It might be time to correct some misconceptions about Salt Lake City. Yes, it’s still a Mormon stronghold, though that grip is weakening, given only half the residents are practitioners of the faith. The weekend I visit coincides with a massive pride festival, in part celebrating a landmark court ruling that allows same-sex marriage in Utah; the decision is being appealed. There’s also great coffee and beer being brewed here, and poured down non-Mormon throats, plus more good taco shops than you can throw a sombrero at. One sure sign Salt Lake City has come of culinary age is the presence, in the city’s south, of a funky vegetarian cafe. Vertical Diner is in a casual, slightly grungy space, with stucco walls, old cement floors and a pulsing, industrial soundtrack.
My plant-based breakfast is La Mesa, a bountiful, colourful plate of hash browns, black beans and rice, melted cheese, guacamole and, a first for me, a tofu scramble. The fact the food is on my table by the time I return from a bathroom freshening indicates the tofu isn’t quite “scrambled” to order, but it’s nonetheless a nicely spiced and textured dish. Good enough that I might forsake eggs and bacon, well at least for a couple of days.
If a vegan breakfast seems a step too far, you can always order pancakes, which start at a bargain $1.75 each (a buck more if fruit is included). Of course, they can also come gluten free.
2280 South West Temple, Salt Lake City
Weekdays 10 am-10 pm, weekends 9 am-10 pm
Continuing the vegan theme, the Barbacoa Burrito at Buds is highly recommended. Unfortunately, the little sandwich place is closed for renovations during my visit. Next time.
509 East 300 South, Salt Lake City
Monday to Saturday 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday