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I just had the worst restaurant experience ever. Really, it was horrific. I suppose the main problem, aside from the crap they called "food," was that the place just did not meet our expectations. But, our expectations were based on previous experiences, which should set a precedent for visits to come. Boy, were we wrong.
Recognize the name? If so, stay away. Stay far, far away. At least if you live in Roanoke, that is. Other locations may be better, but the menu's still the same.
Walking into the restaurant, we noticed that the decor was all wrong. It's like there wasn't really any. When it opened, this location closely resembled an Applebee's. There was crap all over the walls. Even sitting through a long wait could be made interesting by a rousing game of I-SPY. License plates adorned the walls of the bar, taxidermied animals were placed in prowling positions, and there was a plethora of old neon signs, glass bottles, framed photographs, tin signs, flags, and more. Now, the walls are brown and red, with generic framed posters that should exude a "Texan" feel. To me, it is no better than a Golden Corral.
Also, there used to be a jukebox. That's now gone. Along with all the music. There isn't even canned muzak coming from the speakers. Now, there's just none. The place sounds like a cafeteria, with forks and glasses clinking, people chatting, and nothing drowning it all out in the background.
So, we get our table after a short wait and find that the waitress is incredibly green. Now, this can happen in any restaurant, but the Steakhouse used to have the most experienced waitstaff in town. Their standards were ridiculously high. I know. I used to work there busing the tables and it was near impossible to get a position as a hostess, let alone as a server. Now, they'll hire anyone who passes a drug test, by the looks of it. (Or, maybe even if they don't!) From wrong beverage orders to no butter on the bread, to reusing the glasses, to not knowing the selection on the menu, she was bad. Just really bad.
My biggest pet peeve with our waitress, Provolone (name has only been slightly changed), was that whenever we asked for a drink refill, she would reply, "Please take your straw." Let me tell you, I have NEVER been asked to remove my straw from a drink in any place other than Chick Fil A. Never. Not even once. Well, okay. Maybe at McDonald's when they still had the fountain behind the counter. But, never in a sit-down eatery. What is that? My drink was the only one at the table that she was refilling, so she couldn't have possibly given it to the wrong person. Beyond that, I had tea, my mother had coke. How hard is that to mix up. And, even if she did think she might just get confused, it isn't to hard to remember that the right hand is Coke and the left hand is Tea. That is, if she knew her right from her left. That's a maybe.
The food came eventually. We had ordered the "Blossom Petals" as an appetizer. Anyone remember that Texas Steakhouse used to actually have a blooming onion? Uh-huh. When this location first opened, before Outback ever thought of coming to Roanoke, they did. It was delicious. There was a kick to the batter and the dipping sauce had a bite. Not so anymore. We received a platter of bland, tasteless, limp onion sticks and a cup of thousand island dressing. This was something straight from the freezer section of the dollar store. Nasty. We had to send it back.
After another half hour wait, we received our entrees. I had ordered the Black and Blue Salad and my mother ordered the ribeye. Mine should have been medium (warm pink center), her's medium rare. The waitress put our plates on the table and requested that we cut into our steaks right away to make sure that they were cooked okay. Then, she stood there and watched us do it. Again, annoying. Go away, let me enjoy my first few bites, then come back and check on us after a minute or two. At any rate, we both gave a perfunctory nod because we just wanted to be left along.
Looking at my mother's plate, I noticed that she had a very bloody pulp of meat staring at me from across the table. As she started to cut into it, I informed her that she COULD NOT eat that. Now, we aren't the type of sissies who would turn up our noses at a little bit of undercooked meat, but this was definitively raw. Not just pink like prime rib, but bloody, stringy, bright red, raw. It looked like there was a dissected, used tampon thrown across her plate. Yes. That nasty.
Upon closer inspection of my own plate, I quickly found that my steak was oozing thick red blood into my bed of lettuce. I'm sorry, but a medium steak should not be dripping with blood. I like it juicy, but not THAT juicy, my friend. The dressing was in a bowl, but had congealed around the edges. You know, like when you leave a salad plate out over night? That yellowing slime that forms around the rim of any leftover ranch? Yeah, that. That's the sort of funk that was ringing my blue cheese.
The good news is, after a short conversation with the insanely young manager, our bill was taken care of. Good thing, because the only thing we actually ingested was the dinner rolls. He did offer to recook our food, but I wasn't up for a nuked steak on a bed of bloody lettuce, and my mother was so disgusted she was no longer hungry. I can see why. My tummy is still rolling at the mere thought of it.
Long story short, we won't ever return to Texas. The restaurant just is not what it was in its heyday. I should know. My stepdad was the first general manager of that location. Does that make me a little biased? Probably. I spent many afternoons in that place before it ever opened, many weekend evenings in its first year or two, and many, many, many nights working there as a teen. Though my stepfather only worked there a few years, the restaurant retained the character that he poured into it until very recently. It's a shame that the swinging saloon doors are gone, that the decor is more Western Sizzlin', and that the waitstaff is no longer top-notch. The place was good. Now, it's just a chain-smoking dump.
Would I feel the same way if I had never been there before tonight? Probably. I'm not willing to pay $17 for a steak from a cafeteria. Texas Steakhouse is no better than K&W in that regard, just lots pricier and quite a bit shabbier. I'll pass, thank you very much.