What to Devour in the Beehive State: Utah’s Most-Iconic Dishes

Snowcapped mountains, gorgeous lakes, and Southern Utah’s epic National Parks make the Beehive State a unique place to visit. Here are some of its most-captivating dishes and drinks. 

By: Jenn Rice

Photo By: Daniel C. Rivera

Photo By: Allen Tippetts/C.A.T. Graphics

Photo By: Allen Tippetts/C.A.T. Graphics

Photo By: Shanda Call

Photo By: Souk Mounsena

Photo By: Tamara McMurdie

Photo By: Michael Schoenfield

Photo By: Emi Rigby / Welltraveledwife.com

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Utah’s Best Bites

There’s more to Utah than apres-ski fare. Whether pickle pie, a Bear Lake raspberry shake, honey-lavender Cheddar or the best cup of single-origin coffee around, lots of signature foods beckon in the Beehive State.

 

Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs

Crown Burger

Crown Burgers, a local Utah fast food chain established in 1978, is consistently rated one of the best places in the country for a burger. The famous Crown Burger is a charbroiled quarter-pound patty topped with Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and cured pastrami. Though there are many other burgers on the menu, this juicy, meat-on-meat option is worth the hype.

Navajo Tacos

With influence from Southeastern Utah’s Navajo Indian tribe, Navajo tacos are a popular dish throughout the state. Instead of a tortilla, the base of the tacos is fry bread, rather than a tortilla. Black Sheep at Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City features a Navajo taco piled with juicy beef brisket, black bean chili, Monterey Jack cheese, cream, onion, radish, ranchero sauce, cilantro-lime rice, and pinto beans.

Funeral Potatoes

As morbid as they sound, funeral potatoes are a strong and storied part of Utah’s food culture. The surprisingly tasty conflake-crusted casserole gets its name from its popularity as a post-funeral side dish. Garage on Beck in Salt Lake City revamps Funeral Potatoes as balls of Idaho potatoes, cheddar cheese, jalapeno, bacon and scallions in a cornflake crust, all "€œbaptized in hot oil."

Thick Milkshakes

Iceberg Drive Inn has been an iconic Salt Lake City sweets spot since 1960. It'€™s so popular that there are several locations throughout Utah, as well as in California and Arizona. Their milkshakes are touted as the thickest around, and each is poured to tower over its cup. Strawberry and peach are local favorites, as they’re crafted with real chunks of fruit.

Fry Sauce

There are few better ways to enjoy french fries than with a side of fry sauce. Consisting of ketchup, lemon juice, eggs and some secret ingredients, fry sauce tastes similar to Thousand Island dressing. Though many restaurants and fast food joints serve their own versions around Utah, Arctic Circle, a popular Midvale-based hamburger chain, claims to have put the elevated dipping sauce on the map in the 1950’s. Due to popular demand, the chain now sells 16-ounce bottles. And no judgment here if you decide to slather it on your cheeseburger, too.

Collegiate Ice Cream

In Utah, ice cream is taken very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that there’s a collegiate ice cream rival between the on-site creameries of Utah State University and Brigham Young University. It’s Utah State University’s Aggie Ice Cream that takes the cake (or ice cream). Aggie Blue Mint, the brand’s best-selling flavor, was developed by food science students, and features mint ice cream with crushed Oreos and white chocolate chunks.

Utah Salt

While Utah might be home to both the Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, Redmond is the place that's really salty. The town contains an underground salt deposit thatâ s left over from millions of years ago, when it was under a sea. Containing over 60 natural trace minerals, Real Salt is coveted not just for its flavor, but its noteworthy nearly pink color. At Under Current, a craft cocktail bar in downtown Salt Lake City, the Dutch Bicycle features genever, lime, chamomile syrup and Génépy des Alpes, with a rim of Real Salt.

Fireside Dining

Winter feels cozy and enjoyable when Fireside Dining at Empire Canyon Lodge is part of the equation. Nestled slope-side at Deer Valley Resort, the lodge conjures the Alps. The menu is designed to be prepared in the stone fireplaces. Though most of it is hearty and appealing, the Swiss raclette station — with cheese melting directly onto plates via a customized stand — is a top contender. Nearly 600 wheels are ordered each season, making it a top priority for both locals and visitors. The fire-roasted leg of lamb, cured meats and dessert fondue stations are worth the splurge, too.

