Review: Longhorn Steakhouse in Boston

December 7, 2011

*Want a Longhorn Steakhouse gift card? I have one to give away to a lucky commenter. Person who puts the best comment on this post before Dec. 20, 2011 will get this gift.*

During the summer, I added a post to the blog talking about cooking steak. That post was pretty easy because during warmer weather, I’ll use any excuse to use propane to sear some meat. With our warm summer, I was out there constantly and was able to weave my way through rib-eyes, sirloins, tenderloins, filets and one porterhouse (which I mangled because I’m an idiot).

But I told you that little story to tell you this one. The agency for Longhorn Steakhouse read that post and some of my other review posts and asked if I’d be kind enough to dine at one of their locations and give my opinion on the blog. I jumped at the chance for two reasons. 1 – see the above paragraph. 2 – 80% of my meals are eaten out and it was just a matter of time for me to have a free slot in my meal schedule.

So, let’s get right into the review….

Longhorn Steakhouse is NOT Morton’s. It is NOT Capitol Grille. It is NOT Shula’s or Ruth’s Chris or even Abe & Louie’s. But it is a solid little restaurant chain that competes – in my mind – with Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse and a bunch of mid-level chain restaurants.

They provide pretty good food for an affordable price, and sometimes you get surprised. When I went there for lunch the other day, I got surprised twice. Once in a good way, once not so great.

The day
We arrived (two of us) for lunch around 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon. There was minimal crowd and the hostess and wait staff were very attentive. The bar had a few patrons in it and the bartender was boisterous and fun. We were seated immediately and there was nary a hiccup when I requested that we be seated at a booth instead of a table.

The room
The main restaurant is pretty open. While different Western gear divides the room into distinct seating areas, the pillars are open and you can easily see across the entire restaurant. The booth was comfy and I didn’t see any worn furniture anywhere. One thing I didn’t check was when this location opened, but everything looked pretty new.

I almost got caught drinking a Bud-Light Lime, but yelled after the waitress to change my order to a Pomegranate Margarita. I thought, “If I’m reviewing a Western-themed steakhouse, shouldn’t I have a Western-ish drink?” The answer was yes. And the margarita was good. Flavor was pleasant without an overt taste of alcohol. Sometimes – especially during the day – I can appreciate a bartender who serves drinks correctly instead of going overboard on the booze.

I ordered the oft-advertised Lobster-stuffed Filet. Don’t ask if advertising works, but I had seen it so much that I was curious. And Longhorn was picking up the tab, so I decided to splurge. I also had the French Onion Soup and a side of rice with my steak.

The soup was salty goodness and full of flavor. I’ve had better at top-end restaurants, but I’ve also had worse. This one made me happy with the right amount of cheese, bread and onions. I finished the entire crock.

The rice was a bit spicy, but not unnecessarily so. The spice gave a bit more flavor to what a diner might expect to be a bland pile of rice. I’m a huge rice fan and this met my approval. On the other hand, if a place screws up the rice, it might not have much hope in other areas.

The steak was also right up there with the other two pieces of my meal. In fact, the steak was the hero. As usual, I ordered it medium rare and it was delivered to the table perfectly cooked. The meat was flavorful and tender. Good points all around in that category. But that’s were things went a little south.

If you want to stop reading here, you can think of Longhorn as a solid B or B- restaurant within its category. You’ll get a solid meal with good flavors, but you won’t be wowed by the menu options or the inventiveness of the kitchen.

Still here? OK, let’s get right into it…

Lobster in a steak? That’s just silly. The lobster was not fantastic, and I think part of that is due to it being paired with such a tender piece of steak. The lobster, as a result, was dry and salty to me and totally extraneous. It’s a gimmick and if I went there for lunch today, I’d order just the regular filet sans crustacean.

The other person in my lunch party ordered a burger and fries. While her food was cooked correctly and measured up to our expectations, there were a few drawbacks…

1 – The burger – ordered as described on the menu – was not supposed to have cheese on it. It arrived with cheese.

2 – The burger – no matter how it was described on the menu – was not supposed to come with a plastic salsa lid in between the lettuce and the bun.

The waitress was kind when we brought this to her attention. But instead of getting a manager or offering to comp the meal, she instead apologized profusely and asked what she could do for us. My companion said she’d like a margarita…and that was that.

I would have also liked to have seen the burger taken off our bill, but that didn’t happen. What’s that say for this location? What’s it say for the chain? Probably nothing. I’m sure it’s not the first time a lid found its way onto a bun when a sous or line cook was prepping a burger. I’m just disappointed it happened when things in the store were slow – at 2PM on a Saturday with no lunch rush.

Overall thoughts? I’d go back. Longhorn surprised me with how well they cooked the steak and as a meat guy, that’s up near the top of my list. Were I not there to review the location, I would have been much more vocal about the kitchen slip-ups but I didn’t want to blow my cover.

As I said earlier, if you think of Longhorn Steakhouse in the right family or level of restaurants, you won’t be disappointed. Even with the hiccups, I’m still rating them a B.

Here’s some history from Wikipedia…interesting to note that Capital Grille is owned by the same parent now…

LongHorn Steakhouse was founded in 1981 by George McKerrow Jr. The first location, LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon, opened on Peachtree Streetin AtlantaGeorgia. The restaurant initially struggled financially. However, in January 1982 a sudden snowstorm trapped Atlanta’s commuter populationwithin the city limits and McKerrow offered $1 drinks to the stranded motorists. He made a huge profit and the Peachtree Street location became successful.[1] By 1990 the franchise had spread across the South. As of 2011 LongHorn Steakhouse operated 350 restaurants in 33 states.[2][3] In August 2007, LongHorn Steakhouse, formerly owned and operated by Rare Hospitality, was purchased by Darden Restaurants, which also operates Olive Garden,Red LobsterSeasons 52, and Bahama Breeze restaurant chains. In addition, other chains operated by Rare, including The Capital Grille, were purchased by Darden.