Since the dawn of social media, and Instagram in particular, one trend has become astonishingly popular: the food shot. Be it a juicy burger, green smoothie or international delight, the #foodgram has taken the digital realm by storm and become one of the most solid ways to document travel experiences.
However, you don’t have to have an unlimited fortune set aside for globe-trotting to make your friends salivate at your very own #foodie posts. You just have to take a moment to appreciate all that’s available right here in Utah County.
Though at first glance, Utah, and Utah County in particular, may not seem to be the most culturally or ethnically diverse of the 50 United States, one quick trip around the culinary scene will set the record straight, and we’re here to help with that process.
Though our list is anything but all-inclusive, we’ve talked to business owners and scoured the valley for some of the best and most unique restaurants featuring authentic cuisine from across the globe.
Tapping into the history of global dining in Utah County is La Dolce Vita in Provo. The restaurant was opened in 1984 by Gianni and Susi Della Corte of Naples, Italy, who came to the area after joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“When they opened the restaurant, it was the only Italian restaurant in the city,” said Mario Garcia, a family member of the owners who now runs the restaurant.
“It’s Naples style,” Garcia said of the food. “The cuisine is southern Italian and they brought their own recipes, so they’re authentic recipes and it has a homemade touch.”
But according to Garcia, La Dolce Vita is just one piece of a diverse tapestry of international dining in Utah County.
“I think we live in an era where everything is in the grasp of our hands, so that is very convenient,” he said. “Having the ability to try food from everywhere is absolutely amazing, and I think the [LDS] Church has a big role there.”
It definitely laid the foundation for Hannah Harrison, who recently opened a franchise of Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich at the University Mall in Orem.
Harrison, who originally hails from Vietnam, said she was among the first convert members of the LDS Church in Cambodia, and it was after meeting her husband that she first came to Utah. The pair later spent nearly 16 years working in Asia before returning to Utah with their children almost six years ago.
“It’s good to be back,” Harrison said. “Utah has changed a lot. A while ago it was a slower pace, now it’s seen a lot of growth, in Utah County especially.”
That growth, according to Harrison, has made room for more authentic foreign and family-owned businesses such as Oh Mai, which has been open in Orem for about eight months.
“Now I see more restaurants than ever,” she said. “We have had a really positive response. We have our regular customers that come in four or five times a week.”
As a plus, Oh Mai’s authentic pho soup and bahn mi sandwiches are quick to serve and lower in cost than a lot of international eats. As the business grows, Harrison said she hopes to be able to turn profits around to reach out and help others.
“I’m from Vietnam — I’ve seen a lot of poverty,” Harrison said. “My desire is to have a sustainable business so that I can help kids in need.”
Se Llama Peru owner Luis Suhein Benson also came to Utah because of the LDS Church. Originally from Lima, Peru, he worked in a variety of local restaurants before going to Utah Valley University for culinary school and taking over ownership of Se Llama Peru.
“I wanted to work in my own cuisine,” he said. “Mostly everything I have on my menu is Peruvian food. I wanted to share with everybody the food we cook here.”
According to Omai Crichton of Sweet’s Hawaiian Grill, the taste of home is what brought their restaurant to life in Provo as well.
“The shop was opened up in 1994 by our parents, Al and Sweet Crichton,” Omai Crichton said. “Sweets is now run by a second generation … trying to live the American dream and share our culture through our food.”
The family came to the mainland so Al could continue his education, but it didn’t take long for them to get homesick.
“There were no really good Polynesian eateries around town, so they opened a little mom and pop shop and it’s still running today 24 years later.”
The restaurant is named after the family’s former home in Hawaii, but it features a wide variety of Polynesian food, and fits in well with the wide variety of other cultural restaurants in the area.
“We love it,” Crichton said. “We’re proud. Provo’s becoming this little foodie town with good options from all around the world.”
Filling a particularly unique niche is Galilee Grill and Bakery in Lindon. Opened by Ehab Abunuwara, whose family ran a bakery in Israel, the restaurant focuses on totally authentic and family-friendly cultural dining.
