Historic buildings lock arms around modern structures, a blend of a sublimely walkable, hyperlocal main drag and testaments to a vibrant and fast-growing economy. The wide thoroughfare of the formidable University Avenue intersects with the tree-lined Center Street; were it not for the line of parked contemporary cars you'd think you had stepped back in time gazing on ornamental cornices and decorative facades from another age in architectural design. An unexpected number of those storefronts lure us off the sidewalk with the promise of satiating our sweet tooth -- but more on that in a moment.
Where are we, anyway? Downtown Provo, the metropolitan and cultural heart of Utah County, is home to the largest student body population in the state of Utah between the private Brigham Young University and the public Utah Valley University, in neighboring Orem. The walkable Center Street in Provo presents an array of ultra-compact local shopping, dining and entertaining, unlike almost any other town. There are more than 50 local restaurants and shops across a wide range of international experiences and flavors, and none of them are chain establishments. What's going on here? The LDS church attracts international converts and missionaries who bring an array of experiences and tastes to the town.
This is what a community feels like, and this is why Provo made Expedia's list of North America's Coolest Downtowns. And what the community sacrifices in revenue being mostly closed for business on Sundays, it makes up for in the quality, handmade confections Monday through Saturday, and we're talking sugar in both liquid and solid forms. We've set out on a walk today in search of some of the city's best treats. We were not disappointed.
Pro Tip: Come for the rooftop concerts and hang around for the downtown scene.
Where to go to:
Try that Kro-Nut you 've heard so much about:
Remember when New Yorkers lined up around the block for the original croissant-doughnut hybrid at the Dominique Ansel's Bakery? That Cronut® is trademarked, but Bianca's La Petite French Bakery offers a Kro-Nut you won't want to miss. Cream-filled versions such as dulce de leche, lemon, Bavarian and Nutella complicate your decision making, and I haven't even mentioned the array of colorful macaroons, European desserts, old-fashioned ice cream and lunch menu using, you guessed it, croissants for bread.
Bianca's La Petite French Bakery
90 West Center Street
Provo, UT 84601
M-W 8 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Th-Sa 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Experience the best chocolate you 've ever tasted:
If you're not "experiencing" chocolate, you may not be doing it right. The modern wave of artisan chocolate making in America is built around a combination of the cocoa bean's unique terroir, master craftsmanship andyour own subjective experience. At the epicenter of this wave is Utah, and Taste is here to guide you through it. While you could just stop for a couple of single-origin bars (among others, we left with the 75% Venezuelan Chuao and the 75% Peruvian Amazonas bars and quickly rediscovered the value of side-by-side tasting as different waves of berries and spices embraced our palette), book ahead for Taste's MO: guided tastings through chocolate, cheese, fondue, afternoon tea service and more.
117 N University Ave.
Provo, Utah 84601
M-Sa 11-9 and until 9:30 on Fridays.
Get handmade ice cream properly cradled in a handmade cone:
You have to love the smell of sugar in the air: caramelizing, baking, dissolving into the richness of chocolate or warm, floral vanilla and 16% butterfat while brighter flares of fruit and honey dance around the perimeter. This is walking into Rockwell Old Fashioned Ice Cream, whose bright, open cafe welcomes all the senses. Yes, you may sample some of the singular flavors (honeycomb!) before settling on the one scoop to rule them all, but don't skimp on the cone and opt for the house-made upgrade; it feels -- and tastes -- exactly right.
Rockwell Old Fashioned Ice Cream
43 N University Ave.
Provo, UT 84601
M-Th 11-10 and F-Sa 11-11
Eat cookie dough:
Without further explanation, you might find yourself already en route. But let's just say edible cookie dough is the dessert option you deserve, even if it's not the one you need. Made fresh every day, Dulce Cookie Dough's menu of scoops, bites and shakes covers the spectrum from Classic Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal and Snickerdoodle to the decadent (in taste and appearance) Cookie Dough Monster, Nutella Love and Caramel Marshmallow Brownie. There are also rotating mystery flavors and gluten free options. It's popular, and things can sellout.
Dulce Cookie Dough
286 North University Ave.
Provo, UT 84601
M-Th 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Shorter hours in winter.
Share a piña loca like the one you had in Mexico:
Fruit can also satisfy a sweet tooth, but it helps when mango, watermelon, candied tamarind, peanuts and that sweet-savory condiment called Chamoy join the fun. This is what puts the crazy into the pineapple. On the saner side of the menu, check out the bionico, a fruit salad hailing from Mexico's Jalisco state (otherwise made famous by a renowned blue agave-derivedspirit) that marries an array of fruits with the textures of granola and raisins and sweet crema. The tres leches is also very nice. On a warm day, keep it simple with mangoneadas (mango popsicle) and raspado (shaved ice). Oh, and if you're really nostalgic for your trip to Mexico, start things off with authentic elotes (grilled street corn) and chicharrones (fried pork skins).
198 Center Street
Provo, Utah 84601
M-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until midnight on Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday.
Written by Visit Utah for Utah Office of Tourism.