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porkpa

Outback Steakhouse

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I'm writing this with the expectational of getting strongly criticized, if not flamed, knowing the general bias against chains on this board.

My work has me on the road for upwards of 100 days a year. Much of my travel takes me to small towns or alongside interstate highways. I have found there few better options for both value and reliability than what Outback offers.

Its possible to get a full dinner including steak/prime rib, a good salad(Caesar or house), a good baked potato(regular or sweet), excellent bread and dessert for less than twenty bucks. Add an appetizer of shrimp on the barbie and you still come in under twenty five. Its obviously not of Peter Luger's quality(nor its price), but I still think its usually pretty decent and I've never found it to be bad.

The service is generally pretty good, although of the "My name is.......and I'm your server tonight" variety.

If you don't want beef, the rack of lamb, salmon, fish of the day or just a plain old burger are very much worth eating.

One of the things I really like about Outback is that you can order an end cut of prime rib and still have it rare. In any other place I've been to, if you order an end cut its usually going to be medium to well done. I've never had the rare option other than at Outback.

Porkpa

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Obviously the word should be expectation, not expectational. That's what happens when you proof your post after you send it.

Porkpa

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better you than me. :biggrin:

i haven't been to Outback in years, but it always bothers me when the steak that i'm getting at a restaurant is about 1/10th as good as something i could make at home for little effort and little money.

i agree that when traveling to places where the local food scene is dismal, Outback and Olive Garden can be your friend, especially when you've just landed, and it's 8.30 and pissing down rain, you've just checked into the hotel, and you just want to get something in your stomach so you can get to bed and get up in time for that 8 o'clock. traveling is so glamorous. :laugh:


Edited by tommy (log)

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While I do despise Outback, I will avoid that issue because I think there is something else in your post worth addressing. In many of these small towns there is great local cuisine if you are willing to find it. Unfortunately, the Outbacks, Applebees, and Olive Gardens are always located close to the hotel cluster in town or the interstate exit ramp, but if you are willing to snoop around a little you can find great food at small places in these towns.

I drove through Mississippi many times en route to New Orleans and we would often find great catfish houses or BBQ joints well off the beaten path. Those are the places one should seek out when travelling to a new locale.

Outback steak has a chemical flavor to me. :blink:

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I promise myself never to go to chains, but I do find that I sometimes end up going. Reasons? Don't feel like cooking that night, a last minute decision, a group of friends plan an outing and I have no say in the restaurant choice. (It is far more important to be with friends then the food you eat.)

Outback, in my opinion, is one of the better chains. I have been there twice and both times the steaks were fairly decent. Not as good as at Ruth Chris's Steakhouse, but then again that would be considered a chain too, right?

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In many of these small towns there is great local cuisine if you are willing to find it.  Unfortunately, the Outbacks, Applebees, and Olive Gardens are always located close to the hotel cluster in town or the interstate exit ramp, but if you are willing to snoop around a little you can find great food at small places in these towns. :

porkpa, i am not going to flame you, and i adore ron so i am not going to flame him either, BUT

i live in a small town 50 miles from atlanta and i have searched endlessly for the "great local cuisine" and it doesn't exist in some areas.

conyers, GA, is a good example--without exception, this growing affluent atlanta burb is one crappy chain after another--local cuisine? oh, there's glenn's pit barbecue--seems promising at first, but trust me, you'll regret it. chianti's italian? it's all totally middle-of-the-road pedestrian food, the locally run places no better in any way from the chains--maybe not even as good.

porkpa, i gave this topic a lot of thought a couple years ago when my husband & i drove from GA to PA through W Va and could find no place to eat breakfast--we finally ended up at a Bob Evans.

if you're passing through this part of GA and want to find good food, you'll have to eat at someone's house.

