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GORILLA CAGE RESTAURANT

From the luminescent pink Volkswagen emblazoned with gorillas parked in front to the little fuzzy gorilla doll, complete with binky, cuddled up in the high chair on a shelf in the dining area, there is little doubt that gorillas are the passion as well as the motif of the Gorilla Cage Restaurant.

Located in the River Pointe mall in West Jordan, this cleanly appointed eatery overflows with gorillas of all different shapes and colors. For kids as well as us sentimental adults who cheered for King Kong and wept at the melodrama of Mighty Joe Young, the decor is evocative as well as just plain cute.The bill of fare highlights such fare as Chimp Chiddles ($2.25), nacho chips with cheese sauce; Andy Ape ($3.55), chili served in a homemade French bun; and Orangutan Rudy ($4.25), meatballs and spaghetti served on a large bun.

We were also drawn to the other zoological nicknames including a ham sandwich called the Suzy Sow ($3.95); a taco salad alias Pancho Panda ($3.95); and a beef stew called the Buffalo Buddy ($3.95).

We sampled five of the 20 or so choices during a recent dinner visit to discover that the cleverness of the decor and monkey monikers on the menu are not transferred to the dishes we tried.

The recommended Barney Boar ($3.95), pork tenderloin strips with a sweet barbecue sauce on a large bun, was ordinary and characterized more by the large size of the bun, the small serving of meat, and the overly sweet sauce, though the pork was tender. The Bernie Bull ($3.95), thinly sliced beef with a greasy gravy rather than the promised au jus, consisted of dry pieces of beef that needed more resuscitation than the gravy could provide. The spaghetti and meatballs were more flavorful but had more than its share of starch since it was served in a large hollowed-out bun. The Billy Bull ($3.95), roast beef covered with sauteed onions and peppers and then a slice of processed Swiss, was too salty, something a little unusual since there was an overabundance of sweetness on the other choices, from the barbecue sauce to the dense fillings on the berry and apple pies. Even the cream topping on the coconut cream pie tasted more like marshmallow than whipping cream. A huge scone was oozing with frying oil.

Several of the sandwiches are accompanied by a green salad with a packaged Ranch dressing; the pasta, potato and coleslaw salad (each available at $1.25) were not available on our Saturday evening visit.

Each of the sandwiches, entrees and salads are served in pie tins, another of the cute touches that characterize the country-style approach to the food. Unfortunately, the dishes we ate were either too rich or just plain ordinary to stimulate our taste buds.

Other selections on the menu include the Clara Clucker ($4.25), a chicken pot pie; Tammy Turkey ($3.95) served as either a hot or cold turkey sandwich; Betty Butterfly ($3.65), a chef-style salad with cheddar cheese and sliced turkey; Rodney Rooster ($3.95), an omelette sandwich; Myrna Mermaid, seafood salad sandwich; Tiger Tails ($4.25), chicken strips with mustard sauce; and Toad Stools ($3.65), steamed vegetables with cheese sauce and au gratin potatoes.

Rating: * *

The Gorilla Cage, 9117 S. Redwood Road, West Jordan. 565-8716. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. No credit cards. Catering available.