by Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
Just like everything is bigger in Texas, you'll need a larger than life appetite for Texas Roadhouse.
The steakhouse chain made its entry in the Daytona Beach market with its Pavilion at Port Orange location last year, offering fresh hand-cut steaks and fall-off-the-bone ribs at affordable prices. That's been the vision of Texas Roadhouse since its first restaurant opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993.
Upon walking into the restaurant, I felt like I wasn't in Florida anymore. The ambiance had the look and feel of a Texas-style steakhouse, with cactuses displayed near the booths and deer heads mounted on the walls surrounding the bar area. To my left I noticed butchers cutting up steaks, preparing the day's selections.
As my guest and I were seated we were greeted by Will Stringer, managing partner for Texas Roadhouse, who's involved in the operations of the Port Orange location and the franchise's other Volusia County location in Orange City. Asked what the restaurant is best known for, he said simply, "We are steaks."
Texas Roadhouse might also be best known for chaos. The restaurant gets busy during peak hours, with its staff of 18 servers working three different table sections at a time. At the bottom of every hour, the wait staff line dances for the customers, some of whom enjoy it so much they request they dance more often during their visit. Near the entrance of the restaurant is a jukebox that allows customers to select one of the many contemporary country music favorites from the likes of Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban that pipe through the speakers.
Sydney Murrell, marketer for Texas Roadhouse, said the restaurant is particularly busy on Tuesday nights, which is Kids Night. On Kids Nights, servers dress in "crazy costumes" to fit with a nightly theme, such as jungle safari night and college sports team night, and kids eat for only $1.99. There's also a balloon artist, face painting and applesauce-eating contests on Tuesdays.
"We're very family oriented," she said. "We try to do stuff for the kids."
Texas Roadhouse gets their meat supply from a distribution center in North Carolina, Mr. Stringer said. Unlike other chain restaurants, their bread and side items are made in-house from scratch and are never frozen.
"Everything is made from scratch on a daily basis," he said. "Anything we don't sell, we throw away."
When my guest and I started with a pair of appetizers, we could tell they were made fresh. We tried the cactus blossom ($4.99), onion slices battered and fried to a golden brown served with a Cajun horseradish sauce; and the tater skins ($5.99), potato wedges topped with cheddar and bacon. Although we enjoyed both appetizers, both of us preferred the cactus blossom, especially because of the horseradish dip.
Other popular appetizers at Texas Roadhouse include boneless buffalo wings, served with a customer's choice of mild or hot sauce, and rattlesnake bites, fried jalapeno peppers served with horseradish sauce.
My guest decided to try a cheeseburger ($7.49), a half-pound ground chuck patty served on a Texas toast-style bun, while I decided to try the pulled pork and BBQ chicken combo ($12.99). The restaurant's other combo plates allow a customer to mix chicken and steak with ribs and grilled shrimp. Combos come with two sides, a choice of steak fries, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, house salad or buttered corn.
I thought the chicken was better than the pork; it had a thick, juicy taste and was sauced to my liking. But seeing the look of enjoyment in my guest's face as she was eating her burger had me wishing I tried the beef instead.
Texas Roadhouse offers a variety of cuts of steak, including USDA choice sirloin, New York strip, ribeye, T-bone, prime rib, and "road kill", a 10-ounce chopped steak smothered with sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms and jack cheese. Other specialties include country fried chicken, grilled pork chops and fried catfish - definitely a meat lover's dream. The restaurant also has an "early dine" special Mondays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., where diners can have their choice of one of 10 entrees, plus two sides, for just $8.49. It's a good deal for anyone who wants a sirloin steak on the cheap.
If you're in the mood for a steakhouse meal but can't afford steakhouse prices, or you're looking for a great place for a meal with the kids, Texas Roadhouse will give you just that - and some line dancing, too.
Texas Roadhouse is at 5549 South Williamson Blvd. in Port Orange and 2518 Enterprise Road in Orange City. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays in Port Orange while Orange City opens for lunch at 11 a.m. on Friday.
For more information, call (386) 763-2420 or visit www.texasroadhouse.com.