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Savory surprises await in Salt Lake City and Park City

In April’s issue, we focused on how venture capitalists, academic institutions and governmental agencies are supporting and nurturing Utah’s high-growth technology sector. Buzzing with its own entrepreneurial energy is the food and beverage scene, which has steadily evolved since the 2002 Winter Olympics and is now in acceleration mode.

Next month, Salt Lake City celebrates its “coming of age as a culinary hotspot” with the inaugural Eat Drink SLC, a festival featuring leading area restaurants, food purveyors, wineries, small batch distillers and award-winning Utah craft brewers.

Lesley Christoph, whose creative marketing agency is among the event’s sponsors, describes a hotbed culture of “collaboration, experimentation and creativity that is attracting top culinary talent, artisans and innovators who are completely redefining the scene.”

Following the relaxing of liquor laws several years ago, it’s now time for groups to make a beeline for the culinary excitement happening in Salt Lake City and Park City.

Veteran local restaurateurs and enterprising outsiders alike are rewriting the rules of dining in Utah’s always-evolving, ever-surprising capital city.

Chef-owner Mikel Trapp has been on the Utah culinary scene for more than 30 years, with roles including director of food and beverage at the acclaimed Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley; managing director of food and beverage and executive chef at Snowbird, overseeing 13 restaurants; and chef-consultant for three Olympic Games.

In partnership with the LaSalle Restaurant Group, which operates a quartet of Salt Lake City eateries, including the event-capable Faustina, Trapp’s latest venture, Current Fish & Oyster opened in March. Housed in a remodeled historic building from 1906, the 150-seat seafood restaurant comes with an outdoor patio and can host around 40 people for private events.

Another winning heritage re-use is the AAA Four Diamond, 225-room Hotel Monaco. Housed in the historic Continental Bank building, the meetings-capable boutique features award-winning New American bistro fare at Bambara. The open kitchen restaurant includes the 35-seat Vault Bar, and seating up to 20 people, the stately Chairman’s Office for private dining.

Utah’s craft beer scene continues to soar, with Squatters, founded in 1989, among the top brew pubs. With locations in Park City and at Salt Lake International Airport, the downtown venue offers the upstairs Loft and colorful outdoor Potting Shed for private events.

Drawing locals and convention attendees alike, Bar X is a Prohibition-era (1933) dive upgraded to dynamic cocktail lounge. Owned by Ty Burrell of TV’s Modern Family and partners, the venue is connected via doorway to sibling Beer Bar, offering some 130 different brews, communal outdoor seating and food including gourmet sausages from Austrian-born Salt Lake City chef Frody Volgger.

For culinary experiences, Caputo’s Market & Deli offers classes in chocolate and cheese, both staples of the Utah culinary scene, plus custom programs for groups. Another surprising standout is Utah grocery chain Harmon’s, which offers immensely popular cooking classes in its stellar display kitchens. With a brand-new location close to the Salt Palace Convention Center, groups are exposed to diverse international cuisines and techniques.

Located in a remarkable wilderness setting just 20 miles from downtown, historic Log Haven (see “Zoom In” Q&A on page 84 of this issue) is an enchanting choice for events, functions and weddings.

With more than 100 restaurants and a diverse set of food and beverage tours, festivals and education opportunities, this celebrated four-season resort just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City also has its culinary chops down.

“Park City offers a plethora of dining options,” says Carolyn Creek-McCallister, meetings and conventions national sales manager for the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. “For groups, a dine-around at four or five well-established restaurants on our iconic Main Street is especially popular. From casual cafes to fine-dining restaurants, there is something to please every palate.”

Continuing with the theme of innovation, one of the city’s most foremost brands, High West Distillery, was founded by biochemist David Perkins, who spent his entire prior career working for pharma giants Pfizer, Amgen and Genentech.

Housed in a historic livery stable, this nationally acclaimed operation has done much to put Park City on the visitor map. Groups will have a second option for tours, tastings and private events when High West opens its new facility this summer at the Ranch at Blue Sky, a 3,500-acre working ranch just outside of town.

With a high-powered banking background, transplanted New Yorker Laurie Moldawer is another entrepreneur enhancing the local scene. Enchanted by her discovery of Park City on a cross-country drive, she moved here in 2012 and soon found a new opportunity.

“The local government was focused on bringing culinary programming and education to town to help build our economy off-season and provide a visitor resource for the non-winter months,” Moldawer says. “Earlier in my career, I had attended le Cordon Blue in Paris while on sabbatical. Passionate about food and with that as my model, I decided to create a culinary school.”

Launched in 2012, her Park City Culinary Institute has since become a premier destination for culinary events, classes and teambuilders. Located at the Deer Valley Club, in Silver Lake Village, the venue’s combination of exclusive private space, unique menus, mixology classes and interactive culinary programs directed by leading executive chefs is winning raves from groups.

Mixing history with a “culinary twist” for up to 12 guests, Park City Food Tours ( is a popular small group option, along with buyouts of the rustic Silver Star Cafe, its outdoor space overlooking the Park City Golf Club.

Celebrating its 11th edition next month, the annual Park City Food & Wine Classic is a great group tie-in, featuring the state’s largest wine festival and more than 100 food artisans, breweries and distilleries.

Upscale options for private dining and events include the renowned Riverhorse on Main, while Canyons Resort’s Lookout Cabin, accessed via gondola, offers intimate dining and event space with knockout mountain views.


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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.