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Dining out: Diamond Lil's

Published: Friday, Jan. 19 2007 12:13 a.m. MST

When I was a kid, visiting Diamond Lil's was a real event.

We had some big family dinners there, but when I look back it's not the food I remember so much as the atmosphere — Western to the hilt, with a boardwalk, mannequins of jail prisoners and photos of various desperados and legends on the walls. It was the kind of place a kid remembers.

Years later, my sister and I took our husbands there and were disappointed with the food, though the ambience and friendly service were the same as I'd remembered.

Then, as most of us know, the original Diamond Lil's closed. But now it's back, and last weekend, we took the kids in for dinner. They liked the ambience just as much as I did as a girl.

But once again, though a few dishes shone, most of our meal was pedestrian.

In saying that, I'm committing heresy in the eyes of many faithful diners. But if the new incarnation of Diamond Lil's wants to regain its place as Salt Lake's go-to destination for meaty meals, it's going about it the wrong way.

I like the noise level at Diamond Lil's. Too many steakhouses these days blare their music, making conversation almost impossible. Diamond Lil's plays music, but it's in the background.

The dining space, which holds hundreds of people, is divided into smaller rooms. The one we sat in — windowless, with burlap walls festooned with lanterns — reminded me of the big Army tents we used at girls' camp. I think that's the idea; "rough-hewn" is definitely the design concept here.

For kids, Diamond Lil's offers a $4 child plate that contains such sides as corn and baked potatoes, with the assumption that the kiddies will share the main part of Mom's and Dad's entrees.

We ordered our kids the Calamity Jane, an 8-ounce sirloin, and one of the child's plates. Our waitress brought each of our girls a plate of salad of their own, which I appreciated. The salad, with iceberg and a few greens topped with grape tomatoes and beet slices, tasted good but wasn't at its freshest.

I had the Bonnie & Clyde, a combo featuring a small steak, plus a butterflied trout topped with crab and shrimp. The good news: Though the shrimp were too chewy for my liking, the trout was delicious, with the crab lending richness to its wild flavor. The bad news: The steak was subpar. I asked for medium-rare, but it was charred to a crisp on one end, and medium to medium-well the rest of the way. Plus, a ribbon of gristle ran almost its entire length. Once I figured that out and cut around it, the meat had a nice flavor.

The kids' steak was much better, a tender, medium-cooked little sirloin. But I found it amazing — not in a good way — that the mushrooms on top were canned. Canned! Sauteing fresh mushrooms takes a few minutes at best and would have been eminently doable considering the leisurely pacing of our meal.

The same baffling, lower-quality shortcuts prevailed with the garlic bread, advertised on the menu as "homemade" but actually commercially produced Texas toast topped with fine-grated Parmesan.

My husband had the prime rib, just as succulent and juicy as promised, and good on its own or dipped in horseradish sauce. We all enjoyed the fluffy baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob that accompanied our meals.

For dessert, we had three kinds of pie, the best of which was the simple, classic apple. The peach wasn't bad, though its bottom crust was tough, as was the crust of the sticky-textured coconut cream.

Entrees $9.99-$29.99, child plate $4, desserts $3.99-$4.99.

Rating: **

Where: 1528 W. North Temple

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Payment: No checks; major credit cards accepted

Reservations: Accepted for parties of eight or more

Phone: 533-0547

Wheelchair access: Easy once you're in; navigating the boardwalk outside could be tricky


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