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i agree that when traveling to places where the local food scene is dismal, Outback and Olive Garden can be your friend, especially when you've just landed, and it's 8.30 and pissing down rain, you've just checked into the hotel, and you just want to get something in your stomach so you can get to bed and get up in time for that 8 o'clock.  traveling is so glamorous.  :laugh:

You can say that again.

i agree that when traveling to places where the local food scene is dismal, Outback and Olive Garden can be your friend, especially when you've just landed, and it's 8.30 and pissing down rain, you've just checked into the hotel, and you just want to get something in your stomach so you can get to bed and get up in time for that 8 o'clock.  traveling is so glamorous.  :laugh:

But Ron is right, too, about there being hidden good food. A time and place for everything, though.

Edit to add: I don't travel much, but when HWOE does, I usually research for him and provide a list of places he might try. The regional boards here and on Chowhound are a huge help. Also the WCR membership directory, so that I can send him to support my "sisters."


Edited by Suzanne F (log)

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In many of these small towns there is great local cuisine if you are willing to find it.  Unfortunately, the Outbacks, Applebees, and Olive Gardens are always located close to the hotel cluster in town or the interstate exit ramp, but if you are willing to snoop around a little you can find great food at small places in these towns.

Ditto

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yes and no--it depends. my guess is that porkpa looks for good local places when he has the time.

is this one of the functions of the regional boards, too, for people to post about good local foods, and also for travelers to find out where to eat when in X-ville?

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Stellabella,

You are right. When I'm on the road I often don't know where I'll be staying on a given day. A lot depends on how much I've done, how much distance I've covered and how much still has to be covered.

Its often the Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, Hilton Garden Inn or Marriott with neighboring restaurants which determine where I might be staying that evening. Rarely is researching local eateries an option. I'll often ask about restaurants when registering at a hotel. Rarely is a "local gem" suggested.

Porkpa

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i agree that when traveling to places where the local food scene is dismal, Outback and Olive Garden can be your friend, especially when you've just landed, and it's 8.30 and pissing down rain, you've just checked into the hotel, and you just want to get something in your stomach so you can get to bed and get up in time for that 8 o'clock.  traveling is so glamorous.  :laugh:

Outback yes (its just meat, how much can you mess it up?), Olive Garden... no way.

I'm sure we can dredge up some nice "chain restaurant" threads from the past if we want to debate this more. :smile:

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Actually I think that Outback is more than "just meat". I prefer some of the non meat items to the beef ones. I think their dark bread is excellent; I like the shrimp on the barbie; the coconut shrimp is worth eating; their salads are fresh and enjoyable; the baked potato and baked sweet potato are as good as anybody's; anytime I've had the salmon its been good and fresh tasting; lastly the chocolate thunder from down under dessert is IMO much to much, but a very satisfying end to a meal.

You notice I haven't mentioned their signature dish the Bloomin Onion. Its okay, but they have better.

Porkpa.

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When travelling, there is something to be said for knowing what to expect. I think Outback is one of the better chains.

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Actually I think that Outback is more than "just meat". .....

They serve Maker's Mark manhattans.

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I'm getting the feeling that this "Outback" chain is an Australian theme place? Is this so? :unsure:

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I'm getting the feeling that this "Outback" chain is an Australian theme place? Is this so? :unsure:

G'day, mate.

porkpa, it all makes sense to me as the alternative seems to be hotel room service and the horror on a tray that calls forth and the nightmares that will follow.

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yes. it is australian themed, but aside from that, it has nothing to do with Australia. It's as australian as olive garden is italian. In other words, not at all.

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Usually when I land in an unknown location my first thing on the "To Do" list after checking in is to break out the yellow pages and peruse the restaurant listings. I generally avoid the places that seem to be spending way too much $$$ on big, gaudy listings (Proudly serving Anytown since 1997!) and go for the second string places that are one or two steps above a one line tiny print listing. Depending on the size of the town I usually look for a small to medium place that either showcases the local specialties (I don't look for seafood in Colorado) or local ethnic fare. If I do hit on a decent eatery I often ask the staff what other local places they enjoy. This is no guarantee, but it seems to be a better bet than the places "Reviewed" in the glossy brochure provided in the hotel room.

