Who needs hoity-toity on V-Day?
When you think of Valentine’s Day, eating at a high-end restaurant often comes to mind. Romantic? Yes. But not my idea of fun. Instead of splurging for the traditional fancy-pants Valentine’s Day dinner, why not support one of the more casual restaurants we Utahns truly love? Most of these places don’t come with table linens, candles or the option of bottled water. Rather, you and your honey will be welcomed like family, served delicious, homey food, and be surrounded by others who are enjoying themselves as much as you are. If you and your date want a non-traditional Valentine’s Day food experience but one that is guaranteed to be delicious and relaxing, try out one of the following beloved Utah restaurants.
For Valentine’s Day dinner, swap the “gourmet” burger from an upscale restaurant and visit the revered Lucky 13 for an even tastier burger in a more relaxed atmosphere. Recognized for their award-winning burgers, co-owner Rob Dutton explains that the use of fresh and local ingredients is what makes their burgers stand out. A great option is the popular Celestial Burger. It comes with house-smoked bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and housemade barbecue sauce. Another popular choice is the Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger, which is topped with house-smoked bacon and Stella blue cheese crumbles. The hamburger buns are made locally and delivered to Lucky 13 daily. Considering most of the burgers are under $10 and come with a side of fries, you and your honey will enjoy top-notch food without breaking the bank. You’re also guaranteed to have an adult-only Valentine’s Day meal because it is a 21-and-over eating establishment.
135 W. 1300 South, SLC
If Indian food is more up your alley, I recommend Bombay House for authenticity. Having won several awards in Salt Lake, it’s apparent that Utahns truly admire Bombay House. What sets this eatery apart from the myriad of Indian joints in the Salt Lake Valley? The answer is consistency. Whether it’s for a late lunch or during the dinner-hour rush, the food is always delicious. Each dish has a complexity of spices and ingredients, resulting in a memorable experience no matter what you order. The best way to sample Bombay House’s menu is for you and your date to share several items. Start with the popular vegetable samosas, a spiced fried potato mixture served with mint and tamarind chutneys. Next, you can never go wrong with chicken tikka masala—chicken barbecued in a tandoor oven and cooked with bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cream and spices. Other dishes guaranteed to encourage love and lust include the lamb curry, vegetable briyani and saag aloo. Don’t forget to order a side of garlic naan and cucumber raita and your Valentine’s Day meal will be exactly what Cupid ordered.
Porcupine Pub & Grille
Known for its American pub fare, Porcupine Pub & Grille has been loved by locals since opening in 1997. Due to excellent service and comfortable atmosphere, you and your love will feel right at home. When it comes to food, order one of the most well-known items on the menu: the nachos. Blue and white corn tortilla chips are loaded with toppings such as diced tomatoes, jalapeños, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro and much more. While labeled as an appetizer, it’s large enough to fully feed a lovestruck couple. Just as popular, the fish and chips are made with Alaskan halibut that is cut daily, dunked in a Hefeweizen beer batter, and flash fried. On the side are fries, dill tartar sauce and lemon wedges. In the mood for something equally as tasty but not as heavy? Try the wahoo fish tacos: grilled wahoo, cabbage, baja salsa, lime chipotle sauce, Oaxaca cheese, and your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Don’t forget to pair the excellent food with one of the 24 locally brewed ales on tap.
3698 S. Fort Union Blvd., SLC
258 S. 1300 East, SLC
Penny Ann’s Cafe
Penny Ann’s Cafe is a relative newbie on the culinary landscape. It opened in 2011 and has been the go-to place for breakfast and lunch for a growing number of Salt Lakers. It’s not romantic in the traditional sense, but will be an equally memorable experience for two reasons: the food and customer service. Penny Ann’s Cafe specializes in making homemade comfort food. The sour cream Heavenly Hot Cakes are a must-try. Light, airy and buttery, they are the perfect item for breakfast. Fortunately, they come as a side to most entrees. Another go-to dish is the Pot of Gold, piled with ham, bacon, sausage, peppers, mushrooms and onions, all topped with cheddar cheese, two eggs and sausage gravy. And, yes, it’s served with the beloved Heavenly Hot Cakes. If you’re wanting to get into something a little wild, go for the breakfast nachos. Tortilla chips are fried in-house, smothered in housemade pork chili verde sauce, and topped with two eggs, cheddar cheese and sour cream. In addition to excellent food, the restaurant is also known for its welcoming customer service. You and your someone special will feel right at home. The Willey family—New York transplants and owners of Penny Ann’s—make a point to personally know their patrons.
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to eat fresh, authentic and affordable Vietnamese food from Oh Mai? Even though ordering at the counter and busing your own dishes may sound unromantic, it’s actually this very atmosphere that has caused Utahns to fall hard for Oh Mai. Without servers, tablecloths or candles, the environment is laid-back and relaxing. Add delicious, fresh food, and you and yours won’t want to leave. Serving several types of banh mi sandwiches, pho and buns, you can’t go wrong when ordering. The honey-glazed pork banh mi is a scrumptious option. Salty-and-sweet charred pork combined with fresh and pickled vegetables, jalapenos and a chili-lime fish vinaigrette creates a flavor profile that truly pops. For something lighter, the lemongrass bean curd bun is an excellent choice. Romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, rice noodles, fresh and pickled vegetables, peanuts and mint serve as the base of this salad, then it’s topped with creamy bean curd, creating a light, refreshing and satisfying meal. On a cold winter day, the pho truly satisfies. Your choice of meat is placed in an herbaceous and spice-filled beef broth along with rice noodles. You and your date will be smitten with the Oh Mai that our fellow Utahns already love.