Interior designer picks 4 Salt Lake City restaurants that pass the vibe check

Designer Cody Derrick prefers places that are eye-catching without looking “overly designed.”

Some restaurants can look too slick, too trendy and too “Instagrammable.” To find a more real side of Salt Lake City’s dining scene, we asked interior design expert Cody Derrick for his opinion.

If a restaurant’s environment is “a cacophony that doesn’t go down smoothly, we’re going to be literally digesting, along with our food, the negative energy of the space,” Derrick, founder and owner of cityhomeCOLLECTIVE in Salt Lake City, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

He picked four restaurants — all in Salt Lake City — that have their own unique aesthetic, without looking what he calls “overly designed”: Yoko Ramen, Nona Bistro, Lola and Veggie House.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cody Derrick, founder of Cityhome Collective, and an interior design expert, picks four restaurants in Salt Lake City that he thinks have a one-of-a-kind aesthetic or are particularly “instagrammable.”

Derrick has been interested in interior design since he was a kid. “I just was always wanting to make every environment better for my animals, for myself, for my family,” he said.

When picking four restaurants with especially striking interiors, Derrick said he purposefully didn’t select ones that you might think of as “Instagrammable.”

Instead of trendy decor and ivy walls, Derrick said, “I feel like I’m the most interested when I see an image on Instagram of a place that reflects authentically what the food experience will be.”

Yoko Ramen

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Yoko Ramen in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024.

Yoko Ramen, at 473 E. 300 South, serves dishes such as gyoza, sandwiches, and chashu ramen with egg and green onions.

Of the restaurant, Derrick said, “I love small spaces that figure out how to make it work. I love that there’s natural materials. I just love the way that you can watch the city go by — like it’s such an authentic place to be able to just watch the mood of the world.”

He added that the Yoko Ramen’s “pared-down environment” allows the food to shine.

Derrick said Yoko Ramen’s space “says a lot about what they know they’re packing when it comes to the depth of the food, because they make ramen like nobody else. And they don’t have a space that’s trying to outshine it.”

Nona Bistro

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nona Bistro, on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.

Nona Bistro, located behind a bungalow at 346 E. 900 South, is the sister restaurant to Pizza Nono and serves wood-fired dishes outside in the summer and in a cozy garage in the winter.

Of the restaurant, Derrick said, “I love that their concept is primarily outdoor. It just makes it so special to be able to have a restaurant in the neighborhood that you can plan on seasonally, that when the weather’s good, [to] sit outside.”

“I just really appreciate the environment,” he added. “It’s one of those places that doesn’t feel too pretentious. It’s good food, good people, neighborhood-friendly.”


(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Glassware sits on tables at Lola in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.

Lola, located at 856 E. 900 South, is a Mexican restaurant that serves dishes such as tacos, chilaquiles, and churros with raspberry cream.

Derrick said, “the aesthetic there is very Lola, they just are really authentic to the food and to their environment and to their home country, to Mexico. Where there’s not too much, but there’s just enough.”

He added that he loves the restaurant’s use of organic materials, like plants and art, alongside the wood, steel and glass. “It’s such a gift,” he said, to have Lola in the 9th and 9th neighborhood, where he lives.

Veggie House

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Veggie House on 1700 South, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

Veggie House, at 52 E. 1700 South, is an Asian restaurant that serves vegetarian and vegan food such as noodles, sushi, rice, and plant-based meat dishes.

Derrick said he liked Veggie House because the clean, white interior reminds him of a “very traditional veggie house,” with the pictures of food, and the TV that’s always playing. “It’s so perfectly what it is,” he said.

Veggie House is also very “homey,” he said, with the specials written on chalkboards, and plants growing along the walls and ceiling.

“I think that it’s Instagram-worthy when it comes to food places to eat at because it’s one-of-a-kind,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”