The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Food for Commoners – Outback Steakhouse

Some of the most popular shows on cable are the ones where a food expert like Bourdain or Zimmern go to exotic restaurants across the world.  Sometimes they’re fancy, upscale restaurants but mostly they’re little out-of-the-way, hidden gems that only locals know of.   Often the entertainment comes from watching them eat nasty local delicacies, such as boiled pig anuses (or is that pig ani?) but it doesn’t have to be.  They could be eating chicken and rice, but seeing it prepared by someone in a way that’s completely different is just fascinating.

But I think it would be equally as fascinating to have them travel around here and eat the homogenous, mass-market food prepared that an ungodly majority of Americans love.   We’re talking boneless skinless chicken breast prepared by someone in a way that’s completely the same as what we’re used to.

Food Network and Travel Channel haven’t picked up on this yet, so here’s where I step in.

OB outside

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This one is in the same little strip mall where I work out.  On several nights of the week, the parking lot is packed and I’ve seen people waiting outside for their table.   I hate to judge a book by its cover….  Oh wait, I love judging a book by its cover.   Anyway, I wouldn’t say that they were the most stylish and cosmopolitan people.  Definitely, not the Brooklyn-type hipsters that work in and frequent the restaurants I usually go to.

Ok, that’s really not fair of me.  I can’t really judge a place based on the people that go there, right?  And the fact that it packs ‘em in, has got to mean the food is pretty good, eh?  From here on out I promise that I’ll try to have an open mind and positive attitude.

Let’s see how long that lasts me.

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Drinks

I had just finished off a long day of yard work and I was downright parched.  I checked out their beer list and, under the heading “Craft Beers” I saw Blue Moon and Shock Top.  Exactly how am I going to keep a positive attitude when you list these as “Craft Beers?”  Is that what passes for good beer in Australia?   Thankfully the bartender informed me that they also have Bell’s Two Hearted.  Positive attitude can resume.

Let’s see what the wine list has that I can pair with the steak…

OB wine

 

This is one of my HUGE winesnob pet peeves.  Not that it’s a crappy selection, which it is.  But using the term “sweet” to describe a Pinot Noir is like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I’m sure they mean “fruity” which is not the same as sweet.  Big difference.   I’m forgiving when a casual wine drinker incorrectly uses the term, but a corporation with wine “experts” on the payroll SHOULD NOT be using “sweet” like this.

Positive attitude dying.   I stuck with the beer.

After I placed my order, there was that little lull where I could just sit there and take in the atmosphere. As I sipped my beer, I noticed that the speaker right above my head was playing Whitney Houston’s “How Will I know.”

Positive attitude gone.

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Starters

The commercials for Outback always mention their “Blooming Onion,” a whole onion that, after being sliced a certain way, battered, and deep fried, resembles a flower in bloom.  It’s their signature dish so I knew I had to try it, but the thing’s meant to be shared by 3-4 people.   Luckily they have “Bloom Petals,” a version with just the smaller parts of the onion.  In fancier restaurants it would be labeled “Deconstructed” –

OB onion

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UGHHH.  Those masters of marketing got me.  It’s really all the bits that fell off and into the bottom of the fryer.  Those big chunks are actually just globs of dough.  The one I put in my mouth wasn’t fully cooked and I almost puked.

And Belinda Carlisle is playing overhead. Positive attitude hopped in the car and ditched me.

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Out comes the wedge salad.

OB salad

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This was actually pretty good.  Not that you can mess up a chunk of iceberg lettuce with toppings.

Out comes the bone-in ribeye, one of their biggest, best steaks.

OB steak *

My first thought was that it looked a little on the thin side.  Then again, it was $23 and I’ve spent more on one of these uncooked.  Kudos to the cooks – it was perfectly cooked.    But something wasn’t right about the flavor.   It wasn’t old or spoiled, just odd.   I began to wonder if what I thought were grill marks was actually where the jockey got it good with the whip.

