No rules, just right. Right?
Outback Steakhouse (Franchise)
Meal: Dinner / 7pm / Weekday
March 12, 2008 Update:
We were contacted by MS&L Digital, the PR firm for Outback Steakhouse, to let us know that their Bloomin’ Onion is celebrating it’s 20th birthday. They were kind enough to include a neat fun ‘n fact sheet about the onion (including a nifty diagram) and even sent us a $25 gift card. You can learn all about the Bloomin’ Onion Celebration RIGHT HERE. For the record and per our policies, we had no idea we’d get a gift card we did not receive the communication with MS&L until several weeks after our review of the store. We have updated the review after a visit to the Deptford location a few weeks ago (see below), but we have not upgraded it. Let’s face it though, those onions are pretty damn good. Maybe they’ll work on a low-calorie version sometime. =)
In the air of honesty I should disclose that in the past I’ve not had a favorable view of the Outback. In my opinion, it has been plagued with poor service and subpar food quality. When my family offered to treat me to the new Marlton Outback for my birthday, I could have been decidedly more excited. If you’ve been to one outback you’ve been to them all. A polished western-ish interior, smallish bar, and low-hanging, non-energy-efficient lightbulbs that seemed to blind my 60-something mother. To make matters worse, we were rustled to a corner, where my brother seemed to worry the wait staff would forget about us. They didn’t, thankfully, and a polite-by-obligation waitress took our initial order.
We started with some appetizers; we opted against the venerable bloomin’ onion and tried the cheese fries and coconut shrimp. Both were superb, and the four of us managed to completely clear both plates. The fries were of reasonable size, loaded with cheese, chopped bacon, chives, and probably a lot of other fattening stuff I’ve forgotten about. The coconut shrimp were jumbo sized (six of them per order) and came with a nice sauce. Outback gives you a complimentary warm loaf of rye bread that has always been a bright spot for the franchise.
Looking at the menu, nothing is especially cheap relative to a dollar, but the restaurant is on par with other comparable steakhouses. I tried a 12oz ‘outback special’ center-cut steak that seemed a steal at $12.99. My mother tried a horseradish-encrusted 6oz filet that was a couple bucks more. For my vegetable, I opted for broccoli and mixed vegetables (which include more broccoli). They were both very crunchy, which is how I like it, but my mother remarked that she prefers them slightly softer, so your mileage may vary.
The steak was surprisingly good, and actually cooked to the medium-rare order I requested. The center was rare, the interior was mostly pink, and only the edges were well done. Easily the best steak I’ve ever had at Outback (Autumn and I once tried a porterhouse there and it was downright awful). My mother’s medium order looked cooked too similar to mine, though, so I can’t fully praise the grillwork. My brother and Autumn both ordered ‘Chicken on the Barbie’ and both reported it as very good. The chicken was tender with nice grill marks and flavor.
Will I return? Probably. To be honest, this visit salvaged my perception of Outback. No more outhouse for Outback! I doubt they’ll ever be my first choice when I want a good steak, but perhaps now if I faithfully stick to the Outback special, we’ll start to see some consistency.
Post-Review UPDATE: We’ve returned to Outback (this time in Deptford, NJ), and are pleased to say that they’ve nailed it once again with the ‘Outback Special’. It seems like every restaurant has a dish they do the best, and our recommendation for steak is to try their special. We’re opting not to upgrade their score at this time because they already have a positive score and there are still outstanding inconsistencies with their locations, drink quality, and service personnel. Still, we’re happy to find some menu items which we feel are consistently good bets no matter which chain you go to.
– Good appetizers
– Selectively, some good values
– Robotic wait staff (hostess and server)
– Personal history of inconsistency
Guru’s Score: 3.5 Chews
Subjective rating: Very cautiously optimistic.
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