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Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill

This entry is part of a series, Restaurants»

New York Strip

This restaurant has closed.

Not too long back I found myself in a part of town I hadn’t visited in a couple of years. I had a half hour to kill, so I drove around the area to see what all had changed, and maybe what had stayed the same.

I remembered an area of restaurants that PJ and I would go to when looking for a good meal; it was just ahead and on the right. I swooped in, and was surprised to see a new place tucked in among the expected shops. A neat, light-colored building without any glaring signs; what could it be? I pulled around to the front and the entry said, “Blue Oak Grill.” I was immediately intrigued, as I’d lived all my life in Texas but never seen a blue oak before. I had to at least take a peek. So I stepped in and asked for a takeaway menu.

American fare, I thought, as I gawked at the layout like a hick from the sticks took a quick, discreet peek at the environs. Nice, but nothing too unusual. Then I had to hurry off to my appointment, and I forgot all about the eatery with the novel name.

Until yesterday, that is.

I’d been cooped up most of the week by the weather (meaning, my unwillingness to risk my life driving on ice with Texicans), and I was ready to get out into the sunshine and see the world. And eat too. I asked my spouse if she had any preferences for a late lunch (it was after 1 P.M.), and she said I should surprise her. That’s when I remembered the Blue Oak.

We loaded up and headed out, as they say here in central Texas at rodeo time. Within ten minutes we were being seated in a surprisingly quiet booth area. The Blue Oak has several seating areas, and the center of the establishment is a U-shaped bar with the obligatory sports screens. There were a few patrons at the bar, chatting and occasionally glancing at the Texas A&M-Baylor game (Baylor won in overtime). I couldn’t believe how quiet they were, but the seemed to be enjoying their hushed conversations.

Esther, our server, efficiently took our drink orders and offered us some cornbread. I don’t know about you, but I never turn down cornbread. This stuff came out in a small, cast-iron skillet, and it was amazing! Sweetened with Round Rock Honey. A great way to start a meal, this free appetizer.

We dawdled over our choices, but Esther was patient with us. We finallly settled on steaks: Paula Jo choosing a New York Strip, and I went with the comfort food classic, Chicken Fried Steak. I’m a sucker for fried with gravy, and I still consider CFS to be a standard test of any new restaurant in the South.

Chicken Fried Steak

While we waited on our order (and ate more cornbread), PJ and I looked about more closely. We each had a sense of “I’ve been here before.” Something like Cheers? Not exactly, of course; but warm, comfortable, welcoming. Dark gray-brown wood paneling and columns are offset by light cream upper walls. the tasteful, occasionally whimsical wall art provides great eye appeal without being kitschy. Tasteful, very tasteful. The only part that was a bit eye-jangling was the pipe handrails leading up to the raised bar area; I would have preferred wood, but the dark color of the metal’s paint kept it all from being unsettling. PJ opined that making all those rails and supports out of wood might have been too much; the pipes were okay.

Enough about the layout and decor; on to the food!

Paula Jo had ordered her steak “medium,” per usual. She chose Cheesy Broccoli Casserole and Sweet Potato Fries as her two sides. This recent fad with sweet potatoes is catching on at many restaurants, and we see them now on pretty much every American-style place we eat. Me, I’m not too keen on them; I can take or leave, and I often leave in favor of more classic potatoes: fried, baked or stomped.

I ordered classic Southern side dishes with my CFS: Southern Green Beans, and Iowa Corn. (Okay, Iowa’s a bit north to be considered Southern; we’ve learned to import.) The beans were tasty, with bits of bacon mixed in, but I found them a bit overdone. Not bad, and certainly more Southern style than the barely-blanched, dry and flavorless beans offered in more food-nouveau joints. The kernel corn was perfectly done, and surprisingly sweet. Neither side survived contact with the enemy the experience.

The steaks, you ask? PJ’s was cooked exactly to her liking, and she said after her first bite, “This is even better than I expected!” My carnivorous spouse is spoiled when it comes to steak, as her parents raise range-fed beef and we get plenty of high-quality meat to prepare exactly the way we like. Her spontaneous outburst is high praise indeed. I glanced over, and what I saw was a great-looking piece of scorched cow, with full grill marks and a beautiful, juicy color. It also appeared that it was maybe two steaks they’d forgotten to cut in half or something. Huge!

Cooked Corn

Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the size. The hand-breaded lovely that was placed in front of me completely covered the serving platter it came on. Esther let out a sigh of relief just to get the load out of her hands. It was far and away the largest Chicken-Fried I’ve had in the area. No doubt! And the gravy looked inviting.

Many eating places don’t pass my CFS test because they can’t make good cream gravy. I’m often served grayish glop with the appearance of badly-made school paste, but without any of that adhesive’s charm and elegance. This version, though, was perfect. Bits of pepper clearly visible; not heavily salted, but not flat either; smooth and creamy, hot and slightly mobile; this sauce was tasty and plentiful. As a seasoned gravy snob maven, I’m sure this was freshly made. The steak wasn’t out of some freezer box either; it was clearly breaded to order, as promised.

When Esther stopped back by to offer us dessert, we rolled our eyes and asked for some to-go boxes instead. We couldn’t finish our entrées. Then she tried again with a most tempting offer: Pie Happy Hour! From 3 P.M. to 5 P.M., every day except Sunday. And it was almost time to start! She was sure she could get us a sneak preview, if we wanted.

I was more than tempted; I was provoked! I sure wish I’d known about this innovation sooner. I only ever eat three kinds of pie: Hot, Cold and More. I was weaned on fruit pies, and had pie instead of birthday cake while growing up. How could I resist?

Well, I was about ready to pop, was how. A big slice of pie washed down with coffee would have caused a mess they’d be talking about for weeks. I sadly declined, but I know what I’m going back for Real Soon Now…

Blue Oak Grill, 2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX (512) BLUE-OAK Open Daily, 11 A.M. – 11 P.M. Take-out and Catering Available.

Blue Oak Grill on Urbanspoon

Enjoy the (Blue is Good) Heat!

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  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
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  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
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