The Salt Lake Tribune reviewed 22 of Utah’s newest restaurants in 2019. The visits were anonymous — and the newspaper paid the tab — all to let our hungry readers know if the food and atmosphere were worth their time and money.
The experiences were mixed: most restaurants were good; a few were not. Several were standouts, offering items worthy of being named to our list of Best Dishes of 2019.
These year-end favorites are an eclectic mix of globally inspired meals — think Vietnamese soup, Lebanese eggplant dip and Filipino stew — and a few unfussy comfort foods, such as pot pie and brisket.
Here’s a snapshot of the eight dishes we especially enjoyed this year and hope to revisit in 2020 and beyond.
Brisket pho at SAOLA New Asian
$15 • SAOLA New Asian’s brisket pho — perfect for a snowy winter day — is the best I’ve ever tasted. No wonder why: It’s based on a recipe crafted more than 40 years ago by owner and chef Tuan Vu’s uncle, who became world-famous for his Pho Thin restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam. At SAOLA, the ginger beef bone broth simmers for 24 hours with the family’s special spice blend, resulting in a light and aromatic soup packed with umami and heat. Topped with onion, cilantro and scallions, the dish comes together perfectly. — Larrisa Beth Turner
SAOLA New Asian • 7307 Canyon Centre Parkway, Cottonwood Heights; 801-944-2949 or saola-slc.com. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Confit Chicken Pot Pie at Oquirrh
$21 • This dish proved too popular to eliminate, even after the New American restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City lost its local pastry source. And it has remained for good reason: The chicken leg and thigh are cooked in duck fat. The thigh meat is added to fennel, mushrooms and mirepoix in a light, creamy gravy. That drumstick is fried to order and placed as if it’s punching out of the top of the deeply golden puff pastry. The only risk is that you are so excited to eat it, you burn your mouth (like I did). Oquirrh, named for the hard-to-pronounce mountain range to the west of the Salt Lake Valley, elevates local products in a fine dining setting. — Heather May
Oquirrh • 368 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City; 801-359-0426 or oquirrhslc.com. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
Baba Ghanouj at Beirut Cafe
$4.99 • If you love eggplant, Beirut Café’s baba ghanouj (or baba ghanoush) is a stellar example of how the creamy eggplant dip has been winning diehard fans for generations. This smoky version harmoniously combines judicious amounts of tahini, garlic, salt, olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice to celebrate the roasted eggplant that’s best devoured with fresh-from-the-oven pita bread. — Heather L. King
Beirut Cafe • 1326 E. 5600 South, Salt Lake City; 801-679-1688 or beirutcafe.com. Open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.
Candy garlic wings at Bok Bok
$9.99 (regular) • I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the Korean fried chicken at Bok Bok since last January. Bok Bok double fries all its battered chicken, ensuring a crunchy exterior and juicy interior. I prefer the bone-in wings — though the boneless strips are just as good — tossed in the candy garlic sauce, which includes chunks of roughly minced garlic, flecks of pepper and a thick, sugary glaze. While it’s heavy on the garlic, I don’t find it overpoweringly sweet. And I love scooping up leftover sauce at the bottom of the dish with Bok Bok’s fries (one of three sides that you can order with the combo), which are extra crisp on the outside yet soft inside. I also recommend the sweet and spicy house sauce and the chicken sandwich. The only downside is that both locations are in Utah County. But it’s so worth the drive. — LBT
Bok Bok • 648 E. State Road, Suite N, American Fork or 1181 N. Canyon Road, Provo; www.facebook.com/bokbokutah.
Korean Cheesesteak at The Angry Korean
$12.99 • The Angry Korean has made a name for itself serving traditional Korean and fusion dishes at The District in South Jordan. The Korean cheesesteak is packed with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and melted cheese. The thin-sliced beef that makes up the base of this hoagie is marinated beef bulgogi, a tantalizing soy-based Korean barbecue staple at the restaurant. The bulgogi adds salty and savory elements to the Philly-based original for flavors you won’t find anywhere else. — HLK
The Angry Korean • 11587 S. District Main Drive, South Jordan; 801-307-8300 or facebook.com/theangrykorean. Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 5-10 p.m.
Overnight Brisket at One0Eight
$25 • This new American Bistro, named for the east-side Salt Lake City ZIP code where it is located, serves comfort food at its best — chicken schnitzel, housemade pasta and oven-fired pizzas along with cocktails charmingly named for local haunts and lore. Arguably its best dinner dish is the overnight brisket: a large portion of fork-tender waygu beef sits on top of a spicy red cabbage slaw and comes with triangles of crispy polenta. It’s topped with microgreens and breaded and fried shallots. It’s plenty for two, but why share when you’ll want to have more for leftovers tomorrow? — HM
OneOEight • 1709 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-906-8101 or one-0-eight.com. Open Tuesday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., and Sunday 5-8:30 p.m.
Bicol Express combo meal at BFF Turon
$8.99 • BFF Turon is treating the Wasatch Front to Filipino food that’s full of tantalizing flavors. Bicol Express — a popular dish in Manila — is a creamy, spicy pork stew with coconut milk, onion, garlic and a hint of chiles. The warm and filling dish is best served over steamed rice, and the combo meal also includes pancit (rice) noodles — studded with cabbage, carrots, chicken and pork stir fried in a peppery soy sauce mixture. — HLK
BFF Turon • 8860 S. Redwood Road, Unit 103, West Jordan; 385-557-2909 or stareventscatering.com. Open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Beet “hachees” at SLC Eatery
$9 • I never really thought I would come around to beets, but SLC Eatery completely changed my mind with its beet “hachees.” I loved every bite of the chopped beet salad topped with a black garlic crumble, Comte cheese, fresh herbs and onion whipped cream. On their own, the beets are beautifully cooked, but with the other ingredients, they are transformed into a beautifully balanced, complex dish layered with earthy, sweet, salty and savory notes. The real star here is the airy whipped cream, which tastes as if it’s been caramelized — tangy yet sweet. Although the salad has been off the menu since summer, I’m hoping SLC Eatery will bring it back in spring. — LBT
SLC Eatery • 1017 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 801-355-7952 or slceatery.com. Open Tuesday-Sunday 5-10 p.m.