Everytime LJ and I go to Watertown NY, my folks always ask if we went to Texas Roadhouse. They love it, but LJ and I always go somewhere else. Well on a recent trip to Ottawa to visit LJ, we headed South of the border we decided it was time to try them out.
We went for a late dinner after some shopping, but the place had been consistently packed from 5pm-9pm. Since we were coming in after 9, we didn't have to wait, and in no time we had a table.
I don't think I've ever been to an authentic roadhouse, but this is a good commercial replica as I see it. This place is known for its steaks and when you come in there is a grocery store counter where you can pick your beef (if you want to). Country music on the radio, neon signs on the wall, oh, and an interesting addition to the floor:
At each table you get a bucket of peanuts to munch while you wait. Awesome. I think people waiting in line might get them too. And then you put the shells in a bucket ...
... or onto the floor. Or, the wait staff go to the table after patrons leave, then throw those buckets of shells on the floor. Everywhere. The entire establishment is peanut shells. Now I've been to a bar here or there that has this, but not a family restaurant. It is still a fascinating experience.
Our server was Angel, and he was awesome. Really friendly, interactive and genuine. He talked a lot with us, and while sometimes a waitstaff member that chats a lot can be annoying, Angel was fun and a blast, answering questions, joking around and great service (never had to ask for a refill on my pop for example).
Also brought to your table is fresh baked buns that come with cinnamon butter.
The buns are warm and fresh. I didn't think I would care for cinnamon butter, preferring a savoury flavour over sweet, but this really worked.
LJ and I also ordered up some appetizers. I had to try the Fried Pickles ($3.99 USD). These pickles were cut in a chip/coin style, different from Ontario where fried pickles come in a spear shape. It comes with ranch or Cajun horseradish but Angel said it was good with both, so both he brought.
The pickle coins were crispy yet soft. They had a tang to them as well. And they were great with both dips. This new way of having of fried dill pickles had it's pros and cons. I did like that there was more surface area for breading and it was easier to dip and to eat for sure too. But I prefer the flavour and style of spear pickles. Both are good, that's what I'm getting at.
We also ordered a Cactus Blossom ($4.99 USD). I hadn't had an onion blossom in years and was excited for this. If you have never had an onion blossom, you have missed out my friend. A contraption splits an onion and removes the core. Then the onion is seasoned and battered, then tossed in the deep fryer. What you get is something like a straight tasty onion ring that you pull apart and dip into the creamy Cajun horseradish dip. So good.
As if we weren't full already, we actually had meals. Each of our meals came with two sides, and this is what LJ had:
Caesar salad. Decent but nothing special. Crunchy fresh lettuce and a slightly zippy dressing. Real croutons used too.
Mashed potato's that were "loaded" aka added cheese, real bacon bits and sour cream (for $0.99 USD). I didn't have any, but LJ enjoyed them.
Her main dish. Originally she ordered the Country Fried Steak, but considering we came in near the end of the night, they were out. Country Fried Chicken ($10.49 USD) it was. "Tender, all white meat chicken breast, hand-battered, golden-fried, and topped with made-from-scratch cream gravy." LJ found it a little plain, but I really liked the chicken. I'm not crazy 'bout gravy, let alone cream gravy, but this was good too in my opinion.
On to my own meal:
My first side was the chili. Filled with chunks of beef and beans and topped with red onion and cheese. This was claimed to be homemade, and it sure didn't taste from a can. It could have been a lot spicier but at least it was hearty.
For my main course I went with the ribs, with fries as my other side. I'll be upfront - I did not care for the fries. They were double fried, but had no potato inside - just overcooked.
Fortunately the ribs were better. "FALL-OFF-THE-BONE RIBS • Our award-winning ribs are slow-cooked with a unique blend of seasonings and our signature BBQ sauce. Served with your choice of two sides. Available in half-slab or full-slab. You can even make your meal into a Texas Size Combo by adding Pulled Pork, BBQ Chicken, Sirloin, or Ribeye for just a few more bucks."
OK, so authentic BBQ folks are going to balk at that first line - because real ribs shouldn't be fall-off-the-bone. But sometimes taste trumps authenticity, and these were some tasty ribs. I went with the half-slab (yes, half-slab, did you not see all the other foods above?).
They were fall-off-the-bone indeed. Very tender. The sauce was good too - a little smokey, a little sweet. Tomato based. Next time I go back, I just might get them again.
Texas Roadhouse was great. The service was excellent, the food was good, the atmosphere was fun. It was a great night out and neither of us would hesitate to come back again. No wonder they are packed every time we drive by.
20790 NY State Route 3, Watertown New York, USA (and other locations)