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.
Spencer’s For Steak and Chops is located in the Hilton Hotel downtown at 255 S, W Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV shows.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for the better part of fifteen years. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”. Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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12 thoughts on “Spencers for Steak and Chops restaurant review”
Not to push the issue, but what makes you think the meat is “dry” aged? It never has been in the past. It doesn’t taste dry aged. The current menu doesn’t have the word “dry” on it anywhere. It is “wet aged” just like Ruth’s Chris and Flemings. When you can get people to believe it’s dry aged by using the word “aged” and still charge dollars per ounce for the water that doesn’t exist in dry aged beef, why dry age it?
Obviously a lot of people don’t know what dry aged actually tastes like.
Whilst on this trip I didn’t have the full length explanation from the server on their beef, I have on past trips.
I could have sworn that they claimed to use at least 21 day dry aged beef on past visits. In fact I had this very discussion with someone else only recently (in the industry) who said very much the same thing as me.
Maybe we were both wrong, the spencer’s site for sure does not specifically detail their ageing process.
I still say it’s the best steak in SLC for me anyway.
I’ve always liked Spencer’s a lot as well. I think Ruth’s Chris does a better tenderloin, Spencer’s is best for everything else. I’ve been waiting for someplace in Utah to do Dry Aged. I always call and ask. They always couch their aging process in such a way that you will think it’s dry aged — unless you ask them point blank. There was a period of about 18 months that the Steak Pit at Snowbird did A dry aged steak. The rest were not, and they made it clear about the dry aged one. However, they discontinued it saying the market would not support the extra cost of the meat.
Ruth’s Chris is proud they only wet age their meat. As a chain, they don’t like the flavors of dry. Places like Capitol Grill are dry aged in some markets and wet in others. Same thing with Morton’s, Palm, S&W and Delmonico’s.
You may already be aware, but Harmons Grocery Stores now offer Dry-Aged beef in their meat case at most stores (I know the Brickyard one does). I can’t vouce for the flavor, as I’ve yet to shell out the bucks for it, but it’s certainly an eye-catching display.
I recently paid a visit to Flemings as I hadn’t been in a number of years and for the price it just didn’t hold up at all to Spencers.
Danny: I noticed the dry aged meat at the Brickyard Harmons also, that’s my local grocery store.
As soon as the summer starts properly (which is soon hopefully) I intend to buy similar cuts from Sniders butchers and the Harmons dry aged range, for a good old blind taste testing!
Rod: Let me know if you do ever find a restaurant offering genuine dry aged beef. Genuine imported Kobe as well!
Will do. I’ve bought the AUS Wegyau from Lobel’s in NYC. There was a time — during the olympics when Spencer’s carried Wegyau (they called it Kobe).
I’ve tried the Harmon’s dry aged. It’s very good.
Looks like the only place to offer a dry aged steak in Utah is in Ogden. Rickenbackers. We went there over the weekend. Their Filet with organic herbed roasted red potatoes with reduction (?) sauce was a 10. Pistachio crusted halibut on butternut squash and goats cheese raviolis was also delicious. Brandy soaked peach cobbler was a hit as well. One of the best restaurants in the state may very well be in Ogden.
Does anyone know why Ruth’s Chris has closed in SLC?
I don’t think SLC could support it in the end. I never really ever see Spencers packed out, and if memory serves, Ruths Chris was way bigger.
Ted mentions in last week’s city weekly that Ruth’s Chris was a casualty of the implosion of Gene Kwon and his whole Latitude Restaurant Group. He said another entity is looking into re-opening the SLC franchise, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Stu is right that it just won’t draw enough people in SLC.
It’d be a brave person who put their hard earned cash behind a high end, premium priced steak house in today’s climate.
Let alone the compounded problem of SLC’s smaller high end dining market.