Bear Lake Raspberries

More many Utahans, summers are synonymous with fleeing to Bear Lake for fun in the sun and, more importantly, Bear Lake raspberry shakes. The plump, juicy berries, only grown in Bear Lake Valley, make for one of the sweetest cool-down treats ever invented. After a long day of water recreation, LeBeau'€™s Drive-In, in Garden City, is a worthwhile stop. Fresh raspberries are blended into soft-serve ice cream and piled over the rim for the added indulgence.

Creminelli Fine Meats

Chances are you’ve probably seen or tasted Creminelli’s meats before, regardless of where you live. Born into a family that has been curing meats in Italy since the 1600’s, Cristiano Creminelli brought his meat making skills stateside to Salt Lake City in 2006, and has been wowing taste buds ever since. The Farm at Park City Mountain Resort, which specializes in seasonal, local fare, showcases the award-winning salami on a charcuterie board, with mustard, pepper relish, house pickles and grilled bread.

Potato Tots

In Utah, potato tots are just as popular as nachos. They pop up on menus in a variety of preparations, from dive-bar staple to gourmet interpretation. At Drafts, a Park City sports bar and grill, Tachos are a best-selling item, most-accurately described as tots that think they’re nachos. Crispy tots are topped with bacon, diced tomatoes, scallions, smoked gouda cheese sauce and sour cream, all best washed down with a local beer.

Artisanal Cheese

With seemingly countless dairy farms, including one of the country’s largest producers of Swiss cheese, Utah has plenty of noteworthy cheese. Heber Valley Artisan Cheese in Midway is particularly exceptional. Run by a fourth-generation farmer and cheesemaker, the farm has an on-site store with five types of cheeses and more than 40 flavor profiles at any given time. Cheese tastings, offered every second Friday of the month, are a chance for customers to tour the farm, learn about the cheese-making process and sample up to 30 different cheeses, including honey-lavendar cheddar and pepper-infused jack cheese.

Small-Batch Coffee

Small-batch coffee roasters are popping up all over Utah, bringing top-quality beans to the area. Of the many options, a local favorite in Salt Lake City is Publik Coffee Roasters, where Head Roaster Ryan Gee perfects roast profiles like a mad scientist behind glass windows. On average, the team roasts anywhere between 400 and 800 pounds per week, based on demand. Enlighten your palate with single-origin, one-of-a-kind coffee and an assortment of artisanal breads, jams and spreads.

High West Distillery

Contrary to belief, Utah has many spirit brands and operating distilleries. High West Distillery paved the path in 2006 when they opened as the state’s first legal distillery since 1870. Sip High West Lemonade, crafted with Double Rye whiskey and spicy homemade lemonade, at the ski-in, ski-out saloon in Park City (over 300,000 of these tasty cocktails have been made to-date), or head to the Distillery and Tasting Room in Wanship for an educational tour and tasting.

Mile High Biscuits

Ruth’s Diner, a quintessential Salt Lake City breakfast spot since 1930, is worth the drive up to Salt Lake City’s scenic Emigration Canyon for Mile High Biscuits alone. Served as a complimentary side for all breakfast and lunch entrees — which feels exceedingly generous, given the portion sizes — they’re the fluffiest, lightest and most-photographed biscuit you’ll sink your teeth into.

Pie

There are entire pie routes along Utah'€™s Highway 12 and Highway 24 scenic byways. The unique recipes at The Sunglow Restaurant & Motel in Bicknell, a cafe that has been around since the mid-1950'€™s, are what draw crowds en route to see Southern Utah'€™s scenic desert landscapes. Of the several pie options, it's quirky pickle (which tastes shockingly similar to pumpkin pie), pinto bean (which could stand in for pecan pie) and buttermilk pie that have earned it destination status. Pie baker Bessie Stewart has been at the ovens for over three decades now, and her pies have become a local staple at Thanksgiving and beyond.

