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porkpa

Outback Steakhouse

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The Outback in Bethesda serves Castlemaine XXXX bitter on tap (as of two years ago anyway). Never found it anywhere else in the States. That qualifies as genuine Australian in my book.

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I don't mind drinking at Outback, and they seemed to endure our dear toddler spawn with equanimity, even as he flung a cocktail menu, Ninja-star fashion, across the dining room. Much better, in fact, than said toddler's father, who double-time marched him to the car for the remainder of the meal. My mother-in-law loves the salmon, go figure.

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Yes Outback has reached Japan! :biggrin: I have been there a couple times when it first opened, because it was nostalgic and it is hard to find decent steaks (that are affordable) in Japan. It is a lot more expensive here and I no longer find it worth the price. I also occasionally frequent TGIFriday's or Tony Roma's when I am getting homesick.

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After wrestling with a nasty case of food poisoning over the weekend, and in the process having to cancel my first ever trip to Luger’s, I had a hankerin’ for steak last night. Given that my stomach was still a little iffy, I wanted to be relatively close to home, but didn’t want to spend River Palm kinda money for fear that the gain would be short-lived, if you know what I mean.

So, given those parameters, and a sudden, burning curiosity, I suggested to mrs. tommy that we stop at the Outback on the way home. WTF? I couldn’t believe it myself. In fact, as I was on rt 495, trying to figure out if I should take the turnpike to 80 or just jump on 3 to 17, I uttered the words “where exactly is the Outback”. As those words flew out of my mouth, I heard just how absurd they sounded. But, I was a man on a mission. Hey, what the hell, it was a throw-away meal on a Monday, right? And clearly there wouldn’t be one of those famous Outback/Olive Garden type lines out the door on a Monday, right? Wrong.

We pulled into the Outback on rt 17 behind 2 cars doing the same. Bad sign. There were people sitting outside, and the parking lot was jamming. Needless to say, there was a wait. So bizarre. So very bizarre. The pleasant hostesses informed us there’d be a 10 minute wait, and gave us one of those cool pagers. Even I can deal 10 minute wait, and had a chance to look over the menu.

We skipped the apps, which seemed predictably disgusting, and went right for the steak. The Outback serves USDA Choice meats, as I assumed, but they also have a section with Prime meats. Now I’m not guessing these are in the top tier of prime meats, but I figured it didn’t make much sense to order choice when there was prime.

My strip steak (16 oz) couldn’t have been cooked more perfectly. I was surprised at the dark sear the steak had. It was definitely a good piece of meat…tender, juicy, flavorful. Eh who knows, maybe they inject it with something. But it was still good. I dare say that given the same piece of meat at home I couldn’t get results as good as the Outback. However, I rarely buy anything but dry-aged these days, so that point is almost moot.

Mrs. tommy’s filet mignon was pretty good as well, although a bit on the thin side for me (10 oz I think?). again, a nice sear. In addition to those two cuts, they offer a ribeye.

The steaks come with salad or (soup?) and a choice of potato. The salad was pretty run of the mill, but pretty good at the same time. Crunchy lettuce, some onions, some decent looking tomatoes (which I don’t eat on salads so I don’t know if they were good), and some of that fake cheese. Mrs. tommy tells me she likes fake cheese on salad. What can I tell you. It should be noted that this was no Olive Garden salad, which approaches perfection with its mix of salt, pepper, oregano, zippy vinegar, and onions. But it was good enough.

The French fries were a disgrace. They were skin-on, which is usually a bad sign (I can’t think of many places that make my favorite fries that are making the skin-on variety). They were soggy, limp, oil-logged, and disgusting. If that plate had decent fries on it, it would have been one helluva decent meal.

Our server, Ken (he introduced himself. Smart management. Smart ken.), was pleasant, friendly, efficient, and generally a pleasure. The runner was also great, asking if we needed anything else as he set the plates down. The request of fresh ground pepper was filled in about 5 seconds with a small peppermill for the table. From what I saw, the staff seems to go out of their way to make sure you’re satisfied. I think there are more than a few restaurants that could learn from that, although they won’t.

And kudos to Outback for not throwing a bottle of A1 on every table.

All-in-all, I was pretty impressed with Outback. I have to say that the 29 dollar price-tag on my steak seemed a bit high, but it was executed very well. With a glass of wine (they have some palatable selections) and a “Big Bloke Beer” (22 oz…I’d just as soon they not point out that I’m a “big bloke” who needs the extra 6 oz of beer), the bill was about 67 dollars before tip.

If I was stuck in a strange town, and wanted a steak, you can bet I’d stop at the Outback. However, I’m not sure I’ll go back to my local Outback, only because there are so many options.

edit:

Note: originally written about the rt 17 NJ Outback and moved here.


