We all know Utah Valley is home to the best restaurants, best service and best shopping this side of anywhere. So we began a mission to find the best of the best, and we naturally chose the valley’s best judges — its people. See your picks for the valley’s best restaurants, dive into our best gift baskets, find out what homegrown restaurants have made it big and visit one local hot spot with Mondays just as busy as Fridays.
Best Mexican Food
1. Bajio Mexican Grill
2. Los Hermanos
3. Café Rio
Bajio Mexican Grill won “Best New Restaurant” in 2007’s Best of Utah Valley. Two years later, it tops our list of favorite Mexican restaurants.
It all started in the Riverwoods. Now, Bajio Mexican Grill has 42 franchises across the United States and seven opening soon. Jason Stowe, one of the restaurant’s founders, said Utah Valley’s people and culture set the stage for a successful chain.
“Many people in the valley have been introduced to great Mexican food through their travels and experiences,” he says. “Our concept of ‘fresh Mexican’ was new, and it worked.”
Unlike many Mexican restaurants that already existed here, Bajio took an order-at-the-counter approach to get guests their food quickly. And unlike fast-food chains, the menu includes abundant helpings of fresh Mexican originals.
“Bajio has really benefited from the valley’s desire for a fast-casual setting,” Jason says.
Utah County diners know their food, so when Bajio succeeded here, they knew they could succeed anywhere.
“Utah Valley has a very knowledgeable and discerning dining crowd,” Jason says. “People here understand excellence and appreciate the way Bajio consistently brings fresh cuisine to them at a fair price and in a great setting.”
Utah Valley’s Mexican food gurus were right. Diners across the country have since fallen in love with Bajio’s balance of delicious-yet-fast, fresh-yet-affordable entrees. And Utah-born Café Rio has done well, too — it first opened in St. George and now has franchises in Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
1. Chef’s Table
2. Bombay House
3. Macaroni Grill
In last year’s “Best of UV,” 32 restaurants got votes for “overall favorite.” In the 2009 survey, 57 restaurants were dubbed best. Looks like Utah Valley is not just growing in population — we’re also tasting our way to the top of the restaurant chains.
Best Restaurant for Dessert
1. Magleby’s Grill & Oyster Bar
2. Tomasso’s Italian Ice
Magleby’s Chocolate Cake still tops our list of favorite sweet treats, but Tomasso’s Italian Ice gave an impressive showing with its first appearance in Best of UV.
1. Café Rio
3. Art City Trolley
Café Rio’s salads have restaurant-goers salivating over lettuce and cilantro. For the calorie-counters, we got the cold, hard (nutrition) facts from myfitnesspal.com. Cafe Rio’s chicken salad has 525 calories, while pork packs in 800.
Best Restaurant for a Splurge
1. The Tree Room
2. Chef’s Table
Big spenders know what they like. This year’s top three winners have held the top spots for the past three years of the contest.
Best Exotic Restaurant
2. Happy Sumo
3. Thai Chili Garden
When Utah Valley-ites go exotic, they go all over. Our top three foreign foods boast entrees from Brazil, Japan and Thailand.
OUT AND ABOUT
Best Family Night Spot
1. Fat Cats
3. Provo Canyon
Utah Valley families love their quality time, and “survey says” Fat Cats is the place to be for “together time.”
Provo’s family-fun hot spot combines food from Costa Vida and Strikers Grill, bowling, billiards, and an arcade for an affordable night of bonding time. Prices are even lower on Monday night, with specials geared toward families including discounts on bowling and food.
“We thrive on being an all-out fun place for families to come and have a safe, enjoyable experience. It’s our goal to make sure customers have the best time possible,” says Jeff Quirk, district manager of Fat Cats.
The food, arcade and billiards are hits, but Fat Cats’ bowling alley draws the largest crowds. Everything from the lighting (fun, disco-style black lights) to the music (mostly Disney) to the scoreboards (with fun graphics between frames) add to the experience.
