24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Last week, I saw the Double Tree by Hilton DTours Competition and got all hopped up on the idea of traveling Salt Lake City.

I totally missed the deadline for the competition to win a two-week to two-month trip to wherever, but that didn’t stop me from fully enjoying my 24 hours as a tourist in my town.

This is a tourist hot  spot, promise.

This is a tourist hot spot, promise.

I started off at the one place I always see tourist, the Utah State Capitol Building. It was nice to take the time and enjoy the grounds, the architecture and the sunshine. Usually Archer and I walk as quickly as possible. But this time I photographed it up and did my best tourist impression. However since the dog was in tow, I did not get to go inside the building. It has wonderful architectural details and occasionally you can catch a couple inside taking wedding photos.

It's the little things that give away the location.

It’s the little things that give away the location.

Next I went on a detour to Memory Grove Park just down the hill from the Capitol building. Once again I took the time to photograph and enjoy the scenery a bit as I made my way north to City Creek Canyon.

One of the many monuments to Utah's fallen soldiers in Memory Grove Park.

One of the many monuments to Utah’s fallen soldiers in Memory Grove Park.

Archer loves running in the water, following the stream and meeting all the other dogs on the loose. I like that it’s a lot of nature, but close enough to the city I don’t have to drive. It’s literally across the street and down the hill from the Capitol. I love it! The hike took about an hour before I decided I was ravenous enough for a snack.

The City Creek from which so many place in this town take their name.

The City Creek from which so many place in this town take their name.

After depositing the puppy at home, I made my way to Eva’s Bakery on Main Street. This little place looks like it flew over from Paris to bring chic local eats to the weary. The cappucino was delicious and the Beehive brioche divine. I love, love Cafe Ibis. The roast is always just right, and Eva’s baristas know there way around an espresso machine. They served it dry and it was foamy caffeine heaven for me. The brioche was a delicious honey, almond, sugar blend. The dough was crispy, light and delightful. Absolutely loved it! The setting was wonderful for settling in to write a bit, read a bit and just relax after a long morning hike.

A delightful mid-morning snack to go with writing.

A delightful mid-morning snack to go with writing.

Next I made my way to the Salt Lake City Downtown Library via TRAX for some more spectacular views, architecture and books.

Architectural awesome right there.

Architectural awesome right there.

The library has always been one of my favorite SLC landmarks since I first moved here. It’s not just a space for books, they host community events, house local shops and regularly show films. I stocked up on all the crime noir I could read in a week, checked my Twitter feed and was off to meet Lewis Bros. Food Truck.

I have been waiting and waiting for Lewis Bros. to park near me. But I always miss them! This time, however, I knew right where they would be and what better excuse to indulge in Vietnamese inspired local fare than traveling in downtown?

A menu and a logo on the Lewis Bros. food truck.

A menu and a logo on the Lewis Bros. food truck.

I took TRAX again back to the Courthouse stop. Several food trucks were gathered in a parking lot near the Little America Hotel for the CNU21 convention. I skipped right by WakiPaki, Chow, Off the Grid and a pizza truck for Lewis Bros. banh mi.

Like I said, I’ve been wanting to try their food for ages.

The wait was brief. The cooks friendly and helpful, even going so far as to take orders to customers who seemingly forgot their kimichi fries.

The pork was tender, juicy and ginger-y. Yum!

The pork was tender, juicy and ginger-y. Yum!

I opted for the pork in the Vietnamese-style sandwich. It was served on a crusty baguette with delicious shredded pork and pickled carrots and onions on top. Not the fanciest of fare, but coming from a truck pretty impressive. At $6 a pop, it’s the most expensive item on the Lewis Bros. menu and totally worth it. I devoured the whole sandwich sitting on the grass and listening-in on some true tourists take on Salt Lake City.

After all the food and walking I needed a break from all my excursions and headed home to veg out for a bit before a night on the town. I wandered around Temple Square people watching and trying to see the plaza I walk across so often from a traveler’s point of view. The results: so many weddings, flowers and statues! It’s an awful nice public park most of the time.

