- The TEXAS Roadhouse.
When you see “Texas,” you’ve found it.
With all these roadhouse restaurants springing up on the sides of the four-lane highways, it can get confusing. As the new Texas Roadhouse, on Warden Road near the McCain Boulevard shopping and eating frenzy, states on its menu, if it doesn’t say “Texas,” it isn’t Texas Roadhouse. So, there in big letters is “Texas” on the sign, with itsy-bitsy “Roadhouse” under it.
Now, Arkansans might not cotton to anything Texas immediately, but rest assured, the lines into this place aren’t just long because it’s new. The food’s pretty good — and we’re not going to say “as chains go,” because we all know chains are getting this down to a tasty science. They’re serving it up cutesy, with cutesy names to the dishes and cutesy waitstaff delivering it, and Texas Roadhouse doesn’t differ from that.
Texas Roadhouse, with miniature NASCAR cars and stuffed dead animals and fish on the walls above the booths, also has the “peanuts in the bucket, toss the shells on the floor thing” going, too. It’s actually faux Texas, a sort of Texas dreamed up by some corporation in Indiana, which even dubs its hamburger steak plate “road kill.” But one thing you’ll like immediately about Texas Roadhouse is that the restaurant’s staple, its red meat, sits front and center all pretty like in a glass meat counter for inspection.
Newcomers will probably first notice it while driving busy Highway 67-167, but here’s a tip: Skip all that traffic craze around McCain and take Lakewood Drive off of North Hillsy, just past the high school to arrive at and depart Texas Roadhouse. You’ll thank us later.
You can go the fish route at Texas Roadhouse, with fried catfish or grilled salmon, but don’t let your craving for red meat pass here. The meat’s the thing, and if you’re not going to get a steak, or a burger, then get the ribs. Now, don’t go in there expecting Memphis-style dry rub ribs or the usual wet-down Southern spare ribs. No, these things not only fall of the bone, you’d better just scrape the meat off before you try to bring a bone to your mouth, or the meat’s going to end up in your lap. But, that said, the rib meat is tasty with just enough fat and sauce to make them lip-smackin’ and finger-lickin’ good.
For $16.95, you can get a half-rack of ribs and a half-inch-or-so thick rib-eye steak, plus two sides. Watch the cooking on the steak, though; they let ours get away from the medium rare we wanted, but it was still a nice piece of meat, tender and juicy with a good smoking and outside charring from the grill.
We drug along three adult companions, a teen-ager and a non-eating kid who was kept interested by all the wall adornment, especially Dale Jr.’s No. 8 car right above us. The kid would have fit in it perfectly.
You’re started off with hot, freshly baked rolls and cinnamon-sprinkled butter. We had them bring the combo appetizer, which featured the prize appetizer of the place: Rattlesnake bites, which are literally fried balls of the best white cheese dip you can imagine, along with a creamy, spicy (“Cajun”) horseradish sauce. They came with Chicken Critters (strips) and Tater Skins. If none of that trio suits you, there’s a Cactus Blossom onion loaf, Buffalo Wings, Cheese Fries and Killer Ribs, a small portion of the rib entree. We also tried a cup of Texas Red Chili, which was thick with chopped up meat rather than tiny bits of ground meat, and spiced up with bits of red bell pepper.
For entrees, the Dallas Filet ($13.99 for six ounces) was a nicely marbled, melt-in-your-mouth surprise, and the 12-ounce prime rib ($13.99) also impressed with its tenderness and smoky flavor. The oven-roasted chicken ($8.99) had the same, juicy, moist texture of the chicken strips.
The All-American cheddar burger ($5.99) was a half-pound of well-charred and not really seasoned beef, on a large toasted and buttered bun. You apparently have to ask for any condiments or it’s going to be served dry, but we still put it away.
Even the Caesar salad as one of the sides surprised us by actually tasting like a Caesar with real dressing instead of some oily concoction a lot of chains pass off as Caesar. Dijon mustard is used in the dressing, and though one of our diners didn’t like it, we thought it was outstanding.
One other surprise was the loaded sweet potato that two at our table chose and loved. Marshmallows and caramel sauce topped it off.
The only disappointment for a place claiming Texas as its heritage was the margarita. It tasted like somebody subbed sweet and sour mix for margarita mix. Texans would find it laughable. Tequila and limeade or lemonade is not a margarita in our book.
3601 Warden Road
North Little Rock
Reservations are probably a good idea at dinner time in these early days for Texas Roadhouse. But they move folks in and out quickly enough. For a good sitdown starter while your steak or ribs cook, try the Rattlesnake bites – little balls of hot, hot white cheese with diced red and jalapeno peppers. It’s like eating a fried ball of your favorite spicy cheese dip.
4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday though Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.