By Mary Cobbler
Certain foods are just legendary: lobster in Maine, cheesecakes in New York, cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.
There is one often forgotten food legend, however: the fresh rolls at Texas Roadhouse. These rolls have a rightful place in the Hall of Food Legends (in my opinion), so I was happy to review the casual dining restaurant located on Mountain Road in Pasadena. Even though it’s a national chain with hundreds of locations nationwide, “the Roadhouse” has been a favorite of Pasadena natives for years, and over time, it has developed its own local vibe.
My husband and I visited the Roadhouse on a Wednesday night around 8:00pm. The restaurant is everything you would look for in a steakhouse — low lighting, dark wooden booths that offer privacy, and the smell of delicious steak that floats so thickly on the air that you can practically taste it before you get to your table. The hostess seated us immediately and left us with a basket of warm, buttery rolls with honey-cinnamon butter. The rolls were fresh and soft, just as wonderful as I remembered them.
Within two minutes of being seated, a quick-moving, energetic server materialized beside our table to take our drink orders. Upon her recommendation, we also tried the fan-favorite appetizer called rattlesnake bites, which are served with a choice of honey mustard or ranch dressing. After one bite into the battered bites — filled with finely diced, soft jalapenos and creamy melted cheese — it was obvious why so many Roadhouse customers are addicted to them. The balls had just enough spice to give them a kick, and more than enough flavor and texture to start the meal in a satisfying way.
I decided to order grilled salmon with a baked potato for my entrée (one of several “dockside favorites” including fried catfish and grilled shrimp), while my husband went for the 10-ounce Fort Worth ribeye steak with mashed potatoes and corn (other steak options included sirloin, T-bone, New York strip, and steak kabobs that include chunks of steak and grilled vegetables on skewers). Other tempting meal options included country fried chicken, a pulled pork sandwich with sides, and slow-cooked ribs.
It took about 30 minutes from the time we placed our order to receive our food. The server cheerfully topped off our drinks (and maybe even brought a few more rolls to the table, upon my request). The food was presented well and was full of flavor, but within a few minutes of reaching us, the steak was lukewarm and the corn and mashed potatoes were nearly cold. The salmon, however, was piping hot, along with the baked potato, so it was obvious that the steak was done cooking well before the salmon and had sat for too long.
Once we got past the temperature of the steak, I was impressed with the savory taste. The meat, which was ordered medium, was seared and seasoned well on the outside with a reddish-pink center (a few parts were a bit bloody for my taste, so if you struggle with the decision about how well-done you want your steak, I recommend ordering it to be cooked longer). According to the website, the steaks are all cut in-house and roasted over an open flame, and you can taste a difference. Aside from the temperature, my husband and I were both pleased with this entrée.
The salmon was hot and tender, grilled to perfection, and topped with lemon-pepper butter. The serving size was perfect — just enough to fill me up, along with the two sides, but I didn’t feel completely stuffed afterward. My only real criticism of the salmon was that it tasted more oily than buttery, particularly in the middle. I would have preferred not to have so much oil in this dish, but I have no complaints about the way it was cooked or prepared otherwise.
The baked potato was also cooked well, and I enjoyed a side salad with crunchy, fresh lettuce and vegetables. I don’t normally make a big deal out of the side salad, but I will note that the lettuce was cut into manageable bite-sized pieces rather than large chunks, which is particularly helpful for a clumsy person like myself who manages to spill salad dressing when I cram large slices of lettuce into my mouth. The blue cheese dressing here also has large chunks of blue cheese in it.
Although I felt guilty for far exceeding my carbohydrate goals for the day, I couldn’t help drooling over the big ol’ brownie dessert. The dessert options are pretty limited — just a couple of baked goods and vanilla ice cream — but the big ol’ brownie lives up to its name: a large, warm brownie — gooey in the middle and crunchy on the sides, just as brownies should be — topped with a generous helping of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce. Every bite was packed with melty chocolate chips. It was filling and sweet, the perfect end to a savory dinner. After a dessert like that, even I couldn’t order more rolls.
The bill for a sweet tea, a rattlesnake bites appetizer, the steak, the salmon, and the brownie came to just under $50 without tip. I have certainly paid far more for a steak dinner of lesser quality, and I really enjoyed the sides that came alongside our meals. There were some terrific-looking kids meals on the menu. Although we didn’t buy any alcohol, the place offers a wide variety of icy margaritas, beer on tap, and other frosty beverages.
Something to note: The menu offers a “gluten friendly” menu, but it clearly specifies that it is not for people with severe allergies and everything is prepared in a shared kitchen. If you’re dealing with allergies, I recommend viewing the menu before you go.
I’ve loved Texas Roadhouse for years, and this trip only enhanced my affection for the restaurant.
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