A night out in downtown Salt Lake City

The best neighborhood for dinner, drinks, art, and more

Jeremy Pugh

Why go now? An evening here will put the phrase “Sleepier than Salt Lake on a Saturday night” to bed forever.

That was then: For years, two fortresslike malls locked people in at the top of Main Street. And nightlife? None to speak of.

This is now: Get ready—downtown is undergoing the largest redevelopment project in the United States behind the World Trade Center reconstruction, and below the cranes, there’s a crop of new restaurants and bars.

Raise a glass: We’re loving Utah’s recently relaxed liquor laws.

Ditch the car: Downtown is compact enough to explore on foot.

By day: A mix of suit-wearing business types and hard hat–sporting skyscraper builders.

By night: Downtown-dwelling urbanites spill from condos and lofts to eat, drink, and play in what’s being called the new Salt Lake.

Next up: The City Creek Center, on the north end of the City Center, will be a live/work/shop/play space on the doorstep of Temple Square, slated to open early spring 2012.

Kick off the evening with a toast: Maybe it’s the Che Guevara mural at the Red Door, a hushed bar, that puts you in a revolutionary state of mind. Or it could be the cheeky missionary name tags on the servers (“‘Brother Chet’ will be your server tonight”), but the martinis and shadowy lighting make it a perfect date spot. Closed Sun; 57 West 200 South; 801/363-6030.

A (free!) evening art stroll: The Salt Lake Art Center shed its stuffy reputation this past summer after new director Adam Price shook things up with his artist-designed 18-hole (and fully playable) miniature golf course. We’re looking forward to more edgy exhibits to come. Friday night bonus: The museum stays open until 9. 20 S. West Temple St. 

Catch a show: At Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony, the lobby alone is worth the ticket price for its four-story city views and wild glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. This season brings Bartok’s Romeo and Juliet (Nov 5–6) and a live orchestra to The Wizard of Oz (Nov 12–13), with Judy Garland’s original vocal tracks. 123 W. South Temple St.; 801/355-2787.

Grab a late-night dinner: Ryan Lowder left the New York chef life to come back home to Utah—and now his Copper Onion is one of downtown’s hot spots. Find us camped out at the bar with the three-for-$10 appetizers to start (make sure the blistered shishito peppers and the fried potatoes are two of your three), followed by mussels in black-pepper broth. Don’t see them on the menu? Ask for them anyway. $$; 111 E. Broadway/East 300 South; 801/355-3282.

Enjoy a pint: Downtown’s new watering hole, the Beerhive Pub, has 24 beers on tap and 100-plus bottles in a jazzy setting. We love the ice strip: Think of it as a frozen coaster that runs the length of the long bar so you can take your time with that IPA. $; 128 S. Main St.; 801/364-4268.

Next: 3 more nightspots in downtown Salt Lake City

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