As I watched Texas Roadhouse go up on Wolf Road, with its Texas state flag flying over the Western-style exterior, I thought, how fun. Can’t wait to go. So I went, and ended up being disappointed. Not with the atmosphere, which is rollicking, exuberant, and friendly, but with the food. Let me tell you about it.
There is call-ahead seating, which means they don’t take reservations but put your name on a list ahead of those who don’t call ahead.
When Lisa and I arrived, there were people outside the restaurant, lots of them. There were some well away from the door smoking cigarettes, or standing on the porch out of the rain, getting dropped off, meeting up with friends. It was all very convivial, but prompted me to ask Lisa to drop me off before she parked the car.
I opened the door to find a line at the hostess station, and me at the wrong end of it. There are long benches for waiting, and they were full. Uh-oh. I didn’t think I’d need to call ahead early on a weeknight.
We were ready to bail after signing on for a 50- to 60-minute wait when I had an idea. I waded back to the hostess station and asked if we could eat at the bar. If there were seats, we were welcome to. “Look, there’s two,” said Lisa.
WHERE: 105 Wolf Road, Colonie, 453-3444
WHEN: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $53.25
MORE INFO: Call-ahead seating starting at opening hours. Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu.
At this point I am going to tell you that no matter how bad our service was, I’m not going to hold it against them. We chose our seats knowing the bar was busy, even with several employees going full speed. And everyone was nice, did their best, and smiled at us all night.
There are big aluminum buckets of salty-shelled peanuts at intervals along the bar, and they looked delicious but I knew one would lead to another, so I passed.
A bartender handed us menus and took our drink orders right away. Fans blowing air from above sent money, tabs, empty shells flying. When another seat opened up, Lisa and I moved down, out of the worst of the breeze but into the territory of another fan.
The horseshoe-shaped bar takes up most of one side of the building, surrounded by roomy, padded booths. There are tables and more booths around the walls. It’s a wood-centric and stimulating space, with several large screens going, neon beer signs, bustling staff, loud music. It’s boisterous, in a family-friendly way.
Prices are friendly too, and we’d arrived before the end of the $8.99 early dine special, hence the throng. On the regular menu a cheeseburger with pickle and fries will set you back $8.49, and steaks start at $9.99 for a 6-ounce sirloin dinner. The most expensive steak is the $25.99 porterhouse T-bone.
Dinners include bread and a choice of two sides. There’s ribs, chicken, pulled pork, fish and chips. Get a combo dinner with two kinds of meat for not much more. There are meal-sized salads and a veg plate: choose 4 sides ($8.99) for healthier fare.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, our orders had been taken and we were sipping our drinks. There are specialty drinks like margaritas, lots of beers and a limited array of wines. I settled for an Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio ($6.49).
Soon, we were munching on the combo appetizer platter ($9.99), consisting of “rattlesnake bites,” breaded and fried balls of diced jalapeños and Monterey Jack cheese; awesome potato skins spilling crispy fresh bacon bits everywhere; and boneless chicken
“wings,” which were actually chunks of white meat.
“I love these,” said Lisa, dunking a rattlesnake bite in the horseradish sauce. The awesomeness of the skins, aside from the abundance of bacon, was due to a dusting of salty seasoning on the bottom and not too much potato. We ordered our chicken mild, but I could hardly discern any sauce flavor.
We’d barely made a dent in the appetizer when our meals came out. Lisa chose the smothered chicken ($11.99), grilled, marinated boneless chicken topped with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions. She said the chicken was delicious, didn’t care for the green beans and loved the baked sweet potato with butter. “The best part of the meal,” she said.
A sirloin steak usually has a good flavor, so I chose the mid-sized 8-ounce New York strip ($12.99). Texas Roadhouse serves steakhouse-style fat steak fries that are not too flabby or greasy. I liked the fresh carrots and broccoli served with butter.
The steak looked all plump and juicy with carefully made perpendicular grill marks, but there was no visible fat around the edges, or anywhere. It was cooked a bit under the requested medium rare, which I didn’t mind. But there were thin white strings of gristle threaded throughout. I don’t mind a bit of gristle on a good steak, but this wasn’t a bit and the steak was flat-tasting, dull.
We shared a piece of strawberry cheesecake ($5.99), favoring the graham cracker crust and the creamy cheesecake over the artificial whipped topping. Our check came soon after I laid my credit card down, we were given boxes to pack the leftovers, and we paid up. The tab for dinner, without the wine, but with tax and tip, came to a reasonable $53.25.
We had a good time and everyone was nice to us, but I wasn’t very impressed with my meal. Texas Roadhouse’s website touts their hand-cut steaks with photos and detailed descriptions, a video, and a trivia game, and I don’t doubt the more expensive porterhouse and T-bone are better. You get what you pay for, and in this case, I did.