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Chomp restaurant review: Fake state serves great steaks

Sept. 1, 2011 at 4:01 a.m.
Updated Sept. 2, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.

Is it un-Texan to declare the New York Strip Steak superior to this tasty 15-oz. Fort Worth ribeye? Not at Texas Roadhouse, a Kentucky-based chain with a popular location in Victoria.

Howdy, y'all! The name's Texas Todd, and I'm as Texan as they come. We got a whole mess of foreigners here at the Advocate, real outsiders all the way from Kansas, Tennessee and even California. But not me. I live and breathe Texas. Every morning, I drink snake venom from the bowl of my 15 gallon hat, and I wash it down with a fist full of gunpowder. My very presence Texifies the rest of the newsroom.

Well, not really. Let me fess up and tell you that I was raised far from the Lone Star state, in a rather un-Texan place known as New York City. My name really is Todd, but I prefer the subway to the saddle, and while I remember the Giuliani administration, I'm pretty foggy on the details of the Alamo. Hell, I'm about as Texan as Times Square.

Now, before you string me up for impersonating a cowboy caricature, you should know that I'm no less Texan than Texas Roadhouse, a national chain with a popular spot here in Victoria. Texas Roadhouse flies the Texas flag on its roof. Its logo is the state of Texas with a cowboy hat slung atop the Texas panhandle. Neon signs promote the Dallas Cowboys and cacti adorn the wood-paneled walls.

If you're not getting the picture yet, let me spell it out for you, partner: Texas Roadhouse wants you to believe they're all about Texas, Texas and more Texas. Get it?

Well, not really. The first Texas Roadhouse restaurant opened in Clarksville. That's Clarksville, Ind. The chain is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Those cacti? Plastic. And speaking of semi-synthetic polymers, those waitresses may be pretty, but I suspect parts of them originated at the local Formosa plant. The jukebox keeps it country, but Cyndi Lauper (ahem, from Queens) did sneak into the rotation during my meal.

All this pretense is why I'm pained to admit Texas Roadhouse actually serves a respectable steak. All is forgiven when the plate hits the table with a big, bloody slab of bovine succulence. The steaks here are good enough to cut through the bull.

State loyalties aside, your best bet is the New York Strip Steak ($15.79-$19.79). It's priced higher and listed above the three steaks named for Texas on the menu, which lets you know which cuts Texas Roadhouse thinks you'll prefer. If you must stay Texas true, the Fort Worth Ribeye ($13.59-$18.29) is tender, marbled and attractively crosshatched.

Frosted mugs of beer come in two sizes: freakin' large and bigger-than-your-liver. The Tater Skins ($6.29) and Baby Blossom fried onions ($3.99) are heftier and dairyer than elsewhere, but not really better. Everything on the menu is oversized, befitting an eatery that revels in Texas clichés.

Now, maybe I'm being too hard on Texas Roadhouse. What if the real Texas stretches beyond a set of politically recognized borders? What if Texas is really a state of mind, a unique culture of cattle and oil wealth, infused with a fiercely independent, unfailingly polite, yet occasionally ornery, soul?

If flavor is all that matters, then maybe this Kentucky chain is more authentic, more genuinely Texan in spirit, than many mom-and-pop restaurants in the Crossroads.

Could be. And Rick Perry could be a New York Jew.



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