Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Articles Best of Salt Lake City

I drink a fair bit of wine, and the best bottle I ever had was this bottle I brought back from Spain this spring, a Marques de Riscal Rioja (that means red) Reserva 1995. I paid like $11 for it, which was a whole lot of money for a bottle of wine there, and painstakingly packed it and hauled it across the rest of Spain and the Atlantic and all that to Utah, and had it in one stupendous meal this summer and thought that I had been touched by greatness and that I would never ever have anything that great ever again.

Last week, I found the same bottle at the Wine Store in Salt Lake City for $15.65.

You may find this just a tad hard to believe, but we have a truly superb wine store in Salt Lake City. It is properly known as the Metro Wine Store, at 255 South 300 East (that's right downtown) and what makes it so great are stringent testing and purchasing criteria. I believe that if you buy a wine here it will be one of the best around for its price.

The store sells nearly 1,400 selections of wine, from a $5.95 Firestone Prosperity Merlot from Santa Barbara, Calif., to a $1,155.85 DRC Le Montrachet, which is stashed seductively behind a locked glass case.

The store's quality and quantity of wine makes it a standout on what I would call the Best of Salt Lake. Visits to the Articles Best of Salt Lake spots can either be a relaxing tour of the city or a great way to blow tons of money. You readers, of course, need to exercise restraint, caution and your own judgment, but here, at the behest of at least one reader, is my Best of Salt Lake list:

Best park: For its wealth of secluded spots and its proximity to downtown, that would have to be Memory Grove. Built as a memorial to fallen war veterans, this elongated park follows City Creek back away from town into a lush forest that offers hiking, jogging and biking opportunities. The lower end of the park is perfect for stollers and families and a bridge over the creek is a favorite engagement picture spot. The park begins at the northeast corner of State Street and North Temple Street right downtown.

Best restaurant: Martine, a tapas restaurant in a restored brownstone at 22 E. 100 South. Tapas are small Spanish snacks, but here these 'snacks' are themed gastronomical pillars of greatness. The menu changes seasonally ... and while there is plenty of good food here, if there is the flourless chocolate cake for dessert, I'd get it.

Best sledding hill: This one will be disputed, I'm sure, but for my money it's hard to beat the variety of sledding terrain at Lindsay Gardens, M Street and 9th Avenue. This park has the steepest hills in town, not to mention a good view of the city, but its south-facing slopes can melt away quickly if sun follows a snow storm.

Best mountain bike ride: This would have to be the Bobsled, not to be confused with the Olympic event. The Bobsled begins at the end of Terrace Hills Drive above 18th Avenue in the Avenues neighborhood behind downtown - you'll have to ask at a bike shop for detailed directions. The ride is spectacular: a one-way long downhill marked by steeply-banked turns.

Best Vietnamese food: That would have to be the Shanghai Caf�, in an unassuming strip mall at State Street and 1300 South. Never mind the surly servers, the food, a great mix of French and Asian cooking, is hard to beat. Wrap it up with a Vietnamese coffee.

Best sushi: Koko Kitchen, at 702 S. 300 East, sits in a reclaimed building in a neighborhood where you wouldn't expect to find sushi. Choose from an extensive menu, and wait at the counter and watch your sushi be rolled. Served traditionally.

Best Mexican: Hands down, everyone agrees, it's the Red Iguana, 736 W. North Temple. Red Iguana does not serve your typical Tex-Mex - this place specializes in more traditional Mexican eating and even features pre-Columbian Mexican food. The half-dozen varieties of mole are fantastic, the cheese dip is a must, and the very best plate is Enchiladas Poblanos. The menu is huge, and every time you go it is easy to try a new dish. Last time I was in Red Iguana I was surprised to see a new menu; a closer inspection said why: RI now has a full liquor license. Don't be put off by the tacky d�cor or crowded conditions.

Best pizza: The Pie, in a grimy basement at 1320 E. 200 South, right across from the university. Have your ID in hand, because lots of college kids are trying to beer, bring a marker or white-out to write your name on the wall, and listen close for your name to be called. Once you get your pizza, the background noise seems to fade: sauce that's fresh, cheese so thick you might choke. To add anything more than tomatoes takes away from the simplistic beauty of it. This is the essence of college eating.

Best shopping mall: The Gateway, at 400 West and South Temple, though it actually takes up several blocks. This new outdoor mall mixes Olympic spirit and California chic, and is full of restaurants, upscale shops, a huge movie theater, and has a water fountain with geyser bursts erupting from the sidewalk that kids can play in. This area is still developing and museums and more shops and apartments are to come. 'It's a good place to go and spend all day and spend all your money,' said my good friend Laura.

