Utah Eats: The magic of Turkish baklava and coffee, plus new restaurant openings

Also: Local restaurants celebrate honors from Yelp and the James Beard Awards.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Elif Ekin, owner of Kahve Cafe at 57 S. 600 East in Salt Lake City, prepares Turkish coffee with a sand machine on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. The cozy space full of nooks and small rooms doubles as an incubator space for artists and other creators.

This article is reprinted from the Utah Eats newsletter, compiled by Kolbie Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune’s food and drink reporter. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Wednesday, become a subscriber by going to sltrib.com/newsletters.

Hello, Eaters!

I recently went to the enchanting Kahve Cafe, a Turkish cafe in an old house at 57 S. 600 East in Salt Lake City. Kahve Cafe specializes in Turkish coffee (“kahve” is the Turkish word for “coffee”) and sweet and savory Mediterranean foods.

Kahve Cafe owner Elif Ekin told me that the baklava and baklava custard are the cafe’s most popular menu items, and she graciously gave me a baklava education.

Baklava — which Ekin said originated in Turkey, where it’s a staple of traditional cuisine — is made up of layers of paper-like phyllo dough layered with nuts, and topped with syrup (sugar water and lemon) after it comes out of the oven.

“You have three different texture and flavor points,” she said. “So when you first bite it, you get the crunch, and then you get a little bit of a goo in the syrup and the nuts in the middle, and then you get the gooey syrup in the bottom.”

Ekin said she likes to think of baklava as a creative “palette” that she can infuse with flavors from candy, dried fruit and even beer. “We always have six to seven bite-sized pieces of different flavors in the case at a time,” she said.

To pair with your baklava, you have to try the Turkish coffee. In Turkey, Ekin said, it’s common to see people on streets near markets with big copper pans of hot coals, in which they dredge the pot of coffee to cook it. At Kahve Cafe, they use the electric version of that, where cups of coffee are heated in hot sand that’s warmed by a hot plate underneath. (I posted a video of this process on my Instagram feed.)

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A cup of Turkish coffee is heated in hot sand at Kahve Cafe on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Screenshot from video)

“When you cook the coffee in the hot sand, it creates a more even flavor,” Ekin said. “And it has a richer depth of flavor that you don’t get from just cooking on the stovetop.”

The coffee is served in tiny, beautiful cups. Once you get your coffee and baklava at Kahve Cafe, all you have to do is find a cozy nook and then sip and nibble the afternoon away.

Live deliciously,


Food News

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A dish of butter chicken sits on a table at Little India, an Indian restaurant included on Yelp's Top 100 restaurants list for 2024, in American Fork on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.

Little India, known for its chicken tikka masala and butter chicken (pictured above), was included on Yelp’s list of top 100 restaurants in the U.S., coming in at number 19. One Yelp review referred to the American Fork restaurant (Little India has another location in Heber) as a “hidden gem,” located in a strip mall across from a Costco. Co-owner Manjit Singh said all of Little India’s recipes have been passed down through generations. “That’s what makes our recipes stand out from others,” he said.

• Two Utah restaurants and four Salt Lake City chefs were named as semifinalists for 2024 in the esteemed James Beard awards last week. The list of Utah chefs included David Chon of Bar Nohm (pictured above) and Dave Jones of Log Haven, who said receiving the semifinalist nomination was “very surprising,” and, “I just wish it was for the entire team at Log Haven.” The finalists — five in each category, narrowed down from 20 semifinalists — will be announced April 3.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bar Nohm just reopened with a new concept and a new connection to the bar Water Witch, offering patrons an easy pass through between intimate spaces in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

• Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Park City-based breakfast brand Kodiak have teamed up to donate 25,000 hot meals to kids in Kansas City, according to a news release. Through the after-school program Operation Breakthrough, hundreds of families will receive hot breakfasts packed with protein and whole grains, the release said.

“Alongside Kodiak, a brand I love, we will be making a meaningful difference in the day-to-day life of hundreds of Kansas City kids, and I couldn’t be more excited to make this happen,” said Kelce, who’s an investor in Kodiak, in a statement.

• As of Tuesday, Starbucks fans can get the chain’s new Oleato Golden Foam added to their coffee beverage to add another layer of flavor and decadence, according to a news release. Oleato, a vanilla sweet cream cold foam infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil, made its debut in Italy in February 2023. Two beverages are also coming out as part of Oleato’s nationwide launch: the Oleato Golden Foam iced shaken espresso with toffeenut, and the Oleato caffé latte with oatmilk.


