Downtown Salt Lake becomes more cosmopolitan by the day — adding new high-rises and hot spots that attract residents from the suburbs and visitors from afar.
With so many new dining establishments to enjoy, it’s easy to book a night on the town, starting with dinner for two. Whether your tastes lean toward a coursed dinner with drinks, followed by a live performance at Eccles Theatre, Ballet West or Utah Symphony, or a more casual bite before a Jazz game or concert, the city of salt is your proverbial oyster.
The Salt Republic
The new Hyatt Regency connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center is a game changer for drawing large-scale conventions to Utah — as evidenced by the return last week of the Outdoor Retailers winter market.
While the Hyatt’s headline restaurant on the 6th floor, Mar | Muntanya, might be making all the waves, The Salt Republic on the ground floor is efficiently serving guests and locals alike with a tight, well-constructed menu that Executive Chef Ryan Olivas said he hopes will bring “the spirit of the city together.”
“We had a lot of fun incorporating some of Utah’s staple dishes into the current menu, while highlighting locally made ingredients,” Olivas said.
Start with the sausage board ($22), which features a shareable selection of snappy grilled sausages including lamb, beef and pork oftentimes sourced from around the state and served with mustards and maple onion jam, pickled vegetables and crusty sourdough bread.
Not surprisingly, The Salt Republic’s name is a nod to the city itself, and the rotisserie and wood-fired oven-focused menu remind diners of the pioneering spirit of the West. Guests are invited to pair a protein from the hearth with a sauce and three salts (featuring local Real Salt). Both the rainbow trout ($29) and half chicken ($32) were stellar when sprinkled with the truffle, black garlic and Himalayan pink salts, while the latter reached poultry perfection with a drizzle of smoked honey.
While proteins are a heavy focus at The Salt Republic, seasonal vegetable sides — like the butternut squash hash and Brussels sprouts — balance the menu, while several salads present fresh options. The artisan greens salad ($13) highlighted radish, fennel and carrots and was tossed with a light shallot vinaigrette garnished with sunflower seeds. Excellent to share, the server delivered it split on two plates for just the right amount of greens to accompany the main entrees.
The Salt Republic is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., at 170 S. West Temple. Reservations can be made at https://www.exploretock.com/the-salt-republic-salt-lake-city.
Franklin Ave. Cocktails and Kitchen
The newest edition to The Bourbon Group’s lineup of food-forward bars, Franklin Ave. celebrates and elevates vegetables.
To get the broadest selection of Executive Chef and Bourbon Group Partner Matt Crandall’s culinary genius, take a tour around the bar snacks and starters sections of the menu. From savory mushroom beignets ($14) with Green Goddess dressing for dipping to fresh snap peas with coconut and Chile crisp ($12), Crandall is coaxing nuanced flavors to the forefront.
For salad lovers, order the baby gems ($22) topped with sweet Dungeness crab and grilled avocado, served with an addictive buttermilk dressing.
Crandall doesn’t leave the carnivores behind. Snacks like Scotch olives ($5) stuffed with farmers cheese and wrapped in sausage make way for a gorgeous steak tartare ($18) counter-balanced with pickled daikon and cucumber that can be built onto a potato chip one bite at a time.
Perhaps Franklin Ave.’s winning dish to best pair both protein and vegetable together is the black cod ($32). The luscious, seared fish rests atop an umami-laden miso soy dashi broth, while snap peas provide fresh crunch and mushrooms from Ogden’s Intermountain Gourmet soak up all the flavors.
End dinner with something sweet, such as housemade ice cream ($4) in rotating flavors or adorable little chocolate doughnuts ($10) dolloped with pastry cream and accented with sea salt and cocoa nibs. The showstopper though is the raspado — a towering bowl of shaved ice that hides indulgent cheesecake ice cream inside, while the outside is doused in raspberry hibiscus shrub and condensed milk. This dessert might actually be enough entertainment for one night!
Like its sister bars, Whiskey Street and White Horse, Franklin Ave. is a 21+ establishment.
Franklin Ave. is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., at 231 S. Edison Street. Reservations can be made at www.franklinaveslc.com.
Laurel Brasserie & Bar
After a multi-million dollar revamp of the Garden Café during the pandemic, Laurel Brasserie & Bar is a welcome destination. While the look may be all-new, the experts in the kitchen are veterans at The Grand America.
Under the helm of Director of Food & Beverage Regis Perret, Laurel has transformed into a French-style bistro with accessible offerings that still showcase the quality and preparation of which The Grand America has always excelled.
Find Executive Pastry Chef Xavier Baudinet’s dreamy croissant dough not only in the restaurant’s morning pastries but also wrapping up the Pigs in a Blanket starter ($10). These Snake River Farms piggies are grass-fed beef franks served with a spicy mustard sauce you’ll want to hold onto and put on the rest of your meal.
The cider-brined bone-in pork chop ($33), sourced from Christiansen’s Family Farm in Fairfield, comes with not-too-sweet candied yams and is one of Executive Chef Fernando Soberanis’ personal recommendations. Pair it with a side of grilled asparagus ($9) or baby gem wedge salad ($12) with bacon and bleu cheese.
For dessert, the bread pudding ($9) is a nod to a favorite offering from the Garden Café, but reimagined in date night form. The couple-sized serving comes with a side of warmed rum sauce that can be poured over the top of the dessert or individual spoonfuls.
If venturing further into downtown for the evening after dinner, The Grand America is a great place to park your car and hop on TRAX within the city’s free-fare zone to reach any entertainment venue along the way.
Laurel Brasserie & Bar is located inside of The Grand America at 555 S. Main. Open seven days a week for dinner — Monday-Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., Friday-Sunday 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations can be made at https://www.sevenrooms.com/reservations/laurelbrasserieandbar.
Heather L. King owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches.