Best Outdoor Dining in Salt Lake City

10 Best Outdoor Dining in Salt Lake: Uniting a Sunny, Dry Climate with Outstanding Restaurants

Salt Lake City has been gifted with amazing weather. In any season, the city enjoys unjust amounts of sunny days and low humidity. Though the summers can get quite toasty - and the winters quite chilly - you’ll nevertheless find an occasion for outdoor dining in all seasons. After all, nothing feels better than pleasant, summer evening air - or a warm patio on a sunny, winter afternoon.

When choosing a destination for your next outdoor meal, you’ll first have to determine your goals, in terms of cuisine and formality. If you’re looking for a refined and romantic dinner, consider visiting one of the city’s best New American, farm-to-table restaurants, Em’s. Located within walking distance of the Capitol Building, this restaurant offers some of the city’s most enjoyable outdoor dining - as well as some of its freshest meals.

Another of the top recommendations for any occasion is Cafe Trio. This modern Italian gem stands just north of the 9th and 9th intersection. Offering a spacious patio with an elegant and user-friendly menu, Trio avails itself to those craving a light salad, as well as to those hankering for a four-course meal. In the heat of the summer, Trio also cools its patio with an amazingly pleasant misting system.


Barbacoa Mexican Grill
Photo courtesy of Symic

Located in Salt Lake's fun and hip 9th & 9th neighborhood, Barbacoa serves a fast and nutritious version of Mexican food. Rather than sit-down service and cheese-smothered burritos, this Mexican grill offers fresh wraps, made-to-order at the counter. Customers have their choice among meats like Barbacoa pork, grilled steak, and chicken. They can then select their type of beans, sauces, and vegetables. If you're not in the mood for a wrap, order a salad instead or possibly a burrito bowl, taco, or soup. All meals at Barbacoa are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients � and are of rather large proportions. Come hungry, or plan to save half of your burrito.

Local Expert tip: Excepting the wheat and flour tortillas, all foods (including the cookies) are gluten-free at Barbacoa.

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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.

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This two-story cafe is one of Salt Lake City's longest-running, most classic cafes. Serving delicious, roasted coffees (ranging from lattes to dark espressos) throughout the day, alongside a fairly extensive food menu, this is a go-to favorite of locals. Guests are free to sip a cup of drip coffee and use the wireless, or to meet with friends and enjoy a full meal. Outside seating makes the Roasting Company a popular late night gathering spot as well. A variety of scrumptious lunch and dinner options are available, and the staff makes sure that there are plenty of fresh breads and pastries available all day long.

Local Expert tip: The Salt Lake Roasting Company is a perfect place to grab breakfast if you don't feel like a full-service meal - and if good coffee is an important part of your morning.

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

In a sea of fabulous restaurants, Tuscany manages to be among Salt Lake's best. Winning four Utah Best of State awards in 2010, including "Best Chef," "Best Tuscan," and "Best Hospitality," Tuscany has also earned recognition from Zagat as one of the "America's Top Restaurants," and from Utah Business Magazine as "Best Place to Impress Clients." Offering an ever-changing menu, Tuscany's kitchen draws from the freshest ingredients available to create dishes in accordance with the seasons. Located toward the southern end of Salt Lake Valley, and operating out of a converted mill, Tuscany offers its guests a unique ambiance and off-the-main-drag location that enhance its excellent cuisine.

Local Expert tip: When making reservations during the summer, inquire about the outdoor patio.

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With its warm, burnished interiors and soothing decor, Log Haven is a perfect place to dine - even moreso if you're celebrating a special occasion. Nestled among pine trees, waterfalls, and beautiful landscaping, the well-regarded restaurant serves New American cuisine like coriander-rubbed ahi tuna, mustard-crusted duck, and sage-tinged pastas. Also keep an eye out for bison and veal bolognese sauce over homemade pappardelle, porcini-dusted diver scallops, and pan-roasted rabbit with wild mushrooms and madeira. A delightful experience. Located in Millcreek Canyon, Log Haven is one of the Salt Lake area's best-kept secrets, and most cherished dining establishments. Just a few miles from Salt Lake City, this feels like a world away.

Local Expert tip: Log Haven has one of the most romantic and idyllic atmospheres of all Salt Lake City's restaurants.

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Temple Square
Caffe Molise
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Specializing in Italian cuisine from Italy's Molise region, this full-service restaurant serves fresh, brilliantly simple cuisine in a handsome, upscale enviornment. During any month, you can enjoy dinner accompanied by live, Friday night jazz performed by the John Flander Trio; in the summer, you can eat outside on the covered patio. Given its location, artistic decor, and quality of dining, Caffe Molise is an excellent place to dine before a Salt Lake Symphony concert or any downtown outing. The menu at Caffe Molise features items like polenta con funghi, bruchetta misto, gnocchi di patate, lasagna, pollo marsala. Walk-ins are welcomed, but because of the restaurant's relatively petite size, reservations could prove quite handy.

Local Expert tip: Keep your eyes and ears out for Salt Lake City's spring and Fall Dine-o-Round; Caffe Molise is a regular participant of this fantastic event.

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Ruth's Diner
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Located in a renovated 1930s trolley car parked right in the heart of Emigration Canyon, Ruth's Diner serves all your favorite American and southwest breakfast dishes, from sausage and pancakes to huevos rancheros. The popular eatery has gained quite a substantial reputation for its morning fare over the years, and even better, breakfast is served all day, every day. Although its salty founder, Ruth, died at the ripe old age of 94 in 1989, the business she built lives on, buoyed by her independent spirit. If you visit during the summer months, you can enjoy your meal outside on the patio, occasionally accompanied by live music.

Local Expert tip: Visit this restaurant on your way home after cycling Emigration Canyon.

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Café Trio
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Cafe Trio, located on the northern periphery of Salt Lake's 9th & 9th neighborhood, is one of Salt Lake City's most consistently busy restaurants. Serving a contemporary and fresh version of Italian cuisine in a bright and stylish dining room, Trio offers simply elegant foods crafted with wholesome ingredients. All food is offered a la carte, and is categorized as starters, sides, pizzas, pasta, and entrees. During lunch or dinner, guests have the flexibility to order exactly the size of meal they desire. If you're feeling hungry, take a side, pasta, and entree. If not, order a salad, and follow it with a soup or pizza. Not only does Trio's simplistic, item-by-item menu allow you to adjust your meal size to your appetite, but it also allows you to respect your budget.

Local Expert tip: Trio's Sunday brunch is a city-wide legend; try to check it out if at all possible.

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Avenues/Capitol Hill

Located in a beautifully restored, century-old brick building, Em's offers some of Salt Lake City's best farm-to-table dining. Crafting all dishes by hand with exclusively local and organic ingredients, Em's is a staple neighborhood bistro in the Capitol Hill/ Marmalade neighborhood. This New American restaurant offers an ever-changing menu to match the season's produce. With an elegant, yet simple atmosphere, Em's is ideal for a quick lunch or a romantic dinner date. In addition to lunch and dinner, Em's serves a fabulous Sunday brunch. Check online for specials, and call ahead for reservations; after years of excellent work, this restaurant has earned a loyal following.

Local Expert tip: Em's has some of the best patio dining in all of Salt Lake City.

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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