Liberty Wells, Utah: Our Home, Part 14

Our blog is returning to focus on some other local entities, namely the areas around our hometown city. Salt Lake itself contains some areas we have yet to explore and which are otherwise overlooked in general. However, these are also reasons for us to love where we live.

Salt Lake City’s best-known neighborhoods include The Avenues, downtown, and Sugarhouse. There’s one, though, which is up-and-coming and deserves a close look for its proximity to great schools and parks, a plethora of local businesses, and unique architecture. This is Liberty Wells, which has become the quiet residential epicenter of the city of Salt Lake.

It's not in the center of the neighborhood, but Liberty Wells is home to Liberty Park, which plays a large part in how it functions. Photo credit: Trover
It’s not in the center of the neighborhood, but Liberty Wells is home to Liberty Park, which plays a large part in how it functions. Photo credit: Trover

This dense area is 56 square blocks between two of the city’s main arteries on the west and east sides, and also between 1300 South and 2100 South, corresponding with two close-by stations on UTA TRAX. It is also served by several bus lines and has the S-Line streetcar just to the south running to Sugarhouse, and the freeway system also wraps around the edges enabling easy access to everything around it and beyond. Founded with more agricultural ideas in mind, Liberty Wells also became a historic district in 2010 per the National Parks Service.

Sitting in the northeastern corner of Liberty Wells is the green oasis of Liberty Park. This city park is one of the best in the area, complete with running trails, a beautiful pond with bridges, and the unique Tracy Aviary. Seeing as it is next to several other neighborhoods, the park is also popular, but it’s not crowded since it’s not in the heart of downtown.

Because Liberty Wells is not downtown, the scene and vibe is quieter and even more local. Most of the buildings here are smaller, which lends to a more intimate feel in restaurants and other businesses. Some of the restaurant highlights include the Park Cafe, Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant and Market, 565 Firehouse, and Siam PT, while smaller establishments include Alchemy Coffee. The neighborhood coffee shop or restaurant is part of what brings a community together.

Even though it is situated on the larger city blocks, Liberty Wells has a smaller feel in part because some of them are divided up by smaller streets and alleys. This makes the area very walkable so residents and visitors can enjoy the natural beauty.

Some of the beauty in Liberty Wells also comes from the homes. Most of these are older, no newer than Great Depression-era construction, with solid foundations and classic details coupled with modern updates. This makes the subdivisions within the neighborhood very pleasing and it attracts a variety of residents, from the young and new to the elderly lifelong residents. Some of the older homes are in tear-down condition, but they’re getting replaced with stylish and modern residences which compliment the older designs, while also making an independent statement.

With beautiful parks and streets, a variety of amenities and restaurants, and a tight-knit residential community, Liberty Wells is the up-and-coming area within Salt Lake City. It’s accessible and classic but, with boutique businesses and the introduction of updated as well as new housing construction, is also quiet and getting on the trendy side. Whether a resident or a visitor to Utah, we recommend checking out this area.

Going Local: Aristo’s Greek Restaurant and Cafe

Look no further than the close proximity of a university campus to find good food. Photo credit: slmag.com
Look no further than the close proximity of a university campus to find good food. Photo credit: slmag.com

Much of the food scene in Salt Lake is focused on the Americas. This is no bad thing by any means, however it’s also good to mix things up time and again and go across the pond. Going Local has identified some hot spots with Italian specialties like Settebello, but its Mediterranean cousin Greece also has a presence here. This is embodied in a great local spot near the University of Utah, known as Aristo’s. Sitting along a small strip of restaurants just to the west of the campus and the TRAX Red Line, this establishment quietly embodies what is great about Greek cuisine.

Aristo’s has been in business for over 20 years, and during that time it has collected accolades in spades, including an inclusion on the Top 100 Greek Restaurants list in the United States. If anybody ever said that Salt Lake City, let alone Utah, does not have a restaurant scene, this alone shows that such a perception is incorrect.