Alhambra Shawarma, which got its start as a food truck, now has a brick-and-mortar location at 3965 W. 5400 South, Taylorsville, reports Gastronomic SLC (with which The Salt Lake Tribune has a content-sharing agreement). This spot serves chicken, beef, falafel and mixed meat shawarma, along with loaded fries.

Jade’s Corner Deli, located at 2991 W. 4700 South, Taylorsville, celebrated its grand opening in December, Gastronomic SLC reports. This Asian deli’s menu features fresh spring rolls, smoothies, crispy pork belly and rice, fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, pastries, Vietnamese puddings and pastries and more, according to a social media post from Taylorsville City.

Mochinut Utah opened a new location in December in South Jordan, at 10497 S. Redwood Road. This donut shop focuses on mochi donuts, which is a Hawaii-born confection that combines Japanese-style rice cakes (mochi) with American-style donuts, according to Mochinut’s website. The menu also includes boba tea and Korean rice hot dogs.

Scelto, located at 849 E. 9400 South in Sandy, is a new Italian restaurant that opened at the end of December, Gastronomic SLC reports. Scelto — which means “chosen” in Italian, according to the restaurant’s website — features a variety of small plates, plus pastas, entrees and desserts served in a sleek and lovely space.

Violet just opened at the end of 2023 at 1588 E. Stratford Ave., in Salt Lake City, in the previous Stratford Proper space, Gastronomic SLC reports. Violet bills itself as an “elevated casual restaurant,” with a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients. Dishes include soups, salads, sandwiches and pinsa (pizza made with a light, fermented dough), as well as brunch items.


Denise’s Home Plate, a beloved diner on Main Street in Coalville, has closed after more than three decades in business, KPCW reported. Denise Pace, the diner’s owner, is retiring to spend more time with her husband, who retired a few years ago. Denise’s Home Plate’s last day of business was Jan. 18, and locals filled the diner to get their favorite specials one last time, according to KPCW.

• Meier’s Country Fried Chicken, at 4708 Holladay Blvd. in Holladay, has closed after more than four decades in business, according to a Jan. 8 post on Nextdoor. The post shows a note on the restaurant’s front door that reads: “After 46 years of amazing time and fun, Jeremy and Becky have decided to retire. Thanks to all our loyal customers and employees. We could not have done it without your support. We really appreciated the feedback we received from you. Thanks again to you all. God bless.”

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A cup of hot chocolate from Forty Three Bakery.

Booze (and Drink!) News

• I sampled hot chocolate all over Salt Lake City and have come back with five cups of cocoa that I think are worthy of mention, from places including Forty Three Bakery, Eva’s Bakery and more. All of these businesses use real chocolate or cocoa powder in their hot chocolate, too. Just to make it more fun, I ranked them from the least rich to the very richest, to see which cocoa can make our chocolate dreams come true.

• At the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services’ monthly liquor commission meeting last week, the commission awarded liquor licenses to two bars and two Mexican restaurants, and also granted conditional licenses to five businesses. Commissioners also continued their ongoing conversation about awarding conditional licenses to bars that are not yet ready to open. “We need all the ducks to be in a row, unfortunately, and people ready to go,” said chair Tara Thue.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A slice of baklava cheesecake is shown next to a cup of Turkish coffee at Kahve Cafe on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Screenshot from video.)

Dish of the Week

When I visited Kahve Cafe, I got a piece of baklava cheesecake “dressed up” — that is, topped with rose jam, crushed pistachios and rose petals. Owner Elif Ekin makes the crust out of pieces of last week’s baklava, puts them through a food processor, and then bakes the cheesecake on top of that crust.

The finished cheesecake is ultra-creamy and slightly tangy, with forward floral notes from the rose jam and rose petals. Plus, you get a lot of contrasting textures with the crumbliness of the crust, the soft cheesecake and the crunchy pistachios.

This cake paired perfectly with a cup of Turkish coffee. I learned that the grinds of Turkish coffee are even smaller than espresso, so they actually stay in the cup. You just need to give it a little time for the grounds to settle to the bottom, then the coffee is ready for drinking.

— Newsletter compiled by Kolbie Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune’s food and drink reporter.