Those who grew up in the South know there’s nothing quite like a bowl of creamy grits — so versatile that you can eat it at any meal, on its own or with something else, savory or sweet.
But where can you find the Southern staple in Salt Lake City — and a decent version at that?
After reading hundreds of reviews and conducting informal polls among some of Utah’s foodies, we talked to four restaurants that consistently received positive feedback from Utahns and Southerners alike.
We can’t promise they’ll taste just like Mom’s, but you might be pleasantly surprised.
Although it’s only on the dinner menu, the shrimp and grits ($29) is one of Current’s best-selling dishes, said Alan Brines, executive chef and director of operations.
It’s not surprising why. In reviews, patrons say the grits have the “perfect texture,” “blew me away,” and was “one of the best [shrimp and grits] I’ve ever had, and I’m a good Southerner.”
Brines uses yellow corn grits from Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, which he cooks in a 5:1 ratio of water and heavy cream to grain.
“Then we just simmer them,” he said. “They are not the quick grits, they’re the cook ’em on the stovetop for about 45 minutes until the grits are soft. And then we just finish ‘em with some butter and some Cabot white cheddar … from Vermont.”
He tops them with prawns, house-smoked pork belly, piperade and cherry tomatoes — for a “really traditional Southern dish,” especially in the Gulf States.
“[It] just kind of all comes together — super, super hardy and comfort food.”
At Hub & Spoke, the kitchen makes the grits — white, stoneground — before anything else because they take the longest to cook, general manager Ted Ripko said. The recipe calls for cream and butter, with yellow cheddar added tableside when ordered as a side or stand-alone dish ($2.99).
Ripko said people seek out the restaurant specifically for the grits.
“There’s just not a lot of places in town that are going to serve a true Southern-style grit, and if they do, normally it’s going to be a quick grit and not the hourlong process that it takes to make our grits.”
The shrimp and grits ($13.99, available all day) also features the cheesy porridge, as well as andouille sausage, leeks, pickled peppers and tomato. No matter the meal, the item is one of the diner’s most popular dishes — with reviewers describing it as “full of flavor,” “to die for” and “incredibly rich and delicious.”
“We even have guests that come in in the morning and order their grits without the cheddar cheese, and they put [in] brown sugar and butter, or they put jelly in it to make it a sweeter, sweet-style grits,” he said.
Hub & Spoke also has a vegan grit skillet ($10.99); the centerpiece is cake-style grits made with coconut milk, refrigerated overnight, cut into triangles and deep fried. It comes with oyster mushrooms, cauliflower sauce, leeks, roasted tomato, pickled peppers and baby kale.
Vegans and non-vegans love it, Ripko said. “It’s a very popular dish, and it’s unique, as far as what you’re going to find in most diners throughout the city.”
You won’t find stoneground grits at Lazy Day Cafe. Anthony Fabela, the kitchen manager, said they’re too temperamental and time-consuming. Instead, the cafe serves instant white grits with white hominy, butter, half and half, and salt.
Diners don’t seem to notice the difference, calling the grits “seasoned to perfection” and “phenomenal.”
The trick to good grits? Just keep whisking.
“We use nonstick pans just because [grits] will stick really crazy to stainless steel pans,” Fabela said. “… So we just have rubber-coated whisks that we use specifically for the grits, and we just keep them whisking the entire time they’re cooking.”
Lazy Day offers a shrimp and grits entree ($11), which includes spicy shrimp, bacon and tomato over cheesy grits. Diners also can swap the grits out for another side item or purchase them separately ($2) — with or without cheese.
Fabela said the regular grits used to be the most popular. “But in this last year, all of a sudden, we’re selling way more cheesy grits.”
From “slap ya mama good” to “literally the most delicious, feel good, willing to gain 10 pounds” for, Tradition’s grits have earned resounding endorsements.
Chef Max Shrives’ recipe is really straightforward, said fellow co-owner Ashton Aragon. Using the best ingredients possible — a yellow cornmeal milled in Utah and purchased at Caputo’s Market and Deli — makes all the difference.
“People wonder how we make them and how we get them the consistency and everything we do, but I mean, it’s really not rocket science, they’re pretty basic,” Aragon said. “They’re just made with really good, quality ingredients, and they’re made fresh.”
Some people assume there is cheese in the grits, Aragon said. “But it’s just cream, butter — lots of butter — and salt.”
“So they’re not that healthy, but they taste good.”
Tradition offers its grits as a side with any entree or as a stand-alone item ($5). Occasionally, the menu has featured a cauliflower and grits appetizer, too.
While the grits are available only during dinner, Aragon said they will make them for brunch upon request. So ask!
Tradition • 501 E. 900 South, 385-202-7167, https://www.traditionslc.com/, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Outside of Salt Lake City, other top recommendations included:
● Joe’s Cafe, Orem
● Localz Bistro, Sandy
● Porch Restaurant, South Jordan
● Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen, Draper