“The pitas are the same style you’d get in Nazareth — the same texture and same flavor,” Abunuwara said. It’s been two and a half years since the restaurant opened with a successful franchise in Heber, and a less successful attempt at a mall location.
“It’s been hard but good,” Abunuwara said. “I love to cook and I always used to cook at home and have friends over. … Now, to share that same food, it’s been fun, and I really enjoy it.”
According to Abunuwara, a restaurant like Galilee has provided him with a great way to share his culture and the tastes of home.
“In the Arabic culture, hospitality is very big,” he said. “That’s how you have fun with people — you share food. I wanted to do that, and share my experiences.”
Abunuwara said that’s something that couldn’t happen for him or any other local, family-owned business without support from the community, though.
“Utah Valley has a lot of different foods, but I think most of the support goes to chains, which is unfortunate,” he said. “I would love to see more support of unique, authentic, individual restaurants and family restaurants.”
People tend to veer toward familiar, inexpensive and fast, which leaves authentic and unique locally-owned restaurants without the support they need to survive and thrive.
“That’s a struggle for the family restaurants — how to deal with the chains, and not just fast food,” he said. “If people would give more support to the local and family-owned restaurants, that would be wonderful.”
One thing’s for certain — if you’re hoping for a unique, authentic and affordable international culinary experience that’s worthy of some social media props, the incredible selection of global eats in Utah County is an amazing place to start, and it’s definitely more affordable than attempting a trek across the globe for the same flavors.
1120 State St., Orem
Asa Ramen is a cozy little restaurant best known for serving up hearty bowls of traditional Japanese ramen in a variety of styles. It also offers a series of authentic Japanese appetizers, including gyoza (Japanese dumplings), edamame, Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Chashu Buns and tempura shrimp.
Bruges Waffles & Frites
42 W. Center St., Provo (two other locations in Salt Lake City), brugeswaffles.com
Started by Belgians Pierre Vandamme and Philippe Wyffles, the restaurant serves up family recipe Liège waffles and Belgian fries (frites). Specific menu items include the Machine Gun Sandwich with lamb and pork sausage (as featured on “Man v. Food”), Flemish Stew, Croque (grilled cheese), and an impressive variety of specialty waffles and frites.
1851 W. 500 South, Springville, egakoreanbbq.com
Focusing in on the BBQ side of Korean cuisine, E-Ga offers up an all-you-can-eat dinner with several styles of traditional bulgogi and meats including beef, chicken, pork and seafood that are cooked at your table. Side dishes include kimchi, Jun (Korean pancake), Japche (noodle salad), Mandu and more.
El Salvador Restaurant
332 W. Center St., Provo, bit.ly/2I90leo
Country: El Salvador
Nestled in a small space along Provo’s Center Street, El Salvador Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant that has been offering traditional Salvadoran fare for over 14 years. Pupusas are among the most recommended items on the menu, though other menu musts include plantanos fritos (fried plantains), pastelitos and horchata.
Galilee Grill and Bakery
131 S. State St., Lindon, galileegrill.com (also located in Heber)
Country: Israel (Middle Eastern)
According to Ehab Abunuwara, owner of Galilee Grill, in the Arabic culture hospitality is central, and along with that comes sharing food and experiences. That’s why, after coming from Israel to attend Brigham Young University, he stayed and opened his own restaurant with authentic recipes like those his family used for their bakery business. Traditional menu items include manakish, falafel, kebabs, pitas, shawarma and more.
3220 N. University Ave., Provo, bit.ly/2J5EBRO
Country: China, Taiwan (Asian Fusion)
With a focus on Asian fusion, Green Panda has a menu packed with delectable and authentic foods, though it’s often the Taiwanese selections that get the most praise. Traditional favorites on the menu include Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup, an impressive variety of boba smoothies, rice bowls, tofu dishes and stir-fried noodles.
98 W. Center St., Provo, indiapalaceutah.com (second location in South Jordan)
The India Palace is a family-owned-and-operated business managed by Amrik Singh and his wife, Kulwinder Kaur. It has been serving Utah County since 2007, after the family’s initial foray into the restaurant business, India Garden, closed. Specials include masala, tandoori, vindaloo and naan, with lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetarian specialties.
