So I can happily say I have been to Utah twice. Prior to going, I was definitely a person to say, “Utah? What in the world could be interesting about Utah?” Well, from my experiences, tons.
The first time we went was back in October to visit Dustin’s younger brother Tyler. The way he and his friends made it sound, Utah was the new frontier full of promise and possibilities. Plentiful good jobs, decent neighborhoods, low crime, affordable rent, no homeless people etc. I thought he was exaggerating at the no homeless people but no really, I can’t recall seeing one during either trip. There are so many businesses popping up all over the place it is like they try to sell you a job instead of a smoothie. To be homeless in Utah you have got to be dealt some pretty bad cards in the game of life.
I don’t want to praise Utah too much otherwise everyone might start flocking over there, although it’s not surprising that a lot of people in a facebook Utah moms group are actually transplants from California considering how the state minimum wage is raising to $15 and housing costs are insanity. Earlier this year Money magazine listed Provo, Utah as one of the best places in the country to raise a family and after visiting, I believe it! From what I have learned about Utah is that it is a great place to live and raise kids and since it is so affordable, it’s residents actually have room in their budgets to do fun things like go on family vacations, actually enjoy restaurants and spend quality time together.
Speaking of vacations and restaurants, here are my top favorite food places we went to in Utah.
Chip – Provo, Utah
Whoa my holy wow! In browsing what Utah had to offer, two different people recommended this cozy cookie shop a block away from North Park of Provo. Yes, the particular street the shop was on was all tore up like North Park, San Diego so it definitely reminded me of home. This place specializes in two types of cookie. Chocolate chip, and salted Caramel chocolate chip. Inside the shop was super minimalistic which made the focus on the cookies. Hailing as an “egg-free” facility, these cookies were artisan, commanding artisan pricing, $10 for a box of 4 one-size super sized cookies. There’s no seating area really so this place is really just a pick-up and go cookie place as their mixing and portioning area was the bulk of the building which is totally understandable considering how crazy delicious their cookies were. Besides cookies, they do serve 2% milk and water and some bottled sodas as well as Chip branded merchandise. Definitely worth popping into the shop and getting a cookie for yourself or to share! Chip also has another location in Salt Lake City and in Boise, Idaho if you happen to stop by either of those places.
One Man Band – Lehi, Utah
There’s a special place in my heart for retro diners. I think the nostalgia comes from going on road trips with my aunt when I was younger. This place is extremely unique and I have never seen an ordering process like this in my coast to coast road trip travels. So you sit down at the table, check out the menu, and when you are ready to order, you pick up the red telephone at your table. Each table has it’s own phone. It links back directly to the kitchen and you literally tell the cooks your order. When your food is ready a little red light (also at your table) blinks and that’s your cue to pick up your order from the diner’s main counter. The silverware, pre-packaged salad dressing, coffee, tea, condiments, and basically everything else you need for your dining experience is self-serve. I feel like in California that would not fly because people would abuse the freebies. As I stood there choosing my dressing I though, “Wow, what a trusting restaurant and community!” There are a couple other locations exclusive to UT so be sure to check them out for some no fuss, no frills, tasty food.
Cafe Rio – Saratoga Springs, Utah
Okay so Cafe Rio is definitely not exclusive to Utah, but there are many locations in Utah and Tyler was the one who told us about it and is absolutely nuts about the place. We actually have a Cafe Rio near Sports Arena on Rosecrans if you want to try some delicious Mexican food. I know, I know, but Abbey…San Diego is about California Burritos and fish tacos. Just hear me out when I say their taco salad bowls are delicious. This place is literally like, the decor of old Rubio’s Baja Grill, the tastiness of Chipotle, and about the price point of El Pollo Loco. It’s like El Pollo Loco, but better. I’m not sure about the price difference in San Diego beside the sales tax for sure being higher, but if you know, comment below so I can update this or maybe I’ll just have to check out the San Diego location for myself. What was great about this location was that it was right next to VASA gym which is like, 24 hour fitness in that it has child care, but has the pricing of Chuze fitness which is really great for, you guessed it, families. I definitely saw a couple families decked out in workout gear enjoying their meals at Cafe Rio.
Benja’s Thai and Sushi – St. George, Utah
Their website says it’s a relax atmosphere, but it definitely had date night vibes to me. Maybe it was the gorgeous authentic Asian decor on the walls, the glass table top covering the table linens, beautifully folded linen napkins, I’m not sure, maybe all of the above. It could be because we stopped in on a Friday night so that could explain why we saw a few lovebirds out on the town. There were also groups of millennials in hiking gear enjoy the food, us being one group since we had just done a short little hike at Zion Canyon during the drive back down to San Diego. Check out my Utah Adventures post for more information on that. Anyway, we chose this spot based off of the good reviews, not wanting to pay for the Thai food in Zion Nation Park, and the availability for Dustin to enjoy sushi, which he was craving, and for me to enjoy Thai, which was what I was craving. We were so pleasantly surprise by how fresh and tasty the sushi was considering how far St. George is from large bodies of water. Part of me thinks it might have been frozen, but who knows, they probably get regular shipments just like any other restaurant. In freshness and flavor, I have to say it rivals Sushi Lounge on Market in Downtown San Diego, which is pretty much one of my top favorite sushi places ever. In a quick glance on Google Review, Benja’s actually has about three times the ratings and rates slightly higher than Sushi Lounge, go figure. The Thai Panang curry food was super tasty too, I always ask for the lowest spice rating and this was pretty darn spicy but still delicious.
Seven Brothers Burgers – Provo, Utah
This place is literally what North County Coastal San Diegan dudes dream of when they’re not surfing at Provo Beach which is right next to the restaurant. Dustin found the place on Yelp and I am so glad we went here. We never actually stepped into Provo Beach, but from what we saw, it’s not actually a beach, but an indoor wave generator for people to surf on which reminds me of the Wave House in Mission Beach. This place is a burger/Hawaiian fusion. Not quite as Polynesian as L & L’s, but their food was very tasty. Dustin ate a Bruce Irons burger, named after a surfer, which he loved. Their fried potatoes were giant slices and very good. I got their version of Animal Style Fries called Paniolo Fries and those were seriously gourmet Animal Style Fries and worth every penny. I also ate a Coconut Macadamia Nut Shrimp Salad because I was tired of having burgers and it was an extremely well balanced salad that I would be happy to eat again.
Crazy Cow Cafe – Beaver, Utah
This place was pleasantly surprising. I knew we were all hungry and wanted to have a nice sit-down meal with the family. We walked in, waited a bit to be seated. The chicken salad I got was like a basic iceberg lettuce salad but the chicken itself was so tasty! Henry got some chicken strips and fries. Dustin got a burger and fries. Baby Harvey had some of my minestrone soup and some baby puree during our meal.