The Chain Truth
SO, HOW DO you like your steak?
Well, if you're a member of the Chain Gang, first and foremost you probably would prefer it to be reasonably priced. Because let's face it, there are a bunch of options out there. And the Chain Gang's either been, or will certainly get around to, eating at most of them.
Which brings us to our latest excursion, the Longhorn Steakhouse on Roosevelt Boulevard, just north of Grant Avenue. For whatever it's worth, a quick trip to the old Web site found that this establishment is found in 23 states and Puerto Rico, but not Texas. Somewhat strange, considering the name. But we digress. The Longhorn's slogan is, "Expect more from your steak." With that in mind, we prepared to dig in.
First, a libation. We went with one of the featured summer specials, a Watermelon Margarita ($7.95), which was nicely presented in a martini glass. And, like a fine milk shake, they give you the entire shaker. Which means you get enough to fill the glass nearly three times. Never a bad deal. And aside from the value, it was very refreshing. Go ahead and share.
Speaking of which, our table split another item that wasn't on the regular menu, boneless buffalo wings ($6.99). A nice take on the familiar standby, but a lot less messy. Yet no less tasty or filling. Just the right amount to keep you occupied while you're waiting for the main course to arrive. The "wings" were more than a half-pound of lightly battered bites tossed in a spicy chipotle sauce, with the obligatory blue cheese dipping sauce on the side.
One more special, the mozzarella & tomato salad ($3.29) came reasonably close to what you might get in Little Italy. Remember, everything's relative.
On previous visits we'd sampled the firecracker chicken wraps ($7.29), which are kind of like egg rolls, and found them quite appetizing. The stuffed (with Pepper Jack cheese) Shrimp Sante Fe ($7.99) were OK but not necessarily memorable.
We'd also sampled the meatless chili ($3.49 for a cup) before, and it's not bad at all. Just watch out for the jalapeno slices. This time, the soup of the day was a spicy chicken noodle, which one of us went with instead of a salad. It was hearty, savory and different and would go down particularly well in the fall/winter.
As for the main fare, let's start with (what else?) the New York strip ($16.79 for the smaller, 11-ounce version). Longhorn does offer a few seafood items, and the Sweetwater Tilapia (topped with grilled shrimp and a Cajun cream sauce) looked tempting, but it's called a Steakhouse for a reason. So we stuck with meat, mostly red. The strip came, as we had requested, well done, which of course makes purists cringe. But yo, that's how this week's Gang likes it. It was a thinner cut, grilled to perfection. Lots of taste, not too much fat. A big winner. And plenty, even though you could go for the full pound for not much more money.
The baby back ribs ($17.79 for a full rack) were decent, although we've had better. They came in a flavorful, thick sauce, and fell off the bone. And the doggie bag came into play.
The Rocky Top chicken ($13.79) was two grilled breasts topped with BBQ sauce, three kinds of cheeses (Swiss, cheddar and Monterrey Jack), bacon and diced tomatoes. It sure was a plateful and you couldn't argue with the quantity or quality.
Lastly, we did the Chop Steak ($11.49), because, well, sometimes you just need a little ground meat in your system. This one checks in at 10 ounces. And yes, it is your basic hamburger but the spices make it work. You don't even need ketchup or A-1 and it's smothered in grilled onions and mushrooms. Trust us on this one.
As for the sides, the sweet potato with cinnamon and butter was excellent. And the jalapeno cole slaw has a bit of a late kick, as you'd suspect.
The Caesar salad was also a worthy alternative to the mixed greens, even if they did go a little heavy on the tart dressing.
We barely had room for dessert, but managed to indulge ourselves just the same. We passed around a new offering, the ultimate brownie sundae ($5.49) that was not meant for one mouth. The Ghiradelli fudge was as gooey as it gets. A keeper. The key lime pie ($4.29) was better than a lot you'll come across. Very creamy, with a crumb crust that was complementary but didn't get in the way.
So there you have it. It wasn't Ruth's Chris. But it isn't intended to be. As long as you know that going in, you probably won't be disappointed. Sometimes, it's all about being reasonable.