- Texas Roadhouse is America’s favourite steakhouse chain, according to a Market Force survey from earlier this year.
- I visited a Texas Roadhouse location in Teterboro, New Jersey, to see how the chain earned its dedicated fanbase.
- I was blown away by almost every aspect of my experience, from the friendly and attentive service to the tender and juicy steak.
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There are even some people out there who eat nothing but Texas Roadhouse. Ron and Diana Watson made the news in March because they only eat Texas Roadhouse food – according to the Washington Post, they fast during the morning and go for the early-bird special between 3 and 5 p.m. Every. Single. Day.
The chain has been performing well financially, too. In April Texas Roadhouse reported that comparable sales were up 5.2% at company-owned restaurants for the first quarter of the year.
Influenced by dedicated fans like Diana and Ron and a taste test by YouTube stars Rhett & Link, I decided that the not-so-Texas, not-quite-a-Roadhouse restaurant was probably worth a visit of my own.
So I packed my bag with nothing but my camera and my lactase pills and hopped on a long-distance bus to the heartland of America: Teterboro, New Jersey, home of a small airport and a Texas Roadhouse:
I could spot Texas Roadhouse from across the mall parking lot even without seeing its sign. Everything about it just screamed “Texas” and “Roadhouse,” even though the restaurant chain was founded in Indiana.
Source: Texas Roadhouse
The sign was like a calling card …
… and I wasn’t the only one being called. I arrived 15 minutes before the restaurant opened at 4:00 p.m., and the parking lot was already rapidly filling up with eager diners.
The restaurant fully leaned into the roadhouse aesthetic. With a collection of eclectic artifacts and a vintage jukebox, the decor was certainly distinct.
I was immediately welcomed by the effusive and friendly manager at the host stand. She grabbed a basket of hot buns and led me to my booth.
There’s an on-site butcher at every Texas Roadhouse, so I was particularly excited to glimpse this gorgeous case of beef. If you want a specific cut they don’t already have, you can ask the butcher to carve it out for you.
I passed by the bar on the way to my booth. I was struck by the giant Texan star on the ceiling. There was a lot of America in this room.
I wasn’t there to try the beer, even if it was Cold Texas Roadhouse Beer. But the bar space looked inviting …
… despite the skulls and taxidermied animal heads hanging from the walls.
There’s a bucket of free peanuts at every table, à la Five Guys. Or is Five Guys à la Texas Roadhouse?
My beaming server introduced herself, asked if it was my first time (it was), and explained the menu to me. I’d heard that the margaritas are a must-try. And for $US8.75, my beleaguered New York wallet was willing and able. My server recommended the sangria margarita.
The drink was HUGE — and delicious, if a little sweet for my taste. Sour and fruity, this iced slush packed a light punch. I was impressed by the salt-crusted rim and fruit toppings.
Texas Roadhouse’s complimentary buns are legendary. I was especially excited to try the cinnamon butter.
It was creamy, soft, and airy.
The buns were slightly oily and crispy on the outside. By themselves, they weren’t all that special, and I’m not a huge fan of oily sweet bread. However, they were clearly created to be married to the lightly sweet and slightly spiced cinnamon butter. Mmm.
The house salad was $US3.99. I’m a salad person, but not a salad-with-cheddar-cheese person. My server recommended the Italian dressing.
Loaded with croutons and cheese, this maybe wasn’t the healthiest salad ever. It’s mostly plain romaine and tomatoes, with a healthy layer of diced egg. The flavour mostly comes from dressing, cheese, and croutons. The Italian dressing was quite sweet and slightly tart. It was tasty enough, but not my ideal salad.
I was especially excited to try the Rattlesnake Bites, which my server said is one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers. They cost $US5.99.
They looked and smelled like little deep-fried balls of golden goodness, and they came with two sauces: ranch and cactus blossom sauce, which is a horseradish-based house sauce.
These magical orbs were filled with hot, gooey pepper jack cheese and jalapeño. They were even cheesier than the Texas Roadhouse theme song that was playing in the background on repeat.
The horseradish sauce added a nice kick to the already spicy bites.
The molten cheese got all over my chin, but I didn’t mind. So worth it.
Suddenly, the music changed and the house staff lined up to dance. Unfortunately, the space was a little narrow, and a half-wall blocked diners’ views.
But A for effort!
My steak arrived soon after. I ordered a bone-in ribeye steak, medium-rare, with a side of vegetables and a fully loaded baked potato. It cost $US24.99.
The baked potato was topped with cheddar and bacon bits. Underneath was a bed of butter and sour cream.
My server described the broccoli as “just broccoli.” An apt description. It was better than I expected, but it was a little too loaded with butter and salt for my personal taste.
The ribeye looked gorgeous. It oozed fat, and it was encrusted in a criss-cross layer of crisp black char.
My full meal was big enough for two people.
Good thing I had this stoic fellow to keep me company …
If you wanted a 115-pound girl to polish off a 20 oz. bone-in ribeye steak, you’d have to give her this particular 20 oz. bone-in ribeye steak.
Slightly crispy on the outside and melt-in-my-mouth tender and juicy on the inside, this steak had the perfect salt and spice level to allow the fatty and flavorful meat to shine through. There was no sinew and no unpleasant toughness or chewiness.
I have had better steaks, but very few. This one was oversalted in a few places, but otherwise it was a pretty great steak.
As someone who is lactose intolerant, I brought my Lactaid pills for emergencies like this loaded baked potato.
It really was fully loaded. Warm, soft, and incredibly cheesy, this baked potato was a satisfying dish all on its own. I would probably choose mashed potatoes for my side next time, but I’d eat the baked potato by itself.
I was impressed by the kind and helpful servers as well as the quality of the food. The decor is either charming or kitschy, depending on your perspective, and the theme song on repeat might get on your nerves after an hour or so. But it’s worth sitting through the ceaseless country twangs in order to experience the food and hospitality that make Texas Roadhouse great.
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