Believe it or not, there are now more than 400 places to get a drink in Utah, and none of them require you to become a member.
Before Utah overhauled its liquor laws in 2009, drinking in Salt Lake City—headquarters of the Mormon church—was complicated. Getting a drink at a bar required becoming a member of its private club before being able to place an order.
Nowadays, all you have to do if you’re of legal age is walk in and decide on your drink. And as of November 2019, one of Utah’s few remaining alcohol quirks—a weak 3.2 percent limit on the alcoholic content of draft beer and beer sold in grocery and convenience stores—rose to 4 percent.
As Utah’s liquor laws have loosened, bars, breweries, and speakeasies have popped up across Salt Lake City. These are the best of them.
Bar-X and Beer Bar
Bar-X traces its history to 1933. It was a go-to cocktail spot in post-Prohibition Salt Lake City and eventually purchased by "Modern Family" actor Ty Burrell and several family members. The bar is still known for its cocktails and has sprouted a sibling, Beer Bar, an homage to beer that is also known for its bratwurst and Belgian fries.
The Red Door
The Red Door is a swanky downtown cocktail bar with a speakeasy feel. This subversive bar opened as a private club in 2002. It refers to itself as a “church of the emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt.” Nametags are inspired by those worn by missionaries of the Mormon church. Several risque craft martinis are among the house specialties. Among them, the Cocaine Lady, a sweet martini complete with a line of powdered sugar floating on top.
Tavernacle Social Club
The Tavernacle Social Club has hosted a dueling piano show in Downtown Salt Lake City for nearly 20 years. The show takes a humorous look at the conservative Morman culture that has shaped the city and is generally a raucous good time, at least by historical Salt Lake City standards. The bar hosts karaoke three nights a week and is located one mile away from the LDS church’s famous Salt Lake City Tabernacle.
Garage on Beck
Just when you think you’re lost among the railroad tracks and oil refineries north of downtown, you’ll find Garage on Beck, a 1940s mechanic shop that’s been transformed into a dive bar and live music venue. Garage on Beck has an expansive outdoor area perfect for sipping on beers and taking in shows. It regularly hosts build-your-own burger nights and is frequently complimented for its Mormon Funeral Potato Balls—potato balls with cheddar, jalapeno, bacon, and scallions fried in a cornflake crust and “baptized” in hot oil.
The casual beer bar called Bodega at this location isn’t what it would appear. Bodega is a front for The Rest, an underground bar and restaurant with a basement speakeasy feel. Walking through it and into The Rest is like walking from casual Salt Lake City into the most upscale basement you’ve ever seen. Art and taxidermy adorn the walls. The lights are low. The food and drinks menus are extensive. Don’t miss the Old Fashioned flight, but do make a reservation online ahead of time.
If you like dogs, you're going to love Campfire Lounge. Campfire Lounge is located in Salt Lake City's laid back SugarHouse neighborhood. It has three fire pits and a dog-friendly patio stocked with heavy-duty heaters. Campfire Lounge serves up brunch with $3 mimosas, bloody marys, and "manmosas," cocktails of wheat beer and orange juice, on weekends. Some drinks use the bar's house-made cider honey.
Whiskey Street Cocktails & Dining
Whiskey Street Cocktails & Dining is a throwback to the late 1800s when Salt Lake City’s main street was known as Whiskey Street and was lined with saloons, breweries, pool halls, and parlor houses. It offers an extensive list of more than 130 whiskeys and uses a variety of reclaimed wood to create a classic old-world bar in the heart of Salt Lake City.
If you like your drinks served with a side of live music, head to Gracie’s. Gracie’s hosts a live music weekend brunch as well as Monday night jazz and Tuesday night bluegrass. It has an expansive patio that’s perfect for kicking back and sipping on a cucumber Moscow Mule while taking in a show. The gastropub has an extensive menu that includes a half-pound Wagyu burger, a BBQ bison burger, and fried avocado tacos.
The Green Pig Pub
If you’re looking to catch a game or for vegan and gluten-free pub food, head straight to The Green Pig Pub. This downtown fixture is known for its accommodating menu, expansive rooftop patio, and Rocky Mountain views. The Green Pig Pub hosts karaoke and trivia nights each week and is also a popular place to watch sports.
Piper Down Pub
Piper Down Pub is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly Irish pub with a vibrant calendar of events south of downtown Salt Lake City. Its weekend brunches feature $1.50 mimosas and free bloody mary bars. Piper Down Pub also hosts trivia, poker, bingo, and painting nights.
If you’re into beer-can design, you’ll want to go to Juniors Tavern. Juniors Tavern is a neighborhood bar that initially opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 1974. One makeover later, it’s a low-key spot to have a drink and take in a little live jazz or blues. It’s got a collection of beer cans from the last 40 years housed in a display case on the wall.