The facility itself is modest in size and welcoming. A Greek restaurant does not need to scream with the colors of Santorini in order to feel like it belongs. Instead, Aristo’s has warm and soothing tones and simple decor which is a quiet invitation to enjoy. Plus, it also allows patrons to focus on the main raison d’etre of any restaurant: the food. Aristo’s prides itself on as much local and ethical sourcing of food as possible, but when needed, obtaining ingredients straight from Greece itself.

A glance at the menu reveals quickly that this place is serious about the classics. The appetizers include tzatziki and hummus, which are familiar on this side of the Atlantic; these are coupled with others such as the taramosalata and kafteri, which draw inspiration from the region around Greece.

Beyond the apps is the section which, if one wants to find something authentic, they should look to first: the street eats. The classic gyro has been turned into something modern with a variety of sliders containing classic proteins.

If this is not to one’s liking, there’s always the meze section, where the standards continue. Calamari, dolmathes, mousaka, and spanakopita are just some of the favorites here which can be shared around the table or eaten individually. Each of these dishes is part of a particular dining style which can consist of either an entire meal or just enough to stimulate appetites.

The entrees, which are supposed to be the stars, shine brightly. Fish, chicken, pork, and lamb are all prepared carefully. The kotopoulo stuffed chicken cutlet is delicious, as is the brizoles dish of seasoned pork chop. Aristo’s is also able to obtain fresh seafood, including bass and salmon. Other dishes include the myzithra, a pasta dish with a unique cheese that is very difficult to find in the United States, and three different varieties of lamb.

To finish out, the restaurant serves up home-made baklava, the traditional Greek dessert made of phyllo dough, honey, and nuts. Aristo’s rendition is a delicious, savory palate-cleanser, which ends service there on a high note.

What else is there to know about this place? Service is friendly from start to finish without being intrusive, conducted by knowledgeable wait staff. The crowd here is a wide variety but it’s not too noisy, so anything from a casual night out to a formal special event is certainly appropriate here.

At VIP Limousine, local business is something we like to support as much as possible, and Aristo’s is a fantastic restaurant we gladly recommend for a trip to Greece without a passport.

Going Local: Pallet

You can see the roots of Pallet and its namesake in the old creamery building where it's based. Photo credit: cityhomecollective.com
You can see the roots of Pallet and its namesake in the old creamery building where it’s based. Photo credit: cityhomecollective.com

One very cool thing about downtown Salt Lake City is all of the repurposed buildings. It’s in Utah nature to preserve history, physical and intangible, and put it to good use. Much of this surrounds the restaurant industry, making use of what was once used for food…and is now used for food again. This is the case with Pallet, a high-end American bistro near The Gateway Mall near the heart of the city. It is easily accessible just off of I-15 or the TRAX Blue Line at the Planetarium station.

The establishment was founded in Salt Lake’s first creamery, which was built over 100 years ago to ship out milk and other dairy products. With high ceilings, big windows, and recycled wood and metal, it maintains the industrial feel of old, while the chic, dim lighting and custom furnishings carry it into the current century. As a result, the ambiance of the compact dining room is warm and friendly, with a laid-back and cool vibe. Some of the tables have communal place-settings so the patrons and groups of patrons can interact with one another. The restaurant’s name is also no accident, as this creamery used wooden pallets to move and ship out products.

Old, meet new. New, meet old. Become one at Pallet. Photo credit: cityweekly.net
Old, meet new. New, meet old. Become one at Pallet. Photo credit: cityweekly.net

The word-play on the name is not just clever, it also comes to life on the plates at Pallet. Their menu is a fun collection of classics and some modern twists. A great starter is the “Full Board,” a combination of charcuterie, cheese, and vegetables which will delight all at the table with local, regional, and unique varieties. Appetizers include large classic meatballs. And then there are the entrees.

