After 20 years of writing about Utah on assignment, Pugh enjoyed the chance to follow his own interests for the guidebook. "I tried to make it really accessible, including 'Weird Utah' stuff as well as things that are more like greatest hits," he says.
He enjoys hearing readers say: "I've lived here my whole life but haven't done a lot of these things." He hopes the book will sell enough copies to allow him a few edits and additions in a second edition. And he plans to follow up with a "Secret Salt Lake City" volume, with more bits of "Weird Utah" crime, oddities and urban legends.
Most of all, he hopes the book will be just another chapter in Salt Lake City's unfolding story as more non-natives discover our urban views, nearby mountain hikes and emerging food scene. Here are just a few explorations from the book:
Eat funeral potatoes
At the Garage on Beck • Funeral potatoes are a Utah inside joke. The cheesy, casserole-style potatoes are often served at funerals and other large church and family gatherings, but the gooey, calorie-heavy tubers, often topped with crunchy corn flakes or potato chips, are downright delicious. The roadhouse bar Garage on Beck has fun with the local fare by frying them up into croquette-ish bites. Additionally, the Garage is one of the best spots for live music, and enjoying Sunday brunch on its friendly backyard-style patio is not to be missed. Also try Grandma's pot pie.
Garage on Beck, 1199 Beck St., Salt Lake City; garageonbeck.com
Eat a famous pastry
At Les Madeleines • Pastry chef Romina Rasmussen created a national food sensation when she started making kouign amann at her shop more than a decade ago. The kouign amann is a flaky, sweet, savory pastry from the Brittany region of France, but the labor-intensive treat wasn't done much even in Parisian bakeries. Rasmussen perfected her recipe and reintroduced the butter-rich delicacy to our mouths, even though we still can't pronounce it right. Her efforts have brought national attention from such renowned publications as Food and Wine and Bon Appétit, and she has been featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Her shop is one of Salt Lake's favorite lunch stops, serving beautifully crafted sandwiches, salads and pastries in tranquilly civilized surroundings. Stop in for lunch and walk out with a kouign amann for dessert.
Les Madeleines, 216 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City; lesmadeleines.com
Drink the perfect cup of coffee
Caffe d'Bolla • Fastidious isn't a strong enough term to describe owner John Piquet, who is a nut for his coffee and is nationally known as a roasting and brewing expert. He positively fusses over every cup he serves. If you really want to see him in action, order a $12 cup of siphon coffee. It's an impressive procedure as he painstakingly fires up the siphon and serves you what may be the perfect cup. Don't ask for cream or sugar unless you want to see John's eyes roll completely out of his head and then be chased out of his coffee shop.
Caffe d'Bolla, 249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; caffedbolla.com
Shop for tires, eat a tamale
Victor's Tire Shop and Custom Wheels • This west-side shop provides the services its name indicates. It's also a restaurant serving amazing tamales and other Mexican cuisine. You order at the tire service counter and wait for your order in a hastily added-on area with a few tables, salsa bar and soda fountain. This is not gringo Mexican. It's the real deal, and beyond the beautiful tamales you'll find authentic posole and other homemade delicacies.
Victor's Tires, 1406 S. 700 West, Salt Lake City; victorstires.net/Restaurant.html
Rent "Rubin and Ed"
The Tower Theatre • This historic theater is the flagship of the Utah Film Society, a Sundance venue during the independent film festival, and where you'll find showings of foreign films, esoteric documentaries, period pieces and more Helen Mirren vehicles than you'd ever want to see. The theater's lobby also has a collection of rare and hard-to-find DVDs that you won't find on Netflix or Amazon. Do yourself a favor and rent "Rubin and Ed," an out-of-print movie filmed in Utah in the early 1990s. Starring Crispin Glover and Howard Hesseman, the oddball buddy flick is about, umm, two guys going out to the desert to bury a frozen cat.
Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City saltlakefilmsociety.org
Paddle outrigger canoes
Great Salt Lake Marina • Utah is home to many Pacific Islanders, thanks to early missionary efforts of the LDS Church in the Polynesian Islands. A group of transplanted Hawaiians brought the traditional outrigger canoe to the waters of the Great Salt Lake and founded Hui Paoakalani, a paddling club at the marina. The club hosts the Annual Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Water Fest (Duke was an Olympic medal–winning swimmer from Hawaii) in June and goes out for weekly paddle sessions every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from April through mid-September.
