Sometimes there isn't time to go home and fire up some charcoal, smear a thick T-bone with Dijon mustard and peppercorns, wrap it tight in a sheaf of Boise Weekly pages, dump it in a bucket of water for 30 minutes and then steam it on the hot coals until the paper catches fire.
Sometimes a guy is downtown and gets a hankering for a steak and doesn't want it chicken fried or fingered or carne asada'd.
At these particular times, he might roll on over to 11th and Jefferson streets, to the oddly located Lock, Stock & Barrel for a drink and a reasonable piece of meat. It may satisfy that steak urge, but it may not sizzle.
And that's sizzle in a good way, as opposed to Sizzler, which is what the Lock Stock's food, in fact, recalls, starting with the white-bread salad bar and possibly powdered soup.
The atmosphere is superior to Sizzler, of course. The bar is beautiful and well stocked, the decor attractive but not ostentatious. Decent blues played at a decent volume, and the air was perfectly cooled on a recent hot, smoggy Boise evening.
I sipped Meyer's on ice in the lounge while scanning the hefty, wood-paneled menu, skipping over the pasta and salads and other distractions. The place claims a "world famous" prime rib, in four hefts, but I was there for steak proper.
They have steaks and then they have specialty steaks. I was leaning toward the rib eye ($24.99), which would have been a better test of the steak-maker than what I ended up with.
When the bartender came over to take my order, for some reason I went for a specialty steak: the Filet Oscar ($27.99), which promised a lump crab and lemon-tarragon cream sauce topper.
I've always been a sucker for surf and turf, and I like crab. But I'm not a sauce guy when it comes to a steak. I've never owned a bottle of A-1, and I barely touch barbecue. Maybe it was some kind of curiosity combined with an urge to double down on the value of the dish, as in, for three bucks more I got little extra oceanic protein.
Alas, the meat came drenched in a watered-down cream sauce, meager strands of crab barely registering through the uninspiring topping.
The mashed potatoes were righteous enough, but had almost no horseradish flavor, despite their promise of being horseradish mashers. Oddly enough the plate was also garnished with two potato rounds, fried perfectly golden brown. Those two little potatoes had the sizzle I had initially been looking for in my steak.
I've driven by the Lock, Stock & Barrel thousands of times over the years, always curious about its location, but had never really been inspired to duck in. It's in that no-man's-land before downtown gives way to the tire shops and State Street. Just two blocks from Neurolux and two blocks from the YMCA, the restaurant sits in the shadow of the old Boise Cascade building with its indoor forest. At one time, I'm sure it was a den of gossip for timber execs, the alley behind it a staging point for Earth Firsters.
But nowadays, with the timber giant a mere shell of its former self, a few guys sit at the bar watching Sports Center with the sound turned down. Since I was dining alone, I opted to sit in the lounge, but there is a dining section in a separate room from the bar.
Sitting in the lounge on one of the most comfortable leather chairs I have ever experienced, bright pink strands of the setting sun filling the windows, and my steak finished, I had the odd feeling I was somewhere else. A visitor in some generic city, maybe in a decent hotel restaurant or even in an airport.
Then I walked outside, glimpsed the Capitol dome, the little indoor forest across the street, a few dozen bikes parked outside Neurolux, and I knew I was home.
—Nathaniel Hoffman gets crabby when his steak isn't peppered.