Top Restaurants in Downtown SLC's Culinary Mecca

The Salt Lake Valley has many hotspots packed with outstanding restaurants. But without a doubt, Downtown is - by far - Salt Lake City’s most well-endowed sector when it comes to quantity, quality and variety of eateries. And though a few of Salt Lake City’s best restaurants are scattered across its expanses, you’re virtually guaranteed to enjoy top-rate food at any of these restaurants.

If  you’d like to experience the best Mexican food anywhere around, head just slightly west of Downtown proper to the Red Iguana. In operation since 1985, this legendary restaurant serves enormous and incredible classic dishes, as well as their own Oaxacan moles - seven in all.

Perhaps you prefer sushi? Takashi, located in the heart of Downtown, serves gourmet, modern Japanese cuisine that rivals the best in any coastal metropolis. If you prefer cooked fish to raw fish, you have only to visit Takashi’s neighbor, the Market Street Grill.

If you need to reel it in a little - in terms of cash expenditures - you couldn’t ask for a better place to do it than Downtown. Here you can enjoy top-notch food for a fraction of the price that you’d pay at some restaurants. For unbeatable value, check out the Himalayan Kitchen or Chanon Thai.


Chanon Thai Cafe
Photo courtesy of Jennfer Boren

If you're a fan of Thai food, you're in luck whilst visiting Salt Lake City. Chanon Thai may seem like just another hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant; however, within the small confines of this tiny establishment, you'll experience some of the best Thai cuisine in the entire state of Utah. From the moment you walk through the door (and possibly even earlier), distinctive aromas of fresh ingredients and individual spices will foreshadow the delicate and flavorful dishes awaiting inside. Though the entrees may carry the same name as in other Thai restaurants, the excellent sauces and abundance of vegetables and meats in these dishes will outdo any competitor's offerings.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: Slightly south of Downtown proper, Chanon Thai offers extreme value and vibrantly fresh dishes.

Local Expert tip: If you're in a rush, consider trying take-out; service at Chanon Thai is rather relaxed.

Read more about Chanon Thai Cafe →


Located in the lobby of a former bank building, this Big Apple-style eatery offers city-dwellers an upscale, almost funky setting that includes high ceilings and an open kitchen. Sample something different - corn and crab bisque with a cilantro-oil swirl is ideal for savvy diners. Or, if you'd like, go for foie gras, scallops with fresh veggies, or grilled black sea bass. The intriguing dessert menu features a delectable medley that includes tea cr?me brulee, tea sorbet, and black tea-infused chocolate cake. This award-winning restaurant occupies the ground level of the equally decorated and funky Hotel Monaco. Bambara is one of an elite handful of Salt Lake City restaurants to receive the AAA Four Diamond Award.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: This flashy, fun and vibrant restaurant is one of the winningest eateries in all of SLC.

Local Expert tip: Bambara offers a gluten-free menu!

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Have you ever had a hard time deciding what to order at dinner - because everything on the menu sounded so good? Eva, located in downtown Salt Lake City is the place for you. A self-described "small plates" restaurant, Eva serves pizza, pasta and tapas. A perfect place for small groups, this cozy restaurant makes it 100% acceptable to share plates. The menu contains variety of offerings, grouped as small plates, grilled dishes, pasta & risotto and salads. Choose from spanakopita, flash-fried calamari, lobster ravioli, melon and prosciutto salad, lamb kibbeh and more than three dozen other options. Chef Charlie Perry hand selects wines to pair with the dishes.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: In a sea of fast-paced restaurants, Eva slows it down and makes it intimate with totally sharable small plates and a charming dining room.

Local Expert tip: Eva, which features a cocktail lounge, offers a happy hour; call for exact offerings and time on the particular day of your interest.

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Born in the restaurant's namesake city, Bruges, Belgium, owner Pierre Vandamme brought with him Belgium's famous yeast-raised Liege waffles. Endowed with the traditional sugar pearls in the dough, these waffles are served hot and eaten with the toppings of your choice: creme fraiche, Belgian chocolate sauce, various berries, crunchy speculoos spread or vanilla bean ice cream. Not enough? Try any of the special combinations which feature waffles and various decadent stuffings. Similarly, their frites (or fries) are served with an impressive choice of aioli sauces, or in combination with a sandwich - or IN a sandwich. This is no health food store, but instead a delicious European treat in the heart of Salt Lake City.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: This waffle house is one of the single most popular restaurants in all of Utah.

Local Expert tip: Don't shy away from the unknown; if you're unfamiliar with the various toppings and sauces, just ask - they're delicious!

Read more about Bruges Waffles & Frites →

Market Street Grill
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Nestled into the historic 1906 New York Hotel (alongside its sister restaurant, the New Yorker), the Market Street Grill has long been considered one of Salt Lake's best restaurants, particularly in the seafood and meat department. Offering top-end food in a fun, bright, and classic - yet reasonably casual - dining room, the Grill serves three meals day, seven days a week. The Market Street Grill serves one of Salt Lake City's best brunches. If you're interested, you needn't be an early riser; come by for this special menu, offered 9am - 3pm on Sundays. The Grill stands within casual walking distance of Salt Lake's major downtown sports and cultural venues. If you prefer not to walk the entire distance, you can ride TRAX - Salt Lake's light rail public transportation. Conveniently, the Market Street Grill sits within TRAX's fare-free, downtown zone. Finally, if those options are not enough, Market Street Grill offers free shuttles to and from select arts and sporting events.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: Surf 'n' turf at its finest: the Market Street Grill showcases the fresh-fish delivery power of Salt Lake International Airport.

