Lock, Stock and Barrel 

Walking into Lock, Stock and Barrel is like entering no other steakhouse in town. It doesn't have the clutter of Borton's, the noise of Outback, the museum-quality décor of the Stagecoach or the fine dining atmosphere of Murphy's. No, LS&B is simply dim, quiet and garnished with a few posters from Boise public events of the past. It was definitely the cheapest surf and turf joint in town to decorate and has a resulting relaxed elegance. Places like this must have miniscule utility bills: the lights are almost off, the music is humming at a sub-audible frequency and the meat ... well, they don't waste too much fuel on it. Just barely more than I wanted.

What the Collias party of two didn't expect to find at this Boise mainstay was surprises. We were proved wrong within seconds of sitting down, as it was revealed that LS&B lives up to its "Barrel" title by providing several fresh local beers from TableRock and McCall microbreweries. Our server, who didn't look old enough to buy beer, informed us that the restaurant has exclusive access among Boise restaurants to McCall brew. If that is true, I'll be sure to return more often.

We were also surprised to note the number of vegetarian options on the menu--and by this use of the v-word, I mean "For people who do not consider a market-price lobster to be a fruit." My herbivorous sidekick often feels like prey in such old-school Boise gristle grottos, but at LS&B she was positively overwhelmed by her two choices: the best salad bar still left in Boise and a pasture-with-dressing by the name of "The Lock." She chose the latter, and called it "the biggest salad in the whole world." I called it "the kind of salad that prime rib chefs invent as a revenge against dates who say, 'I'll just have the salad.'"

Myself, I only had eyes for the "Stock"--and the prime-r and rib-ier the better. The eight-ounce "Short Cut" prime rib was of the dimensions that inevitably compel cards like me to make bad jokes to my date like, " ... And they call this the small! Let's hope you're a little more forgiving, baby!" The meat, which I requested medium rare, came out a hard medium. I almost sent it back, thought again and decided to be tolerant. The unlimited salad bar access, generous horseradish, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and gallons of au jus accompanying the dish helped it out tremendously, but I'm still convinced for the time being that The Stagecoach Inn makes Boise's preeminent prime rib.

For dessert we made what was perhaps a rash choice, after being once again surprised to see crème brulee on the menu--which, it should be mentioned, is the most dangerous menu in town, comprised of two finger-snapping planks of hinged wood that slam closed like a medieval prison. Regardless, the crème brulee was the least pleasant surprise of the evening: too cold, too sugary and with a consistency more Play-Doh than crème. Given the price, though--$5.99 for the dessert, barely over $40 for the meal with drinks, including an excellent martini--the mistake seemed minor.

Overall, it was a pleasant meal of the kind of simple, heavy fare most carnivores require a season-long hibernation period to wear off. The food was quick to the table, and our server was brisk and attentive--although I suspect he may have spied my critic's notepad, because he hovered loyally around me and treated the vegetarian like a leper. Or maybe he knew her secret ...

--Nicholas Collias believes in the value of locking stock in a barrel.

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