Braving the elements in a car on the verge of its death, we two valiant restaurant reviewers drove at 11:45am on Wednesday, Feb. 1 to the culinary institution known to many as Longhorn Steakhouse, though its diehard fans sometimes refer to it as “A home away from home.” At first glance, Longhorn Steakhouse appears to be nothing more than an overpriced Outback Steakhouse, but after peeling back the first layer of the Texas T’Onion (a battered and deep fried onion drizzled with sour cream) we saw all the unique treasures this restaurant really has to offer.
Upon walking through the double doors, you, the bright-eyed new Longhorn patron, should expect to wait for no more than 5 minutes while the ninety-eight-year-old couple in front of you is shown to their table. One advantage of going to Longhorn before 5pm as a college student is that you will more than likely be the youngest diner present by at least 40 years. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reap the senior citizen benefits (such as death).
The host will either seat you in the lively bar area (where you may find two regulars stationed, enjoying a few mid-afternoon beers) or in the intimate yet expansive dining room. Longhorn’s interior designers need a raise for their impeccable taste and their ability to make each franchise establishment feel like home. In many ways, a meal at Longhorn could be accurately described as a “no-frills” dining experience. The cloth napkins and candles of “higher class” restaurants are replaced by plain paper towels and horns. The walls, adorned with paintings depicting imagery of the American West–including the Grand Canyon and a set of valiant cowboys riding majestic stallions–tell a story. Who are we? How did we get here? Are those real horns?
Longhorn’s advertised encouragement to “play matchmaker with perfect pairings” appeals to the romantic in all of us. While Longhorn may be a bit pricey for the average college student, it’s the perfect location for a third date. If you and your special someone want to split an appetizer but want to avoid onion breath, steer clear of the Texas T’Onion. Instead, opt for the Sweet Corn Fritters, served with a red chili ranch dipping sauce. Light, crisp and delectable, these fritters function as the perfect palate cleanser between the complimentary bread and butter and the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tender Salad–-a dish that amounts to being just a few pieces of chicken sitting on a bed of limp greens. For the non-carnivorous patrons, Longhorn Steakhouse o ers a wide variety of vegetarian side-dishes. Family favorites such as french fries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli offer a flavor to the menu that is lacking in the meat-based dishes (of which there are many). It’s a simple touch, but a nonetheless appreciated one.
There are no wine tastings to be found here, but the bar at Longhorn rivals that of even the most high-end casinos. If you’re over 21, you can (and should) try a delectable strawberry margarita served with a rock candy stirrer. The tragic closure of Captain Buck’s Tiki Bar and Grill has left many students lost and seeking a place to go on the weekends. If you are in this position, look no further–experienced bartenders at Longhorn supply you with the experience Tiki wishes it could have given you. For those under 21, bottomless refills on your favorite soft drinks will help to wash down the countless calories that you’re likely to consume.
When the time comes to order a main course at Longhorn, customers may be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer variety of meat options. Fear not, however, as it is very hard to go wrong here. Be it the Bourbon-glazed Salmon served on a bed of rice, or the simpler but no less decadent Cowboy Pork Chops, each and every choice is a delight to the senses. After perusing the lunch menu for several minutes, John ultimately decided on the Steak & Bacon Cheddar Melt, served with a side of fries, paired well with a tall glass of water which was refilled so o en, it was as if the waitress heard a cry for help whenever it was empty. Max’s $8.99 Burger combo came with a small Caesar salad that tasted as if it had been made three days prior. The wilted greens were encrusted in a veneer of day-old dressing. The burger, while large and cooked properly, was succinctly described by Max as “kind of ass.” Unfortunately, we were unable to save room for dessert, but if we had the choice, the “Chocolate Stampede” which weighs in at a modest 2,430 calories, looked like a delightful mix of sweet and savory.
After we left, we continued to be puzzled by the beautiful contradiction that is Longhorn Steakhouse. The decor and overall ambience paint a picture of the old American West, but one look at the clientele tells a vastly different story. The Longhorn Steakhouse in Crystal Mall Plaza is a special place, a place that welcomes people from all walks of life. Regardless of political affliation, race, creed, religion or stance on the music of Brad Paisley, Longhorn unites everyone by tapping into one of the most fundamental human urges: the desire to eat unthinkable amounts of beef.