“You see kids bowl and then run back to see what’s on the screen,” Jeff says. “A different animation comes up each time, so even the scoreboard is part of the fun.”
Integrated bumpers can be programmed to automatically come up for certain bowlers, so the little kids can benefit from the handicap without Mom and Dad sacrificing the challenge.
Best Movie Theater
1. Provo Towne Centre
2. American Fork Cinemark
Provo Towne Centre is all about “sweet 16’” — that’s 16 silver screens with each row sitting 16 inches higher than the one in front of it.
Best Local Sports Team
1. BYU Cougars
2. Orem Owlz
3. Utah Flash
Utah County loves its cougars — no surprise there. But our home-grown professional baseball and basketball teams aren’t far behind.
Best Golf Course
1. Hobble Creek
2. Cascade Golf Center
3. Thanksgiving Point
Utah County is home to 13 of the state’s 113 golf courses. Our top three favorites come from all over the valley — from Springville to Orem to Lehi.
Best Tourist Attraction
2. Thanksgiving Point
3. Timp Cave
Sundance attracts tourists and celebrities — and even keeps some permanently when they take up residence in the nearly 200 mountain homes in the Sundance community. Talk about a nice backyard.
Best Place to Go Boating in Utah
1. Lake Powell
2. Utah Lake
3. Deer Creek
Lake Powell may not be in Utah County, but it has plenty of us headed south for 100-degree-or-hotter summer bliss — and blisters. The boater’s paradise is one of the contest’s heavyweights with 50 votes.
1. Suggestions Salon
2. Lush Studio
3. Remedez HairSpa
Happy Valley knows how to do beauty — this popular category brought in a whopping 77 different nominations.
Best Place to Exercise
1. Gold’s Gym
2. Omega Martial Arts
Gold’s Gym has five locations in Utah County, making it a convenient stop for the valley’s fittest people. The only more convenient location is right outside your house — which happened to come in third.
1. Remedez HairSpa
2. Primrose Retreat, Mainspring Day Spa (tie)
3. Mandalyn Academy
Nearly 20 new clients visit Remedez HairSpa every day in their University Mall location. Read about all four of your favorite spas in the “Hello, Gorgeous” section starting on page 87.
Best Place to Take Photos When You’re Lookin’ Good
1. Thanksgiving Point Gardens
2. Provo Canyon
Just ask local photographer Willie Holdman — Utah Valley is as pretty as a picture, which has its 500,000 residents and 1.2 million annual visitors saying “cheese.”
Most Beautiful Person in Utah Valley
1. Relative (anyone from daughter to mother-in-law)
3. “My Wife”
Roll the red carpet down University Parkway. Our “relatives” and “wives” are ready for paparazzi. As for #2? Let’s just say self-esteems are healthy in these parts.
Most Beautiful Building in Utah Valley
1. Provo City Library at Academy Square
2. Provo Tabernacle
3. Mt. Timpanogos LDS Temple
The Provo City Library at Academy Square is home to showy receptions and elaborate events year-round, but it’s not just a pretty face. The building is a local treasure with roots dating back to the days of Brigham Young.
The structure originally housed Brigham Young Academy, which opened in 1892. The building became Provo City Library in 1997 when a bond to preserve the building passed with 58 percent of the vote. The bond saved the building from demolition, and the new library was dedicated on Sept. 8, 2001. (Just three days before 9/11.) Guests can request a tour of the historic library by calling (801) 852-6661.
Best Place to Buy Gift Baskets
2. Kara Chocolates
3. Papaya & Co.
Kneaders is home to the valley’s favorite gift baskets, and for good reason. Owner Colleen Worthington told Utah Valley Magazine the skinny on our favorite corporate gift.
1. Fresh, homemade bread
“People like to bring baked bread to the neighbors, but no one takes time to bake anymore. This way, you still get a personal gift without spending all day in the kitchen,” Colleen says.
