Sometimes you need to go beyond fabulous food. Utah has hundreds of truly wonderful restaurants, cafes, diners and bistros. But in this list, we’ve focused on a select few that offer something truly different — a dining experience that goes beyond the norm — offering not only great food, but also unique ambiance.
1 and 2) Dine in a Yurt; Park City and Solitude Ski Resorts
In Utah, you’ll find not one, but two yurt restaurants. Your dining adventure at The Viking Yurt begins with a star-lit sleigh ride up the mountain. Then you’ll snuggle into the toasty yurt to enjoy four hours of dining. Yes, FOUR hours. No bolting your food here -- it’s the European style of dining. The restaurant has only one seating of 40 people each night. Open December through March at Park City Mountain Resort.
Diners who prefer a more interactive journey to their yurt might try The Yurt at Solitude. You’ll snowshoe up the mountain to the yurt (it’s still less than a mile for you sedentary folks), then enjoy a five-course meal. The seating includes only 24 guest, so reserve your yurt dining experience early. Open during the ski season only.
3) Ruth's Diner, Emigration Cayon
Saucy, audacious and tough, Ruth was undoubtedly one of the most fearless women in Utah’s history. She began as a cabaret singer in 1912, then opened a downtown burger joint where she fed working girls, customers and johns who wandered over from the brothel across the street. Unlike the sweet, demure women of the time, Ruth could swear like a sailor and smoke like a chimney. And wow -- could she COOK! When her building was bought and demolished, Ruth just dragged a trolley car up into the mouth of Emigration canyon, where the restaurant still stands. Ruth’s gone on to that cabaret in the sky, but diners can still sit in the trolley car and enjoy Ruth’s recipes -- try her famous mile high biscuits and gravy for dinner and don’t miss the meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for lunch or dinner.
4) The Five Alls Restaurant, Salt Lake City
Go back to the Renaissance -- without any of those pesky plagues and commonplace beheadings. Five Alls’ costumed waitstaff serves you like a king from pewter dishes. Dinners are five course, European style, and tastier than any meal King Henry VIII ever enjoyed (difficult to confirm, but we’re pretty confident). Open for dinner only; reservations highly recommended.
5) Communal, Provo
Communal is dedicated to creating its delicious dishes using locally-sourced ingredients. As a result, the food is fresh and tasty. But Communal’s philosophy goes deeper than the food -- they believe that good food should be part of a great community. When you arrive, you’ll be seated at a long table, with a bunch of strangers. Who won’t be strangers for long, because Communal also offers locally-brewed beers from Wasatch, Squatter’s, Epic and Uinta breweries (yes! You CAN get a beer in Utah county!). Raise a beer to your new dining neighbor and maybe even make a new friend.
6) Cafe Diablo, Torrey Utah
Utah hikers know the importance of being ever vigilant for rattlesnakes -- they’re plentiful across the state. But did you also know that they’re tasty? Visit Cafe Diablo for rattlesnake cakes. They’re kind of like crab cakes, but with a slithery substitution. The view from Cafe Diablo’s year-round dining patio is even better -- it’s hard to beat a dining experience surrounded by red rock beauty.
7) La Caille, Salt Lake City
Vineyards are in short supply in Utah, but La Caille has its own. The restaurant, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, sits on 20 acres of property, including a 3-acre vineyard. Patio dining in the summer is cooled by the breezes from the canyon. One of the few Utah restaurants where you can enjoy caviar and escargot. And of course, you’ll find a comprehensive wine menu. Bring your wallet -- this is the most expensive restaurant on the list, but it’s well-suited for a romantic occasion.
8) Prairie Schooner Steak House, Ogden
If you don’t know that Utah was settled by Mormon pioneers, you’ve been living under a rock (maybe along with those rattlesnakes who end up in rattlesnake cakes at Cafe Diablo). Pioneers and covered wagons are kind of a big deal in this state. Nowadays, we travel in minivans, Suburbans, Subarus and occasionally even a Prius. But you can still get a romanticized version of the wagon trail at Prairie Schooner. You’ll sit inside a covered wagon, under the “stars,” next to a campfire. Enjoy a juicy steak with all the trimmings, then go home to your air-conditioned abode and sleep on your Serta. All the best parts of prairie schooner dining with none of the hassle!
9) Hell’s Backbone Grill, Boulder Utah
Whether you’ve already driven across Hell’s Backbone, or you’re just gearing up for the white-knuckle experience, Hell’s Backbone Grill is a good place to find your inner Buddha, chill with a beer and relax. The owners, Jen Castle and Blake Spalding follow Buddhist principles of sustainability, social responsibility and community. The grill is located on their organic farm (they’d like to remind you that they have a tractor and goats -- it’s clearly legit). They grow the organic food, they cook the organic food, they serve you the organic food. And it’s amazing. They’ve won so many awards we can’t even begin to list them all.
10) Campfire Lounge, Salt Lake City
Any kid growing up in Utah knows how to make tinfoil dinners -- cut up some onions, carrots and potatoes and throw in some ground beef. Throw it on a campfire, dig it out an hour later and try not to burn your tongue on the deliciousness. The owners of Campfire Lounge clearly remember this Utah tradition, and they’ve made it better. The adult version of their hobo dinners come with your choice of ground sirloin, shrimp, chicken, bratwurst or tofu. Sit around one of three outdoor firepits and enjoy your hobo dinner (or a burger, sandwich or tater-tots). Afterwards, try a S’more (original, peanut butter or nutella/banana). Enjoy the patio with your dog (but not your kids -- Campfire is a bar, so only 21 and over are legal). Or go inside and play pool, darts or pinball.
These are just a few of many unique dining possibilities in Utah. Do you have an unforgettable Utah dining experience?