I knew I wanted a perfect SL,UT night, so I headed to Bar X following dinner. I ordered a Moscow Mule since I am deeply in love with those copper mugs. It was crisp, fresh, delicious and absolutely on point, like every drink the mixologists of Bar X create. They are perfectionists in the art of cocktail making; and it shows. It also hits the wallet with cocktails starting out at $9 and going up for there.

But so, so worth it!

I sipped my drink and listened to the live band. It was nice to get out, but I was still pretty bushed from the day’s adventures, so I soon went home.

If had waited until this week, I totally would have hit up Friday Night Flicks in the Park next. 

I love summer in Salt Lake City!

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Why didn’t you say so?

Among the many places, I’ve never been, but should go in my Utah backyard is Antelope Island.

The State Park is about 40 minutes north of Salt Lake and apparently one of the most scenic places in the state. But when I read there were beaches, I knew I had to go. Beaches need me. I need them. There are white sand beaches within an hour of my home! I must see this. I also hear the wildlife is impressive and the starry night skies breathtaking. However I must admit most of my motivation for this day trip comes from a desire to drink on a beach.

I’m also planning on taking gross clothes with me so I can attempt to swim in the Great Salt Lake because that’s a thing people do, I suppose. I’ve also never been to the lake really. So this should be interesting.

There will be beer.

There will be photos.

There will be weird smells.

I’m pretty confident the views will make up for the lake stink I anticipate. So here’s to sunny skies on my last-minute adventure to the water world. Now it’s time to get packing so I can hit the road and spend some quality time at the beach.

What last minute adventure will you have today?

A Weekend in Salt Lake

Recently Yahoo posten an article about their top five reasons to visit Salt Lake. It read like it was written by somehow who has never been to Utah and the comments quickly because vicious. Now I may struggle some days to love my home for it’s difficult culture and wide open spaces, but there are certainly five excellent reasons for anyone to visit the City of Salt.

1. Temple Square juxtaposed with Gilgal Park

To understand both the religion and the culture it creates, I think anyone who comes to this city should make a morning of stopping at both places. One is the pretty much the official version of all things LDS while the other is its lesser known alternative that tells an entirely different story of the effect believe had on one man. I find it fascinating and well-worth the five minute stroll it takes to see Joseph Smith Sphinx.

2. The Salt Lake City Public Library

If there is one thing every traveler can love, it’s free attractions. The library is pretty amazing. It’s a great place to poke around and see the city. Much more diverse and people-watching friendly than Temple Square, it’s a great afternoon stop for a cup of coffee, internet time and a bit of reading. Don’t forget to walk the roof for some of the cities best views! You could even make a day of the block visiting the City County building and the Leonardo for you political/art/science fix. There are also some truly fantastic shops, cafes and restaurants within easy walking distance. If you’re really into the local history and politics, a hike up Capitol Hill may be in order for a visit to the political center of the state. It’s also just a pretty building for photography time.

3. Art and Science

There are several neat galleries around the city, but assuming you would like a quick fix and don’t mind a walk, I recommend the University of Utah’s Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History Museum. Plan to spend a couple hours in each and about $7 for admission–both buildings showcase exhibits that well-curated, informative and fun. They’re easily at the top of the list of some of Salt Lake’s treasures. If you happen to be in Downtown SLC on the third Friday of the month, definitely check out Gallery Stroll. The epicenter is usually on 300 South (Broadway) heading east from about 100 East until 400 east-ish. Shops, galleries and restaurants stay open late showcasing some of Salt Lake’s best local art work in addition to offering snacks, drinks and generally a good time. Other area businesses stay open too with special showings so it’s always a good option for biking the city, too.

