Best Nightlife in Salt Lake City

Brewpubs, night clubs, and concert venues: Salt Lake's surprisingly vibrant nightlife scene

For some, it may come as an honest shock to hear that Salt Lake City has nightlife. Utah's after-hours reputation, warped by rumors of draconian liquor laws and bizarre, “members only” clubs, has not fared well. However, Salt Lake City indeed has a night life - and though no one would compare it to that of New York City or San Francisco - its night scene is nevertheless quite active, and embodies a variety of establishments. Better yet, the restrictive liquor laws of the past have been loosened; gone is the “private club,” and the membership fees. And now, after the 2008 banning of public smoking in Utah: no more stinky clothes.

A major player in the Salt Lake nightlife scene is the brewpub. In this category, downtown Salt Lake City has two: Red Rock Brewing Company and Squatters Bub Brewery. In these flexible establishments, you can eat a multicourse dinner, watch a football game, catch up with friends, or even go on a date. They're open as late as any other establishment, and offer clean, open spaces for relaxing.

Technically not a brewpub (in that they don't make their own beer), but quite similar in every other aspect, Porcupine Pub & Grill is the go-to place for any post-skiing or -hiking eating and drinking, whether you're with your friends or your children. And though they don't brew their own beers, they have the beers of three other Utah breweries on tap.

If you're looking for more traditional nightlife - like dancing, drinking, and DJs - head to the Green Street Social Club. This college-friendly bar is utterly perfect for that age group. 


Fiddlers Elbow
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Fiddler's Elbow is one of the biggest and friendliest hangs in all of Sugarhouse. At once a pub and restaurant, Fiddler's Elbow has more than 30 beers on tap at all times, as well as an extensive menu. If you're quite hungry, you can order an entree like seafood enchiladas, marinated flank steak, or eggplant manicotti with spinach. But if your primary purpose is to drink and spectate, you can instead nibble on a meatloaf sandwich, beer battered shrimp, or tender pulled pork sliders. In addition to the libations and food, Fiddler's Elbow has dartboards, a 10-foot wide television, and multiple pool tables.

Local Expert tip: Fiddler's Elbow is one of the best places in Salt Lake City to catch a big game.

Read more about Fiddlers Elbow →

Self-described as "the place for jazz, blues, and booze" since its opening in 1974. During this time, Junior's has dodged the yuppification that has transformed most of Salt Lake City's watering holes. Sticking to its roots, Junior's provides space in which to drink, play billiards, watch sports, and - most importantly - listen to music. Located on 300 South Street, Junior's stands just a short walk from most downtown hotels and restaurants. Enjoy a Guinness from the tap, and check your email on the small outdoor patio; Junior's even offers wifi. People that love Juniors keep coming back for the laid-back, genuine atmosphere.

Local Expert tip: Call ahead of your visit to see who's playing.

Read more about Junior's Tavern →

For most of its life, Piper Down was a dark, hole-in-the-wall, Irish bar on State Street. With no windows and a somewhat off-central location, this was truly a locals-only hang. However, in 2009, this bar underwent a massive expansion. This renovation added 1,200 square feet of space, some windows - skylights, even - and a totally new ambiance. Retaining its Irish roots, this pub now offers a much more modern, inviting atmosphere in which to watch games, play billiards, and catch up with friends. Piper Down even offers a food menu with numerous snacks like buffalo wings, sliders, and nachos, as well as salads, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and Irish specialties.

Local Expert tip: If you haven't been to Piper Down since its expansion, it's time to give it another try.

Read more about Piper Down →

Desert Edge Brewery At The Pub
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Tucked covertly into the upper recesses of Trolley Square, the Desert Edge Brewery is one of Salt Lake City's most popular and oldest breweries. Founded in 1973, Desert Edge offers more than 20 styles of beer crafted by brewer Chris Haas. Enjoy these brews alongside burgers and creative sandwiches like hoisin salmon or balsamic-marinated chicken with roasted mushrooms. The kitchen is open every night until 11pm (except Sunday, when it closes at 10pm). Here you won't find any DJs or dancing; this brewpub is one of the best places in Salt Lake City to enjoy a quiet, late night conversation with a partner or share several appetizers with friends.

