- Outback Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse are similarly branded restaurants, but Texas Roadhouse vastly outpaces Outback in customer loyalty.
- I went to the Outback Steakhouse in Manhattan and the Texas Roadhouse in Teterboro, New Jersey, to see how the dining experiences compared.
- I ordered the same meal at each restaurant: a house salad, the chain’s most popular appetizer, a house margarita, and a bone-in ribeye steak with a loaded baked potato and a side of vegetables.
- While both restaurants had their strong points, such as service, the quality of Texas Roadhouse’s food and the overall cohesiveness of its dining experience made it the clear winner of this comparison.
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Texas Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse are similar at first glance: They’re both American chain restaurants that serve steak, and they were both founded thousands of miles away from their namesakes. The Texas-themed Roadhouse was founded in Indiana. The Australian Outback-themed steakhouse?Florida.
So as someone who prefers to cook my steaks at home with a cast-iron pan, I wasn’t really sure how the two were different. However, in a recent Market Force consumer survey ranking America’s favourite restaurants, Texas Roadhouse achieved an ascendant No. 2 while Outback trailed behind at No. 14.
Naturally, this difference piqued my curiosity – and my hunger.
With an open mind and an empty stomach, I journeyed to these two meccas of meat: the Outback Steakhouse in Manhattan and the Texas Roadhouse in Teterboro, New Jersey.
I ordered the same meal at each restaurant: a house salad, the chain’s most popular appetizer, a house margarita, and a bone-in ribeye steak, medium rare, with a loaded baked potato and a side of vegetables. I did not include prices in this comparison because I felt it would be unfair to compare New York prices against non-New York prices.
Here’s the chow-down breakdown:
On the outside, the Outback Steakhouse in Manhattan looks like it belongs squarely in Manhattan.
Inside, the restaurant tries very hard to remind you that it’s Australia-themed.
There were pictures of the Australian Outback …
… and even pictures of kangaroos.
Are you in Australia yet?
Texas Roadhouse hits you over the head with its “Texas”-ness straight off the bat.
And the “Texas” gets only stronger once you walk through the doors.
Texas Roadhouse has a rustic uber-patriotic vibe that Outback definitely does not. Outback’s decor is sleeker, if equally thematic.
One major difference between the restaurants is the showcasing of red slabs of beef at the front of Texas Roadhouse.
Texas Roadhouse certainly goes more all out with its decor. The hanging skulls, taxidermy heads, and Native American tapestries certainly took some effort to acquire.
Outback’s complimentary honey-oat bread impresses when it lands on the table. It’s hot and well-presented. However, the pallet is made out of plastic, and I’m not quite sure what texture it’s trying to emulate.
It was piping hot and deceptively airy with a faint hint of crust.
It came with plain whipped butter.
The bread itself was sweet, while the butter was light and added slight depth. It was like consuming a cloud. However, my server, Michael, revealed a secret butter hack …
If you ask for it, Outback will give you the honey butter it serves with its sweet potatoes.
It’s sweet, without much of a honey flavour, but it’s the perfect complement to the sweet honey-oat bread. It’s also a closer proxy to Texas Roadhouse’s sweet buns and cinnamon butter.
Texas Roadhouse wants to make sure you’re stuffed by the time you leave, so there’s a free refillable bucket of peanuts at every table.
Texas Roadhouse’s buns were presented simply in a basket. They had been sitting under heat lamps at the entrance.
They were warm with a crispy oily crust.
The rolls themselves weren’t sweet, but the cinnamon butter was. They were like a lighter version of a cinnamon roll — delightful. They were slightly denser and had more of a bite than Outback’s bread.
No one comes to a steakhouse for the house salad. But a salad’s freshness is a good indicator of the overall quality of ingredients used at a restaurant. Outback’s house salad was basic: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, croutons, and shredded cheese.
The dressing was very sweet, but otherwise it was a fairly standard salad. None of the ingredients were not fresh, but altogether it wasn’t especially appealing. The lettuce was watery.
Texas Roadhouse’s salad came in a slightly less fancy bowl with a plastic cup for dressing. However, it differed from Outback’s salad in that it had eggs, more tomatoes, and no onions.
The dressing was lighter and more tart, while the lettuce was of slightly higher quality. Altogether, Texas Roadhouse’s house salad won out over Outback’s by an inch.
The Bloomin’ Onion is Outback’s most popular appetizer and also notoriously calorific. It comes with a side of horseradish sauce.
Since I was dining alone, I opted for the lonely diner’s version of the Bloomin’ Onion: Bloomin’ Petals.
The petals themselves tasted burnt and undercooked at the same time, like they’d been fried too long and at too low a temperature to cook evenly. They were also soaked with grease, which was another giveaway that they weren’t properly fried.
