For the first 17 years of my life, every ski day at Snowbird ended the same way: excavating a plastic grocery bag stuffed with a ham sandwich, trail mix, apples, and slushy Gatorade from the snow bank next to the car. Though trying to bite through a frozen apple nearly cost me my front teeth one terrifically cold day, it was the perfect après ski for a family of diehard locals who skied through lunch and drove down the canyon with their boots still buckled.
Luckily, if stiff, frostbitten lunchmeat isn’t your thing, Salt Lake City dishes up some spectacular après ski eats, drinks and entertainment that just may coax you down from the canyons after the last tram of the day. Here’s a guide to some of the local favorites and hidden gems in the valley:
If there is only one place you eat in Salt Lake City, make it the Red Iguana. A garishly painted hole in the wall on the wrong side of the tracks, this Mexican joint serves up knee-buckling delicious traditional moles—smoldering southern Mexican sauces with complex flavors that often include twenty or more ingredients—to a packed house all day long. Longstanding favorites include the enchiladas suizas (chicken enchiladas smothered in mole poblano) and the puntas de filete a la norteña (sirloin tips with bacon, jalapeño and almond mole). Not sure of the difference between Mole Poblano and Mole Coloradito? Ask for a sampler platter as an appetizer before you make your main course decision. Drive straight there from the mountain to bypass the big dinner crowds or make a late-night pit stop on your way home from night skiing. (736 W North Temple, 801-322-1489)
Tucked in the hip 9th and 9th neighborhood, Mazza’s traditional Lebanese and Middle Eastern specialties include an array of dips and spreads (a favorite is the pomegranate-walnut dip muhammara), to schwarma and kebab, to delicate saffron-scented rice dishes like the cauliflower and chicken kabseh. Cross the street after dinner to catch a screening of Psycho or The Red Balloon at the Tower Theatre, which shows art-house revivals 50 weeks out of the year, and Sundance Film Festival selections during the festival’s two weeks in January. If you find yourself in Utah during Sundance but without movie passes, stay close: The Tower is the easiest venue for scoring rush tickets.
(Mazza 912 E 900 S, 801-521-4572; Tower Theatre 876 E 900 S, 801-321-0310)
If you’re looking to get your night started (or finish it off before a 2 am last call), make Bar X your meeting place. Opened in 1933 and recently revived by owner Ty Burrell of the TV series Modern Family, Bar X is the hipster hub of downtown Salt Lake. Grab a slice of New York style pizza at Este across the street, then head over for one of Bar X’s masterfully mixed cocktails that range from the prohibition era to modern mixology. (Bar X 155 East 200 South; Este Pizzeria 156 East 200 South, 801-363-2466)
For a more relaxed evening head to The Bayou, the beloved downtown pub and jazz club. With a vast, diverse beer list, serving up obscure foreign beers to local brews with pithy names like Polygamy Porter and Provo Girl Pilsner, The Bayou has become the place for beer enthusiasts to explore the fruit of the fields. With its laidback vibe and consistently good lineups of local and national jazz musicians, it is a place to decompress after a day of floating through the powder. (645 South State Street, 801-961-8400)
Finca, a Spanish tapas bar in the heart of Sugar House, is the answer to the après ski munchies that strike before dinner. Created by the owners of Pago, a Brooklyn-esque boutique eatery on 9th and 9th, Finca focuses on the same locavore quality without the passive-aggressive moustachioed wait staff. With mixologist Scott Gardner behind the bar serving up pre-prohibition-era cocktails like the Clover Club (gin, house grenadine, and an egg white spiked with lemon juice) and an array of farm-to-table tapas that bring the abundance of Utah to your plate, it is the perfect place to refuel before a night on the town. (1291 South 1100 East, 801-487-0699)
Photo Credit: Finca