Dining » Dining Review

Saltgrass does upscale casual well

It's big on beef.

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TENDER SURF 'N' TURF: The BBQ Baby Back Ribs, with fried shrimp.
  • TENDER SURF 'N' TURF: The BBQ Baby Back Ribs, with fried shrimp.

Eat steak, eat steak, eat a big ol' steer

Eat steak, eat steak, do we have one dear?

Eat beef, eat beef, it's a mighty good food

It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood

— Reverend Horton Heat, "Eat Steak"

We Americans are kinda funny when it comes to steak.

Maybe it's just my age showing, but the word "steak" always puts "celebration" in my mind. When something good happened in my childhood, we had some steak. On the backyard grill or, if it was some really good news, we'd head to the steakhouse. Prom, high school graduation, whatever. There was gonna be some beef happening.

There's a milestone moment with steak, really, a moment when your parents let you skip ordering off the kid menu and you get your own steak. Not little bites of your dad's steak. Your steak, pal. It's something weirdly and maybe inappropriately wrapped up in my vision of manhood. What's more primal than throwing hot meat on a grill, then cutting it apart and eating it? Utensils are optional, right?

Before we get deeply into psychoanalysis, let's talk about the new Saltgrass Steak House in North Little Rock. Saltgrass is a part of the Houston-based Landry's restaurant family and, like many a steakhouse chain, likes to trace its roots back to the Texas cattle drives of the 1800s (although Saltgrass opened in 1991). Steakhouse folks like to pile on the authenticity and gumption — which perhaps leads to Saltgrass' "Texas To The Bone!" motto. Steaks do taste better if we pretend to be cowboys.

So, one recent Friday, we hitched up the sedan and headed into town for vittles at Saltgrass. The decor is pretty much what you'd expect — lots of weathered-looking wood and wagon wheels and longhorns. The place was fairly packed, with a line out the door, but our party of two was quickly ushered into a cozy booth and attended to promptly.

While the decor may be standard steakhouse, the Saltgrass menu is a bit more upscale and interesting. The drinks menu is adventurous: The numerous types of house-made sangria, margaritas and specialty beverages were a nice surprise. Our table ordered a really refreshing Grilled Pineapple Margarita ($11), made with tequila, Cointreau, pineapple gum syrup, plus pineapple and limejuice with a grilled pineapple garnish. We also sampled the Kentucky Smash ($9.50), which consisted of Bulleit Bourbon, a "fiery ginger" syrup, sweet and sour mix, and mint stalks — cool and quite delicious. Saltgrass also has a fairly varied wine and beer list.

MIX IT UP: The bar features specialty drinks.
  • MIX IT UP: The bar features specialty drinks.

Steakhouses also don't typically offer queso, but Saltgrass's Queso Fresco ($9.99) appetizer was a real treat. It was a small cast-iron pan of queso blanco with braised brisket, pico de gallo, cilantro and scallions arranged around the edges. We highly recommend it as a starter. 

But, seriously, one comes to a steakhouse for the meats. Let's discuss. Saltgrass has the meat categories covered. Steaks? Chops? Chicken? Ribs? Add some shrimp? Gotcha covered, and then some.

Our table started off with the classic 12-ounce New York Strip, smothered in herb butter, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms ($27.99). This flavorful steak was cooked perfectly as ordered, nicely seared with the crunchy bits everyone likes. The steak is accompanied by a salad and a choice from nine sides. We went with the baked potato and Caesar salad, which were standard.

My dining partner zigged from the steak menu a bit and ordered the BBQ Baby Back Ribs and Shrimp ($21.49). The ribs were heavenly tender, with a fairly mild but tasty sauce. One can choose from fried, grilled or barbecued shrimp. My partner selected the barbecued option, and was treated to several large, plump and spicy skewered shrimp, wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese. Our dining companion raved about the flavor of the bacon and Brussels sprouts side option she chose.

Diners who want a bit more variety will be happy to find items like Vaquero Tacos ($14.49) with brisket, grilled salmon ($19.49) and blackened redfish ($24.99), along with three surf 'n' turf options for those who abhor decisions.

Neither of us had the slightest bit of space for dessert, but Saltgrass offers three tempting choices: carrot cake, a Brownie Skillet Crumble with vanilla ice cream and a "Two-Fork Cheesecake" topped with white chocolate sauce and strawberries. For those seeking a little kick with the afters, order up the Spiked Chocolate Milk (made with Pinnacle whipped vodka, Monin toasted marshmallow syrup, chocolate syrup and Crown Royal Maple) or the Patron XO Cafe (a blend of Bailey's and Patron XO coffee liqueur.)

In sum, Saltgrass was a pleasant step or two above the standard Texas steakhouse we were expecting. We look forward to a return visit — whether there's a celebration or we need to make up one.

Saltgrass Steakhouse
6040 Warden Road
Sherwood
833-2223
saltgrass.com

Quick bite

Varied menu includes queso appetizers and tacos along with the surf 'n' turf.

Hours

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Other info

Full bar.

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