Utah Corn

There are few more pleasing American pastimes than noshing on locally grown summer corn, and Utah grows some of the best. Get a taste of the real deal at Waldorf Astoria Park City's Powder restaurant, where Executive Chef Ryker Brown uses the vegetable during the season — typically July through October — in several creative main dishes and sides. Utah Corn " Chowder" is bolstered with bacon, leeks, potato and garlic, and is a crowd favorite.

Wild Game Chili

Utah is a world-renowned ski destination, and few things prepare winter warriors for a day on the slopes like a bowl of hearty chili. Pair breathtaking Deer Valley mountain views with a bowl of wild game chili at Stein Eriksen Lodge. “This was the first recipe I put together when I came to the hotel,” says Executive Chef Zane Holmquist. Over 1,200 gallons of the famous chili are made each season, using a wild buffalo, boar and elk, along with coffee, beer and plenty of spices.

Morgan Valley Lamb

The open pastures of Utah are ideal for pastures, including heritage lambs. At Salt Lake City’s Table X, from chefs Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs and chef David Barboza, the aim of the daily changing menu is to highlight seasonal and local ingredients. One dish almost always on the menu is Morgan Valley Lamb Tartare. Though the accompanying toppings change with market availability, the tender, locally-raised lamb is the undeniable star.

Stone Fruit

Cherries are Utah’s state fruit, but all stone fruit seems to grow well here, including juicy peaches that dominate farmers’ markets later each summer. Chef Briar Handly of HSL in Salt Lake City showcases the bounty with a stunning sweet and savory Stone Fruit Salad, combining the fruit with guanciale, avocado and lettuce, finished with candied hazelnuts and sea salt. “I typically wait to put them on the menu until I see the old blue and white Ford Ranger truck owned by Leon Wilson of Wilson's Peaches pull up, then I know it's time,” he says.

7452 Mary

At J&G Grill at The St. Regis Deer Valley, sip on a drink composed of rich history and local booze. The not-so-average Bloody Mary — named for the resort’s elevation — uses housemade tomato juice mix, local vodka, wasabi and celery foam, all topped with black lava salt that pays homage to the area’s mining history. The pipette of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces lets guests control the cocktail’s spice level. 

Hell's Backbone Grill Canned Goods

Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder (Utah, not Colorado), is considered one of the country’s most-remote restaurants — in one of the most-remote towns. Serving dishes made from ingredients sustainably grown on-site in the organic garden, the farm-to-table restaurant offers an authentic taste of Utah. Co-owners and chefs Jen Castle and Blake Spalding can their own food to sustain them in winter months when the restaurant is closed. Their canned pickles, jams and sauces have gained a cult following, and can be found at The Downtown Farmers’ Market and Winter Market in Salt Lake City.

Polygamy Porter

Utah has a bustling brewery scene. As the first brewery in the state since prohibition, Wasatch Brewery has turned heads with award-winning beers since opening day. Polygamy Porter, a cheekily named dark porter-style beer, was first released in 2001 and has been a brewery mainstay and conversation-starter ever since. The latest to join the mix is Polygamy Nitro Porter, a “sister-wife” to the classic beer, with a dose of nitrogen for even smoother and creamier flavor. Enjoy both versions at Wasatch Brew Pub locations in Salt Lake City’s Sugarhouse neighborhood or on Main Street in Park City, where it’s best accompanied by a side of fried cheese curds or tater tots.

Bean to Bar Chocolate

Utah is one of the densest capitals of small-batch chocolate in the country. Within Salt Lake City, Park City, Orem and Provo alone, there are eight different “bean to bar” chocolate makers. Caputo’s Deli in downtown Salt Lake City offers 400 different craft chocolate varieties, including local brands Ritual, Amano, Durci, Solistice and Millcreek Cacao Roasters. Owner Matt Caputo offers a popular and ongoing Intro to Fine Chocolate tasting class, which includes a rundown of the history of chocolate and meet-and-greets with chocolatiers.

Honey

Though the Beehive State gets its name because of its busy-as-a-bee hard-working residents, there happens to also be an abundance of local farmers making honey, as well. The Hive Winery, a small boutique winery in Layton, uses honey from the Wasatch Front to create mead. Summer, the winery’s most-popular mead, constantly sells out and has won multiple awards. Due to its sweet nectar-like nose, it very much lives up to its name.