4. Parks

Obviously I’m super awesome at suggesting cheap and free stuff, so you know…PARKS! Salt Lake City has some truly awesome parks. My top two are Liberty and Pioneer, they are both surrounded by fun restaurants and shops and offer a great green reprieve from tourist time. There is always something or someone interesting at Liberty Park between the pool, Tracy Aviary and the duck pond. I’ve seen drum circles, LARPers and protestors here at any given time. As for Pioneer Park, it’s pretty awesome in the summer time for $5 concerts on Thursdays and the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

5. Main Street

Now for the nightlife, yep, it’s here. Surprising I know. First you need to know the ground rules, no alcohol is sold anywhere after 1 a.m. (Yes, it’s early and a consequence of non-drinkers writing drinking laws. Get over it.) Next you can only order two drinks at a time, this usually translates to a pitcher of beer and a round of shots in my experience. Then if you’re going to order fancy drinks you need to know all cocktails are made with a maximum of two ounces of alcohol, but usually 1.5 ounces as dictated by the “clickers” on the bottle. This is not the bartenders’ fault, it is state law, just breathe. Finally this is a beer and whiskey kind of town so embrace it. At any bar you can get a craft microbrew on draft which is delicious and amazing! On Main Street in Downtown you’ll find Cheer’s (dive), Murphy’s (dive with leprechauns), Key on Main (pianos), Bay Leaf Cafe (food) and a few other places nearby to imbibe.

Career, travel and cocktail dreams

The future has been on my mind a lot lately.

Several of my waygook friends are on their way out of Chungju, gone from Korea and on to the next stage of their lives. It’s got me thinking about how I have absolutely no clue what comes next.

Initially I thought I would pursue career goals after a “gap-year” of teaching, but I love living in a foreign country. I’m not sure I want to give that up.

Korea is a good place to be, but I could go somewhere else.

Increasingly I feel like no matter where I go, even Salt Lake City, will require I start all over–new friends, new apartment, new job, new everything. If I have to start all over again, it may as well be in a different country, right?

When I think about jobs that I want, I focus on things related to my major like television and film production or journalism. However many of these jobs require experience. My own experience seems limited and too closely tied to my university to really count for much in the pile of resumes companies must receive. I do not have the “real world” experience it seems most employers are looking for.

In the meantime, the evidence is piling up that I am apparently unemployable. I’ve been applying for jobs since January. I have applied for over 30 positions at various companies around the US. I clearly indicate I will be available for employment in July or as early as two months from now. I’m always willing to relocate, even at my own expense. And I do my best to sale myself as an amazing rock star production assistant who is organized, flexible and capable.

So far I’ve heard from no one. I can’t get a job. Anywhere.

I even got rejected from a blogging job where I would blog for FREE! I got rejected for a non-paying job. How is that possible? Do you know how shitty that makes me feel?

That kind of success rate has me thinking I don’t want to go back to the US and join the struggling economy.

By comparison getting another teaching job seems so easy. It took just two interviews and a couple of months for me to get a teaching job in South Korea. Sure I don’t like teaching. I hope to never face another classroom again as a teacher after this contract ends. But it seems schools are hiring ESL teachers at every turn and with a year of experience in the US and in Korea almost anyone would hire me. The only trouble is I can feel the ulcer forming already when I think of a future including classrooms, students and white boards.

My dream is to freelance full-time. I’m constantly pursuing new freelance work, however it seems highly unlikely I would be able to pay my student loans and cost of living from this revenue. As I currently struggle to meet my goal of $500 a month. (Just so we’re clear my student loan payment alone is $800 a month.)

This is the point where I always come back to working in the restaurant business. The only solution I can think of is to try and get a job waiting tables in the UK, New Zealand, Australia or somewhere else. Even then, I’m not sure that’s something I want so much as it’s the only plausible next step I can think of.

*sigh*

There are only two things I know for sure; I’m going to keep writing and I will go home for a visit.

What would you do next? Any suggestions or advice?

Food Review: Get your vegan on

Joan, CBC and I went to Vertical Diner after an In n’ Out Burger misadventure. Turns out vegetarian burgers are pretty delicious if you know what you’re doing.

Vertical Diner is a misplaced vegetarian restaurant next to a meat packing plant just off 2100 South in Sugar House. They have a teensy parking lot with no lights so drive extra safe if you’re there at night, but once you get inside you forget about the scary parking.

