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West Valley City • Geographically speaking, it's a tad head-scratching to encounter more sushi restaurants than steakhouses in the Salt Lake Valley.

Most available options cater to the top and bottom of the market, and if you want to splurge, downtown offers several fine steakhouses. There are plenty of options in the lower price brackets, too, but I always feel uncomfortable handing over my hard-earned money to national chains, especially those involving the words "all you can eat."

Enter Stockmens Steakhouse of West Valley City, local operators with reasonable pricing.

The restaurant sits a hop, skip and jump from the Maverik Center, and is attached to the 'Bout Time Pub and Grill, with which it shares a kitchen and full bar. Stockmens' decor has a relaxed-upscale feel, decorated in warm red and brown tones accented with western-themed accessories.

An evening meal begins with complimentary bread. What could have been a wonderful, sensory-pleasing kickstart to the meal fell utterly flat. Stockmens offers limp, unremarkable rolls, with an accompanying pat of faux-butter, instead of piping hot, aromatic bread. If first impressions are everything, this seemed like an ill-advised point in the meal to skimp.

Appetizers didn't spark much more excitement. An order of coconut shrimp ($9) was largely formulaic— eight coconut crusted and fried shrimp on a bed of redundant cabbage. A side of plum sauce helped stir things to life, but not much. Calamari ($8) was better, if a mite unusual in preparation, coming as long, thin fried strips, cut from a larger calamari steak.

Quirkiness continued with the shrimp cocktail ($9) — eight cooked, chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, bizarrely presented atop a chunk of blue-hued ice. Stuffed mushrooms ($9) were the highlight of the appetizers, a small tray of mushroom caps filled with crab and topped with cream and Swiss cheese. Gooey and creamy, they were a standout for our table.

For lighter starters, the restaurant also serves soups and salads, but not without complications. A lobster bisque ($7) seemed as chintzy as the complimentary bread — thick enough to eat with a fork and featuring nary a bite or hint of luscious lobster. The wedge salad ($4) accompanying a steak was fresh, crispy and generous with toppings on one visit, but the restaurant was perplexingly out of the same item at 7:30 p.m. on a subsequent Saturday evening.

Unlike high-end steakhouses, where sides cost more, Stockmens provides one free with every steak ($3 for each extra side order), with a variety of options, such as grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onion, baked potato (loaded an extra $1), rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. Curiously, there's no steak fry, French fry, frite, shoestring, skinny or thick fry option.

For a little extra you can gussy up your entree, by adding a lobster tail ($10), snow crab ($8), salmon filet ($7) or requesting the dish Oscar- style, with Bernaise sauce, asparagus, crab, ($6). A full pound and a quarter of snow crab ($20) can also be ordered as an entree, which was largely excellent despite a poor imitation of drawn butter on the side. A pair of lobster tails can also be ordered ($26) as a whole entree, or a whole range of chicken and pork items.

And the steaks: Over the course of several visits I worked my way through a variety of cuts, sizes and temperatures, such as the filet mignon (petite $18, large $22), ribeye (19-ounce, $19) and New York strip (12 ounce, $19). A steakhouse lives or dies by the pricing, quality and preparation of their steak. I couldn't initially fault the pricing, as I don't recall the last time I ordered a filet mignon (petite cut) for $18 in a steakhouse.

Lower prices demand a lower quality cut though, and while the steaks were acceptable, they were anything but exceptional. "USDA choice" is mentioned on the menu, but only briefly. Preparation seemed to be a fluid affair, as on one visit our waitress remained table side to check on the temperature of steaks before departing. On another visit, the waitress couldn't run away fast enough, and that time, lo and behold, we were served an undercooked steak.

Which leads neatly to service: Through my visits, I experienced service varying from eager and friendly to downright curt. During one meal, each shellfish dish ordered arrived stone cold. Alerted to this, our waitress was apologetic, and the situation was smoothly cleared up by the manager. Mistakes happen in all kitchens and it was great to see someone step up, apologize, and rectify the mistake.

At other times, however, the service staff seemed harassed, rushed and under trained. One evening, spoon in hand, happily eating her own dessert, our waitress demanded ''are you going to finish that?" seemingly in a rush to have us on our way.

Desserts ($6) were the saving grace of every meal, each sweet bite ranging from good to great. A chocolate turtle molten bundt cake was rich, and avoided the all-too-often pitfall of dryness, by serving the molten chocolate poured into the middle of the bundt. A caramel apple cobbler was mighty fine, especially when served a la mode. Bread pudding skewed to the mushier end of the spectrum, punctuated with dried fruity and cinnamon notes, while a mango/guava cheesecake was a satisfying mix of citrus and creaminess.

Stockmens presented a frustrating mix of highs and lows, and there doesn't seem to be an obvious reason why a perfectly tweaked steakhouse couldn't thrive in this location. A little less cost-cutting would go a long way, as would more consistent food preparation and customer service.

With Stockmens current offerings, as I sat listening to the cheers and shouting erupting from the adjoining bar one evening, I longed to be next door with the happy revelers, while I also hoped this locally owned restaurant would soon live up to its potential.

Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Stuart Melling blogs at Send comments to —


Stockmens Steakhouse

Food • HH

Mood • HH

Service • Hhj

Noise • bb

This reasonably priced, locally-owned restaurant brings a relaxed steakhouse vibe to the 'burbs. Affordable steaks and fine desserts are the draw, but the food and service needs attention.

Location • 3318 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley; 801-975-0529

Online •

Hours • Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. -2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. -10 p.m.; Saturdays, 3-11 p.m.

Price • $$

Children's menu • Yes

Takeout • Yes

Liquor: • Full service

Reservations • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

Onsite parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major credit cards

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