07/21/2006 — I recently learned that driving through Canyon County at 6 p.m. on a weeknight involves patience.
If the trains, which seem to stop for long periods of time for no apparent reason, don't make you late for a dinner reservation, then the painfully slow construction traffic in Nampa definitely will.
These obstacles caused us to miss our reservation time at Gateway Grill in Marsing, on a recent Thursday night.
No big deal.
Co-owner George Wilson (who opened the restaurant in July 2005 with his wife, Mica) was extremely accommodating when we called him to bump back our time.
We almost hoisted the surrender flag after being stopped again for construction traffic just past Ste. Chapelle Winery.
It all seemed like a bad joke, but we realized after spotting the glistening Snake River that our grumbling stomachs would soon be satiated.
Nearly an hour after our original reservation time, we finally ambled through the door at Gateway Grill, a Marsing restaurant known for its big steaks and list of Idaho wines.
The interior design pays homage to a Western lifestyle, with semolina-colored walls and framed cowboy art and small wildlife sculptures.
A chilled bottle of Bitner Reserve Riesling ($19.50) never tasted so good. This dry Riesling, made by Greg Koenig from grapes grown by local vintner Ron Bitner, paired well with a fried calamari appetizer ($4.95).
Tender strips of lightly breaded squid came golden brown and positioned next to a surprisingly tasty roasted mango salsa.
The stuffed mushrooms ($4.95), on the other hand, were a gooey interpretation of a classic steakhouse starter. These shroom caps — stuffed with Italian sausage, sour cream, Parmesan, scallion and entirely too much waxy orange cheese — were served individually in ceramic Chinese-style soupspoons.
All entrees include soup du jour or salad, but since the soup was long gone, we opted for the communal bowl of chopped iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, red cabbage and chickpeas.
Some locally grown mixed greens would have caught our attention more.
A little stand came with ramekins of blue cheese dressing and balsamic vinaigrette.
Big steaks of Angus beef (shipped in from somewhere else) bring a steady stream of diners to the supper table at Gateway Grill, especially on weekends when slow-roasted prime rib and fresh seafood make menu appearances.
We chose a 12-ounce New York steak ($14.95) and a special 16-ounce rib-eye ($17.95).
Both Angus cuts were ultra-juicy (especially the marbled rib-eye) and grilled perfectly to a medium-rare temperature, served with big Idaho bakers slathered with butter, sour cream and chopped scallions.
Since the halibut sold out earlier in the week, we opted for an order of shrimp scampi ($14.95).
But six overcooked prawns — sautéed with butter, garlic, white wine and not enough lemon — left us wishing for a large slab of grilled finfish.
The prawns came with mashed spuds topped with instant country-style gravy and three mushy baby carrots.
We weren't much more impressed with the St. Louis-style baby back ribs ($20.95/ full rack). The pork on these ribs (bathed in an unremarkable barbecue sauce) was hardly falling off the bone, as one comes to expect when ordering baby back ribs.
A twice-baked potato and overcooked carrots were served on the side.
We decided to skip dessert after our chirpy server told us the selection came from Costco. It's a shame the kitchen isn't making its own desserts, with all that fresh seasonal fruit grown nearby.
Gateway Grill does a commendable job of bringing Idaho wines to the table. Now it just has to do a better job of using local foodstuff before I'm willing to make the drive again.
James Patrick Kelly is the Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@ yahoo.com.