Utah’s restaurant scene has been gaining momentum and even attracting national attention. But this Western state still loves its lesser-known, family-run restaurants. Here are our top 10 mom-and-pop restaurants.
If you haven’t been to Bailey’s Restaurant & Patio yet, you’re in for a slice of old-fashioned hospitality. The Orem sandwich shop is quaint and humble, offering a menu of Italian and deli-style sandwiches and side dishes. The food is uncomplicated and always good, but the service is what really takes this place above the mark. Reviewers often comment about the friendliness of Bailey’s owner, and how he makes a point of learning, and remembering, each customer’s name. Stop by for a sandwich and maybe one of the house favorite spicy pickled eggs. Leave with a smile on your face and new friends. You’ll willingly become a regular before you know it.
A restaurant with a name like Best Chicken and Ribs certainly is making a bold statement. This one in Salt Lake City definitely rises to the occasion. Owned by a local Greek family, the restaurant serves classic Greek fare plus a surprisingly delicious plate of barbecued ribs. Down your favorites like beef kebabs, souvlaki, gyros, and falafel. Or, go for pork or beef ribs that are smothered in a tangy barbecue sauce. The interior at Best Chicken and Ribs is sparsely decorated, but clean and inviting. The owners are warm and personable, making each diner feel appreciated. Lunchtime can often be quite busy, but it’s worth your wait.
The city of Kanab lies on Utah’s border with Arizona and is in close proximity to two extremely popular national parks. With only about 5,000 residents, it is a quiet, charming town with small businesses and some surprisingly great locally owned restaurants. Big Al’s Burgers has been a long-time staple on the local dining scene and is also known as Junction Drive-In. This small-town hot spot delivers everything you’d expect from an American drive-in, including burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes. Try an Outlaw burger piled high with bacon and cheddar cheese, or try something a little more wild with a buffalo burger. There is no fuss with Big Al’s Burgers; it’s just an excellent place to get a burger.
You simply can’t get more family-style than two Italian brothers running a restaurant. Fratelli Ristorante is located in Sandy, a suburb about 20 miles outside of Salt Lake. Along with their own families, the brothers craft traditional Italian cuisine using their grandmother’s recipes. The menu offers traditional dishes like gnocchi gorgonzola, linguini with clams, and chicken parmesan. There are also nightly specials and daily fish dishes. Nearly everything is made in-house from scratch, from pastas and sauces to desserts like tiramisu and panna cotta. Fratelli’s is a great place to relax and pretend like you belong to a big Italian family.
Hidden deep in central-southern Utah, amid vast canyons and national parks, lies a gem of a restaurant known as Hell’s Backbone Grill. The restaurant is well known throughout the state and has garnered national attention for its rustic, farm-to-table style. Though not technically family-run, the two women behind the successful remote venue have created an incredibly home-style feel. Hell’s Backbone Grill is cozy and inviting. Customers get one-on-one service from the owners who create everything from organic, sustainable products. Much of the produce used comes from their own on-site farm, where they grow fruits, vegetables and herbs to use year-round.
JC’s Country Diner is a bit off the beaten path, tucked between alfalfa fields in a small town 70 miles north of Salt Lake. Owing partially to its remote location and partially to the charming small-town diner feel, it is an honest-to-goodness country diner. Locals flock to JC’s on the weekends for hearty breakfast dishes like steak and eggs, omelets, and biscuits and gravy. Be sure to order a scone, but don’t expect the English tea-time type. These resemble Indian fry bread and are served with warm honey butter. For dinner, expect country classics like country fried steak, homemade meatloaf, and ground turkey steak. Obviously, it may not be the best place if you’re looking for lighter fare. However, you can’t beat it for home-style, country cooking.
All the way from Egypt and Lebanon, the family behind Layla Mediterranean Grill & Mezze is bringing their home cooking to Utah. This is the couple’s second restaurant venture in the area and they’re always striving to share a bit of their delicious heritage with their guests and friends. Enjoy Middle Eastern favorites like tabbouleh, falafel, and lamb kebabs. Or, go for something exciting and new to you, like pearl couscous with chicken or eggplant layered with ground beef and pine nuts. Whichever you choose, it is sure to be full of bold, aromatic flavor. A visit to Layla is like a culinary trip to the other side of the world.
With a name as vague as The Other Place, it’s hard to know if the restaurant behind the name is trying to be banal or mysteriously kitschy. Either way, there is a reason that this place has amassed a loyal following over the last 30 years. The Greek family that owns the restaurant has created a menu that is an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and American classics. Drop in for breakfast and order a classic omelet or short stack. For the more adventurous soul, go for the lamb shank and eggs — it’s a great way to start your day off with a bang. During lunch and dinner, the kitchen serves up a variety of dishes from lamb chops and pastas to calf liver and dolmathes.
From another quadrant of the world, Pantrucas delivers cuisine from the vibrant country of Chile in South America. After emigrating to Utah, the family began sharing parts of their home and heritage with diners in 2007. Regulars often remark about the cozy and home-like atmosphere of the restaurant. Everything is made fresh and in-house, and you can tell by the way the menu is presented. It’s written each day on a chalkboard, as ingredients and dishes change to reflect what’s fresh and in season. A house favorite is the steak and avocado sandwich and empanadas — half-moon shaped pillows full of steamy meats and cheeses.
Tin Roof Grill is no stranger to the spotlight. The restaurant was featured on a famous dive-and-diner-visiting cool guy’s show when he visited the West Coast. Since its time in the limelight, Tin Roof Grill has returned to being a favorite neighborhood haunt. The atmosphere is a mix of indy cafe and brewpub, with casual American cuisine and a laid-back vibe. Its close proximity to Salt Lake’s professional soccer stadium makes it a great place to get a drink and a bite to eat before or after the game. The grill also serves an excellent brunch on the weekends to help you get over whatever partying you did the night before.