Ever wanted to try scallops without going to the seaside? Pallet has you covered! Photo credit: www.theslcfoodie.com
Ever wanted to try scallops without going to the seaside? Pallet has you covered! Photo credit: www.theslcfoodie.com

These mainly have protein as the star of the dish, and Pallet’s variety doesn’t disappoint. Seafood lovers are treated to either a delicious bass or a dish of scallops. There’s also chicken, boar, elk, lamb ribs, and–most uniquely–zabuton, a cut off the chuck which is full of surprises and can only be found in certain places around the United States. In particular, the boar is a fun plate, with a bit of a Southwestern/Mexican twist; the zabuton steak is an almost indescribable experience on its own. Theoretically, this cut should be chewy and undesirable, but paired with potatoes and a delicious light sauce, it melts away like the great cuts.

The "zabuton" steak cut gets its name from the flat Japanese sitting pillow. It definitely tastes better. Photo credit: yelp.com
The “zabuton” steak cut gets its name from the flat Japanese sitting pillow. It definitely tastes better. Photo credit: yelp.com

Having been in SLC for 5 years and having already garnered a lot of local praise, Pallet looks to be a great mainstay in the restaurant scene. Whether for lunch or dinner, casual or formal, we at VIP Limousine definitely recommend whetting one’s palate at Pallet.

Going Local: Lucky H Bar & Grille

The Little America Hotel is home to the culinary secret known as Lucky H Bar & Grille. Photo credit: expedia.com
The Little America Hotel is home to the culinary secret known as Lucky H Bar & Grille. Photo credit: expedia.com

As Going Local has previously highlighted, Salt Lake City is home to a variety of restaurants, some more obvious than others. Tucked inside of The Little America Hotel in downtown is a surprise which is open to the public, and not just hotel guests. Lucky H Bar & Grille sits just past the grand lobby of the hotel just off of 500 South and Main Street, easily accessible from the freeway and all three lines of TRAX at the Courthouse station. It may be in the shadow of The Grand America, but it is not short on niceties.

Lucky H has a luxurious atmosphere, but it’s not over the top, with light fabric and paint tones and dark wood. In keeping with the mountain surroundings, there are lodge-style lights and chandeliers, including a large antler ceiling fixture to light the main dining room.

The classic Mountain West dining room welcomes patrons to Lucky H Bar & Grille. Photo credit: utah.com
The classic Mountain West dining room welcomes patrons to Lucky H Bar & Grille. Photo credit: utah.com

But a restaurant is nothing without great service and great food, even if it has a stunning atmosphere. However, Lucky H Bar & Grille has the distinct advantage of being a part of a well-regarded boutique hotel family which is known for their quality of service and attention to detail. This also translates into the restaurant itself, seeing as many of the staff work for both. The wait staff is particularly friendly, and they know the menu and cooking procedures inside and out. This is a massive help if a client has any dietary restrictions and figuring out what ingredients are in each dish, which is helpful when with a large group traveling from out of town who may be unfamiliar with the cuisine and preparation methods.

Our waiter was Exhibit A of these traits. She continually checked in on us without being invasive, and answered all of our questions easily. This alone made the service memorable for all the right reasons.

This quality extends to all operating hours in the restaurant. Lucky H offers a breakfast buffet 7 days a week, a lunch buffet 5 days a week, and dinner service 7 nights a week. The dinner menu is particularly delightful, with seafood starters, a variety of soup and salad, entrees, “Sterling Reef & Range Selections,” specials, and desserts. Many of these items are locally-sourced, contributing to a high degree of freshness which many inland restaurants cannot match.

Lucky H makes fresh bread served at all of the tables; it comes in large, fluffy rolls with butter. The crab cakes made a delightful first impression as a starter. The French onion soup and chowders continue to add to the goodness of the overall meal. Seafood dishes include locally-caught trout, while the halibut is sourced from Alaska. Steaks are premium-sourced and prime, with delicious accompanying side vegetables. Sterling Reef and Range are extra-special entrees combining seafood and steak, and the Lucky H Special proteins are locally-sourced classics.