Not my personal cup of tea. They were too peppery and too salty and didn’t have anything to offer over a traditional onion ring. However, the horseradish sauce was addictive. Savoury, spicy, and grounded with paprika and a hint of ketchup, it was the sole reason I kept on eating these.
Texas Roadhouse’s claim to appetizer fame is its Rattlesnake Bites.
They’re deep-fried globs of jalapeño-studded pepper-jack cheese, served with ranch and a house horseradish sauce.
Unlike the Bloomin’ Petals, these had a lovely and evenly golden crispy outside. Whoever fried them knew their way around a deep fryer.
Crispy outside, melty and gooey inside, these are the perfect deep-fried cheesy appetizer. The horseradish and ranch sauces both went well with the bites, which were already spicy and full of flavour.
I ordered Outback’s house margarita, the Sauza Gold Coast ‘Rita. Outback will never convince me that Australians drop the entire “marga” before “rita.”
It was your standard frozen margarita from mix with a very lightly salted rim. It was nice and tart but much too sweet for my taste. There was more sugar than alcohol in this. Although, for $US5 in Manhattan, who can complain?
Texas Roadhouse’s $US9 sangria margarita is a gorgeous beast of a drink. Kaleidoscopic fruity colours evoke its namesake, while the rim is crusted in a generous layer of salt.
It, too, was tangy and slightly too sweet for my taste. However, it packed more of a punch and was incessantly drinkable. I was also impressed with the fruit slices.
Dinner at Texas Roadhouse also comes with a show. Every night, the staff will perform a line dance for the guests at least once.
For my main course, I ordered a bone-in ribeye with a loaded baked potato side and mixed vegetables at both restaurants.
Still, the presentation was significantly different.
Outback’s baked potato was dripping with sour cream, cheese, and toppings. It was crinkly and cracked open, as if to welcome my fork.
The baked potato was the highlight of my meal at Outback. It’s soft and light, with more subtle and varied flavours than Texas Roadhouse’s baked potato. There’s more focus on the sour cream and onion, which really tie together all the elements of the potato. The cheese is also perfectly melted.
Texas Roadhouse’s baked potato was loaded with just cheddar and bacon. Ostensibly, there was cream cheese in there somewhere.
It tasted like the sum of its simple components and was greasy, salty, and satisfying. It wasn’t bad, but it was nowhere near as good as Outback’s baked potato.
Outback’s steak came with a side of mixed vegetables: broccoli, carrots, and yellow squash. These steamed affronts to my veggie-loving soul were soft, mushy, and utterly devoid of flavour, oil, and salt. Did someone forget to tell Australia — I mean Florida — that vegetables aren’t supposed to be a chore to eat?
Texas Roadhouse’s veggie side was, as my server put it, “just broccoli.” These were likely steamed as well but definitely had more flavour than Outback’s pallid veggies, probably from salt and butter. They were significantly more appetizing.
Finally, it was time for the steakhouse’s raison d’être — medium-rare, of course.
Outback’s steak was tough to cut. It hadn’t been trimmed, and there were sinewy bits that battled my knife.
It was gristly and chewy — I had to spit some of it out. It was tough, unevenly cooked, and didn’t have that smooth, buttery texture you crave from a steak. It was also coated in a distractingly gritty spice mixture and was oversalted in places.
I originally mistook the coating of the spice mixture for char, but a scratch of the fork revealed what I already knew from the taste: There was no char. The steak was probably cooked at a lower-than-ideal temperature, which would explain the thick layer of brown around its pink core.
But the char on Texas Roadhouse’s bone-in ribeye was self-evident.
The first cut revealed a nearly flawless steak: a lightly charred, crispy exterior and a smooth, buttery interior. There was no gristle whatsoever.
Although it was also oversalted in parts, Texas Roadhouse’s steak was far superior to Outback’s steak. It was juicy and seasoned in a way that kept the focus on the meat.
The service at Outback was excellent. My server, Michael, was friendly and helpful, and the vibe was slightly more laid-back than the vibe at Texas Roadhouse. I was impressed by the bread and the baked potato, and nothing was outright bad, except for the vegetables. Outback also beat Texas Roadhouse out in presentation, but in the end, it’s taste that matters. And Outback fell short on what it ought to do best: steak and deep-fried onions.
Although its presentation is humbler than Outback’s, Texas Roadhouse isn’t going for fancy. The experience delivers on the things that matter for a steakhouse: good service, appetizing accoutrements, and, most importantly, a solid steak. Sure, there are areas for improvement — namely the dancing and the baked potato — but my dinner there was thoroughly enjoyable. Texas Roadhouse has won the rainy heart of this Pacific Northwest gal — and that’s a feat for a place with so much “Texas” in its bones.
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