Edited by tommy (log)

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I've actually been mocked here before for suggesting that Outback isn't that evil, other than the hokey fake-Aussie crap and the wait times for seating. The Pork chops are a really reliable good eat, for example, and the steaks are decent for non-aged meat. The "bloomin' onion" is a joke, of course, but sort of a fun party food.

There are worse places than Outback. TGI Friday's for example. Bennigans. Olive Garden. Any of those places where they try and act like they are serving you something special, when really you'd be much happier with a nice slab of meat.

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I've been to the Outback quite a few times, and never had a piece of meat that was inferior or poorly cooked. I'm trying to remember whether I've been to more than one branch - no, I guess not, so I can't speak for the run of them, but based on my experience at my local one (Lindenhurst, LI) I'm surprised at what you say about the fries. Granted that skin-on may not be to everyone's taste (it is to mine), at this branch at least they have never been soggy, limp, or oil-logged - in fact, they'd have to be pretty damn good to keep me ordering them instead of the baked potato; and they are. (And BTW they also do a good baked potato, with a nice chompably robust skin, and they'll give you just about anything you want to put on it.) Salads - not stellar but not bad at all. The so-called Caesar would be just fine under another name, like "Glory of Garlic," perhaps. Doesn't much resemble any Caesar I've ever had, but it's a great way to get a garlic "fix" if you're in need of such. The service, as you say, is excellent, at a level befitting far swankier places - and it's uniform, too: they must have a serious and well-organized staff training program. My only complaint there is ambient noise - music a bit too loud, and acoustics that somehow manage to magnify the rowdiness of the bar.

EDIT: Yeah, the Aussie schtick is silly, but once you've registered it the first time it's pretty easy to tune it out, sort of a white noise. Also, I think they toned it down after the first year in business; someone must have figured out that the customers weren't enthralled by it, so they had the servers (if not the menu) implement a more mellow version of it - now it feels more like "Aussie-Optional."

Yup... I really like that rib-eye. There, I've admitted it, and I'm not sorry.


Edited by balmagowry (log)

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I've actually been mocked here before for suggesting that Outback isn't that evil,

in case it was me, i'm sorry and i take it back. :biggrin:

as we sat, Men At Work was on the stereo. another bad sign. but i quickly realized that there's just not enough aussie music to make the soundtrack 100% aussie. what are we talkin here, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, Oliva-Newton John, AC/DC. did i miss 1 or 2? (although the phil collins that followed made me want to gouge my eardrums out with me steak knife).

hokey for sure.

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Since Outback in a national chain, should I shift this topic to General guys?

EDIT - Okay... merging with the thread linked by Varmint. It makes sense.

The so-called Caesar would be just fine under another name, like "Glory of Garlic," perhaps. Doesn't much resemble any Caesar I've ever had, but it's a great way to get a garlic "fix

I rather liked their Caesar, although it is correct that in actuality it's not very Caesar-like.


Edited by jhlurie (log)

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as we sat, Men At Work was on the stereo.  another bad sign.  but i quickly realized that there's just not enough aussie music to make the soundtrack 100% aussie.  what are we talkin here, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, Oliva-Newton John, AC/DC.  did i miss 1 or 2? 

AIR SUPPLY

(although the phil collins that followed made me want to gouge my eardrums out with me steak knife).

OH GOD

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as we sat, Men At Work was on the stereo.  another bad sign.  but i quickly realized that there's just not enough aussie music to make the soundtrack 100% aussie.  what are we talkin here, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, Oliva-Newton John, AC/DC.  did i miss 1 or 2? 

Off the top of my head you missed INXS, Crowded House and Nick Cave.

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Kylie Minogue? Jet (the "Are You Going To Be My Girl" group).

Okay, now as to Outback... Mmm. I love Bloomin' Onions! Fry me up one right now! Have any of you ever eaten one all by yourself?

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as we sat, Men At Work was on the stereo.  another bad sign.  but i quickly realized that there's just not enough aussie music to make the soundtrack 100% aussie.  what are we talkin here, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, Oliva-Newton John, AC/DC.  did i miss 1 or 2? 

Off the top of my head you missed INXS, Crowded House and Nick Cave.

Hunters and Collectors, and Paul Kelly.

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Outback, people. Okay at least throw in the phrase Bloomin' Onion or something (see my example above). Kangaroo. Shrimp on the Barbie. Something on a plate. And THEN what you listened to while eating it. :wink:

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The Mrs and I will go there occasionally when I don't feel like cooking.

