A year ago the Clan celebrated at the LongHorn Steakhouse in New Braunfels. (I wrote about that event here.) At that time, there were very few Longhorn steakhouses in Texas. It’s only been one short year, and now there are Longhorn steakhouses in the Austin area. One store opened a few months ago very near our house. Since then, one has opened in Cedar Park, one will be opening soon in South Austin and one will be coming to Georgetown, only a fifteen minute drive north. Yes, the economy may be bad, but LongHorn is growing in spite of that. I’ve heard it said that a recession is often the best time to grow your business. Apparently the upper management of Longhorn read the same article.
Since LongHorn opened their new restaurant in Round Rock we’ve been there several times. In fact, four times in the last six weeks we’ve had visitors who wanted to go out to eat, and we took them there. Each time the greeters have been friendly, the place has been busy but with a short wait, and the food and service have been excellent. Now for some details:
We learned our lesson last Valentine’s; don’t take a party of nearly thirty out to eat at a new place on a holiday. (Okay, that’s pretty much a no-brainer; but the decision was made in committee, which is, well, a no-brainer kind of entity.) The longest wait we’ve had for a table was nearly 20 minutes, on a Friday just past peak dinner time. They’re plenty busy, but they’re pretty good at getting folks settled, fed and on their way. They don’t rush their clients, but they don’t mess around on their end either!
A bit about the menu. The new menu. Actually, it’s the seasonal menu, the one they wrap around the standard menu when they hand them out at your table. There are some nice “new” steaks on there: Bacon-Wrapped Bourbon Sirloin; Garlic-Herb Crusted Sirloin; Loaded Sirloin; Mushroom Bordelaise Sirloin; and a Bacon-Wrapped Sirloin. I’ve been sampling these (they come in 6-oz and 8-oz sizes), and I must say, they’re all quite different and each very tasty. I especially like the Bourbon and Bordelaise versions; but then, I’m a big fan of sauces and caramelized onions. I always order my steak medium, and it comes out the same way, though it’s closer to medium-rare than medium, as I understand the terms generally. I don’t mind, a good, tender steak should be more on the rare side than well-done, in my opinion.
Other new items include Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Skinny Cocktails: a tasty Citrus Margarita, a Fruit Cosmo and a Black Raspberry Sangria, each boasting less than 150 calories (alcohol and all). I found the margarita to be tasty and distinctive, and PJ tried the Sangria. She said it was okay, but she’s not a sangria drinker normally; I sipped on it and I liked it. The raspberry flavor comes through nicely, and it’s a novel touch.
The steaks have always been good; all three meals. Tender, flavorful, and cooked to order. On one occasion one of our guests ordered their steak “well done” and he said that was a mistake. Or as he put it, “they charcoaled it good.” I’d tried to caution him, but he doesn’t the sight of blood. He’s learned at other places, if you don’t order it “well” then he’ll not enjoy the experience. Next time, though, he’ll go for medium-well and see how that works. (I think it’ll be fine; and certainly more tender.)
The other items we’ve sampled have all been tasty and properly prepared. Which items? The Wild West Shrimp appetizer, for instance. A generous boat of crispy-fried, breaded shrimp, with some zest in the batter and served with Ranch dressing. The Grilled White Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms were hot and juicy, with plenty of gooey cheese. We had the Western Cheese Fries twice, and both times we asked for the chili and jalapeños on the side. Served that way, we thoroughly enjoyed the dish. The Firecracker Chicken Wraps barely landed on the table before they were all taken, followed by serious crunching and smiles.
On one occasion we’ve had small kids along. The LongHorn staff took great care of them, providing exactly what they wanted, done the quirky way they wanted it. A couple of non-steak entrées have showed up, depending on taste, and they were generous, nicely prepared and presented, and in every case the diner declared the meal tasty and satisfying.
A word about salads. Normally, PJ isn’t a big salad fan. However, at LongHorn she’s found a favorite, and she orders it every time. In one instance, it was her whole meal, as she wasn’t very hungry that evening. The salad isn’t on the main menu, and it’s a whole $1.49 to add it as a side to a steak (normally $5.49 by itself). It’s a Bleu Cheese topped salad with walnuts and other goodies, over fresh Romaine lettuce hearts. If it’s good enough to make a convert out of Paula Jo, it’s gotta be great.
I want to come back to the service for a moment. Everybody we’ve seen is smiling while working hard. They all appear to enjoy working with each other. Our waiters have all been good listeners. Once, we had a couple of ladies waiting on our table; one was in training. I was pleased to see the attention given to the training effort while making sure we had a great dining experience. Every other time we’ve had the same waiter, and he’s been a real gem: A great listener, always checking on our needs and experience, all while not intruding on our enjoyment of the meal. (He knows how to take a joke, too; but that’s a different story.)
Here’s the kicker: We had a problem with an order, once; an item was delayed coming out of the kitchen. The dish came out with the service manager in attendance, and she not only gave us her personal apology, but she had already removed the item from the bill. That sort of pro-active service when there’s a problem, even a small one, is very rare these days, and we greatly appreciated it.
For a full-service steak house, LongHorn’s prices are moderate, and we find their service and ambiance to fit our style perfectly. There’s no doubt, LongHorn Steakhouse has become our go-to place for entertaining out. We’ll be back regularly, I’m sure…
LongHorn Steakhouse, 2702 Parker Rd., Suite C (in la Frontera, facing Texas 45), Round Rock, TX 78681. Phone 512.246-7474. Full-service steakhouse dining at moderate prices, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Steak, chicken, seafood and salads, with appetizers and desserts. Full-service bar. Seasonal specials. Kid friendly. Some of the best service in the area (but maybe I’m biased).
Enjoy the (Great Steakhouse Experience) Heat!
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