Food is as diverse as people in Salt Lake City’s west side 

Story and photos by MARTIN KUPRIANOWICZ

Rise by Good Day

Rise by Good Day is Salt Lake City’s only Polish market.

The cuisine on the west side of Salt Lake City is as diverse as its people. In a portion of a city that’s nestled between the desert and the mountains, you can find restaurants with styles of food and owners from almost all continents. Because, no matter what corner of the world you find yourself in, you will realize that food is not only a necessity — it is a way of life.

The Horn of Africa is run by a friendly Somali family. When patrons walk into the restaurant in the Glendale neighborhood they encounter intoxicating aromas of east African spices. They might also see someone praying in the corner, depending on the time of day. 

“My mother is a good cook, so it is only natural for her to open a restaurant here. Food is a big part of life in Somalia,” Kabar Gedi said.

Gedi moved to Utah from Somalia with his family 12 years ago. They have owned and operated their restaurant for six years.

The restaurant is located in an industrial-looking part of town. Halimo Omar — the chef and Gedi’s mother — recommended a traditional Somali goat dish served with rice and a spicy, green sauce. Goat has a chewier, leaner consistency than other meats Americans typically eat. 

Gedi explained to a customer that a nomadic lifestyle is still practiced by much of the population in Somalia.

horn of africa

The Horn of Africa had this painting inside the restaurant. Much of the population in Somali is still nomadic. 

“What a car is to you is like what a camel is to us over there,” he said. “And camel milk is very, very good.”

The diversity of food and people in this part of town is easy to see. Just a few blocks south from The Horn of Africa is Rise by Good Day — a Polish market and family-owned restaurant operated by Christine Mason. It is Salt Lake City’s only Polish market.

The shop is a small 600-square-foot unit on the ground floor of an office building in Poplar Grove on Salt Lake City’s west side. The market sells only authentic goods and freshly prepared dishes like pierogi, polish sausage with cabbage, and red beet soup. It recently celebrated its second anniversary in December 2019.

Mason was raised by Polish parents in the cultural hub of Chicago. She moved to Salt Lake City after marrying a Utah native. Mason worked for a catering business for seven years before fulfilling her dreams of owning a restaurant and market that sells what she said is the best kind of food.

“You can cook Polish food but if you’re using American products it turns out just slightly different,” Mason said.

That’s why Mason said all of her market’s food is shipped in weekly from Polish grocers in Chicago. This keeps the dishes she serves, the ingredients she sells, and the pastries she bakes authentically Polish.

During a recent visit, the week’s most popular item was pączki (pronounced pon-shki).

Pączki are the Polish versions of jelly-filled doughnuts, which are less greasy than traditional American doughnuts. The ones Mason makes are so popular that she sold over 2,000 that week alone.

“We had a line in here last Tuesday all day long. I was back in the kitchen frying [oączki] until about 6:00 at night until we finally had to close the doors,” Mason said.

Travel a few more blocks north to the corner of Redwood Road and North Temple and you’ll pass by an assortment of ethnic food restaurants ranging from South American-style cafes to Asian markets. One dining option is The Star of India — a colorful, family-owned Indian restaurant with a full bar, lunch buffet, and a menu of succulent tandoori and curry dishes.

The Kaur family has owned the restaurant since 1990. It was once located downtown, but due to heavy competition, the family decided to relocate their restaurant to the inside of the Ramada Inn four years ago.

Param Kaur manages the restaurant and her father — Avatar — is its chef.

“He’s back there, in the kitchen, all day, every day,” Param said. “He loves what he does, and because of that, the food here is really good. Especially the spinach — you can’t go wrong with that.”

One dish that is particularly popular is the naan bread. It’s a simple flatbread that is served as an appetizer or alongside other dishes, but the way it is made at The Star of India is unique when compared to other Indian restaurants in Salt Lake City. 

Param said their recipe calls for a softer flour and is cooked in a traditional clay oven. It’s a technique that her father has been refining since his youth in India.

So, if you venture to the west side of Salt Lake City with a hungry stomach and an open mind, you will find people who look different than you but have something that everybody has in common — we all love to eat.