Utah restaurants: A guide for newcomers, with Mexican, Chinese, pizza and other places to try

When you want to eat local, check out these Utah options have to offer.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Chef Kumar Kannan prepares multiple Indian dishes at Saffron Valley in Sugarhouse on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

This article is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s New to Utah series. For more articles on Utah’s food, culture, history, outdoors and more, sign up for the newsletter at https://www.sltrib.com/new-to-utah/.

One of the first questions a newcomer to Utah asks — right around the time they unload the U-Haul, but before they start unpacking boxes — is: What is there to eat around here?

Of course, the state is as overrun with national chains and fast-food joints as any other place. But if you’re looking to find something unique, to get a real taste of what Utah has to offer, here are nine local options to visit or seek out on your favorite delivery app.

We’re not saying these are the best restaurants in Utah — a subject that can prompt enthusiastic discussion among residents here. But this is a good list to start with.

Chinese Taste, 3424 S. State St., South Salt Lake • You know the saying that you find the most authentic Chinese food by looking for the tour buses filled with Chinese visitors? In the Salt Lake City area, that place is Chinese Taste, whose menu is loaded with dishes you won’t find in Americanized Chinese restaurants. Try the ma po tofu (which has pork in it, which is confounding to vegetarians) and the spicy sliced potato. It’s down the block from Salt Lake Chinatown, a superstore-sized building that contains a couple of dozen Asian vendors. (S.P.M.)

Little World, 1356 S. State St., Salt Lake City • Tales have been written about Little World’s lack of visual and dine-in appeal, but its strength lies in its staple: Greasy, tasty Chinese food. It’s a great spot for take-out, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu — particularly the classics, like chicken fried rice and cream cheese wontons. (P.J.)

Lucky Slice Pizza, four locations: Clearfield, Logan, Ogden and Powder Mountain • Lucky Slice does classic and gourmet equally well. If you’re going to a concert in the Ogden Twilight Series, go to the location on historic 25th Street before the show. I usually go with a slice of cheese pizza, or whatever their monthly special is. (P.J.)

The Pie Pizzeria, six locations: Midvale, Ogden, two in Salt Lake City (sit-down and delivery), South Jordan and South Salt Lake • This venerable pizza restaurant has locations from Ogden to South Jordan — but it’s the original, at 1320 E. 200 South in Salt Lake City, that’s really worth the trip. An underground location about a block from President’s Circle at the University of Utah, it’s the classic college hangout spot. The pizzas are generous with the toppings, so one pie can feed a starving student for several days. (S.P.M.)

Piper Down, 1492 S. State St., Salt Lake City • A great Irish pub, Piper Down also serves great pub food — including chicken fingers, bangers & mash, poutine and “beeg as your heed” nachos. The burgers have ⅓-pound of beef in them, and the Irish stew is made with Guinness. And many of the main menu items come in a vegan version. St. Patrick’s Day is a madhouse there, as one would expect. (S.P.M.)

Saffron Valley, five locations: Riverton, three in Salt Lake City (Avenues, Sugar House and University of Utah), and South Jordan • Finding authentic — i.e., non-Americanized — Indian food is not an easy task in Utah. It’s also rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t lump together all of India’s diverse regions of food into one category, i.e. curry. Saffron Valley not only highlights various dishes from different regions, but its modern decor and relaxed atmosphere (at all locations) have made it a staple for lovers of Indian food. Recommended: Samosa chaat, hakka noodles, and biryani. (P.J.)

Thani Bowl Noodle House, 365 W. 400 South, Salt Lake City • Among the best Thai places in town, Thani Bowl sits in a rustic converted house across the street from Pioneer Park, an oasis of comfort in the big city. The “Designated Driver” drunken noodles are sensational, with a spicy kick that’s powerful but not overwhelming. (S.P.M.)

Tres Hombres Mexican Grill and Cantina, 3298 S. Highland Drive, Millcreek • Utahns will argue about where the best Mexican food is. For me, it’s always been Tres Hombres, serving classic and comfort food for 38+ years. My go-to order is the pollo asado. It’s kitschy, and some may call it tacky — but it’s a place to make memories. The good food is made even better by the helpful wait staff. It’s also home to one of the state’s largest tequila collections, if you’re looking to get into some trouble. (P.J.)

Vertical Diner: 234 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City • Salt Lake City has a strong vegetarian and vegan food scene. One of the best plant-based places is Vertical Diner, which offers traditional greasy-spoon dishes re-imagined with vegans in mind — everything from scrambled tofu “eggs” to chikun “tigers.” The menu also includes an array of sandwiches named after famous vegans: The Ian MacKaye, the Tony Hawk, the Erykah Badu, the Joaquin Phoenix and the Morrissey. (S.P.M.)