Long Life Vegi House. I have no clue how long it has been there, or any of the history of the place, all I know is that it is an institution for Utah vegetarians. I've been veg for 16 years and it's been there at least that long. Not sure if it has ever been verified, but I've heard the same people may own both this restaurant and the one in Berkeley by the same name. This place is frequented so much my local veg's that everyone I have ever talked to has a favorite waitress with whom they almost share a personal bond, mine was always Sally. She spoke little english and was here with her husband while he went to the U for Engineering. She ditched us and went to Texas when he graduated. Sally rocked!
So here is the gist of Long Life (as it is most commonly referred). If you didn't know exactly where it was or somehow missed the huge sign out front, you would never find it. Nestled off the street behind some of the most overgrown shrubs and crazy ass rose bushes you have ever seen, in a building that from the outside would sketch out any building inspector, is one of the best chinese vegetarian restaurants you will ever find. Once you make your way inside, you are almost always greeted by the same lady on every visit, she's not the owner but a friend of his from China (these were her words). She is almost always wearing the same pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans and I have never seen her without a huge smile. Her english is still extremely broken, even though she's been here for decades, but she understands English perfectly and will carry on long drawn out conversations with you if you strike one up with her.
You get water immediately and the waiter is right there ready to take your order in an instant. Food comes out amazingly fast as well. And speaking of food..... once you open the menu, you will notice that it is broken up into several different categories: Family style, starters, vegetarian beef, vegetarian chicken, seafood, noodles & rice. Please be sure to ask about what is vegan or not though, not everything is.
My suggestions are as follows:
You must start with the hot & sour soup and then the spring rolls (they are fried in enough oil to fill a kiddie pool at a frat party, but damn they are good). The beef they use is scarily real, my wife won't even eat it because the texture is a bit too real for her, but the beef in black bean sauce is amazing. The chicken is what we always seem to go for when we visit. You cannot go wrong with their Kung Pao, the spiciness always varies by the day you visit, but it is always a great mix of faux chicken, celery, peanuts, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts covered in spicy Kung Pao sauce. My time is also split between the cashew chicken and the lemon chicken. The lemon is deep fried and covered in sweet lemon sauce, so unless you like it sweet, I suggest going with the cashew, which is much more mellow.
Although it is listed with all the main dishes, for dessert you cannot leave without having the walnut dish. Think candied walnuts done somewhat Chinese style....they are amazing, but sweet and definitely a dessert to share.
Be sure not to miss the lunch specials. It's been a while since I've ben in for lunch, but it used to be only $5.99 from 11am - 2pm and you'd get your choice of many different regular menu items, plus soup and a spring roll. It's a veg special you can't beat and probably why the lunch special is infamous with local vegetarians.
Honestly, you will be hard pressed to find anything on the menu you do not like, Long Life is amazing and this is evident by the number of years they have been in business and the numerous generations of vegetarians they have been serving. The above recommendations are just my staples, every so often I pick something new however and I have never been disappointed. If you swing by, please share your thoughts with me, i'd love to know your favorites as well.