But another thing happened. It started off nice and firm, but it got really tough as I got towards the middle of it.  By the time I finished, it was downright leathery.  I thought about sending it back, but the bartender said it was his “birthday meal” and I liked the guy.  Besides, it’s not like the next one in the fridge was going to be any better.

The garlic mashed potatoes were pretty good, though. They really delivered on the garlic flavor.  The bread wasn’t that good, but I do appreciate the lovely presentation that evoked a jailhouse shanking.

OB bread

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Yes bread, I feel you. I feel you.

I’m pretty sure this first time at Outback will be the last time at Outback.  The salad and mashed potatoes were good, but the reason you go there is the steak.  It’s not like you’d go to see The Pips and not care about Gladys Knight.  Or, for you youngsters out there, it’s like going to see Bieber’s backup singers.

Even if the experience was magical, it would be a tough sell for me to return because I never really understood why people are so enamored with steakhouses in the first place.   Some of the fancier ones can run you at least $75 a person without drinks or appetizers.   And even then the steak isn’t any better than what I can do at home with a high-quality cut from the butcher.

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Do you like steakhouses?  What IS the plural of “anus”?  Any suggestions on what other commoner food I should try?

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

36 comments on “Food for Commoners – Outback Steakhouse

  1. Katie C.
    November 4, 2014

    I’d thoroughly enjoy reading a Red Lobster review from you.

  2. the winegetter
    November 4, 2014

    The Latin word anus is part of the u-declension, so the plural should be anus, assuming you wanted to be pretentious.

    I think an Applebee’s would be worth your while…

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 4, 2014

      What’s this about de-clenching my anus??

      Applebee’s has always been one of my fave places to make fun of. But honestly I’m not sure ive ever been to one… Ugh. Ok, for the sake of the blog.

  3. elizabeth
    November 4, 2014

    Keen’s in New York is a great place to go–yes, the steaks aren’t cheap but every one I’ve had has been perfectly cooked, no sides necessary.

    As for “plebian” restaurants, I second Red Lobster (they just revamped their menu to make it 85% seafood so I’m curious to see what they’ve changed post-Darden) and would also add Texas Roadhouse, On the Border, and Ruby Tuesday’s to the mix too.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 4, 2014

      youre trying to kill me… It was just announced that a texas roadhouse AND Bob Evans is opening up 5 min from my house. So i guess this town wants me to keep doing this.

  4. hemcfeely
    November 4, 2014

    LOL!! This is one of the best restaurant reviews I’ve read in a long time. The popularity of chain restaurants boggles the mind. If you want something familiar and comforting, cook it! I go to restaurants for food I can’t make at home. Now, I’m just veering off into rant territory.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 4, 2014

      Thanks for the kind words! Im with you about going for food i wont make make at home. Tho often i can make it but have no energy to do so. Or patience – i can make good baguettes and pasta, but i hate doing so…

  5. dwdirwin
    November 4, 2014

    I vote for a monthly review! Do they have Cheesecake Factory where you are?

  6. Michelle Williams
    November 4, 2014

    I second the vote for a monthly review. Though after reading I am depressed…….

  7. A Famished Foodie
    November 4, 2014

    My family loves Outback, but like you, I wouldn’t go back- only thing worse is Caraba’s. I wrote a few months ago that I think steakhouses aren’t really worth. Learn to make a great steak at home and go out for more unique things.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 5, 2014

      Carrabas was going to open by my house but they dropped out. Now it’s going to be a Bob Evans. Which is worse?

  8. ksbeth
    November 4, 2014

    get over to bob evans asap for a review. may be on the same level. we have an aussie in my family and he is horrified by this restaurant. the aussies call most of our beer ‘gnat’s piss’ as most of it is so weak compared to what they drink, and foster’s is not something they drink on a regular basis. more an american thing, thinking it’s an aussie thing.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 5, 2014

      Gnats piss? Cant imagine their bladder are that big..

