The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

In the ‘Chain’ Gang, Longhorn is a Cut Above

I’m all about raising awareness and support of solid, independent, locally owned restaurants, choosing to spend my dining out dollars at such places the vast majority of time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good quality “chain” restaurants out there.

lobster filetJust like most people, we occasionally find ourselves inside one of these national behemoths and I’m here to tell you: All chains are NOT created equally.

Most are cookie-cutter concepts offering average tasting, oversized portions served by unenthusiastic (yet tragically over-blinged) servers – dreading their next summons to sing “Happy, Happy Birthday” to a squirming toddler.

But some are good, really good, and I’ve always put Longhorn Steakhouse in that category. I recently stopped in to try out the restaurant’s new winter seasonal menu and was reminded just how top-notch this place is.

bacon cheese dipI know what you’re thinking, folks, but hear me out.

The creamy Vermont white cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon dip, flecked with green onions and served with crispy pita triangles, was dreamy. My broccoli Asiago cheddar soup was rich and flavorful, but not overly thick and heavy.

The Blue Ridge wedge salad was your typical combination – crisp hearts of romaine, plump tomatoes, bacon, crumbled blue cheese, red onions and blue cheese dressing – but all were very fresh.

My steak was spectacular.

The tender, juicy center-cut filet topped with lobster and tangy lobster hollandaise over fresh steamed asparagus was not only top-quality beef, but was also served at the perfect medium-rare temperature I requested. (A true rarity, which is why I rarely do the chain thing.)

cheese soupThe pecan praline sweet potato casserole with coconut topping served with it was decent – not at all overly sweet – and the Black Forest cherry lava cake I ended with was a fine finisher, although it was missing its promised molten center.

All items above are part of the restaurant’s special seasonal menu, which will change again within the next few weeks, but there are some shining stars on the regular menu as well.

I’m telling you, the food was strong from start to finish.

  • IF YOU GO: Longhorn Steakhouse at 91 RHL Blvd. (between Dudley Farms and Trace Fork shopping centers) is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-744-4112 or visit www.longhornsteakhouse.com.