Drinks, Dancing and Drag: Four New Libation Stations to Try in SLC

Beer & Spirits

For you day-drinking drifters and after-hours cocktail devourers, new watering holes are aplenty! While the safety of your beloved haunt has charmed your heart and enjoyed your dollar, a whole new world of spirited opportunities awaits you. From Blue Gene’s‘ bodacious accoutrements to The Palace of party-going pleasures, the cozy corners of The Pines SLC to the cheeky pizzazz of Why Kiki, we’ve got the scoop on the hottest saloons in town. Let’s shake things up and get sipping!


Blue Gene’s offers a pre- or post-show chill zone for showgoers among other things. 
Photo: LmSorenson.net

Blue Gene’s 

239 S 500 East, SLC | 801.364.4655
Tu–Sa: 5p–1a | Brunch F–Su 9a–3p

Brand-spanking new and ready to host both the night owls and early birds of SLC and beyond, Blue Gene’s accredits itself as “Salt Lake City’s Highball Hideout,” serving retro-inspired drinks by night and weekend brunch by day. Taking the space of Rye Diner & Drinks next to local venue Urban Lounge, Blue Gene’s offers a pre- or post-show chill zone for showgoers among other things. 

With their mid-century modern interior design inspiration and murals painted by local artist Robin Banks adorning the freshly remodeled bathrooms, Blue Gene’s offers a comfortable and friendly space regardless if you stop by before a show at Urban or for one of their highball cocktails. True to his style, Ryan Manning (Designer) maintained the space’s ability to foster a fun, classy experience that transcends the establishment’s transition from restaurant to bar.

Blue Gene’s food and drink menu is divided into day and night offerings. By night, visitors can enjoy either local beer, wine or one of their signature highball cocktails. I enjoyed the Italian Soda ($11), which bore Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin, grenadine, absinthe and whipped cream. The night menu’s food features a handful of enticing bar bites (like cheese sticks) alongside more robust items such as their Pimento Grilled Cheese ($7). By day, visitors can enjoy a range of brunch drinks, hot drinks and Blue Gene’s’ much-larger brunch menu, that pays homage to Rye’s beloved brunch items such as the Veggie Breakfast Bowl ($10). Whenever you decide to go, an enchanting experience awaits you. –BV

The Palace undoubtedly falls among the ranks of our city’s best and busiest club-like bars.
Photo: LmSorenson.net

The Palace 

917 S State Street, SLC
Mon–Sun 4p–1a

Proudly placed on Salt Lake City’s bustling State Street between 900 and 1000 South in the old space of The Republican, The Palace undoubtedly falls among the ranks of our city’s best and busiest club-like bars. Upon arrival, visitors can enjoy the constellation of hanging plants through the large opening at the front of the establishment. The Palace features a large dancefloor that extends into the east end of the building in which visitors can enjoy local DJs such as Flash & Flare.

The Palace embodies their tagline, “Beer, Cocktails, Sports and More.” Hanging high above the bar top on the north end of the building is a collection of flat-screen tvs screening sport games. Though I have never shimmied to a DJ while watching the Utah Jazz play, I can’t say I would hate the experience. With the high amount of ecstatic patrons in attendance, the juxtaposition must fulfill a demand.

My libation for the evening, while difficult to obtain due to the line, was worth the wait. That evening I enjoyed a Dented Brick Distillery Gin cocktail featuring Waterpocket Distillery’s Toadstool Notom Amaro garnished with an orange peel. The anise and peppermint punched through most notably, starting the sip off powerfully refreshing with a warm finish while it settled in my stomach. While the drink was enjoyable, The Palace felt more like a “few shots of tequila before hitting the dancefloor” kind of place. Pay them a visit for a night full of beer, cocktails, sports and more! –BV

The Pines SLC boasts many unique craft cocktails, including a rotating “cocktail of the day.”
Photo: LmSorenson.net

The Pines SLC  

837 S. Main St. | 801.906.8418
 W–Th: 4 p.m.–1 a.m.;
F: 4p–12a; Sa: 6p– 1a | Closed Su-Tu

The Pines SLC houses itself inside what used to be weekend-dancing favorite Tinwell. After being purchased by Will Bourne and Kirsten Fowler (owners of Dick N’ Dixies), the Tinwell space now hosts a suave and reserved cocktail bar. Upon our ~10:30 p.m. arrival on a Friday night, the bar area was sparsely populated with a few dates and solo riders. The decor inside rang with minimal elegance, featuring soft overhead lighting and a muted painting scheme. As it stands, The Pines SLC serves as an ideal spot for an intimate evening or a quiet respite from the more party-centric atmospheres of the surrounding Main Street bars.

The Pines SLC boasts many unique craft cocktails, including a rotating “cocktail of the day.” During our visit, we tried their then-featured drink, an herbaceous gin cocktail called the Harvest Moon featuring Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin. The strong spice of cardamom came through perhaps a bit too heavily in this potently flavored drink, but the Harvest Moon confirmed that The Pines SLC is an establishment that honors the art of the cocktail. This sampling has me eager to return to try more of their rotating concoctions.

Overall, The Pines SLC is a pleasant, dignified establishment with a notable focus on exquisite drinks. DJ Blessed1 was present during our visit, offering some live-music ambience to the otherwise stoic space. It may not have the midnight madness that marked some of Tinwell’s best nights, but The Pines SLC has a bright future ahead of it as a very different establishment. –AL

Why Kiki advertises itself with a series of enticing descriptors—“upscale beach bar, tropical escapism, stay-cation, casual relaxed.”
Photo: LmSorenson.net

Why Kiki  

69 W. 100 South | 801.641.6115
Tu–F: 5a–2a;
Sa: 3p–2a; Su: 11 a.m.–1 a.m. | Closed M

Why Kiki advertises itself with a series of enticing descriptors—“upscale beach bar, tropical escapism, stay-cation, casual relaxed.” Upon entrance, this merger of a tropical paradise and city nightlife pours off of the walls. Tiki decoration, plastic plants and purple neon lights flood the space, affirming your impression that this bar is unapologetically garish and gay.

Following their overarching beach-vacation theme, some of Why Kiki’s best drinks arrive in their mega-fruity, sugary cocktails. Specifically, the bar offers a daily “Fishbowl” cocktail served in a spherical vessel larger than any one person should reasonably consume (but we’re not judging, or rejecting). Our sample for the evening was something blue, tasting strongly of artificial fruit and somewhat reminiscent of melted Otter Pops. Why Kiki doesn’t offer the connoisseur’s cocktails that other establishments on this list do, but sharing a round of fishbowls with a large group of friends offers a yummy experience unto itself—swing through to try other signature favorites like the green-tinted Crab Catcher.

One of the best parts of Why Kiki arrives via its extensive events calendar that includes theme nights, trivia and brunches. Above all else, the bar specializes in drag performances, with a weekly showcase for Sunday brunch (at 12 p.m.) as well as regular, weekend-night shows featuring local drag superstars such as Ursula Major, Lisa Dank and others. Why Kiki is a perfect spot for fun decor, funner drinks and arguably some of the funnest entertainment in local nightlife—make sure you bring cash to tip the performers! –AL