offer outside of SLC restaurants and fitness, from its interesting Mormon history and architecture to art galleries and public gardens. Not to mention, skiing at Park City and other outdoor pursuits year-round makes Salt Lake City a great base for a getaway. Time to book your trip!

Have more questions about SLC and taking trips in the United States? Get in touch with me (Eileen) anytime. Thanks so much to Visit Utah and the Wanderful community for hosting my recent trip to Utah! All opinions are my own.

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

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