A curated guide to the best bars in Utah
Forget about navigating the state's labyrinth of liquor laws—all the places listed here prioritize putting a drink in your hand, although most of them serve good food, too. Restricted to 21 and over [be prepared to show your I.D., whatever your age.] This is still Utah.
Aerie, Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Resort, 801-933-2160
Thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, diners can marvel at nature's magnificent handiwork while feasting from the sushi bar. The menu is global, and the scene is lively with live music some nights.
Bar X, 155 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-355-2287
This drinker's bar is devoted to cocktails and the shakers prefer the term "bartenders." A survivor of the ups and downs of Utah liquor laws, this was the vanguard of Salt Lake's new cocktail movement, serving classic drinks and creative inventions behind the best electric sign in the city.
The Bayou, 645 S. State St., SLC, 801-961-8400
This is Beervana, with 260 bottled beers and 32 on draft. The kitchen is an overachiever for a beer bar, turning out artichoke pizza and deep-fried Cornish game hens.
Beerhive Pub, 128 S. Main St., SLC, 801-364-4268
A great downtown beer bar with great food as well. The ice bar keeps things chill. Don't forget about it.
BTG Wine Bar, 63 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-359-2814
BTG stands for "By the Glass." There are craft cocktails and specialty beer, and you can order food from Caffe Molise, but the pieces des resistances are the more than 50 wines by the glass. Order a tasting portion or a full glass; sample vintages you might not want by the bottle.
Copper Common, 111 E. 300 South, SLC, 801-355-0543
The Copper Onion's new sibling, Copper Common, recently opened. See Mary's full review here.
Cotton Bottom Inn, 2820 E. 6200 South, SLC, 801-273-9830
Remember when this was a ski bum's town? The garlic burger and a beer is what you order.
Garage, 1199 N. Beck St., SLC, 801-521-390
Everyone compares it to an Austin bar. Live music, good food and the rockingest patio in town.
Gracie's, 326 S. West Temple, SLC, 801-819-7563
Play pool, throw darts, listen to live music, kill beer and time on the patio and upstairs deck. Plus, Gracie's is a gastropub—you don't see truffled ravioli in a vodka-pesto sauce on most bar menus.
Green Pig, 31 E. 400 South, SLC, 801-532-7441
Green Pig is a pub of a different color. The owners try to be green, using ecofriendly materials and sustainable kitchen practices. The menu star is the chili verde nachos, with big pork chunks and cheese.
High West Distillery, 703 Park Ave., Park City, 435-649-8300
Obviously, the focus is on whiskey-based drinks featuring the gastro-distillery award-winning spirits, although the bar stocks other spirits. The food is whiskey-themed, too, and the space—in a former livery stable—is pure Park City.
Kristauf's Martini Bar, 16 W. Market St., SLC, 801-366-9490
One of the first straight-up classy bars in the city, Kristauf's opened in sync with the martini craze and has survived long enough to have competition. A gin martini is the purist's cocktail but most of us of us savor all kinds of concoctions in a martini glass—just ask owner Cody Frantz.
Market Street Oyster Bar, 260 S. 1300 E., SLC, 801-583-8808; 54 W. Market St., SLC, 801-531-6044
The night-life side of the seafood restaurant, the Oyster Bar offers a full bar menu and seasonal drink specials. To begin or end an evening, have a real martini or a classic, up daiquiri with a dozen oysters—half price on Mondays.
The neon sign says "Bodega" and you can drink a beer in the phone booth-sized corner bar. But better to go underground to the speakeasy-styled the Rest. Enjoy a cocktail in the apparently bomb-proof library, take a booth or sit at the bar and dine in.
The Shooting Star, 7300 E. 200 South, Huntsville, 801-745-2002
More than a century old, this is gen-you-wine Old West. The walls are adorned with moose heads and a stuffed St. Bernard. Good luck with finishing your Starburger. You must be 21 to eat and drink here.
The Vault, 202 S. Main St., SLC, 801-363-5454
In the boutique downtown Hotel Monaco, The Vault is themed after the building's original purpose as a bank. Besides classics, sip from a list of original concoctions, some of them winners from past Oscar cocktail contests, or order from the wine list of Bambara, the hotel restaurant.
Whiskey Street, 323 S. Main St., SLC, 801-433-7377
Whiskey Street serves food but this is primarily a place to bend the elbow. If you are a fan of the neo-cocktail movement, try a "Ward Eight" from the specialty list—Bulleit Rye, orange and lemon juice, grenadine and a cherry—but there's a classic list, including the bar's Sazerac, Negroni and Moscow Mule; for purists, a list of beer and whiskey pairings and a jaw-dropping (and therefore mouth-opening) list of spirits, some rare for SLC. Wine on tap and an extensive beer list round out the imbiber's choices. You definitely can't try it all on one visit.
*All bars listed in the Salt Lake Bar Guide have been vetted and chosen based on quality of beverage, food, atmosphere and service. This selective guide has no relationship to any advertising in the magazine. Review visits are anonymous, and all expenses are paid by Salt Lake magazine.