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Dining Out: Neil's Halibut & Broiler

Published: Friday, May 20 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

My husband came home recently talking about a new shopping and dining area in Draper, called Draper Peaks. He thought we might want to cruise down there and check it out with an eye to discovering new restaurants.

Well, Draper Peaks is still a work in progress, culinarily speaking. Aside from a Kohl's department store and a Payless Shoe Source, there's not much there yet.

I'm sure that in no time they'll be filled with cellular-phone providers, LDS-themed bookstores and some restaurants, but for now, those looking for a unique and tasty dining experience will just have to head across the street to the neighborhood standard: Neil's Halibut & Broiler.

Extremely nondescript on the outside, Neil's bursts with personality inside, with cunningly painted walls and ceilings that resemble the way the surface of water looks when you're sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool. Painted seaweed undulates up the walls, and fish of every description, from realistic to a big stuffed Nemo, dangle overhead.

The atmosphere is more than matched by the food, which in the case of Neil's specialties is of the highest quality. The cooks at Neil's cut their own fish, shrimp and chicken and make their own beer batter in which to hand-dip those items, with results just as good as that sounds.

I appreciate Neil's providing napkin dispensers at each table. We went through a ton as we plowed our way through our mostly deep-fried, often delightfully goopy, meal.

Neil's has a nice kids menu, and our kids were able to have a cheeseburger, chicken strips and shrimp, which they ended up trading back and forth. The cheeseburger was browned and juicy on a soft, floury bun, and the chicken and shrimp were delicious: lean and moist chicken, sweet and tender shrimp and a golden-brown batter coating that is uniformly rich and crisp no matter what it's covering.

My husband had the two-piece chicken, two-piece halibut combo. This meal, served with steak fries, featured more of that excellent breading-covered chicken and thick-cut, flaky halibut with not a hint of dryness.

I had the Saturday special, the lobster roll. Definitely one of the best buys on the menu at $4.99, it's a hefty 8-inch toasted roll filled with grilled lobster meat covered with melted Swiss cheese, as well as lobster sauce, lettuce and tomato. Each bite was an explosion of good flavors: sweet lobster, savory-salty cheese, veggies and the buttery, tangy sauce. The toasting is a great detail that holds the sandwich together and gives a little extra flavor and personality.

Instead of fries, I asked for a cup of Neil's coleslaw. Neil's version is a bracing and refreshing departure from the creamy-dressed kind, with a light, sweet-vinegary dressing and a sprinkling of poppy seeds.

We shared an order of onion rings. I sort of wish they were beer-battered — apparently I can't get enough of a good thing — but these were among the nicest crumb-coated rings I've had, hot and sweet with thick slices of onion. Set in the middle of our table, they disappeared in about two minutes. I liked them best dipped in Neil's strong and creamy fry sauce.

For dessert, we shared a nicely flavored chocolate shake, which was so stiff it was hard to pull out the spoon; a huge chocolate-frosted cakey brownie and an even more huge chocolate-chip cookie.

Deep-fried items $4.99-$10.65, grilled seafood $7.10-$10.50, burgers and sandwiches $2.20-$5.50, kids' meals $3.90-$5.70, sides and salads $1.20-$7.95, soup $2.50-$3, daily specials $4.99-$19.95.

Neil's Halibut & Broiler

Rating: ***

Where: 112 E. 12300 South, Draper

Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sunday

Payment: Cash, credit cards

Phone: 571-5527


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com

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