Feel the Growing Pains
According to the 2015-2016 census numbers, Utah is the fastest growing state in the nation. I have heard numbers of 35,000 to 40,000 new Utahns per year. The only logical thing to do is build the people more places to get a drink and be social. We’ve been doing a pretty good job at that. New breweries and tasting rooms popping up like Kiitos, Roha, and Fisher‘s magnificent return. However, you may want a nice mixed drink from time to time. Ya know, in case your New Year’s Resolution is the no-beer diet. Well, as silly as that may sound, our population growth has been delivering some great new places to grab a crafted cocktail.
• Purgatory | 62 East 700 South
While the bartender was singing along with my friend and me to “Gin and Juice”, I was sipping on a glass of cotton candy covered in champagne. It’s not my usual fare, but what the point of trying out a new place if you aren’t going to try new things. A hybrid pub, date bar, and cocktail lab, Purgatory appeals to a wide-range of Salt Lake socials with a nice craft cocktail menu. As their mantra goes: drinking hole, mischief, lawn-games, musical vibes. There are plenty of games, including indoor cornhole – a revelation in the bag-tossing offseason, and shuffleboard outside. The bar is long so there is plenty of room to pony up and make some new friends. There are also tables for those who want to have “happy hour” drinks with co-workers. A good amount of bartenders are staffed when I have been in, whether slow or slammed, so getting a drink quickly has never been an issue. When it’s a bit sluggish, the staff is pretty friendly and are easy to chat with. They have a good selection of bottled beers and tap along with a food menu that looks quite good though I have yet managed to make it in during respectable eating hours. If you’re doing the Tinder thing, this is probably a good mix of a place that won’t seem too forward, though if you aren’t compatible the name could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Patio will be a packed, hot-mess in the summer. I dig this place.
• Avant Groove: Jazz Club and Martini Bar | 122 West Pierpont Avenue
A jazz club that Salt Lake needs and probably doesn’t know it wants…yet. Avant Groove has been open for a few months on Pierpont Street – former home to The Office, Inferno, and the badly missed Pierpont Café (I reminisce about those taquito buckets). There have been a lot of changes in this prime downtown location that’s within walking distance of The Salt Palace, Eccles Theatre, City Creek, and Vivint Smart Home Arena, but nothing that had a grip with the city and the competition in this part of downtown. Avant Groove gives off a nice, non-overwhelming, art deco feel – just a touch of Gatsby. The light fixtures are right out of the brass section. It’s clean, with large booths for groups along the back and couches along the other side, surrounding a square bar in the middle populated with a very friendly staff. Even the owner sat down to chat with me for a while, making sure my drink was good and I was enjoying to place. I was. There’s a second bar for when things get busy…and they will. The stage isn’t overwhelming but perfect with subtle lighting and there for those who want to soak themselves in the music while everyone else can get all social around the bar. It’s a great balance. Avant Groove has subtle, non-overwhelming feel that’s relaxing. The live music has been great each time I’ve been in with jazz standards and some solid improvisations. This could be my new favorite downtown spot and one of the few bar I would drop in by myself for a quick drink.
• Water Witch | 163 W 900 S
Water Witch is a step up in neighborhood bars. It’s small – a few booths and maybe 15 seats along the bar with a nice front patio for post-April Shower drinks. While it’s small, there’s a lot of charm with a very lively staff and some unique, ignitable cocktails. The patrons are always chatty in an up-and-coming part of Salt Lake, so it’s easy to make new friends if you’re a regular. There’s not a huge selection of beer on tap, but some local brews and bottles…boy, do they have bottles. That ceiling goes all the way and has more spirits than Fear Factory. If I am feeling like not being my introverted self, this is my spot.
The Witch sails once again!!! We’re open Tuesday-Sunday from 4-1:00. Come drink beer/wine/spirits and hang with your favorite neighborhood ‘tenders. Oh! And while you’re down here, go see our friends @tinwellbar @properbrewingco @properburger @meditrinaslc @lazizslc @bluecoppercoffee #waterwitchbar #waterwitchslc
• Prohibition | 151 E 6100 S
Hey, it’s Utah: where most days feel like prohibition. Now, I need to heed my own advice with this article and stop in. I have heard great things about their food and drinks, but have yet to leave my downtown bubble and do some libation exploration that this’s required to write this kind of thing. Refined cocktails and cuisine are music to my ears with a steam-punk, art deco twist (this seems to be the rolling theme among Salt Lake spirit-seekers these days). Prohibition does it all from swing dancing, to burlesque, to great local bands like Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, to Geeks Who Drink. It’s on my list from the word of mouth alone.
It’s a new year and as Salt Lake suffers growing pains, there are plenty of great places to go and find the cure.