Evening dinner restaurant review
Overall: Decadent and Luxurious
Ambiance: Old-school steakhouse
Service: Professional and knowledgeable
It is very rare that I order steak in most restaurants these days. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops. Such was the revelatory nature of my first visit to Spencer’s several years ago, that now most other steaks just do not compare. These days when it comes to steak, prime, aged steak is the only thing that satisfies my carnivorous cravings. Whilst not cheap, or diet friendly, Spencer’s is a class above.
The ambiance of Spencer’s is very old school. Low levels of lighting illuminate a dark wood-paneled room replete with tall intimate booths. White-clothed tables sit in the centre of the room circling a glass framed private dining space for larger parties. Jazz and Swing are played discretely as background music. This is one of my favourite dining spaces in Utah, it’s classy and understated.
A touch more casual and well lit, the front area of Spencer’s features a bar and booth seating. On this visit we happened to be down town a few hours before our planned dinner time, so we propped ourselves up at the elegant bar to kick back and enjoy a drink or two. As you would expect, the bar offers an extensive array of liquor and a good selection of wines by the glass. You are also free to order off the full Spencer’s menu and eat at the bar for a more casual experience.
This particular evening the bar tender recommend a glass of the Helix ($12), a super smooth red wine blend. While we sat at the bar, we also decided to share the Prawn and Crab Cocktail ($15.95) from the bar lunch menu. I am not sure when or if the bar menu ends, but we ordered without issue at around 6:00 p.m.
The chilled cocktail consisted of three jumbo prawns and lump crab meat atop a large bowl of ice. The seafood was also accompanied by a red seafood sauce and an excellent sweet pickle-laden tartar sauce. The cocktail was fresh and delicious. We had plans elsewhere before dinner so we settled our tab and made our goodbyes to the bar tender.
We returned a couple of hours later with steaks on our minds. After being graciously welcomed back by the host and our friendly bar tender, Marc, we were led to a splendid high-backed booth towards the rear of the restaurant. After selecting a bottle of still water, we eagerly perused the wine list.
Spencer’s features an exhaustive wine list with options from all over the globe. With such an expansive and potentially intimidating menu, it is imperative that staff be trained to guide you appropriately. In my experience the staff at Spencer’s are expertly trained. Our recent visit was a perfect example of this. We selected an Oregon Pinot Noir (I forget which exactly) priced at around $80. Our waiter recommended we order a slightly cheaper bottle of the Adelsheim Pinot Noir ($65), which he pointed out was a better example of Oregon Pinot. A very welcome touch, a waiter down-selling as opposed to up-selling!
As you can see from the picture, crusty warm bread is also served. I will come to our actual entree choices shortly, but first I should note that all entrees at Spencer’s come with a dinner salad as standard:
The salad is basic, consisting of lettuce, croutons and a ‘ribbon’ of parmesan, and dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. For a small fee, one is also free to substitute this for one of the more interesting salad options. Wendi took full advantage of this, choosing the Iceberg wedge with blue cheese. Based on both our previous experiences and our waiters handy tip, we knew to only order a half portion. “Half” Iceberg Salad with Bleu:
Even this half sized salad was large. It was nearly a half head of iceberg lettuce liberally covered in bleu cheese.
Spencer’s main attraction is, of course, the steak. The standard menu offers all the expected cuts like rib eye, filet and various strips. As you would expect from a premium steakhouse, these can all be prepared in various styles such as Oscar, au poivre and so forth. Should you be a Spencer’s virgin your server will happily regale you with lengthy information on their meat source and preparation technique. To cut what can be a long story short, that is USDA certified prime grade beef from Chicago, dry aged and cooked under an infra-red broiler at 1800 degrees.
In addition to the standard steaks on the menu, Spencer’s also offers a number of nightly specials. These are typically special bone-in steak options, which allow for greater flavour intensity. These specials can also get rather pricey. On this particular night, the Surf and Turf Special ($96) caught our eye.
This special was designed for two to share. The 16 ounces of bone-in rib eye and 18 ounces of king crab legs were shared equally between two plates. The steaks were originally presented Oscar-style with the special, but we requested our bernaise sauce on the side. Each steak came topped with lump crab meat and a single asparagus spear. Drawn butter was also brought out for the crab legs.
Not exactly heart healthy, but hey if your going to splurge you may as well do it properly! Which is why we also opted for the delicious side of Skillet of Burgundy Mushrooms ($8.25):
The button mushrooms were bathed in a buttery-rich burgundy sauce, again upping the calorific nature of the meal. Heaven. Sides are served family style at Spencer’s, so do be warned if dining solo or as a couple. The plate of ‘Spencer’s Fries’ for example is mountainous in size.
As for the food itself, the steaks were perfectly cooked (ordered medium), a must for a steakhouse in this price range. Bursting with flavour and possessing a beautifully slightly charred exterior. The crab legs were also excellent, as good as any I have tasted. If your going to spend serious cash on serious food, you need to trust in the kitchen. I’ve never had anything less than perfect at Spencer’s. As I have touched on in other reviews, being able to trust in a consistently excellent kitchen can be a priceless.
Service as ever was formidable. The staff manage to balance the oh-so-difficult mix of professional and warmly welcoming. On every visit to Spencer’s I have found it clear that the staff know the menu inside out. I have dined in large and small groups, with friends, and with family, and the service has always been first rate. The staff are patient and expertly field queries about what can be a frankly confusing array of steaks and preparations. The wait staff at Spencer’s could also be said to be old school, like the decor, treating the position of wait staff as a serious professional endeavour. And it shows.
Spencer’s may be expensive (and dangerous on the waistline), but in my mind it is worth every last penny. Next time your looking for a restaurant for that special occasion, I heartily recommend heading on down to the Hilton and checking out Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.