La Dolce Vita Ristorante
61 N. 100 East, Provo, ladolcevitaprovo.com
According to manager Mario Garcia, La Dolce Vita opened in 1984 and was the first and only Italian restaurant in the city. Owned by Gianni and Susi Della Corte of Naples, the couple came to Provo and opened the restaurant after joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The food is Naples and southern Italian-style with authentic family recipes including calzones, gnocchi, an impressive variety of pastas and antipasti (appetizers).
Lucy’s Brazilian Kitchen
155 N. University Ave., Provo, lucysbraziliankitchen.com
With an incredible wall mural of the Christ the Redeemer statue painted by Billy Hensler, stepping into Lucy’s Brazilian Kitchen in Provo is a lot like stepping into the downtown of Rio de Janeiro. Lucy Wyssling teamed with her husband, Scott, to share her heritage through the restaurant, with a menu focusing on traditional Brazilian favorites such as pao de queijo (cheesy bread balls), fried plantains, coxinha (chicken dumplings), shish kabobs, hearty bowls, meats and a variety of authentic drinks.
Mi Ranchito Grill
1109 State St. in Orem, miranchitorem.com (other locations in Salt Lake and American Fork)
When the Armenta family came to Utah from Guanajuato, Mexico, they also brought with them a variety of family recipes and a goal of sharing authentic, delicious Mexican food. The Orem location opened in 1983, and since has been serving up traditional cuisine including tacos, enchiladas, chile relleno, tamales, taquitos, burritos and more.
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich
575 E. University Parkway, Orem, ohmaisandwich.com (several other locations in Salt Lake and South Jordan)
Oh Mai has been spreading across the state with its most recent opening in Orem at the University Mall, under the direction of Hannah Harrison. Harrison was one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cambodia, and came to Utah after meeting her husband. With roots extending into Vietnam, Harrison said it’s been incredible to share her culture with locals through a menu that includes bahn mi sandwiches, pho noodle soup, rice dishes and vermicelli noodles.
575 E. University Parkway in the mall food court, Orem, eatrimmels.com
The Rimmel family consists of three brothers, Mathias, Thomas and Andreas, all from Leverkusen, Germany. With the help of friends and family, they opened Rimmels in the University Mall, bringing their own, unique take on German street food to Utah County. Menu items include the Döner (created in 1970s Berlin), the Bratwurst and the Currywurst (currently the most famous fast food in Germany).
Se Llama Peru
368 W. Center St., Provo, sellamaperuutah.com
Se Llama Peru opened in 1999 and came under the ownership of Luis Suhein Benson in 2000. Originally from Lima, Peru, Benson came to Utah because of his membership in the LDS Church. After working in a variety of restaurants, Benson studied culinary arts at UVU and now offers up flavorful favorites from his home country, including Lomo Saltado (steak and fries), Arroz con Pato (duck), Ceviche (fish and shrimp) and Anticuchos Mixtos (Peruvian kebabs).
Sweet’s Hawaiian Grill
711 Columbia Lane, Provo, sweetsinprovo.blogspot.com
Country: Hawaii and Pacific Island with food from Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and more
It’s been 25 years since Hawaii natives Al and Sweet Crichton opened their island-style eatery in Provo, after they came to the area for grad school. Now the business is run by their children, and, according to daughter Omai Crichton, Sweet’s does its best to cater to all the different islands with its unique offerings. Menu favorites include the weekly Polynesian Plate, Kalua Pork, Katsu Chicken, Teriyaki BBQ Chicken and more.
410 N. University Ave., Provo, thaivillageprovo.com (another Thai Village is located in American Fork)
If options are your thing, Thai Village in Provo has an ample menu available to make sure you have access to anything and everything Thai that you might be craving. From an impressive variety of curries to fried rice, noodles, soups and Pad Thai, the options are plentiful and they don’t end with the main dish. You can finish off your meal with a choice of sweet rice and mango, fried banana or even a Thai pancake.