      • ksbeth
        November 5, 2014

        hah! and they were referred to what a lot of americans call beer: bud light, mgd, etc. )

        • thefoodandwinehedonist
          November 5, 2014

          Maybe we send your Aussie friends some Bell’s or Jolly Pumpkin? Naaahhhhh, let’s keep it for ourselves.

        • ksbeth
          November 5, 2014

          ah, yes. our aussie married my daughter and they lived in ann arbor for a while. he’s the one who introduced me to jolly pumpkin when it was still a secret and you could only buy it from their cinder block warehouse in dexter. i think he loves the craft beers here, just the mainstream that turns him off. and when i went there, american beer had such an embarrassing reputation. it was my job to assure them there was more to it than bud light.

  9. Cara Thereon
    November 4, 2014

    Hahahaha. I haven’t been to outback in eons. It’s just not my favorite box place. I prefer Texas Roadhouse myself. Try that one. 🙂

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 5, 2014

      Theres one opening near my house. Def havent been to one of those.

      • Cara Thereon
        November 5, 2014

        I’m such a plebeian compared to you! Thought where I live currently has no box restaurants so I’ve been dining at a ton of high end, expensive places.

  10. gabrieleneumann
    November 4, 2014

    Olive Garden! At least the breadsticks are tasty!

  11. wineandhistory
    November 5, 2014

    I do like a good restaurant steak, but I often find that the best ones aren’t at steakhouses. In fact, one of the consistently best steak places ever was an Italian/Pizza restaurant that we used to have in town. Made even better by the fact their 8 oz. Sirloin was $12.99. With spaghetti. Amazing! I still miss that restaurant… 😦

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 5, 2014

      Yeah, I’ve had a bunch of good ones at non-steak places. I love hanger steak, which you NEVER see at a steak place.

  12. Yinzerella
    November 5, 2014

    The best steak ever is at The Prime Rib here in Baltimore (they also have ones in Philly, DC, and the Maryland Live Casino—I haven’t been to those, so I can’t talk about those). But the Baltimore one t is my favorite restaurant in the city, hands down. Absolutely fabulous.

    Sad to hear about the bloomin’ onion. I remember having one of those back in the 90s and thinking it was great.

    Now, it just reminds me of Spike from Buffy.

  13. thewineraconteur
    November 5, 2014

    John,
    I think you have found your calling, at least once a month you can go to a “restaurant,” preferably a chain and write an one of your charming essays on the food. Even Ann Arbor is not a haven any more for a gourmand like yourself.

  14. Pingback: Top Chef Boston Ep 4: 12 Chefs Walk Into a Bar | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  15. Next Stop TBD
    November 7, 2014

    As we discussed, I don’t mind Outback, but it is definitely a place that’s more about convenience than getting a great meal. But…A. I can’t believe that was your first time at Outback. B. That bread is usually delicious – it’s like dessert. C. You know more people will buy Pinot Noir if it says “sweet”….so maybe those corporate marketers are actually doing a great job. D. I’ve never been to Red Lobster but I hear the “cheesy cornbread” is addictive and full of lard

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 7, 2014

      Was JUST talking to someone about lard. Ive saw it recently and have never used it in cooking. Really curious about trying it

      • Next Stop TBD
        November 7, 2014

        Oh I’m sure it makes everything delicious….I haven’t cooked with it either though…no need to ADD calories when I’m okay with what I’ve got going on.

  16. Max D.
    November 17, 2014

    My first reaction was, “Man, he’s really taking one for the team!” But then I thought, “In what universe do hedonists take one for the team?”

    You could do a monthly thing, but then we’d have to take your hedonist credentials away. After all, what is hedonistic about going to Outback/Red Lobster/Olive Garden on a monthly basis?

    I did the math, and if I live to be until I’m in my 70’s, I have roughly 28,470 meals left to go before I keel over. I’ll be damned if one of those precious few meals is going to be at Appleby’s or Olive Garden.

  17. Pingback: Ann Arbor Eats: P.F. Chang’s | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  18. Pingback: Food for Commoners: Red Lobster | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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