Our City + State

7 Things We Love About Central City

6/29/2021 | Katie Bald
Kerri Fukui + Big Bear Photo Co.

Just east of Downtown and practically spooning with the University lies Central City: a 'hood that's ideal for those who want the quiet, communal feel of The Aves without sacrificing the convenience of city living. Homes here range from historic multi-family to stoic new-builds, but nearly all of them are within a stone's throw of some of SLC's most notable perks. This bustling area is a mixture of local businesses and quiet, unassuming streets for a "best of both worlds" kind of win. Pop out to a park, grab a patio seat, or hop the TRAX to the University...those lucky enough to live here are close to just about all the goods this city's got.

1. Trolley Square. This old streetcar hub was converted into a shopping center in 1972, and the combination of indoor/outdoor space, brickwork, stairways, and local businesses make it one of SLC’s most endearing spots to shop (Weller Book Works, Cabin Fever, Tabula Rasa, Hive Market, and Normal Ice Cream’s adorable truck included). Our favorite part: the water tower out front glows with both weather-forecasting neon and a healthy dose of charm.

2. Public Library. Designed by Moshe Safdie and completed in 2003, the Downtown Public Library is a true work of art. The five-story structure—with a curved, glass, north-facing wall and rooftop garden that holds multiple beehives—holds half a million books as well as shops, a cafe, multi-level reading areas, fireplaces on four levels, and an auditorium. The whole thing is situated on Library Square: a public plaza with peaceful, urban green space.

3. Food! In truth, one of the greatest aspects of this neighborhood is its relative proximity to good food in just about every direction. Whether you’re on the hunt for a burger (helloooo, Crown Burgers), Greek (The Other Place), a cozy-casual brunch (yes, you, Cafe Niche), or a vegan jackfruit burrito (a la Bud’s), chances are you’ll find what you seek in these streets. A few more noteworthy tried-and-trues: Rye, HSL, Gourmandise, Oasis Cafe, Yoko Ramen, Stanza, Oquirrh, Coffee Noir.

4. Community gardens. We adore a mid-city, public green space, and this sector of SLC has no shortage of ‘em. Wasatch Community Gardens has several beautiful plots around the city, including centralized patches like The Grateful Tomato Garden, the 4th East Garden, and the Off-Broadway Community Garden. For an experience that’s equal parts Utah culture-rich and a total trip, it’s hard to beat Gilgal Sculpture Garden. Created by Thomas Battersby Child Jr. throughout the 20th century, the garden contains 12 original sculptural arrangements and over 70 stone slabs engraved with scriptural, philosophical, and poetic text. Weird? Very. But an absolute must-see-at-least-once for any Salt Laker.

5. Ken Sanders Rare Books. Home to some self-professed “dangerously leany stacks & cozy wandering aisles,” this bookshop feels more like the cluttered library of an old friend than a Barnes & Noble...and that’s precisely why we like it. Ken Sanders (an eclectic and delightful person who you can learn more about in this video) has acquired over 100,000 tomes during his lifetime of collecting and, in the process, his book shop has become widely recognized as a fantastic place to find what you didn’t even know you were looking for. The exterior mural invites passersby to “come in and remember what a book smells like,” and upon entering, you’ll find the message is, if anything, underselling the sentiment. This library holds scores of antique novels, biographies, photo and art books, and a large section reserved for the history of the American West (including more than a little information on Utah pioneers’ less-family-friendly years). Whether you’re ducking in to escape the rain, perusing the stacks after brunch, or looking for an exceptional and uncommon gift, these good, bookish vibes are hard to beat.

 6. Banbury Cross. We know, we know…we already took a moment to shout out the good food of this ‘hood. But, let it be known that this hole-y establishment deserves its very own passage, as the dough slung within these walls is absolutely legendary in this city. Virtually any kind of donut can be found here, from Maple Bars and Crullers to Bear Claws and lemon-filled, but real ones know that a plain glazed from Banbury is absolutely outtasite.
 Unrelated bonus: if you walk north just a few steps north from Banbury, you'll bump into the Dollar Barber Shop, a neighborhood staple that we blogged about over 10 years ago...check out our adorable, old-timey blog here!

7. The Leonardo Museum. Housed in a striking, modern structure adjacent to Downtown’s Salt Lake Public Library (another equally stunning building), The Leonardo Museum explores the intersection of science, art, and technology through smartly curated displays and hands-on experiences. In addition to offering renowned traveling exhibits, the museum also puts on plenty of fun events like supper clubs, cocktail nights, and kids’ camps.

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