Best movie house and movie rental: The Tower, at 876 E. 900 South. This is Salt Lake's only remaining art house theater and that alone is reason to go, I think, though it has an extensive and well-picked selection of foreign and independent movies for rent or showing on the big screen. Seeing the movies here is typically more of an experience rather that a Hollywood production.

Best coffee: Picking a favorite coffee house in Salt Lake City is like picking your favorite color of Ferrari. I narrowed my favorites down to four. For drive-thru coffee service, go to Java Hut at 1st Avenue and E Street. Another great place is Beans n' Brews at 500 East 900 South, though while the coffee is great, parking can be a pain and sometimes the clientele is less than friendly. A great coffee house, in the true tradition of the phrase, is the Coffee Garden, at 900 South 900 East. But the granddaddy of them all, founded by a world traveler who brought great coffee to Salt Lake way before coffee was cool, is the Salt Lake Roasting Company, 300 East 400 South.

Best place to meet single people of the opposite sex: the vegetable aisle at Smith's grocery store, 900 East 800 South. Call me crazy, but hang here for a while and you'll see what I mean. Take a pencil to write down your dream's phone number.

Best place for ski and outdoor gear: Like the coffee conundrum, there are simply too many great choices in this city of one million flanked by 11,000-foot tall mountains. There are four greats here. Wild Rose Touring has a small and expensive but high quality selection of ski, bike and general outdoor gear. Kirkham's, at 3125 S. State St., has a large and well-selected stock of ski, hiking and camping gear. Wasatch Touring, at 200 S. 700 East, has in my opinion the city's best selection of ski gear, bikes and bike gear, kayaks and water gear, and climbing gear. Finally, the Patagonia Outlet, on Highland drive at 3300 South, has fantastic deals and even better sales of the gear from this famous clothing manufacturer. Only catch is that you often wind up with an oddball set of colors and sizes.

Best place to sleep: For its superb central location and tasteful individually-decorated rooms, it's hard to beat the Peery Hotel.

Best place to spend $65.95 on a 48-ounce porterhouse steak: That would be Shula's Steak House, at 250 W. South Temple. It is, so far as I know, the only place in Utah where you can spend that much on a steak.

Best place to be dazzled on a snowy night: Temple Square. This city block is home to the Mormon Temple, two visitors centers, a memorial building and a tabernacle, all of it very important to church members. But during the holiday season it is also home to kerchillions of lights that glow softly beneath the snow.

Best bagels: Hands down, the Bagelry, which has several locations but I typically go to the one at 900 East 400 South.

Best place to see the lights of the city: With the city ringed by mountains, this is a mute point for many residents, but if I had to take my pick I'd choose Ensign Peak, the historic hill where the Mormon pioneers flew a flag upon entering the valley. To hike to the peak, drive to the Capitol building (at the north end of State Street) then wind up through residential areas to any number of trailheads, which are typically in cul-de-sacs. The peak is due north from the Capitol; from the summit, see the lights spread south, and see their reflection on the adjacent snowy mountains. If you're not up for a hike, or if the weather is threatening, try Lindsay Gardens (9th Avenue and M Street) or a drive along 11th Avenue, which has good views.

Best place to dream: I'd say it's the Salt Lake City Public Library, 200 East 500 South. This 'old' library is about to be replaced with a magnificent new structure, yet the old edifice still houses the dark musty corners that make libraries such a good place for reading and even snoozing. There is free Internet access here.

This best-of list became a tour of my favorite spots in the city, which can be dangerous since more than one of these places begs you to pull out your wallet. But I, intrepid travel writer that I am, had performed admirably ... until I got to the last spot on my best-of list:

Best place for fresh vegetables and cheese: Liberty Heights Fresh

What I thought I would do is head in here, take a picture, then call it a day, but as I was perusing the cheese aisle a sort of cheese somnolier asked me if he could help me with anything, and of course I said I like very soft cheeses, and he suggested a French cheese, the Saint Andre cow milk triple cream, which was like butter, and before I knew it I had a hefty sample in my grimy hands and was saying, OK, maybe I'll take a small slice of this, and moments later he was saying, Or how about this Port Salut, and giving me a sample, and I was saying, Hmm, maybe I have room in the 'fridge for that, Why don't you give me just a small slice, and before long I was at the checkout counter with a regular old basket full of cheese and a hunk of fresh bread and a bag of voluptuously plump olives and was pulling out the charge card I typically reserve for emergencies. Want to see for yourself? Liberty Heights Fresh is at 1300 South 1100 East.

Jeff's Bio

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