Over the Christmas break back in Arizona, I managed to include a little side trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to go snowboarding. Salt Lake is a great destination for skiiers and snowboarders who also enjoy city breaks, as Salt Lake City is about 45 minutes in a bus from a dozen different resorts (you’re spoiled for choice in terms of terrain). Unfortunately for us, Utah has been experiencing one of its worst years for snow on record, but we made the best of it (although our boards definitely were worse for wear after riding rocks all week!).
What I found interesting was that while Salt Lake itself is incredibly vegan friendly, the resorts were terrible for vegans. And I mean terrible. We might as well have been in rural France. So let’s jump right in, starting with the food we ate in the city first.
The first night we arrived in Salt Lake was also Andrew’s birthday, so we headed straight for Zest which is a really lovely fully vegan restaurant that is a favourite of my mom’s. Looking at the menu I was OVERWHELMED with choices. This is the problem with vegan restaurants – I become incapable of making decisions when I am able to eat everything on the menu!
In the end we decided on a spinach/artichoke/asparagus dip and “cheese” stuffed mushrooms to start, with spicy jalapeno margaritas. The starters were glorious. Especially the mushrooms. So incredibly moorish and cheesy. Definitely a highlight of dinner.
For my main I finally settled on the stuffed poblano pepper which was beautifully roasted and smothered in a delicious green sauce. Andrew decided on the thai green curry which was so flavoursome, and came with delicious wild black rice. Meanwhile my mom had a small plate of roasted beets, and…. I forgot what her partner had! I must have been too busy stuffing my face… whoops.
For dessert my mom’s partner ordered one of each of the cakes (it was Andrew’s birthday after all…). There was a tiramasu cake, dark chocolate beet cake and a carrot cake. While normally I’d be all over the chocolate, it was very dense so had to be enjoyed sparingly. The standout though was the carrot cake which we all devoured first.
We came back to Zest again a few days later for NYE and sampled even more of the food (although we had a couple plates of the mushrooms again as they were so good the first time around). Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures because I was too busy stuffing my face (as usual) but you can take my word for it – it was very good.
For our second night in Salt Lake, we went to Himalayan Kitchen which is a Nepalese/Indian restaurant. The menu consists of dishes I know and love back in England, with the added benefit of the vegan options being clearly marked on the menu.
For our starters we had a lovely spicy daal and poppadoms. I love daal like this – where it’s thin but packs a real punch flavour-wise. I could have had a few more bowls but then you gotta save yourself for mains, ya know?
Speaking of mains, Andrew and I did what we normally do at Balti houses – we order a bunch of small side dishes with rice and bread to share. We settled on a tofu vindaloo, saag masala and an aubergine dish. The portion sizes were very small, especially for the price (we are so spoiled in Leicester). I liked the aubergine and saag dishes a lot, but the vindaloo was a let down. The sauce was watery and tasted like sweet tomato ketchup. And while it did have a bit of zing to it, I would by no means classify it as a vindaloo level of spice.
Night three, and after a few days snowboarding I was ready for some comfort food – enter Sage’s Cafe. This place is small and unassuming, but the menu is chockful of delicious junk food.
We started out with vegan escargot (a first!) and the most incredible vegan wings I have ever tasted. No exaggeration. The wings were seitan based, and coated in a lovely, crispy batter, smothered in your hot sauce of choice and served with a seriously creamy, scrumptious ranch dressing. So. Good. The escargot was made of mushrooms and served with a creamy “butter.” It was tasty, but a little salty for me (and that’s saying something as I LOVE salt.)
For my main I went for the jackfruit tacos which came with loads of toppings and a large salad with a choice of dressing. It was really nice – the jackfruit had a sweet, smokey flavour that was quite unusual. Unfortunately I had eaten my weight in the wings by this point, so wasn’t able to finish my tacos. Andrew and my mom on the other hand had a Thai noodle dish (not pictured) that was ok – good – not great. The noodles were a little overcooked and the sauce could have used a bit more spice. My mom’s partner had deconstructed lasagne which was really good, but they forgot to add in the homemade “ricotta.” When we pointed it out, the server brought out a little bowl of it about 10 minutes later but it was cold.
