A highly conflicted reviewer comes clean.
I was going to pass this review off as another attempt to give my gentle readers a chance to try out what I review. After all, with 230+ locations in 40+ states, chances are there's a Texas Roadhouse near you. That was how I was going to justify reviewing a chain, since we all know I have a prejudice against chains. Just driving to the joint we passed two other chains that looked like they could be the same place, only with a different sign on the door.
I mean, how can you take place seriously when it has an Ozzie and Harriet picture like this on its website? But the truth is we ended up at the Texas Roadhouse because we have a house guest from Hawaii and the collective unconscious determined that she should have some Texas eatin'. However, how Texan can a chain be that was started in Clarksdale, Indiana? Turns out we really don't care what the answer is because the food is pretty darn good. And they're obsessive about their service, so it's also pretty darn good. Mainly fresh-scrubbed, wholesome-looking young girls who looked like they've never done anything worse than skip a day of school to get their hair done for the prom. And if they have, I don't want to know about it. I like to keep my illusions intact as long as possible.
The thing that makes the difference at the Texas Roadhouse is the thing that always makes the difference, fresh food made from scratch. No pre-packaged economies-of-scale here. The founder had "a vision of great steaks, killer ribs and ice-cold beer at a price that families across America could afford." Sounds similar to the vision for the Kerbey Lane Cafe, only with steaks and ribs instead of a highly eclectic menu. And a couple hundred more locations. But who's counting?
You get a bucket of peanuts to munch on when you come in, and you barely have the cushion warmed up when they bring you rolls and honey cinnamon butter. It looked great, but since I'm cutting down on the white carbs, I stuck with the peanuts. Dry roasted, not salted.
Everybody else ordered the steaks, but I stuck with my good-boy routine and ordered the smothered chicken: a grilled marinated chicken breast with sauteed onions and mushrooms. It also comes with gravy or jack cheese. It was good, but I peeled off most of the cheese. (Who would ruin a nice grilled chicken breast by slopping gravy on it?) You also get two sides. I went with the salad and baked sweet potato. Dang, that potato was great! No fixin's on it other than some butter. Sometimes being good is fun.
I ate the salad, half the chicken, most of the potato and took the rest home. I'll finish it up tomorrow. Not bad for $10. The other folks all split steaks between two people and most of it ended up on the number-one son-in-law's plate, who wasn't complaining.
I've been there before, since the double-in-laws are hearty Texans who favor down-home food in large portions, and got the oven roasted chicken. Quite nice, also. Everybody said the steaks were very tender and they certainly looked great, although they were ordered a bit done for my taste. I like 'em still complaining a little when I spear 'em with a fork.
Some folks like taking the risk out of eating in a strange city, hence the popularity of chains. I can understand the logic, although I lament the homoginzation of American culture. Once nice thing about the Texas Roadhouse is that there appears to be some attempt at localization. I skimmed through a few menus for other states and saw some slight differences.
Of course, I couldn't finish without mentioning that they teamed up with Willie Nelson in 2003, a fact that was hard to miss since it said "Willie Nelson, Owner" right over the door. So, you can get your Willie groove on with merchandise, if you like. Or not.