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It’s not too downtown, and it’s not too suburban. Central City is just right. The home to historical landmarks, haute couture, hip enclaves, and culinary arts at their finest, Central City is actually quite perfect. You can bounce from Trolley Square for your shopping needs to Liberty Park for greenery and sunshine. Then head over to the walkable ‘hood at 9th & 9th, and you’ve still only put a dent in your Central City to-do list.

EAT & DRINK

Working your way from South Temple down to Liberty Park, there are plenty of eats to get ecstatic about. Mrs. Backer’s Pastry Shop’s pink building and sign are quite possibly the coolest in town—and the pastries are tasty, too. Sawadee is where hungry Utes students go to share big helpings of curry and other Thai delicacies. If you’re feeling the giving spirit, check out Even Stevens Sandwiches, where the company donates a sandwich to those in need for every sandwich you purchase.

Moving southward, the pizza and gelato combo at Vinto is exceptional. Ichiban Sushi produces some of the best rolls in town. Faustina is the place for hearty new American cuisine, and the patio is paradaisical come summer time.

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There’s so much to love about Rye Diner & Drinks: The steak is the best dinner deal in town, the brunch has put the restaurant on the map, and the cocktails are a must. Plus, it's open late, and on Tuesdays you get a free ticket to a show at Urban Lounge with the purchase of an entree. Across the street, neighborhood bar Dick & Dixie’s is where Salt Lake Real fans congregate on game days (if they aren’t at The Republican or Rio Tinto Stadium) and where Central City swillers pull up a chair any other night. We’ll use the “h” word only once, but Twilite Lounge is the hipster hideaway dive in this ‘hood and maybe the High Life Capitol of SLC.

Tulie Bakery is the area’s baked goods paradise; go on the weekends for piping hot beignets and an Americano. For weekend pub fare or for a respite while your significant other shops at Trolley Square, check out Desert Edge Brewery at The Pub; master brewer Chris Haas makes some truly outstanding 4.0 ABV brews—they don't have to be 4.0, he just enjoys the debunking the myth that 4.0 can't be delicious. 

And finally, the area around Liberty Park is home to some nifty little spots. The ultra-inexpensive Park Cafe is a locals' favorite for brunch and breakfast. Yes, there will be a queue on the weekends before you can dig into your French Toast Foolishness, but it’s worth the wait, and there’s bottomless coffee and plenty of sunshine. From the obscure to the delectable, the Southeast Asian Market has it all. At Pig and a Jelly Jar, it’s all in the name; the eatery offers up plenty of pork and jams, but you’ll also find amazing chicken and waffles, burgers, egg dishes, and the fixe prix Sunday supper. At Forage, master chefs specialize in gastromolecular foodie science stuff. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s OK. The beautiful presentation and boundary-pushing multi-course sittings are worth a splurge at least once a year. 

SHOP

With its wonderful selection of eclectic shops, Trolley Square is not only a mall, but a destination. Historically, it was the hub for Salt Lake City’s trolley cars, and it became a commercial space in 1971. After several renovations, the charm remains preserved, but there are more buildings incorporated now, including an impeccable Whole Foods. Other notable shops in the mall are Tabula Rasa and Cabin Fever. Make sure you make some time to head to the downstairs level, where several pictures and plaques hang describing the area’s history. 

Wasatch Touring is the mecca for mountain-sports equipment in Central City, and the newly built Contender Bicycles building is a warehouse of two-wheeled wonder. For mining through a bunch of salvaged stuff, head over to George’s Architectural Salvage. If you have a keen eye and aesthetic, the folks at Mod A-Go-Go have done the mining for you and specialize in mid-century modern furniture and home goods. While you’re shopping for your house, find all your fine art needs at Phillips Gallery, a mainstay in the neighborhood. 

PLAY

The main play attraction in Central City is Liberty Park. At 80 acres, it's Salt Lake City’s largest green space. The park is safe and packed with playground equipment, tennis courts, a running track, and so much more. There are tons of active folks enjoying the public space. Be sure to check out the beautiful bird exhibits at Tracy Aviary, located within the park.

For those who have furry friends, the Herman Franks Dog Park is where folks congregate for fetch and stretching the legs (whether you have two or four). Nighttime is the right time in Central City at Urban Lounge, which has live music just about every night—catch your favorite bands on tour and check out the best of the local scene.

STAY

Quite possibly the most unique accommodation you’ll ever have, Anniversary Inn is a B&B featuring suites with one-of-a-kind themes, such as “Romeo & Juliet,” “Jungle Safari,” and “Swiss Family Robinson.” The Armstrong Mansion is a 120-year-old historic Queen Anne-style home built by former mayor Francis Armstrong. It offers individually decorated rooms and includes a full breakfast. 
 

HIDDEN GEMS

Poke into one of the area’s oddest attractions, Gilgal Sculpture Garden. The small park is home to 12 original sculptures—notably, the Sphinx with Joseph Smith’s head—and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and literary texts associated with Mormonism. All of the works of art were a labor of love designed and created by LDS businessman Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. in his spare time.
 

HIGHLIGHT: 9TH & 9TH

The residents of 9th & 9th are proud of their eclectic micro-’hood—and rightfully so. It’s within walking distance of Liberty Park, the city’s largest all-encompassing park. The bikeability and walkability are excellent. The brick rambler homes are rich with character and owned by friendly neighbors often spotted outside tending their gardens. The kinetic sculptures—”The Nine Muses”—and green benches make for a welcoming environment. And the wrought-iron “9th & 9th” sign beckons those driving eastward on 900 South to visit the intersection’s restaurants and shops.

Pop in for a coffee and pastry or lounge around for hours with the locals at the Coffee Garden after a yoga session at Centered City Yoga. Head out for the perfect date night: an upscale, seasonal meal at Pago before an art-house flick at Tower Theatre. Walk a block and half east for eclectic boutique shopping at Apt. 202, Hob Knob, and Hip & Humble. And 9th & 9th just got its first bar: East Liberty Tap House, a clean and modern spot with imported beers and comfort food.

Photos: See Credits
Words: Austen Diamond