Salt Lake City
275 S. 200 W.
T. 801.433.0589
Tue.–Thur. 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–1 a.m.

There are few places in Salt Lake City as unique as Zest Kitchen & Bar, an intimate bar serving spot-on, downright craveable food with lively flavor. Contributing to Salt Lake City’s reputation as an up-and-coming vegan hot spot, the menu boasts intriguing cocktails and sustainable vegetarian (mostly vegan) fare as well as live music, DJs and dancing on the weekend.

Casey Staker, of the popular W Lounge, is the owner and operator of Zest Kitchen & Bar, which has been gaining a steady following since they opened over a year ago, appealing to the vegetarian and gluten-free crowd as well as hardcore foodies. This can only be attributed to Staker’s mad food skills. He is well trained in both raw and “regular” food. The menu is unprecedented in downtown Salt Lake: Raw, gluten-free and vegan have never been so good. You won’t find vegetarian food masquerading as the Standard American Diet. There are no veggie burgers or imposter chicken fingers here, only an emphasis on real, local food, bright flavors and unique combinations.

Among the small plates offered, I adore the Brussels Sprouts and Slivered Almonds with Masala Almond Sauce ($7). Tender, crunchy Brussels sprouts mingle with a rich, spicy vegan cream sauce with hints of curry and pepper. I’d put this in the ring with Salt Lake’s other popular Brussels sprouts from Eva and Copper Onion. It’s also worth mentioning that, as leftovers go, this dish rivals cold pizza when eaten out of the fridge the next day. Other small plates to indulge in are the delectable Hot Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Cheese ($8) and the Local Cheese Plate with House Marinated Olives, Nut Crackers and Raw Honey ($13). Tempting dishes like these are included in the daily special, Appy Hour. Every day from 4–6 p.m., diners can enjoy $2 off each of these small plates. It’s a great time to get acquainted with the menu, enjoy a cocktail or two and unwind from a day of work.

Speaking of unwinding, Zest’s cocktails are impeccable. My favorite is the Cello Driver ($8). In a world of pretentious cocktails, I appreciate how straightforward and tasty it is. Fresh-squeezed orange juice, a bit of basil for depth and organic lemon vodka tastes like a bright, sunny day in an ice-cold glass. I’m looking forward to plenty of these to battle my Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter. The Cello Driver also pairs well with Zest’s delightful raw dishes.