BODACIOUS BAR BITES: a dozen delicious dishes that raise the bar
There was a time when eating at a bar pretty much meant choosing between corn nuts, pretzels, pork rinds, or maybe a pickled egg from that gigantic jar behind the bar. And there is nothing wrong with that. But luckily times have changed and those looking to dine a little more creatively or healthily in bars can now do so. Here are a dozen of my favorite bar bites.
White Horse Spirits and Food offers a menu that rivals most of the best restaurants, with dishes ranging from hamachi crudo and confit duck wings to ricotta gnocchi and a terrific selection of raw seafood. One of my Cheval Blanc favorites is simple but sensational: a grilled artichoke served with garlic aioli, clarified butter, charred lemon and gremolata.
A little further west in downtown SLC, lake effect also offers an eclectic bar menu that runs the culinary gamut from salty Himalayan Wagyu skewers to a cauliflower and black bean burrito to Chilean sea bass with scallops. My preference at Lake Effect is to sample one or two of their six different taco varieties: avocado, pulled pork, blackened ahi, grilled shrimp, flank steak, or braised hibiscus on the chipotle barbecue.
I love tacos and I love burritos. So for Sunday brunch at the bar Ivy and Varley I skip right past the Shakshuka, Churro French Toast (although it sounds fantastic) and Wagyu Braised Beef Benedict and head straight for their muffled breakfast burrito. It’s stuffed with scrambled eggs, beans, Oaxacan queso, tomatoes and onions with salsa verde and cream, served with breakfast potatoes.
To St. Regis Deer Valley, The Vintage Room The pop-up bar/club is an amazing place to enjoy a bite to eat and a cocktail, wine or beer during ski season. They have a raw bar full of seafood as well as cooked items like lobster rolls, turkey chili, clam chowder and more. My favorite raw sea bass dishes include the giant crab claws, freshly shucked oysters and killer ceviche, with a choice of octopus, tuna, hamachi or calamari.
Another great bar to visit in Deer Valley is the Troll Hall Lounge at Stein Eriksen Lodge. There are menu items like the Snake River Farms hoagie Wagyu pastrami and an 8-ounce Angus beef burger to sample. But there are also lighter and healthier dishes like the superb Shellfish Ski Bowl Salad to taste, with sweet crab, northern prawns, quinoa, green vegetables, cucumber, carrot, green beans, radish and Green Goddess dressing. But we don’t judge.
On Main Street in Park City, chef Scott Boberek offers an eclectic bar menu at Fletcher’s, spanning the culinary world from poke salad and peanut-crusted salmon to chicken portobello and the popular zucchini purse. But I can’t walk into Fletcher’s without ordering the “Best in State” grilled cheese sandwich with roasted garlic aioli, Beehive Promontory cheddar, arugula and tomato. It’s awesome.
Back to SLC, BTG wine bar offers an extravagant range of wines from around the world as well as cocktails, beer, cider and more. BTG customers have the added benefit of being able to order from the Cafe Molise kitchen, BTG’s sister establishment where chef/owner Fred Moesinger and his team prepare sea bass dishes such as butternut squash ravioli, chicken piccata, coulotte steak, scampi with prawns and more. I can’t resist the homemade vegetarian eggplant meatballs with a delicious creamy shallot and tomato sauce.
To the west of BTG Wine Bar is Gatewaywhere you will find Flankers Kitchen + Social Club – a sprawling funhouse for adults with fabulous food and drink, not to mention all kinds of entertainment. There’s a wide variety of delicious dishes to choose from at Flanker, but my favorite is the Spicy Tuna Bites appetizer. It’s a finely chopped sushi-grade tuna tartare with spicy mayo and sliced fresh jalapeño on a crispy rice base, sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds.
The bar at Distillation from the hive recently upped its culinary game with an eclectic menu full of Mexican-fusion foods. There are three different slider options on the new menu: Al Pastor Jumbo Slider (Marinated Pork, Grilled Pineapple, Cilantro Ranch, Oaxaca Cheese), Carne Asada Jumbo Slider (Ground Beef, Salsa Verde, Pico de Gallo, Pepper Jack Cheese) and Tofu Jumbo Slider (Korean barbecue glaze, mixed pickled vegetables). All can be made gluten-free with a lettuce wrap or rice bao bun. And for taco lovers like me, Beehive Bar still hosts Taco Tuesdays every week, with $3 local drafts, $4 tequila shots, and $5 taco plates.
To various Red Rock Brewery and Restaurant places you’ll find an abundance of award-winning ales and exceptional pub food to go with them. Dining options range from oven-roasted cauliflower, avocado toast, and a range of salads, sandwiches, pastas, and entrees, to desserts like the chocolate brownie. Since downtown Red Rock opened about 25 years ago, I’ve especially loved their wood-fired pizzas – they were making wood-fired pizzas long before all the wood-fired pizza joints that are came later. Red Rock pizzas include a basic margherita, four cheese pizza, arugula and prosciutto, classic pepperoni, barbecue chicken, wild mushrooms, artichoke, thai chicken and others including a special pizza of the day. Personally, the Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza with San Marzano Tomato Sauce is my favorite when it comes to pizza.
I don’t know many bars that serve ramen, especially the top notch ramen that you can get sitting in the bar at ramen bar in downtown SLC. Wine, beer, sake, and cocktails are served here, and so a few tables closest to the bar (within 10 feet) are reserved for guests 21 or older. The tonkotsu ramen at the Ramen Bar is outstanding. The broth here is said to be cooked for 36 hours and tastes like it. Tonkotsu is a bowl of pork bone broth with ramen noodles, roasted pork belly, bamboo shoots, half a hard-boiled egg, scallions, a rack of roasted seaweed, and corn kernels . That’s ramen rocks.
One of SLC’s new downtown bar destinations is the beautiful bar at Laurel Brewery and Bar at the Grand America Hotel. The Laurel’s bar menu features wood-fired pizza, onion soup, arancini, meatballs, pigs in a blanket, heirloom tomato tart and more. So far my favorite bar bite at Laurel is the grilled beef tenderloin skewers, with button mushrooms and served with a fresh herb sauce on the side. This is just one of the wonderful things to come from Executive Chef Fernando Soberanis’ kitchen at Grand America.
Do you have a favorite local bar dish? Let us know!
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” – WC fields
FOR MORE RESTAURANT REVIEWS GO HERE.
THIS CONTENT IS FROM THE UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
Subscribe to receive the latest news and reviews from Utah Bites
Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine and travel writer based in Utah. He loves to cook, ski, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.