After 20 years of writing about Utah on assignment, Pugh enjoyed the chance to follow his own interests for the guidebook. "I tried to make it really accessible, including 'Weird Utah' stuff as well as things that are more like greatest hits," he says.
He enjoys hearing readers say: "I've lived here my whole life but haven't done a lot of these things." He hopes the book will sell enough copies to allow him a few edits and additions in a second edition. And he plans to follow up with a "Secret Salt Lake City" volume, with more bits of "Weird Utah" crime, oddities and urban legends.
Most of all, he hopes the book will be just another chapter in Salt Lake City's unfolding story as more non-natives discover our urban views, nearby mountain hikes and emerging food scene. Here are just a few explorations from the book:
Eat funeral potatoes
At the Garage on Beck • Funeral potatoes are a Utah inside joke. The cheesy, casserole-style potatoes are often served at funerals and other large church and family gatherings, but the gooey, calorie-heavy tubers, often topped with crunchy corn flakes or potato chips, are downright delicious. The roadhouse bar Garage on Beck has fun with the local fare by frying them up into croquette-ish bites. Additionally, the Garage is one of the best spots for live music, and enjoying Sunday brunch on its friendly backyard-style patio is not to be missed. Also try Grandma's pot pie.
Garage on Beck, 1199 Beck St., Salt Lake City; garageonbeck.com
Eat a famous pastry
At Les Madeleines • Pastry chef Romina Rasmussen created a national food sensation when she started making kouign amann at her shop more than a decade ago. The kouign amann is a flaky, sweet, savory pastry from the Brittany region of France, but the labor-intensive treat wasn't done much even in Parisian bakeries. Rasmussen perfected her recipe and reintroduced the butter-rich delicacy to our mouths, even though we still can't pronounce it right. Her efforts have brought national attention from such renowned publications as Food and Wine and Bon Appétit, and she has been featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Her shop is one of Salt Lake's favorite lunch stops, serving beautifully crafted sandwiches, salads and pastries in tranquilly civilized surroundings. Stop in for lunch and walk out with a kouign amann for dessert.
Les Madeleines, 216 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City; lesmadeleines.com
Drink the perfect cup of coffee
Caffe d'Bolla • Fastidious isn't a strong enough term to describe owner John Piquet, who is a nut for his coffee and is nationally known as a roasting and brewing expert. He positively fusses over every cup he serves. If you really want to see him in action, order a $12 cup of siphon coffee. It's an impressive procedure as he painstakingly fires up the siphon and serves you what may be the perfect cup. Don't ask for cream or sugar unless you want to see John's eyes roll completely out of his head and then be chased out of his coffee shop.
Caffe d'Bolla, 249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; caffedbolla.com
Shop for tires, eat a tamale
Victor's Tire Shop and Custom Wheels • This west-side shop provides the services its name indicates. It's also a restaurant serving amazing tamales and other Mexican cuisine. You order at the tire service counter and wait for your order in a hastily added-on area with a few tables, salsa bar and soda fountain. This is not gringo Mexican. It's the real deal, and beyond the beautiful tamales you'll find authentic posole and other homemade delicacies.
Victor's Tires, 1406 S. 700 West, Salt Lake City; victorstires.net/Restaurant.html