Potluck dinners in the Cultural Hall of an LDS stake center generally consist of a few main components: plastic plates, wood-paneled walls and classic dishes such as funeral potatoes and green Jell-O. One local restaurant is bringing these traditional dishes to the table, serving authentic Mormon cuisine with a side of stake center nostalgia.
Jenny Theobald and her husband, former owners of the Smokehouse BBQ, started the new restaurant the Steak Center, which opened two months ago at 214 E. University Parkway in Orem. The restaurant features traditional Mormon cultural cuisine like funeral potatoes, green beans and savory steaks.
Theobald came up with the idea for the Steak Center at a family reunion two summers ago.
“We were all sitting in the hot tub late at night, chewing the fat, when we came up with the idea,” Theobald said. “We thought it would be fun to make a restaurant that brought everything you would find in an actual stake center into a restaurant.”
The Steak Center is filled with church pews donated from a small Church of Christ chapel in Nebraska, lined with pictures of old stake tabernacles on the walls and is decorated with wood paneling. Theobald also uses family recipes such as baked beans and a “Mormon slush” drink passed down from her grandmothers. The restaurant currently serves ribeye and sirloin cuts of steak, as well as smoked pulled-pork and rotisserie chicken.
Katie Hollist, a former BYU student who graduated in psychology last August, has been a waitress at the Steak Center since the restaurant opened and said it is a great place for students.
“This is literally my favorite job that I have ever had,” Hollist said. “The owners are really cool and their main objective in everything is to make sure that everybody who eats here is as happy as possible. As a student, I know when you’re broke that it’s nice to find a place, especially for dates, that’s a good price and a good value, and an awesome environment.”
Along with fresh rolls baked in a brick oven, the Steak Center also features an Angus sirloin special for $8.90 and a $25 date night special which features two entrees, two sides, two drinks and a dessert to share.
Pat Cannon, a student at Utah Valley University studying construction management, works as a chef at the Steak Center, helping to prepare and cook the side dishes.
“I’ve cooked ever since I was little, but not professionally,” Cannon said. “It’s always been something that I wanted to do. The first night that we opened it was a disaster. We didn’t have everything down, but now it’s really smooth, we have it down to an art.”
Cannon also helps prepare the steak, which is cut fresh every night.
“The cool thing about our steaks is that we get them out quick and hot,” Cannon said. “A well-done steak is done in five minutes, so you get a fresh, hot steak that’s done really quick and really good. It’s something different, it’s not like Applebee’s or Chili’s.”
Theobald said she hopes the Steak Center can provide a welcoming and warm atmosphere.
“In the restaurant business, we call the dining area ‘the house,'” Theobald said. “We call it that for a reason because you come to a restaurant so you don’t have to cook at home, so you want to be comfortable and have good, real food. It’s home cooking minus the dishes.”