Salt Lake City: Insider's Guide

5.11.2014

By Nate Zubal

We asked some of the numerous LGBT professionals and business owners of Salt Lake City for the inside scoop on their city.

Jesse Walker, DJ at Zest Bar:
What is gay nightlife like in Salt Lake?
There’s a bit of something for everyone. While we have your more traditional gay bars like Jam, Try-Angles, Sun Trapp, Metro and the Paper Moon, you’ll find that all of our hip(ster) spots are basically overly tolerant of gay/straight/etc. people, from our many diverse brewpubs (Squatters, for instance) right down to the edge-of-town rockabilly road house, The Garage. Basically, if you drink coffee or alcohol, there’s a good chance you’re standing in a room full of liberal-minded folks looking for other liberal minded people. Some of my regular haunts are Zest (vegan kitchen/dance club), Urban Lounge (college/indie music with a stellar lineup weekly), Bar X (craft cocktails by extremely talented bartenders, part-owned by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell). Amazing restaurants and coffee shops, of which there are many, pick up the slack with a fantastic food revolution happening here over the past five years.

What is one misconception about Salt Lake City that you'd like to disprove?
We are not all Mormons, or Republicans. Not all of us ski. Salt Lake proper is truly progressive in its history and culture. Mostly stemming from the often ridiculous fight for our right to party, or marry for instance, vs. the Utah Legislature.

What is one thing out-of-towners should know about your city?
While things may seem ordinary on the surface, there’s more to see and experience once you find the rhythm of the city and its inhabitants. We absolutely love visitors and because of our location between the East/West coasts are accustomed to opening up and being good hosts. Part of what makes living here truly worthwhile is the genuine sense of community and authenticity you find in people. The cost of living doesn’t hurt either. There’s an unabashed hunger for what’s next. Occasionally you have to invent it, but that’s the pioneer spirit. It’s also why thousands of people show up for our Pride weekend, our Twilight Summer Concert series, Downtown Farmers Markets, our world-renowned ballet, dance and opera companies, and annual film festivals.

Adam Sklute, artistic director of Ballet West:
What is your favorite dining spot in Salt Lake City?
The Copper Onion! It's homey and relaxed with exceptional, delicious, bistro-style food. It uses the highest quality of regional organically grown and raised foods; a perfect combination of elegant and funky.

What is one misconception about Salt Lake City that you'd like to disprove?
That Salt Lake City is a homogeneous, Caucasian, heterosexual and one religion town. Our city is remarkably diverse — something my husband, who has been my partner for 21 years, and I didn't anticipate when we moved here seven years ago. We have people of all walks of life here from multiple ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. We have a large and growing LGBT community. In truth, my husband and I have felt more embraced here than in many major cities in America.

What is one thing out-of-towners should know about Ballet West?
When you go and see a Ballet West performance you're in for an exiting and visceral experience. Not only do we do the great classics but we also do a huge amount of new and dynamic cutting edge work. Plus at the risk of sounding arrogant, my dancers are beautiful. We're the tallest company in America and they all could be super models. So not only are they fierce artists but they're hot too. I always wanted a company of gorgeous and glamorous women and hot, masculine men. I worked hard to build that. It's part of what people go to the theater for and they won't be disappointed when they come see Ballet West.

Evan Lewandowski, sommelier at Pago restaurant:
What is one misconception about Salt Lake City that you'd like to disprove?
I have traveled a great deal, and the retort I hear most frequently when I tell people I'm in the wine business and I live in Salt Lake City is, "Wait a minute, I didn't think you were even allowed to drink there!" To be certain, Salt Lake City and Utah in general do have their quirks, and we absolutely do have a host of some of the most "interesting" liquor laws. However, this place is getting thirstier by the minute, with a burgeoning craft beer and cocktail scene, great new bars — when owners finally receive their coveted allocated 'full bar' license — and some absolutely outstanding characters refreshingly working together to spearhead the booze revolution. Slowly but surely, small batch distillers and winemakers/growers are even carving out their slice here. It's happening. Buckle up.

What is one thing out-of-towners should know about Pago and your wine there?
Pago has consistently led the charge in the realm of seasonally thinking, locally sourcing, and creatively delivering food and wine in Salt Lake City. The fact that the kinds of wine that I make — naturally fermented, low/zero added sulphur — have a home there stems from owner Scott Evans' foundational philosophies that redefined for our community what is truly "good" and fit to put on a plate and in diners' glasses. He was the original sommelier and when he passed the baton, I ran with his momentum and I am constantly introducing our guests to deliciously eyebrow-raising wines from natural producers all over the world that we don't have access to on our state shelves. As it is with my wines on restaurant lists anywhere, I am very blessed and downright honored to see them next to some of my best friends' mentors' and peers' bottles. That being said, when the wines sell out, they sell out... out-of-towners might not be guaranteed to crack a bottle.

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