I can take or leave the place, and I'd probably leave it - except for the "Barbie Chook 'n' Bacon." Probably one of the more unfortunately named sandwiches on the planet, but I absolutely love it. Extra barbecue sauce on the side, for the usually mediocre fries. (Half the time I don't bother with the fries and just dip chunks of the dark bread into the sauce...)

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Never been to the Outback, but I do sometimes eat at chain restaurants (I confess!). While I do normally research any place I'm going, sometimes it just happens. Once on vacation, when my rental car blew a tire, spun out during morning rush hour, nearly got me killed, and it took me hours to get a new car...then I had to drive to where that evening's hotel reservation was... I admit, I parked the car and practically crawled across the parking lot to Taco Bell. The next day, nerves soothed, I resumed my hunt for local food goodies, including bags of lucious apples in the Hood River area.

When I visited my folks in Ann Arbor, MI, they always took me to Chili's or Applebees. Hello? Ann Arbor? Home of Zingermans? I usually get them there by the second day of my visit ("But it's so expensive!" "Yeah, Dad, good food can be more expensive than bad food"). And when my Mom was in Hospice, Boston Market kept us fed, when otherwise we would have just gone home every night and had canned soup.

And if you're on a trip, zooming down the Interstate, and just want to make time to get to your destination, there can be a sick thrill in pulling into a Chain restaurant. Sort of like going 'Native' in polyester-land. This is only done when it's cold or rainy, otherwise, it's a picnic at the rest stop (or beach, or winery) with my own good food.

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Outback, people. Okay at least throw in the phrase Bloomin' Onion or something (see my example above). Kangaroo. Shrimp on the Barbie. Something on a plate. And THEN what you listened to while eating it. :wink:

OK, OK, sorry. :biggrin:

Never been to Outback. Waiting for an hour or two with toddlers in tow is my idea of torture. No thanks.

But I hear they have decent steaks.

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Kylie Minogue?  Jet (the "Are You Going To Be My Girl" group).

Okay, now as to Outback... Mmm.  I love Bloomin' Onions!  Fry me up one right now!  Have any of you ever eaten one all by yourself?

What - do we look like a walking death wish? Of course not!

As for the music - hey, I may as well admit I wouldn't know one group from the other if it bit me on the ass (as no doubt it has already done at some point). I tune it out like the pseudo-Aussie schtick and the TV over the bar and the bar's reactions to the TV over the bar... and I concentrate on the meat and the Salade a l'ail... and I'm pretty happy. For the buck, it's a very fair amount of bang.

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That bloomin' onion is the lazy man's onion ring. Less crunch, messy to eat.

That said, the food is passable at Outback, just not spectacular. But for the money, i think I like it better than Ruth's Chris or Morton's, actually. I've had poorly cooked steak at Ruths Chris (only once but at $35 a steak, not good)

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i'm still not sure i'm buying too much of the "bang for the buck" theory at 29 dollars per unaged steak. unless the choice cuts are really good as well (they're about 10 dollars less IIRC).


Edited by tommy (log)

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The only item on any menu (including the fast food places) that really scares me is the Bloomin Onion. The nutritional info will simply blow your mind. I'd rather just eat the 2 pounds of cookie dough, which is the approximate caloric and fat equal to this thing.

It's the only time I ever felt sorry for an onion.

The rest of the food is fine by me, especially if it's a hang-out-with-friends kind of deal.

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The only item on any menu (including the fast food places) that really scares me is the Bloomin Onion. The nutritional info will simply blow your mind.

much different than the same amount of onion rings made in a similar way?

i remember being at the 9th ave food festival (NYC) a bunch of years back, when the bloomin onion machine thing was first making its appearance (or at least it was the first time a lot of people ever saw one). i got myself a bloomin onion, and about 20 people walked up to me asking what it was and where i got it. i remember throwing about 95% of it in the garbage, as it was pretty rich.

the bloomin onion, while being the signature "dish" of the Outback, has also become the butt of many jokes.


Edited by tommy (log)

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We've two places along with OG, Outback, Applebee's. To me the Southwest Southen Emporium, and CrackerBarrel are entirely good and acceptable. We've also got Country Buffet, which is bizarre. It may be Scand., Russian, Chinese, American pioneer,whatever, when you go in!

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The only item on any menu (including the fast food places) that really scares me is the Bloomin Onion. The nutritional info will simply blow your mind. I'd rather just eat the 2 pounds of cookie dough, which is the approximate caloric and fat equal to this thing.

But what about the Aussie Cheese Fries? A veritable mountain of fries, gobs of ooey-gooey Jack and Cheddar, lots o'bacon, served with Ranch dressing for dipping.

Enough fat and cholesterol for the whole table for a week, all in one appetizer!

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