Local Expert tip: If you like the Market Street Grill, consider checking out the New Yorker Restaurant - which is owned and operated by the same parent company.

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Squatters Pub Brewery
Photo courtesy of karmadude

Squatters is one of Salt Lake City's most flexible and accommodating restaurants - appropriately rendering it one of the city's most popular eateries and watering holes. Offering a lengthy brewpub menu that contains burgers, sandwiches, and pizza alongside green curry, salads, pasta, edamame, and carnitas, Squatters kitchen doles out one of the most diverse cuisines in town. Given this range of grub, its west-Downtown location, and modern, brewpub atmosphere, Squatters provides a perfect setting for lunch. Whether you're grabbing a quick, solo bite, or want to sit down for an hour with coworkers, you'll find that Squatters can accommodate your needs.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: Utah's own (amazing!) beers and an incredibly diverse menu: what more could you ask for?

Local Expert tip: If you happen to stop by for lunch on a non-work day, sample one or two of Squatters' own brews.

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Copper Common
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The Copper Onion is one of the new additions to the growing Utah foodie scene. Former NYC chef (and native Utahan) Ryan Lowder now brings his personal take on New American cuisine to his own kitchen with an approach inspired by his passion for Utah's outstanding farmstead ingredients and his experience as a chef cooking his way through Barcelona, NYC and South America. The Copper Onion serves a wide array of vegetable side dishes and a menu designed to explore and share, with plates such as Ricotta dumplings with lemon, sage and brown butter and Braised Pork Belly with shaved Brussels sprouts and pickled celeriac. Entrees include Fresh house-made papparedelle with lamb ragout and Duck Confit with butternut squash and roasted mushroom caps. An insistent focus on the freshest and best is paramount; sausages and burgers are ground daily, bread is baked and ice cream is made in house, offering casual diners an exceptional experience at affordable prices.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: The Copper Onion does a dazzling job of creating gourmet farm-to-table meals.

Local Expert tip: Order plenty of side dishes, and share with the table.

Read more about Copper Common →

Himalayan Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Given the immense popularity and customer loyalty of the Himalayan Kitchen, it is astounding that the restaurant has only been in business since 2005. Located in central downtown, the Himalayan Kitchen serves savory, traditional Nepali and Indian cuisine made from scratch daily. Though dinners here always draw a crowd, this restaurant is one of Salt Lake's best lunch locations. Serving an incredible buffet 11:30-2:30 Monday-Saturday, the Himalayan Kitchen provides you the chance to sample a generous selection of dishes for one low price. For those working downtown, this couldn't be more convenient. This restaurant has won countless awards in local and state competitions, as well as national recognition from The New York Times.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: Beloved for its incredible food, and renowned for its remarkable value, Himalayan Kitchen will be an SLC staple for decades to come.

Local Expert tip: Vegetarians will find more than enough options here.

Read more about Himalayan Kitchen →

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

No 10Best list of Salt Lake City's Asian restaurants would be complete without Takashi - arguably Salt Lake City's best single eatery of any genre. Located on Market Street - Salt Lake Valley's prime culinary real estate - this Japanese restaurant serves sushi that competes with the best of San Francisco. Whether you're looking for a traditional roll or a deluxe chef's special, you'll find the sushi here to be made with expert elegance and culinary genius. In addition to the sushi, Takashi offers a number of appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts. Don't forget to check out the hot and cold sake list.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: Winning more awards than any other sushi restaurant in Salt Lake City, Takashi offers an amazing selection of modern Japanese food.

Local Expert tip: Takashi does not take reservations; on a busy night, you can wait for your table at Kristauf's Martini Bar, next door.

Read more about Takashi →

Red Iguana
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The Red Iguana has been in operation since 1985. One of Salt Lake City's most popular restaurants, The Red Iguana draws queues of waiting customers � stretching as much as half a city block from their door � during peak dinner times. Given the restaurant's authentic cuisine, imported straight from Mexico, the wait is definitely worth it. However, if you eat at the Red Iguana during lunch time, you can enjoy the same incredible food, and often avoid the queue entirely. The Red Iguana is most famous for its seven unique Oaxacan moles, prepared from scratch. In addition to these, the kitchen cooks up excellent renditions of classic dishes like burritos, tacos, steaks, enmoladas, and carnitas. Whether you order a beef burrito or the Red Pipian Mole, your meal will shatter your expectations.

Recommended for Downtown's Best Restaurants because: In business for nearly 30 years, this insanely popular restaurant could never be left off a 10Best list!

Local Expert tip: If eating at the Red Iguana, do yourself a favor and try their specialty dishes; you'd be hard-pressed to find these anywhere else.

Read more about Red Iguana →


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