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Dining out: Gecko's

Published: Friday, June 9 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

SOUTH JORDAN — There's nothing high-concept about Gecko's.

This pleasant little west-side eatery has good service, a casual vibe and reliable versions of American-style Mexican food. The latest trends in south-of-the-border cooking, toward highly authentic flavors and ingredients like cactus, seems to have passed by Gecko's.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you want a decent meal, you could do much worse than Gecko's, especially if you've got kids in tow.

When we visited Gecko's for a recent weekend dinner, our children spent much of the time between ordering and our food's arrival counting the metal, wooden and other geckos that decorate this unassuming space, which also features lots of silk greenery, pretty arched murals along one wall and a little waterfall at the entry to the dining room.

We started with the cheese crisp, a baked-crisp tortilla covered with shredded Jack and Cheddar cheeses and a sprinkling of green onion, and the cheese and chicken quesadillas. I liked the fact that the quesadillas, filled with a simple mixture of lean chicken and cheese, came with a nice little selection of sides, from fresh guacamole and sour cream to green onions, tomatoes and sliced black olives. We also got a basket of warmed chips and chunky salsa.

After scarfing their share of the appetizers, the kids shared two amply portioned meals of chicken nuggets and a bean burrito. The nuggets came with crinkle-cut fries, the burrito with beans and red rice. The refried beans at Gecko's are decent, but I liked the earthy, smooth black beans better. The rice seemed to be homemade, with whole, firm grains of rice and mild seasoned flavor.

My meal was perkier, with a smothered chili verde burrito that was the most peppery rendition of that classic I've ever had — a little too peppery considering the milder flavor of the tomatillos and the sweet pork. The pork was, by the way, abundant, juicy and lean. I enjoyed the burrito though it was a bit different than the norm. With it, I had a moist tamale filled with shredded beef.

My husband went with the fajitas, char-broiled steak and chicken strips on a sizzling platter with sauteed onions and peppers as well as beans, tomatoes, lettuce and guacamole on the side. The chicken was moist and savory and the beef had good flavor, though it was a bit stringy.

For dessert, we had the sundae, vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel sauces served in a crackly tortilla bowl, and the fried ice cream, which disappointed me a little in that its tasty coconut-flavored coating was neither warm nor the least bit crisp or crunchy. But our other dessert, the sopaipillas, was perfect, four tender, yeasty, lightly crisped scones with a little pot of honey butter. Just delicious.

Appetizers $2.69-$6.99, salads $2.99-$11.49, entrees $5.49-$13.99, sides 99 cents-$7.99, kids' meals $3.49-$4.49, desserts $1.69-$3.49.

Rating: ** 1/2

Where: 781 W. 10600 South, South Jordan

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: Checks, major credit cards accepted

Phone: 253-8668


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