SKI CITY'S DOWNTOWN BAR CRAWL CHALLENGE!
TAKE THE CHALLENGE
A staggering tour of Ski City’s finest watering holes. You probably won’t make it to all of them, but the attempt will make for an epic night out in #skicity.
START: BRIGHAM YOUNG’S STATUE AT TEMPLE SQUARE
In Salt Lake, all roads lead to Temple Square, literally. The street numbering system here starts with the four streets that surround the square proper — North Temple, West Temple, South Temple, and Main Street—and then counts out by 100s in each cardinal direction. Start the crawl at the top of Main Street beneath the large statue of Salt Lake founder Brigham Young, who led the Mormon Pioneers to Salt Lake City in 1847. His bronze likeness casts a stern gaze down Main Street and, despite the Mormon forbearance of alcohol, will point you in the direction of the more secular SLC.
PHOTO OP: Before you head out, venture north into the Main Street Plaza, a picturesque space with a reflecting pool and a spectacular view of the iconic Salt Lake Temple.
FIRST STOP: WINE OR BEER?
Wine? BTG Wine Bar.
Head south on Main Street and take the first left onto 100 South and discover BTG Wine Bar. Inside this quiet little boîte you’ll find more than 75 varietals by the glass and a tasty menu of small bites to accompany your sips.
ALONG THE WAY: You’ll pass through the heart of City Creek Center, the downtown shopping mall. Stop into the Chalk Garden Co-op, a local boutique featuring an excellently curated selection of clothing and hard goods.
Stay on Main Street and cross over 100 South to the Beerhive, a Gotham-esque pub with a long bar and an even longer list of beers on draft and in bottles. Its knowledgeable bartenders are able guides through the list, so don’t be shy. Pull up a chair at the actual bar and enjoy the ice strip that runs its length, where you can set your pints for the duration of your session to keep them cold to the last sip.
ALONG THE WAY: Notice the ornate bank building on the southwest corner of 100 South and Main. This is the original Zions Bank, set up by Salt Lake’s settlers, and the oldest commercial banking structure in the intermountain west. Plus, cool building.
STOP 2: BAMBARA'S BAR: THE VAULT
Mosey south on Main to 200 South and into The Vault, Bambara restaurant's elegant bar on the ground floor of the Hotel Monaco. A classy affair with an excellent wine list and creative cocktails, The Vault is a quiet spot to pause for a moment and gear up for the next stop. Try the blue cheese potato chips.
STOP 3: BAR X AND BEER BAR
Head down 200 South to these two side-by-side watering holes. Bar X is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar whose handcrafted cocktails and dim mood lighting stand in stark contrast to Beer Bar, its hoppy, raucous sister next door. A modern take on the German beer hall, Beer Bar features 30 beers on draft and 100+ beers in bottles, all paired with a menu of locally made, artisanal sausages.
PHOTO OP: You’ll pass by the Gallivan Center, a central SLC plaza that features an ice skating rink open from Nov. 14 through spring, from 6 p.m. to midnight. It’s a pretty city scene for your Instagram feed. Order a beer at the rental shop and take a few wobbly laps and a selfie on ice.
STOP 4: COPPER COMMON
Cross 200 South and head down Plum Alley to Copper Common, the brain child of The Copper Onion’s chef, Ryan Lowder. You find wine on tap, an excellent raw bar with freshly flown-in oysters and sashimi, and a tastefully curated small-plates menu. It’s all wrapped up in a comfortably crowded bar that focuses on handcrafted cocktails served with NYC-level efficiency by a crack bar crew.
ALONG THE WAY: You’ll travel through Plum Alley, which in Salt Lake’s frontier days was the center of its historical Chinatown, which catered to the Chinese workers who came to Utah to work on the railroad. The area was once home to a network of laundromats, restaurants, and oriental markets. It was also notoriously one of Salt Lake’s red-light districts, where the hardened men who built the railroad and mines came to gamble and carouse in brothels.
PHOTO OP: Near the entrance to the alley on the building at 160 East and 200 South, look up and enjoy one of the city’s street art treasures, the Virgin Mary as rendered by graffiti artists El Mac and Retna.
STOP 5: JUNIOR’S TAVERN
Leaving Copper Common, head west on 300 South (also known locally as Broadway), cross busy State Street, and find yourself at Junior’s Tavern, a small bar and a great bar. The staff has worked there since who knows when, and this cozy little joint is quiet and pleasant in all the ways a neighborhood bar should be. There are no fancy cocktails, the wine list consists of "red and white," and there's even a dare-worthy jar of pickled eggs.
ALONG THE WAY: Refuel at the unfortunately named but still delicious Spitz kebab shop just across 300 South from Junior’s. You can even bring your kebab back to Junior’s if you like.
STOP 6: WHISKEY STREET
Round the corner and head south back on Main Street, or in this case, Whiskey Street, a beautifully wooden haven for lovers of brown. Boasting an impressive library of whiskeys from around the world (even rare pours of Papi Van Winkle), Whiskey Street also has an excellent bar menu. Try the short-rib grilled cheese, a mouth-watering pile of cheesy, meaty goodness on brioche triangles.
ALONG THE WAY: Peek into Cheers to You, a dive bar with a loyal karaoke crowd that shows up Friday nights to belt out “Don’t Stop Believing” ad nauseum.
STOP 7: THE GREEN PIG
A big bar, lots of tables, and most nights a blues band on the stage. Full of bar games from pool to Golden Tee, The Green Pig will give your crew room to mingle. The rooftop bar is open sporadically during winter (ask at the door), and if you brave the cold you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views of the city.
PHOTO OP: Along the way you’ll walk between two of Ski City’s most interesting turn-of the-century skyscrapers: the Boston and Newhouse buildings. Built by silver baron Samuel Newhouse, the Boston was Utah’s first skyscraper. The twin buildings at the south end of Main Street flank the entrance to what once was the non-Mormon commercial district. The plaza within, called Exchange Place, housed the Salt Lake Stock Exchange, where mining magnates like Newhouse did business.
STOP 8: GRACIE'S
Cross Main Street and walk west on Market Street to West Temple, where you’ll find Gracie’s, a multi-level bar featuring one of Salt Lake’s best outdoor patios that, come winter, is heated with wood fires.
STOP 9: SQUATTER’S PUB AND BREWERY
Get back onto 300 South and mosey over to Squatter’s, a pioneer in modern Utah beer brewing. Squatter’s opened in the 1980s as Utah’s first brewpub and is still producing some of our state’s best local beers. The pub is both a sit-down restaurant with a nice menu and a bar where you can belly up to try a fresh pint of local beer. We suggest the Hop Rising IPA.
PHOTO OP: Look up to see four of Salt Lake’s “Flying Objects” art installations (utahculturalalliance.org). The sculptures, including Nathan Lane’s “Flight Suit,” a Jetson-esque flying saucer, range in tone from strange to whimsical and can be found flying around downtown on high metal poles.
STOP 10: THE RED DOOR
If you’ve made it this far, toddle back up West Temple toward your final destination: The Red Door. One of Salt Lake’s most intimate drinking establishments, it’s dimly candlelit and man! That’s a big Che Guevara mural. It’s the kind of place out-of-town conventioneers go with amorous co-workers to seal the deal at the end of the night. For us locals, it’s a cozy hideaway that feels like somewhere else, sophisticated and elegant, perfect for a martini-fueled discussion of laissez-faire economics, or simply les affaires.
Words: Jeremy Pugh
Photos: Austen Diamond Photography
(Temple Square shot by Steve Greenwood)