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Depending on the size of the town I usually look for a small to medium place that either showcases the local specialties (I don't look for seafood in Colorado) or local ethnic fare.  If I do hit on a decent eatery I often ask the staff what other local places they enjoy.  This is no guarantee, but it seems to be a better bet than the places "Reviewed" in the glossy brochure provided in the hotel room.

I'll often ask the check in people or the bell captain (in a bigger place) for a local food suggestion. More often than not, they'll say Applebee's or Lone Star. If I've been driving for two hours, and it's after dark in an unfamiliar place, I don't want to be an explorer.

If I have time to plan a trip, I may go to the trouble of researching. if I have to arrive at 9 pm (long after the diner's shut), meet the client for breakfast, and be on a plane to somewhere else by 11 am, it's whatever's open, moderately clean, and has a liquor license at 10pm. In much of America, that's not a wide selection.

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...Rarely is researching local eateries an option. I'll often ask about restaurants when registering at a hotel. Rarely is a "local gem" suggested.

Porkpa

That will usually be the case as quite frequently the 'average' person will not have the correct answer.

...is this one of the functions of the regional boards, too, for people to post about good local foods, and also for travelers to find out where to eat when in X-ville?

That would be your best resource for leads.

That's also a sure-fire way to de-cloak a lurker who would otherwise not post, especially if the thread requesting suggestions has little traffic.

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Usually when I land in an unknown location my first thing on the "To Do" list after checking in is to break out the yellow pages and peruse the restaurant listings...

I'm so glad I'm not alone! :laugh:

I understand that some people feel the need for something "familiar and predictable", but if I'm in a new city/town/backwater burg and I have the option, you better believe I'm going to take the chance and try out the local restaurants. Even if one happens to be horribly bad, it's still a unique experience which will ultimately be a more treasured memory than "Wow, this Outback looks and tastes just like the one back home".

I remember being in Knoxville, TN as the first stop on a solo road trip out to the Southwest. I picked out a German restaurant for lunch simply BECAUSE I thought it would be interesting (read, funny) to see what a German restaurant would be like there. On the way to the restaurant I passed through a slew of chains, both fast-food and middle-of-the-road, before making it to my destination. I'm glad I got to eat at that restaurant, because I'm sure it will be swallowed up by all those chains eventually.

And you know what? The sauerbraten was very respectable, the peanut butter vinaigrette will forever be etched in my mind as something I shouldn't have ordered, and the German potato salad was probably the best I've ever had. Plus I got to listen to a German polka song which shares the exact same tune as "Deep in the Heart of Texas".

Later on that same trip, I happened to stop for lunch in Truth or Consequences, NM. I had what was probably the worst barbecue I can remember in a tiny little place filled with police officers talking about how quickly they would throw aside the badge and beat a suspect if he said the wrong thing about their families. I was served some shredded pork that seemed like it had just come out of the pool, it was that wet. Not succulent, not moist, just WET and unappetizing. Of course, I couldn't exactly complain about it when one of the police officers was clearly the husband of the cook, but I would still rather have that memory than one about having been to just another chain restaurant.

I guess I'm just a gambler at heart, but I think life's more interesting that way.

edit: poor tppyipng


Edited by 201 (log)

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I'm forgetting the obvious here... I'll often go on this forum and some of my food related email lists and mention that I'll be going to Such & Such place and does anyone have any recommendations. Often if there's not someone who lives in the area being asked about there is likely someone who is more familiar with it than I am. I've had some really good experiences from such recommendations, notably on my trip to Arizona last year.

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Usually when I land in an unknown location my first thing on the "To Do" list after checking in is to break out the yellow pages and peruse the restaurant listings...

I'm so glad I'm not alone! :laugh:

Another advantage of doing the phone book scan is that when I'm in a unfamiliar area I can call the establishment and ask "Hello? I'm here. How do I get there?"

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