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Published: Thursday, 2/9/2006

Restaurant review: Texas Roadhouse ***

Texas Roadhouse is on Airport Highway, just east of U.S. 23.
Texas Roadhouse is on Airport Highway, just east of U.S. 23.

At lunch recently at Texas Roadhouse on Airport Highway, I ordered a legendary cheeseburger ("legendary" being the adjective the national chain plasters all over the place). Lo and behold, I looked down and saw a little miracle.

Here in the grip of winter was a gorgeous, August-red slice on top of the burger - not one of those pink and green tomato pucks, mind you, but one that looked like a just-picked summer surprise.

Did it taste like summer? Well, no - it was a hydroponic or vine-ripened slice without much flavor. But it was visually appealing and far superior to what many restaurants serve in the off-season. Until Mother Nature delivers the ripe, late-summer goods, I'll settle for these.

As the name suggests, Texas Roadhouse specializes in steaks, ribs, and other barbecue dishes. Despite its "legendary" pretensions, the place holds up pretty well against the myriad other steak and rib joints that threaten to overrun the local dining scene.

Ironically, the chain's motto,"If it doesn't say Texas, it's not Texas Roadhouse," wouldn't have quite the same spur-jangling ring had it been named after the actual state where it all began - Indiana. Physically, however, the restaurants exude a southwestern roadhouse atmosphere, with a wraparound bar and Texas-friendly service.

Steaks range from 6 to 16 ounces ($7.99 to $18.99 depending on size and cut), and ribs come in half or full-slab portions ($11.99, $15.99). Rounding out the menu are a variety of country dinners and two seafood entries, salmon and catfish. Diners can choose two accompaniments from nine, including salads, chili, potatoes, rice, and vegetables.

Among our meals were a small but tasty six-ounce Dallas filet ($12.99) and a full slab of tender ribs, unfortunately drenched in a sauce infused with too much vinegar. From the country-dinner category, an oven-baked half-chicken was done to a slow-roasted turn.

Also noteworthy were a welcoming basket of sweet dinner rolls made sweeter with honey-cinnamon whipped butter, a house salad studded with the same ruby-ripe tomatoes, a good cup of chili, a big pile of steak fries, and barbecued beans.

Though Texas Roadhouse fronts on Airport Highway, the entrance is on Trust Drive, off Holland-Sylvania Road.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com

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