2. Abbie and Ellie products
Abbie and Ellie are Colleen’s granddaughters. When she started making specialty products for the gift baskets, the girls’ names and faces graced the labels.
3. Retail item
Long after the bread and jam are gone, a Kneaders gift basket keeps on giving. A retail item from the store is often included – a lasting present among the perishables.
Kneaders’ delicious jams and jellies come in specific flavors found in Colleen’s kitchen over the years.
5. Cookies and pastries
Kneaders does more than knead. Brownies, cookies, pastries and other sugary treats are also made fresh in the store before being added to the basket.
Best Place for a Saturday Afternoon Shopping Trip
1. University Mall
2. The Shops at Riverwoods
3. Provo Towne Centre
This race was anyone’s to win — University Mall and The Shops at the Riverwoods traded the lead several times as we tallied votes.
Best Car Dealership
1. Brent Brown Automotive Group
2. Ken Garff Automotive
3. Doug Smith Autoplex
Bending over backwards has paid off for Brent Brown — the car dealership is still the top favorite for the fourth year in a row.
Best Clothing Store
2. The Buckle
3. Banana Republic, JC Penney, Forever XXI, Dillard’s (four-way tie)
It’s no wonder University Mall won “Best Place for a Saturday Afternoon Shopping Trip.” If these are the valley’s favorite clothing stores, University Mall is a one-stop shop with four of the valley’s favorite shopping spots.
Best Place to Buy a Prom Dress
1. Allyse’s Bridal
2. Walkers’ Eternity Bridal and Prom
3. Abella Bridal
Modest is the hottest in Utah County. Our preferred prom stops carry more conservative gowns, keeping our teens — and cruise-bound adults — stunningly modest.
Most Philanthropic Person
in Utah Valley
1. Scott Lazerson
2. Karen Ashton
3. A tie among 27 other nominations
Scott Lazerson has a habit of giving his all.
The founder and CEO of Interface Charitable Foundation is a philanthropist by trade — and by tradition. When he was just 12 years old, his father planted that first seed of giving by taking him to Martha’s Table, a food shelter in Washington, D.C.
“Growing up in a family where the welfare of others was foremost in thought, I can’t help but have philanthropic blood,” he says. “Today more than 25,000 people will die from hunger. How can I not be motivated to focus on philanthropic initiatives?”
Scott, who lives in Orem, has spent the past 12 years working full time in the philanthropic world, and it’s a passion that defines him.
“Philanthropy tends to be a word people confuse with the wealthy giving their money to causes,” Scott says. “Yet the Webster definition sheds greater light: Philanthropy is the effort or inclination to increase the well being of humankind by charitable aid or donations.”
Scott’s foundation, which leverages the power of business and celebrity for the benefit of high-impact charities, was founded in 2007 and is a significant undertaking. But Scott says everyone — charity or not — can make a difference.
“I see everyone as a philanthropist; everyone using their talents, time and resources for the betterment of humanity,” he says. “It begins with your personal passion — whether that is education, promoting gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS or ensuring environmental sustainability. Start with what you love. Get involved. It will take a collective force to change the world!”
To learn more about Scott and his causes, visit www.interfacefoundation.org or www.scottlazerson.wordpress.com.
Happiest Person in
1. Lyle Black
2. The nominator’s relative
They don’t call us “Happy Valley” for nothing. Seventy smilers brought in nominations, including our top pick who spreads his cheer as an employee at Kara Chocolates.
Favorite Broadcast Personality
1. Barbara Smith
2. Doug Wright
3. Bruce Lindsay
When it comes to TV, we like to have our say. ABC 4’s Barbara Smith topped our list of favorite familiar faces 28 years after her “Good Morning Utah” debut.
Favorite Utah Reality TV Star
1. David Archuleta
2. Julie Ann Hough
3. Chelsea Hightower
Voters had no shortage of options in this category – Utah is also home to reality TV stars such as Ashly Delgrosso-Costa (from “Dancing With the Stars”), Todd Herzog (“Survivor”) and Kelsey Nixon (“The Next Food Network Star”).