We went to Sage’s on a Friday (or Saturday?) night and it was pretty much empty which is such a shame. I think the problem is the ambiance – for the prices they are charging, I think people expect something a little nicer. I’ve also seen some comments about the service not being all that great, although I can’t say we had any real complaints.
On our fourth day we decided to take a day off of boarding to explore Salt Lake, including a visit to the Mormon Temple which, I have to say, is a pretty impressive structure. It also happened to be a Saturday and there were – no lie – at least 6 weddings that took place during the 30 min or so we walked around.
After a bit of sightseeing we headed to the very popular Squatter’s pub for a late lunch and drinks, pausing for some photos in front of their amazing mural first (how can you resist?!).
We decided to get a couple starters – edamame and hummus with pitta. Both were good, but I feel like you can’t really go wrong with either. Neither are pictured because, well, it’s not that exciting. What is pictured, however, is my main – tofu tacos! These were so so so good. Lovely grilled tofu, crispy cabbage, soft corn tacos, all served with some seriously good Mexican rice and refried black beans. Perfection. Andrew went for the veggie burger on ciabatta (the buns weren’t vegan) and it was ok but pretty boring. With all the great choices on the menu, I’m not sure why he chose something to mundane! My mom also had the tofu tacos, while her partner went for the vegan breakfast – tofu scramble with hash browns and lots of veg. They also did a vegan breakfast burrito which I really wanted to try.
Now on to the ski resorts themselves. Our first day we visited Snowbird which is a really steep, fun mountain…. when there’s snow. At the base of the mountain is a big building with multiple floors and various restaurants / fast food shops throughout. We stopped late for lunch, and could not find vegan options anywhere. First we tried a pizza stand, but the girl told us they put parmesan in their tomato sauce (“everyone put cheese in marinara and if they don’t they’re lying to you”… uh, yeah, sure). So then we found a canteen type restaurant with different food stations, and lucky for us their veggie burger was vegan if you had it without cheese. So we split the veg burger and a HUGE salad from the salad bar, and it was good. Not great, but it filled a hole.
The next day we visited Snowbasin which is beautiful – particularly the huge, fancy wood lodges. The resort was privately owned by an oil billionaire, and he has invested a lot into this resort. I mean, you should see the bathrooms. They were SO fancy.
As for food? At the top of one of the main gondolas they had a large canteen style restaurant again with different food stations. I opted for the tofu burger which I was informed was vegan if you had it without cheese, however, I’m fairly certain the bun was a brioche bun which is definitely NOT vegan. Grr. The tofu was good though, and I can’t really complain about the chips!
Andrew meanwhile had a falafel pitta which was full of yummy veggies and a generous portion of chips. There was also a salad station and a Burrito bar – which knowing what I do now about the tofu burger – I probably would have gone to instead.
We visited Snowbasin again a day or two later, and this time we ate at the restaurant at the base of the mountain. This one had a soba noodle bar, which I was so excited about. The girl behind the counter said there was a vegan option which made me even happier. It was a HUGE bowl full of veggies, tofu and noodles in a green curry sauce. It was delicious. Until I realised the noodles were kinda different – and on looking closer they looked more like egg noodles than soba noodles! What a complete shame. When I asked the girl again, she said, “I don’t know what they are.” Apparently people who cook/serve on the mountain are oblivious to what vegan means.
For apres at Snowbasin, we did manage to get a table in the main bar to watch some music, and enjoyed a really tasty plate of homemade hummus and a bowl of edamame.
On our last day we visited the Canyons and the snow was appalling (either sheet ice or full of rocks), so we ended a bit earlier than we would have normally and went to lunch. We found a restaurant at the base called Red Tail Grill that had some veggie options and sat down to chill out with a couple beers. I split a veggie soup with my mom to start (very tasty) and opted for the veggie and chickpea curry for my main, which didn’t look like much but was delicious and just perfect. My mom and Andrew meanwhile went for the succulent portobello burgers with chips. The best part? The server double checked that all our food was vegan with the kitchen.
So there you have it. For vegan food, it’s a bit hit or miss when you’re on the mountain, but Salt Lake itself is very vegan friendly. I’m not sure I’d go back though unless there was guaranteed fresh snow and powder, mainly because the apres ski is non-existent (they have insanely strict alcohol laws in Utah). We still managed to make our own fun though 😉