Local Expert tip: Students enrolled in any Utah university enjoy significant discounts at Desert Edge; bring a current student I.D. to cash in on these.

Read more about Desert Edge Brewery At The Pub →

Since its opening in 1994, Red Rock Brewing has earned a reputation among Utah residents as being one of the state's top breweries. But beyond just Utah, Red Rock has earned serious national recognition; in 2007, it won first place at the Great American Beer Festival as the nation's Best Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year. And each year before and after that, it has collected numerous medals for its various brews - sometimes as many as a dozen a year. If you decide to swing by Red Rock, you'll have the pleasure of sipping on 12 draught beers at any given time, as well as some house-made sodas.

Local Expert tip: If you're hungry, Red Rock serves a full menu of excellent food from 11am-11pm Sun-Thurs (11am-midnight Fri-Sat).

Read more about Red Rock Brewing Company →

Porcupine Pub & Grille
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Porcupine Pub stands directly beneath the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and precisely along the way from Little Cottonwood Canyon to Salt Lake City. So no matter where you've spent the day skiing (or hiking, in summer), this Salt Lake Valley favorite requires no detour whatsoever to visit when you're en route back to the city. Like many of Salt Lake City's pubs, Porcupine combines an all-ages restaurant with a bar space. Catering to families, adult couples, and young snowboarders alike, it offers a full menu of American cuisine, many beers on tap, and a fantastic happy hour discount on chicken-and-black bean nachos.

Local Expert tip: This popular pub features libations from such breweries as Wasatch, Uinta, Squatters, Park City, and Red Rock

Read more about Porcupine Pub & Grille →

Club Sound is among Salt Lake City's most popular and busy concert venues. Neither a fancy establishment, nor a total dive, this industrial-chic venue attracts nationally-famous indie acts, underground DJ's, and a whole lot of 20-and-30-somethings to watch their shows. With a large dance area on the main floor and a balcony overlooking the stage, this large club provides plenty of space for moving around - though it is often completely packed during big shows. During summer events, Club Sound opens its second floor, outdoor balconies, providing yet more space and a place to catch some fresh air between songs. Club Sound is a both an 18+ and 21+ venue; alcohol is only allowed in the 21+ side of the venue.

Local Expert tip: If you're coming for an early show, arrive on time; Club Sound often books two events per evening, and requires a prompt exodus after the first show.

Read more about Club Sound →

Squatters Pub Brewery
Photo courtesy of karmadude

Squatters was founded as a brewery in 1989, with its first beers being served in September of that year at the very same West Broadway location in Salt Lake City. Pouring their own brews alongside house-made foods ever since, Squatters offers a fun atmosphere in which to relax. Featuring a large and modern, brewpub-style restaurant space, this pub is a perfect place to enjoy a slow and relaxing dinner, watch a game with a pitcher of beer, or catch up with friends over a table of appetizers. With multiple levels and seating areas, Squatters offers a variety of seating options - some quieter and some louder. The menu is also quite diverse, and contains selections ranging from green Thai curry to a Niman Ranch lamb shank... and, of course, many burgers.

Local Expert tip: If you arrive at the front door behind a large crowd, inquire about seating at the bar upstairs.

Read more about Squatters Pub Brewery →

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The Bayou has invented a niche its own, and a brilliant one at that. At once a restaurant, high-end beer bar, pool hall, and jazz venue, The Bayou offers something for everyone. On the restaurant side, The Bayou offers a lengthy and varied menu of Cajun-inspired food. Enjoy a spicy turkey burger or a full-blown entree. If you're looking for beers, you'll find more than 200 selections at any given time. After your meal, take your beers (wine, or cocktails) over to the billiards tables and shoot some pool. Or stay at your table and listen to live jazz being performed most weekend nights. With all it has to offer, The Bayou is one of Salt Lake City's most fun, popular, and hip establishments in any genre.

Local Expert tip: The Bayou is a 21+ establishment; bring your I.D.

Read more about Bayou →


Meet Christine Balaz

Christine Balaz began her unexpected writing career in Salt Lake City with her first book on Wasatch Skiing and Travel in 2006. On the subject of Utah, Christine has written numerous...  More About Christine