Best Performing Group Based in Utah County
1. Utah Regional Ballet
2. Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband
3. The Osmonds
Ryan Shupe slipped to second from 2007’s first-place finish when Utah Regional Ballet twirled into this year’s top spot.
Favorite Utah Valley Artist
1. Greg Olsen
2. David Lindsley
3. James Christensen
This year’s top artists are in good company. Several Utah County artists took in some votes, including Liz Lemon Swindle, Gary Price and Dennis Smith.
ELECTION SELECTION: An Osmond Tradition
The Osmonds have long been the valley’s Kennedys. Utah Valley Magazine readers nominated Debbie Osmond (Donny’s wife), Heather Osmond (owner of Osmond Designs) and Marie Osmond for “Most Beautiful Person.” Both the older and younger generations of Osmonds were nominated for “Best Performing Group,” and Donny took in a couple votes for “Most Philanthropic Person.”
Best Customer Service
1. Cascade Collision Repair
3. Suggestions Salon
At Cascade Collision Repair, service isn’t just part of employee training. It’s a matter of integrity and a sign of respect.
Brian Nichols, co-owner of Cascade Collision Repair, believes it’s important for customers to completely understand what’s going to happen with their car before they leave it at Cascade.
“When someone leaves their keys in their car and trusts us to take care of it, we want them to feel like they understand exactly what’s going to happen and exactly when it will be finished,” Brian says. “We service 500 cars per month, but we want every customer to feel like they’re our only one.”
And that’s not just lip service. Customer service representatives keep clients updated on their car’s progress — conveniently, of course. Every customer receives daily updates and pictures of their car online, so they can get all the information they need without the interruption of a phone call. And if they still have questions, there’s a link for e-mailing customer service representatives.
When all is said and done, the staff at Cascade isn’t done. Every job is backed with a warranty.
“It’s one thing to say you’ll fix a car right, but it’s another to put your name and word behind it,” Brian says.
Best Part of
Utah Valley Magazine
1. Celebrity Lookalikes each September
3. ‘Best Of’ (which you are reading right now)
We always knew you loved us, but we’re humble enough to know that reader participation is what makes us great. Check each issue for new ways to get involved and to apply for contests.
Best Traffic School
3. Spanish Fork
Utah drivers don’t have the best reputation, but it’s not for lack of time spent in traffic schools. The county seat has the most popular school, though many of our cities pulled in nominations.
Best Car Wash
Supersonic is a clear Utah County favorite, but our favorite Best Car Wash nomination was for an unnamed person — “my son.” Sounds like somebody has a sudsy driveway and a hard-working child!
1. Culinary Crafts
2. Marvellous Catering
3. BYU Catering
“The most requested selections are the Chef Action Stations where chefs prepare food right in front of guests,” says Mary Crafts, owner of Culinary Crafts. “Guests love the interaction with the chefs and that the food is so fresh.”
Five most-requested Chef Action Stations
1. Maple-Glazed Salmon
2. Sizzling Chinese Woks
3. Southwestern Quesadillas
4. Hot-Off-The-Grill Barbecue Beef Brisket
5. Flaming Crepes Suzettes
Heavyweights Top 10 biggest vote-getters on Best of UV surveys
Provo Towne Centre, Best Movie Theater
University Mall, Best Place for a Saturday Afternoon Shopping Trip
Lake Powell, Best Place to Go Boating in Utah
Gold’s Gym, Best Place to Exercise
Supersonic, Best Car Wash
Shops at Riverwoods, Best Place for a Afternoon Shopping Trip
Chef’s Table, Best Overall Restaurant
Café Rio, Best Restaurant for Salads
Tucanos, Best Exotic Restaurant
Allyse’s Bridal, Best Place to Buy a Prom Dress