Tilapia and Grilled Shrimp with Mac and Cheese
I recently had the good fortune to eat out at the Longhorn Steakhouse, indeed I have been there multiple times over the past three years or so. I am not the sort of person who goes and gets the same thing at a restaurant every time I go, so I have had the opportunity to try a variety of their meals.
In my opinion, to compare where I think Longhorn Steakhouse fits in in the grand scheme of steakhouses you may have tried, I would slot them in one step above Outback (with higher prices to match) and two steps below Ruth’s Chris (pricy, but you get the quality that you are paying for).
Enough chit-chat, how was the food? Let’s take a closer look at those dishes that I have tried as well as others I have dined with:
Wild West Shrimp: I have had this twice, once on its own as an appetizer and once more with the Best of Longhorn Sampler. I was one of the first things I ever tried from Longhorn, and gave me an excellent first impression (even though it wasn’t steak) as prepared on its own, I was impressed with the spicy crispy coating that was enhanced by the cherry peppers. It had more kick than you would have expected from a steakhouse appetizer, but was not so much spiciness that you found yourself going for your drink constantly. The portion was large enough that you could easily have this dish in the place of an entrée. The ranch dressing was a good compliment to the shrimp, I would not have thought of combining the two.
Best of Longhorn Sampler: This combines the Wild West Shrimp with their Grilled White Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms and their Firecracker Chicken Wraps. In this setting, the shrimp did not shine as well when I had it, the coating was not crispy and the shrimp seemed smaller. The stuffed mushrooms were generously stuffed with cheese as well as floating in a “creamy blend of four melted cheeses” The picture online does not show the ocean of cheese than flows into every corner of your plate, even in the places where you do not want it (like forming a pool for your chicken wraps as well as seeping under the dish on the plate the shrimp sits in), that said, the cheese tastes good and the white cheddar they use is actually rather sharp. The chicken wraps stood out here, going well with the avocado –lime dipping sauce they also serve with the sampler (I think I even prefer this sauce to dip the shrimp in). For only $10.99 this would also be a good substitute for an entrée.
Primetime Burger: At $13.99, it is pricy for a burger, but it has a lot going on. It is a half-pound beef patty with shaved prime rib on top of that along with sautéed onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese too. You also get small cups of au jus and horseradish sauce along with it. In theory this sounds excellent, in reality it tastes excellent, but reality will also bring you a messy, self-destructing burger with all these fillings and sauces. The bun just can’t handle all this stuff so be sure to have a fork at the ready. A note about that bun, it has a really cool looking Longhorn logo branded in the top of it. It looks cool, but it smells weird and tastes awful. You have been warned… I almost forgot that the parmesan garlic fries are top notch with this burger, you will not be leaving any behind.
Flat Iron Steak: It is a cut of sirloin that has been marinated in…something? It’s hard to tell exactly what as this marinade is rather lacking in flavor. That said, it still makes for an adequate cut of sirloin, but of all the dishes I have had from Longhorn, this one is the least impressive, and it is not one I would recommend, but if you must get it, the rarer the better, otherwise get a plain sirloin with a topping/sauce, or step up to a higher cut of steak.
White Cheddar & Bacon Stuffed Filet: Speaking of higher cuts, we now move to the filet. I have had this dish twice. The first time, I believe that it was on one of their promo menus with two other stuffed filet options for a bit lower price than what it goes for now, and I could also swear that it was bigger back then. The second time I had it was after it joined the regular menu, still tasty but smaller and over the $20 mark. By all means if you like bacon and cheddar and a filet mignon, go for it! But if you are in it simply for the filet, you would be happier with…
Flo’s Filet: I personally have not had this dish, but whenever my mom goes to Longhorn, she gets this dish every single time. Of the filets she has had over the years at different restaurants, she says that it is the best one she has had outside of the ones they have at Ruth’s Chris.
Brown Butter Lemon Tilapia & Grilled Shrimp: I am one of those difficult people, take me to a steakhouse and you will find me getting something from the seafood section of the menu rather often. “Why get the fish when their specialty is steak?” Two reasons: I really like seafood and usually the seafood quality is as good as the steak quality at most steakhouses (steer clear of the chicken dishes though…) Tilapia is not a very exciting type of fish, mildly flavored and undistinctive, it is the Toyota Corolla of seafood, reliable and not too pricy. It’s what you do with the tilapia that makes or breaks it. With this dish, everything came together well, the brown butter lemon sauce complimented the fish without overpowering it and the rice below soaked up the excess sauce. My only complaint was that the shrimp that top this dish were over-seasoned, and by that I mean way too much salt. If it was just a cook with a heavy hand, no big deal, but if the shrimp are that way again, than I will have to call it the main flaw in an otherwise great dish.
Longhorn Salmon: Do you fear cooking fish at home? Worried that it will make your place smell fishy? Afraid you will overcook and ruin it? If so, then this salmon dish is for you. The salmon is cooked well, the bourbon marinade is delicious and one I would buy if I saw it in the grocery and it does not cost too terribly much (7 oz. $16.99, 10 oz. $19.49) But if you are ok with cooking up some salmon at home, get a sauce you like and cook it up in your own kitchen for half the price. You can easily create your own version of this one at home, choose another dish.
Chocolate Stampede: They say that you may need a friend to share this one with. They are not lying about this. This is one of the biggest desserts that I have seen in a chain restaurant. That said, it is only $8.49, so split two ways it is only $4.25 each, add a third person to the plate (there will still be plenty for everyone) and you are now under three bucks a person. It is rich and the dark chocolate parts are as dark as they look. Unless this dessert is your meal, bring friends.
Brownie Sundae: For some reason it is not listed on their website, so I have no link to it, but this is one of the best desserts I have ever had. They use two Ghirardelli chocolate brownies served warm and topped with hot fudge and vanilla ice cream. Those brownies are the perfect amount of moist, really really dark and chocolaty and when the ice cream melts on top and below them in the dessert glass, it makes for heaven on earth. My words simply cannot do this dessert justice, if you want dessert at Longhorn, get this one!
Random Thoughts and Quick Points:
• Their side salads are above average for a chain and their croutons are uniquely flavorful.
• The mac and cheese you can get as an upgraded side is almost too cheesy ad rather salty.
• Their service pacing is almost always too fast, I guarantee that if you get the side salad ahead of your main course, your main course will come out before you are halfway done with your salad.
• Usually a good dish to try that tells you how good a steakhouse is would be the prime rib. I have not tried the one at Longhorn yet. I promise to rectify that error as soon as possible.
Don’t want to spend an arm and a leg at a fancy steak place, but want something better than a Sizzler or an Outback, Longhorn will fulfill your needs.
Hungry Man Eats Score 85/100