FIRST IMPRESSIONS: "I feel like I'm joining a health spa, not looking for a meal," murmured my friend as we were led to our table at Stepps (in the Crocker Center, 350 Hope St., (213) 626-0900). The aggressively friendly host wanted to know if it was our first visit. This was likely, considering that they'd been open only one day.
"But you might have visited Cutters," our host insisted. I knew there was something familiar about the place; sure enough, a single glance at the menu was enough to make it clear that while the name may be different, Stepps is a Cutters clone.
Like Cutters, Stepps has an enormous menu offering everything from Cajun pasta to sashimi, Korean short ribs, Italian focaccia, fresh fish grilled over some fancy kind of charcoal and good old prime rib of beef. There is an impressive selection of beers, more than 20 single-malt scotches--and even a Toffuti of the day.
If this something-for-everyone menu sometimes takes liberties with the international offerings--the Japanese noodles are sweet, the Cajun shrimp bland and the wok-fried vegetables soggy--all the food is fresh, the Quilcene oysters are superb and the service quite incredible. Besides, there is not another thing remotely like it downtown, and the place is sure to be packed from morning to night.