Boring by Design

Spencer's: dull decor and surprisingly good food

The house salad comes with a horrific, sweet balsamic vinegar dressing. We can only hope that someday the American restaurant industry will heed Italian cooking expert Marcella Hazan's pleas to stop overusing balsamic vinegar. Most of the balsamic vinegars in American restaurants are cheap imitations polluted with caramel and other additives. Please, make your salad dressing with good red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar -- anything but this cloying balsamic stuff. Marcella begs you!

Luckily, your server at Spencer's will recommend one of the other salads on the menu, which include an iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing and a Caesar salad. The server may or may not tell you that the upgrade to a decent salad involves a surcharge.

Like so many fine-dining restaurants, Spencer's has trained its servers to work you over for upgrades. There's the bottled-water scam, of course. Here, they come to your table with a bottle of still water and a bottle of sparkling water and ask you which you want -- as if tap water didn't exist.

The thick rib eye (with creamed spinach) has a huge 
tasty eye of fat covered in mushroom sauce.
Troy Fields
The thick rib eye (with creamed spinach) has a huge tasty eye of fat covered in mushroom sauce.

Location Info


Spencer's for Steaks and Chops

1600 Lamar
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


Cowboy rib eye: $39.95
Eight-ounce filet: $27.95
Veal chop: $27.95
Baked potato: $5.95
Caesar salad: $6.95
1600 Lamar, 713-577-8325. Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner hours: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Then there's the salad upgrade, and a crab topping upgrade for your steak. In her review, Himmel reported that the Spencer's in Seattle also added $1 for ice cream she didn't order with her pie.

On my last visit, the bill for dinner arrived with a 15 percent gratuity added by the computer in small print, despite the fact that there were only two of us eating. Just a mistake, the manager explained. But in a restaurant that tries so hard to stick you with surcharges for everything else, you have to be a little suspicious.

That night business at Spencer's for Steaks and Chops had picked up considerably. But oddly, many of the tables were occupied by just one man. I asked the manager what the story was. She told me there was a gathering of plastic surgeons at the convention center that day. These were evidently the surgeons without dinner dates.

The generic decor seemed oddly appropriate under the circumstances. And maybe that's the idea. Spencer's food is fine. And although the atmosphere is dull, it's just the kind of anonymous waiting-room environs you look for when you're alone in a strange city trying to kill some time.

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