Texas Roadhouse (Victoria, TX)
I've seen Texas Roadhouse locations all across the country, but I've never actually eaten there until today. It was a dreary day outside and a hot meal seemed more important than the source, so we decided to give Texas Roadhouse a try.
When we walked in, the first thing that caught my eye was a display case full of steaks. The hostess even asked if we'd like to pick one out before she seated us. None of us had planned on having steak for lunch, but I was intrigued by the idea nonetheless.
Texas Roadhouse is basically comparable to any other chain "roadhouse" out there, most notably Logan's. The rolls and tabletop peanuts seem to be pretty iconic and universal staples of the various roadhouses. The buttery rolls came served with what appeared to be a cinnamon butter. It was tasty, but overly sweet. I'm always worried about how many hands have touched the peanuts before me. Infectious bacteria aside, it is fun being able to toss my discarded peanut shells on the floor.
After a quick survey of everyone's hunger levels, we decided to start with a round of Fried Pickles for the table.
The menu said we had the option of either ranch or Cajun horseradish sauce for dipping. The Cajun horseradish sounded good, but our waitress never asked which one we wanted. Our pickles came out with a pretty standard ranch dressing, which unfortunately would have to suffice. The pickles were thick and crisp, although some of them were a little too salty. I'm sure the pickle brine was salty enough already, so I doubt they really needed to add much salt to the batter.
For my entree, I decided to try a Texas-Size Combo of pulled pork and ribs, with steak fries and seasoned rice on the side. Our young waitress was really friendly and polite, but the somewhat older server who brought out the entrees to our table was a little grouchy. She almost snarled when we asked a few questions just to make sure they had our order correct.
The fries were completely over-salted and clearly came frozen rather than fresh. They also weren't as crispy as I would have liked, and I'll probably have hypertension from all the sodium. My seasoned rice was really flavorful, although some bites were much more seasoned than others. Their cooks definitely need to work on consistency. I did get a good crunch from the onions, which added a nice texture change.
As for the meats, I started with the pulled pork. It wasn't entirely terrible, but nothing special by any means. Without the heavy dose of sauce poured over it, I doubt there would have been much flavor at all. I found a few pieces of pork that escaped the sauce, and they were as devoid of flavor as I feared. Just a pinch of salt would have done wonders here, since even a little flavor is better than none. The sauce was pretty weak too, and certainly could have used a little pepper and/or chili powder for a little kick. The meat wasn't too tender either, and I would have preferred it to be more stringy rather than being cut into thick chunks.
I moved on to the ribs, and I found them to be equally disappointing. The menu lists these as "Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs," and they're not lying. I was able to cut my ribs apart and completely clean the bones with nothing more than a fork. There is fine line between being "fall-off-the-bone" tender and being completely overcooked, and most average cooks don't know the difference between the two. I realize that some people enjoy ribs like this, but I prefer the meat to remain intact with each bite. There was a good crisp char on the ribs, although I'm sure most meat would be fairly crisp if it had been cooked as long as these ribs had been. The menu also claims that the ribs are "award-winning," but I couldn't find any mention of specific awards or accolades anywhere on their website.
In my opinion, one of the most fundamental and ubiquitous cooking skills is the proper use of seasonings. Here, the pickles and steak fries were both over-salted, and my grandmother said her green beans were really salty, too. Conversely, the pulled pork seemed to have no salt at all. If Texas Roadhouse is incapable of properly utilizing something as basic as salt, I sincerely doubt they will be winning many awards.