Finally, the palate-cleansing desserts here finish off a great meal, again with a lot of great classic dishes. Chocolate ganache and creme brulee are both delicious, as are the bread pudding and cheesecakes. Everything has a local flair and tastes great.

Combining Utah hospitality with great food and a soft, relaxing atmosphere is the hallmark of Lucky H. We in Salt Lake and at VIP Limousine look to service as a priority in all that we do, because impressions from local companies matter. This restaurant epitomizes these qualities, and we certainly recommend Lucky H Bar & Grille for a great meal.

Going Local: Current Fish and Oyster Bar

Long before this building became Current, it was a Ford service center. Photo credit: currentfishandoyster.com
Long before this building became Current, it was a Ford service center. Photo credit: currentfishandoyster.com

Even though it is adjacent to a large body of salt water, Salt Lake City is not known as the seafood capital of the Intermountain West. The Great Salt Lake is not a hospitable place for life, edible or otherwise, nor is it closely connected to any oceans or seas. Fortunately, thanks to modern marvels of transportation logistics, it is possible to get fresh seafood here quickly as it was just caught off the coast, and it’s definitely less than a plane ticket to a port city plus the restaurant tab.

This ability to move food inland is evinced in the rise of Salt Lake’s seafood restaurant scene. For years, it was dominated by a few key players, but has expanded to include newcomers. One of these new places is Current, a self-proclaimed fish and oyster bar that is a thoroughly modern restaurant near the heart of downtown.

Situated in an old brick building, Current doesn’t stick out like some of the business district skyscrapers or even the imposing edifices of Ruth’s Chris and the Market Street Grill. However, it makes the place that much more of a gem. The repurposed auto shop has a vastness to its interior, with the original high structure ceilings, big beams, and old-fashioned metal supports, beams, and cross-members. It feels modern, old-fashioned, high-end, and industrial all at the same time, accentuated with unique light fixtures, cozy booths, and large open tables which also include cushioned bench seating.

A combination of contrasts which works wonders. Note the stairs going up to the balcony seating! Photo credit: slmag.com
A combination of contrasts which works wonders. Note the stairs going up to the balcony seating! Photo credit: slmag.com

Current has a feel embodied by a lot of start-up and trendy restaurants, but at the same time it feels more refined and established. Much of this has to do with the menu, which skews towards fine dining but also has some traditional and more rustic favorites. The proprietors know that nothing beats a bowl of fresh clam chowder on a cold night, for example. They also use a local bakery for their bread, and menu items can change based on the season. One could say that it helps them stay current…which, pun not necessarily intended, is true.

The dinner menu (there are five different menus) has a tilt towards seafood as well, which is fitting for the atmosphere and focus of the restaurant. Current serves salmon, crab, lobster, cod, mussels, oysters, scallops, fish stew, fish and chips, calamari, octopus, and prawns. But this is the United States, and we like our proteins, and Current delivers. Not only is there a burger with a seafood and Utah twist (hint: fry sauce), but there are also some dishes which are not as common in the culinary world of Utah. At the top of that list is the Snake River Zabuton, an American Kobe cut of steak from the top of the chuck which resembles a Japanese sitting cushion in terms of shape. And yes, it does come straight from Boise. There are also the Kumamoto Oysters which are sourced directly from the port of Seattle.

This is no longer a Ford dealership, but keeping remnants of the past brings the building into the present day. Photo credit: femalefoodie.com
This is no longer a Ford dealership, but keeping remnants of the past brings the building into the present day. Photo credit: femalefoodie.com

These reasons and more have already led Current to shine locally. It has been around only since 2015 and has already garnered local culinary awards, including City Weekly’s Best Seafood of 2017. Local praise is do or die for a business here in Utah, and on the strength of its formative years, Current is in a great spot. We at VIP Limousine would like to add our approval to this establishment.