Great Salt Lake Marina, 1075 S. 13312 West, Magna; huipaoakalani.blogspot.com, gslmarina.com
Dive in the desert
Bonneville Seabase and The Homestead Crater • Landlocked Utah isn't a place you'd think of for scuba diving, but we've got two of the world's most unusual spots for underwater adventure. Seabase is carved out of the salty earth above a natural warm mineral spring in Grantsville, literally in the desert near the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Seabase's main diving area, Habitat Bay, is stocked with tropical fish and, yikes, sharks (friendly nurse sharks). The Homestead Crater, in Midway, is equally strange a mineral water pool inside a rocky caldera. In the 1990s, intrepid divers drilled into the rock to access the 90-degree water inside and built a diving and snorkeling area. The warm, crystal-clear waters are an eerie blue, and divers can descend as far as 60 feet into the crater's depths.
Bonneville Seabase, 1600 UT-138, Grantsville; seabase.net; and Homestead Crater, 700 Homestead Drive, Midway; homesteadresort.com/utah-resort-things-to-do/homestead-crater
Hike for a sunset view
The Living Room • In the foothills above the University of Utah, a spider web of trails snakes up the hillside, a popular area used by trail runners, dog walkers and mountain bikers. The Living Room hike will take you up to a set of rocks arranged like a sofa and chairs Fred Flintstone would appreciate. If you do make the hike for the sunset, remember to bring headlamps for the walk down in twilight.
Living Room Trailhead, 383 Colorow Road, Salt Lake City
Hike for a valley view
Ensign Peak • This bumpy protuberance, on the hillside behind the Utah Capitol, offers a prominent vista of Salt Lake City. The LDS pioneers used the peak to survey the valley and as a watchtower of sorts. The quick hike (great for a lunchtime break) will have you high above the city in about 20 minutes. Hiking at night, with headlamps for your climb down, ups the wow factor with the city lights stretched out below. The trailhead is at the top of a residential area.
Ensign Peak Trail, Salt Lake City; slcparks.com
Get a dose of "Utah weird"
Gilgal Sculpture Garden • This quiet little park was the backyard of Thomas Battersby Child Jr., a businessman and mason who died in 1963. The bizarre folk art sculptures are mostly LDS-centric, notably the giant sphinx bearing the likeness of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. The park, nestled in a Salt Lake neighborhood, is open to the public daily.
Gilgal Sculpture Garden, 749 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City; gilgalgarden.org
Check the skyline weather report
The Walker Center • Built in 1912, this building is one of Salt Lake's grand old edifices. Its distinctive lighted top broadcasts a weather report every evening. Put down your phone, look up and use this key to the code: blue = clear skies, flashing blue = cloudy skies, red = rain, flashing red = snow.
Walker Center, 175 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Find a two-headed lamb
Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum • This Capitol Hill museum is a great place to learn the history of the women and families who, in many cases, literally walked across the Great Plains to settle Utah in 1847. The museum tells a gentler side of that history and gives a glimpse into what family life was like on the trek. It's also (whaaa?) the home of a strange taxidermied two-headed lamb. Happy hunting!
Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, 300 Main St., Salt Lake City; dupinternational.org
See a silent film with organ accompaniment
Edison Street Events Center • Historically known as the Organ Loft, this reception hall is home to a full-on Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that was once state- of-the-art in movie soundtracks. It offers periodic showings of silent film classics, accompanied by the magnificently maintained organ. The most popular of these are the annual October showings of "The Phantom of the Opera."
Edison Street Events Center, 3331 S. Edison St. (145 East), South Salt Lake; edisonstreetevents.com
Dig through designer goods
NPS • A through-the-looking-glass, close-out, scratch-and-dent, ultimate end-of-the-road for any item that was once sold for full price somewhere in the world, NPS (standing generically for National Product Sales) is a clearance sale, every day. But in the middle of this daily fire-sale chaos is a special designer section. These are real deals, not knockoffs Coach bags, Jimmy Choo shoes, TAG Heuer watches. The selection changes constantly (except for some very odd decorating items that will be there forever). You pretty much have to pick through everything, but once in a while you'll pay insane prices for that perfect dress, watch, shoes or umm, heirloom cuckoo clock?
NPS, 1600 Empire Road, Salt Lake City; npsstore.com
"100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die"
P Jeremy Pugh's guidebook is available at local bookstores or VeryDynamite.com. He'll read from the book at "Author Palooza" on Saturday, June 18, at 1 p.m. the Sugar House Barnes & Noble, 1104 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City; 801-463-2610. He will be among 10 authors signing books and answering questions about their various works.
Follow Pugh on Twitter @100ThingsSLC.