The diner was a little cold the night we were there. I’m talking cold for a restaurant people, not just me whining about winter again.

Our server Caleb was helpful and fun. He was definitely light-hearted and helped us feel better about the long drive to the long line at In n’ Out.

I tried the vegetarian burger with french fries. Turns out everything on the menu is vegan friendly–and I didn’t even notice. It was surprisingly good. I was so impressed by the tofu burger I ate most of it. My only complaint is that the bun was a little dry.

The fries were served with vegan fry sauce that has left me wondering how it is even possible to make vegan mayonnaise. They were pretty tasty and if I hadn’t known the fry sauce was vegan I wouldn’t have noticed.

Joan loves the avocado sandwich from Vertical Diner. And CBC tested out a pulled pork sandwich. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by the vegan food of Vertical Diner. Joan says Vertical Diner is the best place for non-vegans to go with their vegan friends.

The cost was about the same for any other diner in town, which is to say a burger or sandwich will run you about $8.

Food Review: Finn’s Cafe

Lovely Ava and I headed to the Salty City mainstay, Finn’s Cafe for lunch one freezing winter afternoon.

Even though the world outside was gray and frigid, Finn’s does a great job of being welcoming, bright and vibrant. The Cafe has been in operation since the 1940s and they have the memorabilia tastefully displayed to prove it.

Ava and I both had the cream of cauliflower soup. It was so good. I was not expecting the dish to be as delicious or pretty as it was. Finn’s also serves onion rolls that were nice and crusty on the outside and all fluffy goodness on the inside.

I had the catch of the day for lunch. It turned out to be crab cakes and they were delicious. The sauce Finn’s served with them was great! The whole dish was presented beautifully. Everything was so tasty I ate far more than I should’ve, which made this lunch a great intervention in an otherwise yucky day.

Ava had the weinerschintzel and she said it was good. It looked delicious! I’ll have to try some of that soon. We both agreed the roasted potatoes and asparagus were good. The potatoes were cooked just right and seasoned well. Not surprisingly, the potatoes were my favorite part of the dish. Everything seemed to be cooked just right.

Our server was very helpful and did a great job of keeping an eye on us without hovering. The owner even stopped by to check everything tasted good. And it did! I have feeling you would be hard pressed to have a bad experience at Finn’s. These people have been in business for over 60 years and it shows.

The only catch for me was the price. Lunch was a little more expensive for the two of us than I normally would like to spend, but the warm haven was well worth the price.

Food Review: Turning the tide on my favorite sushi

Ava and I made a visit to Tsunami in Sugar House this past week. She was craving sushi and I just like to eat.

Since our favorite sushi spot, Sapporo shut down we decided to return to another old favorite and made our way to the little place by the dollar theater. I should mention Tsuanmi is open until 10 p.m. on weeknights. Yes, Salters there is a place you can get a great dinner after 9 p.m. on a week night in the Salty City.

Ava chose to sit at a table, not the sushi bar. This made me happy because I find the sushi chefs rude and condescending-for some reason they don’t seem to like it when I ask questions about fish. It turns out the table was a good choice as the sushi chefs spent much of the night arguing back and forth and writing the schedule with the manager.

I ordered the Tokyo Cowboy roll and Ava had the Malibu, then I ordered a veggie roll called Catalina.

The Tokyo wasn’t as good as I remembered, it seemed a little bit spicier without the lovely balance of sweet and spicy my taste buds remember.

Ava liked the Malibu, but said she’ll probably order something else next time. The Malibu had eel and was pretty tasty, but I wasn’t a fan of the overall texture of the roll–it was just a little too smooth and slimy for me.

The Catalina had lots of delicious vegetables wrapped in soy paper. The weird part was that it tasted like peanuts only without peanuts. It wasn’t bad, just unexpected. Even Ava who hates nuts ate some of the roll.

Our waitress was adorable and very helpful. So I’m taking back the sitting at the bar rule for sushi and amending it to say, “At Tsunami sit at a table and let the waitress deal with the sushi chef.”