As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reminisce about the unforgettable foods of 2018, the ones that oozed flavor and made us drool.
Our year-end favorites are an eclectic mix of unfussy, casual ethnic meals that include stuffed pockets from Mexico, two salads, a decadent breakfast favorite, a vegan burrito and two meaty sandwiches — one made with crispy chicken, the other a classic steak with a Utah twist.
Here’s a snapshot of the nine dishes we especially enjoyed this year and hope to revisit in 2019 and beyond.
Gorditas combo at Taqueria Los Lee
$6.99 • Salt Lake City’s Taqueria Los Lee has quickly become known for its gorditas — pancakelike pockets of masa that are stuffed and then cooked until crispy golden brown. The combination plate comes with two gorditas as well as rice and beans. For the filling, mix and match carne y papa, a satiating combination of beef and potatoes; puerco rojo, pork simmered in spicy red sauce; juicy puerco verde (green pork); shredded chicken; beef; cheese or beans. Add flavor with one of the three housemade hot sauces ranging in heat levels of medium to hot. Gorditas are also available à la carte for $2.99 each. — Heather L. King
Taqueria Los Lee • 2646 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City; 385-259-0764 or www.taquerialoslee.com.
Gado-Gado salad at MakanMakan
$9.25 • The name of this salad means “potpourri.” At the Indonesia-inspired restaurant, owned by a couple who grew up and travel among the Southeast Asian islands, the hearty mixture features diverse flavors and textures united by a peanut-coconut milk dressing that will make eating vegetables a pleasure. It’s made of fried tofu cubes, wedges of a jammy hard-boiled egg, blanched and thinly sliced potatoes with scalloped edges, and vinegary cucumbers, along with cabbage, lettuce and a smattering of noodles. — Heather May
MakanMakan Asian Streat Food Fare • 33 E. 11400 South, Sandy; 801-251-0967 or makanmakansandy.com.
Chicken sandwich at Pretty Bird
$10.50 sandwich or $15 combo • In perhaps one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in the past year, Pretty Bird and chef/owner Viet Pham lived up to the hype with a new spin on Nashville-style hot chicken. While you can’t go wrong with the bone-in quarter bird, the chicken sandwich offers the perfect bite. One mouthful reveals a hint of sweetness from the crisp, battered chicken thigh; various degrees of crunch and sourness from the pickles and cider slaw; and a burst of lemon in buttermilk-based PB sauce. The heat level — mild, medium, hot or hot behind — is up to you. But the medium, which builds a nice heat, isn’t too overwhelming. The recipe took Pham five years to develop — well worth the wait. — Larrisa Beth Turner
Pretty Bird • 146 S. Regent St., Salt Lake City; https://prettybirdchicken.com
Original cheesesteak at Fat Boy Phillies
$8 • If Philly cheesesteaks are what you’re craving, Fat Boy Phillies satisfies with its original cheesesteak. Each hoagie roll — made to owner Anthony Duran’s exacting specifications — is piled high with thinly sliced ribeye and filet chopped and then grilled to melt your choice of either provolone or Cheez Whiz. Get it “loaded” with fresh grilled mushrooms, peppers and onions plus peperoncini for a tangy kick. Don’t forget to top it with the housemade spicy jalapeño mayo sauce. Big eaters can also add a spicy sausage to their Philly. — HLK
Fat Boy Phillies • 5823 S. State St., Murray; 801-261-0313 or www.facebook.com/Fat-Boy-Phillies-390265938157833/.
French toast at Beaumont Bakery
$7.75 • The French-inspired bakery elevates the croissant, even using the laminated dough to make a decadent loaf of bread. This luscious meal features four slices of said dough — so airy you’ll bust your caloric budget before you know it. It’s a perfect base to capture the heavenly browned butter bourbon syrup that’s perfectly buttery and sugary. Served with slices of caramelized banana and a heap of berries.—HM
Beaumont Bakery • 3979 S. Wasatch Blvd., Millcreek; 801-676-9340 or https://www.facebook.com/beaumontbakerycafe/
Wedge salad at Nomad Eatery
$9 • When people ask about new restaurants to try in Salt Lake City, Nomad Eatery always makes the list, and I never miss a chance to recommend the wedge salad. That’s right, a salad. It’s just too good to pass up. With baby romaine, buttermilk ranch, smoked blue cheese, bacon, onion crisps, green onions and various seeds, the dish satisfies all five tastes — bitter, salty, sweet, sour and savory, with an emphasis on the latter. It also hits the three C’s — crispy, crunchy and creamy. The salad is sizable, so I recommend splitting it with someone if you want to try one of Nomad’s pizzas or sandwiches — and trust me, you do. — LBT
Nomad Eatery • 2110 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City; 801-938-9629 or https://www.nomad-eatery.com/
Ravioli incavolati at Celeste Ristorante
$16 • Chef and owner Paolo Celeste brings rustic Italian cuisine — think slow-simmered meats and sauces and housemade pasta — to the table every night at this Murray restaurant. Our favorite is the ravioli incavolati, featuring fresh pasta sheets filled with a blend of ricotta cheese and sautéed kale. Tossed in a delicate sage and butter sauce, the ravioli are generously sprinkled with Parmigiano cheese just before serving. Lightly fried whole sage leaves accent the entrée for a savory finish. — HLK
Celeste Ristorante • 5468 S. 900 East, Murray; 801-290-2913 or www.celesteristorante.com
Stir fry at Rawtopia Living Cuisine and Beyond
$18 • This is how spiralized zucchini is supposed to taste. The restaurant that specializes in organic, gluten-free and mostly raw foods is a health nut’s delight but hearty enough to satisfy the (open-minded) meat and potato crowd. The springy noodles lie on leafy greens and are topped with chopped broccoli, avocado, green onions, celery and peppers and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The coconut nectar, creamy brown Korean-style ginger dressing and curried-ginger almonds spread on top are a great introduction to how delicious raw food can be. Tuesday through Saturday 5:30-9:30 p.m. — HM
Rawtopia • 3961 S. Wasatch Blvd., Millcreek; 801-486-0332 or https://rawtopia.com
Sin Carne Burrito at Boltcutter
$8 • Filled with layers of asada seitan — a wheat protein that has the look and texture of pork or beef — refried beans, brown rice, pico de gallo, salsa verde, romaine and guacamole, this vegan burrito appears quite simple, but layers of bold flavors add complexity. Wrapped in a massive, flaky flour tortilla, the burrito feels more like a comfort food versus the restaurant’s gourmet tacos and other Mexican- and Central American-inspired dishes. But it all tastes just as amazing. — LBT
Boltcutter • 57 E. Gallivan Ave., Salt Lake City; https://www.facebook.com/pg/boltcutterslc