(ABC4) – Attention: Newcomers to Utah – Whether you’re visiting for the holidays or have chosen the Beehive State as your new home – you might not be aware of the unique regional cuisine the state has to offer. From inventive dipping sauces, loaded burgers, and special sweet treats, Utah food is definitely American – but with a little something extra.
Fry sauce might as well be Utah’s mascot. This signature condiment was the brainchild of Salt Lake City chef Don Carlos Edwards, who transformed his popular barbeque eatery to establish the first Arctic Circle restaurant in the 1950s. Since then, the sauce has expanded its reach far and wide and is not only available but expected, at any burger joint in the Beehive State. The tangy, orange dip is traditionally made with a blend of ketchup and mayonnaise. Many restaurants, however, have their own special recipes for fry sauce, and chefs flavor it with anything from garlic powder to Worcestershire sauce.
Funeral potatoes, a dish that combines potatoes with cheese, creamy soup, and crushed cornflakes, is classic Utah comfort food. Hence its name, this dish has become synonymous with times of trouble. In local culture, the potatoes are prepared for bereaved families following a funeral. Diners enjoy both the warmth of the casserole and the warmth that comes from gathering with loved ones in a time of need.
Specialty Soda Shops
Step aside, plain Dr. Pepper. Utah is crazy for soda, and we’ve taken the obsession to the next level with specialty shops dedicated to the sugary drink. Swig, which originated in St. George in 2010, is often regarded as the king of soda shops, but other chains like Sodalicious and Fiiz offer a similar slate of custom drinks. Sippers can choose from eclectic options like The Heartbreaker, a combination of Dr. Pepper, coconut, blackberry, and half & half, or the Shark Attack, which is a mix of Sprite, lemonade, and blue raspberry syrup topped with a gummy shark. Soda shops are often small, brightly colored buildings, and they can be spotted by their exorbitant drive-thru lines that seem to be present at all hours – even when it doesn’t seem like a reasonable time to be drinking soda.
Burger lovers, gather ’round. Utah is home to a slew of delicious burger options, and any newcomers should be sure to try the signature pastrami burger. The dish is commonly attributed to local chain Crown Burgers, which was founded in 1978 by John & Rula Katzourakis and Nick Katsanevas. The restaurant serves over 100 items, including a mix of Greek cuisine and classic burger options, but they are most well known for their signature, the Crown Burger, which is a quarter-pound hamburger patty on a sesame seed bun with Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, and topped with a heaping helping of pastrami. Other local burger joints have taken notes, making the pastrami burger a Utah mainstay.
Ice Cream Shakes
Everyone loves a milkshake, but Utahns have a discerning palate when it comes to this tasty treat. We’re not likely to settle for a soupy drink that’s easily consumed by a straw. Utah milkshakes are thick, creamy, and best eaten with a spoon. Iceberg Drive Inn, which was founded in Salt Lake City, is the mecca of such milkshakes. Nielsen’s Frozen Custard is another local favorite.
It’s no mystery that behind our state’s nickname – the beehive state- there’s a whole lot of honey. Though Utah was nicknamed the Beehive state to draw a parallel between the industrious nature of bees and Utah citizens, the state has a surprisingly diverse bee population, too. According to Utah State University, our state is home to 25% of all North American bee species, which translates to the variety of local honey options that are available. A jaunt through a farmer’s market in the summer or through a local grocery store in the winter will provide plenty of options for tasting Utah’s signature sweet syrup.
Dutch Oven Dinners
State birds, yes. State mottos, sure. State cooking pot, ok? Apparently, Utah’s official state cooking pot is the Dutch oven, a heavy-duty cooking pot known for its ability to evenly cook a variety of dishes. Utah’s love for Dutch oven cooking traces back to the early days of the state when pioneers used this method of preparing food when they first settled the land. Now, Utah’s rich camping culture has taken on the tradition.
When the Olympics were held in Utah in 2002, a special pin was made depicting a bowl of green Jell-O emblazoned with the five Olympic rings. This may seem like a strange way to cheer on Team USA, but the decorative pin was designed to not only support the Olympians but also to pay homage to the local culture. Love of Jell-O is commonly attributed to Utah’s general love of sweets, and the affinity for the lime flavor specifically can be traced back to a popular local recipe. Adventurous eaters can recreate this favorite by combining lime Jell-O, crushed pineapple, cottage cheese, and whipped cream.
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