Salt Lake City pub crawl
By Gregg Smith
Nothing was more important on journeys in the old west than a route between
watering holes. Stories and movies reinforced this with images of cattle
skeletons and circling buzzards. Some hardships were unspeakable and even
when mother nature seemed to provide relief she could really be lining up a
cruel trick. Imagine what it was like to be a settler coming through the
mountains of the Wasatch range. The party comes through a pass and spots a
huge lake in the valley below. The wagon train must have been ecstatic, but
at the shore their spirits were near crushed when they discovered it was more
salty than the ocean. Things haven't changed much since that time. True,
today it's skiers and other visitors traveling to Salt Lake but it can be a
disappointing and dry trip without a map to the watering holes.
At one time there were upwards of 22 operating breweries in Utah. Of course
now people rarely think of it as a beer friendly state. Fact is there are now
eight breweries in the beehive state and plenty of watering holes in Salt
Lake to dispense the output.
A little study of a city map reveals just how easy this crawl is to follow.
Unlike other American urban areas, which conform to the irregular windings of
rivers and lakes, Salt Lake was laid out in a simple grid. The width of the
streets are also surprising, designed to allow the early settlers room to
pull a U-turn with horse drawn freight wagons.
This version of pub crawling includes suggestions on turning it into a
progressive dinner so bring an appetite. It all begins just beyond the edge
of downtown in the section called "Sugar House". Named for its early roots in
the sugar beet industry, the farms and refinery have given way to small
businesses. Near the center of the district is your first objective, Salt
Lake Pizza & Pasta at 1063 East and 2100 South (801) 484 1804.
There's good reason to begin the journey here, sustenance is part of this
tour and a vital ingredient in ensuring you stay the course. The dinning room
of Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta has an uninspired interior but all other aspects
are far from bland. All appetizers are recommended; foremost is a very garlic
infused calamari, fried to a golden perfection few restaurants attain. Other
good bets include sauteed mushrooms, or the chicken pasta with spicy peanut
dressing listed as an entree but which makes a great starter. What to drink
with this? The selection is even broader than the food menu: there are 25
taps from which to choose. The owners are proud of the beers they offer and
they try to ensure all Utah micros are represented. No easy task with the
growing list of breweries in the state. Patrons even have the option of
purchasing a growler of their favorite.
Next you head downtown to 254 south and 200 West, home of Red Rock Brewing
(801) 521 7446. The airy modern decor, open kitchen and piped in music (often
the Grateful Dead) differs sharply from the traditional image of Salt Lake
and makes for a comfortable visit.
This is the salad stop, but beware, they give new meaning to the phrase
"generous portions." It might not be a bad idea to split one with a friend.
Try the shrimp with its hints of Cilantro matched to one of their fresh
brewed hefe-weizens. Other beers include a pale, amber and smooth oatmeal
stout. The wood fired ovens, veggie sandwiches and Red Rock beers may tempt
you to stay but there's more to do.
Exiting the Red Rock turn right and walk to the corner. Continue across the
street, turn left and cross again walk one half block and you're at the next
stop, Salt Lake Brewing Company is Squatters, another brewpub (801) 363 2739.
As featured in All About Beer, Squatters is the oldest brewpub in the area.
In the door is a bar to the right and dinning room on the left but the
recommended spot from spring through fall is straight ahead to the patio.
Here's the location for the main course, and the grill provides any number of
well prepared entrees from chicken to mahi-mahi. Try pairing these with the
emigrant ale, or if dinning on red meat, the award winning porter.
By this point you've noticed one of Utah's strange liquor laws; the staff is
not allowed to ask if you want another drink. You must initiate a request and
Squatters can be just the place to require a second round.
Back out the door, make a right and head up to Port O' Call. This is another
of the oddities in Utah - a private club. For higher strength beers, liquor
and legal after hours drinking, clubs are the answer. Patrons must be members
but after a short application and small fee (usually $5) everyone qualifies.
The interior is an incongruous mix of neon, tin ceiling, brash neon and deep
wood wainscoting. Still it rates as the dessert stop because of the dozen
taps and seventy-odd bottles with enough variety to match with any dessert.
If you visit during daylight hours grab a table near the window for the
impressive mountain vistas.
This isn't the end of the crawl, there remains the matter of an after dinner
beer. A few doors away (out and turn left) is the Market Street Oyster Bar
(801) 531 6044, which presents an opportunity to have a Guinness or make a
selection from their single malt scotch list.
A few blocks north is the sister brewery to Squatters, not far from the new
Delta Center. From Port of Call walk 2 blocks north on West Temple and turn
left on 2nd South, walk three more blocks to 2nd South and 4th West, and
there you'll find Fuggles, named after the famous British hop variety (801)
363 7000. This pub is larger than Squatters and though it offers a similar
lunch menu the dinner is a bit more upscale. Don't hesitate to visit, it may
appear a touch modern and trendy, but it maintains a pub-like feel. It's a
warm and friendly place to relax and even includes darts.
Need one more stop? As you leave Fuggles head back the way you came toward
1st Street South. Pay your respects as you pass near the temple and head to
22 East 100 South (four blocks east of Fuggles) for the Ashbury Pub (801) 596
8600. Keep a sharp eye, this bar is down a half flight of stairs in a red
stone and brick walled basement. The music and posters conjure up memories of
Haight-Ashbury but the beers feature 10 taps backed by a line up of various
bottles. As the last stop on your trek it could be time to relax with a yard
and if you saved room they have growlers to go.
There's always been great skiing in the mountains and now there is even more
to enjoy. Salt Lake has made remarkable advances in the last decade and
there's more to come as they pursue the winter olympics. Don't think of it as
the ancient seat of repression, it's fast becoming an oasis of beer.
© Gregg Smith