Other than 111 Chophouse in Worcester, when most people think of local steakhouses you have one of two options, Longhorn Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse. I’ve been to both and I thought it may be a useful exercise to compare the two. Both of these are national chain restaurants.
Texas Roadhouse is based out of Louisville, Kentucky and has around 450 restaurants in the United States. When one first approaches Texas Roadhouse you hear music coming through outdoor speakers. This is the Texas Roadhouse theme song. Get used to it because you are going to be bombarded with it over and over and over again.
When you enter the restaurant likely the first thing you will notice while going to your table is that the place is dirty. You’ll likely see peanut shells all over the place and God knows what else. If you are allergic to peanuts, run out of the restaurant and run fast. You may also notice the waiters and waitresses doing a line dance in one of the aisles. We’ll get to this later. The three times I’ve been there I’ve never seen one of the staff attempt to clean the floors. That’s one thing I will credit Olive Garden with, they are always cleaning. Texas Roadhouse, not so much.
The service at Texas Roadhouse has always been good when I’ve been there; I’ve never had an issue with it. Unfortunately that’s about the only good thing. The real reason you’re at Texas Roadhouse is because you want a steak. You’ll be disappointed. You would figure that a national chain steakhouse would have their steaks coming out precise and consistent. Well, they do here but it’s consistently bad. The steaks are thin and are too fatty. Restaurants get USDA Prime grade beef and while this is I’m sure, it’s got to be the lowest grade of Prime. Every time I’ve been there I’ve been disappointed. I can get a better steak at Rutland Marketplace and while it’s not Prime grade it’s still damn good and a much better cut.
During your stay at Texas Roadhouse you will be bombarded with their theme song. It plays over and over again. It’s like being Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange with his eyes propped open watching Nazi propaganda films except your ears are propped open and your being bombarded with bad country music singing about Texas Roadhouse and it never stops. Now comes the line dancing. If you’re unfortunate enough you will be assaulted by the wait staff doing line dances in the aisle next to your table. The worst part is that you can’t make it stop. You try and avoid eye contact in the hopes that they will go away but they never do. Everyone just ignores them uncomfortably.
Longhorn Steakhouse came from out of Atlanta, Georgia before being bought by Darden Restaurants Inc. Fortunately Darden didn’t kill the formula. They have over 270 restaurants in the United States. When you walk into a Longhorn Steakhouse the first thing you will notice is class. What is that you say a classy steakhouse? Yes indeed! While Texas Roadhouse could best be described as consistently white trash, Longhorn Steakhouse is consistently classy. You won’t be assaulted with a theme song before you go through the door. There won’t be peanut shells all over the floor and wait staff line dancing in the aisles. The atmosphere is simply well done and it just blends well to make you feel comfortable in an upscale environment. If you sit at the bar you would think you’re at a nice restaurant bar in Boston or New York City.
I’ve been to three different Longhorn Steakhouses, Marlborough, MA multiple times, once in Mansfield, MA and multiple times in Lancaster, PA. Every single time I’ve ever been to Longhorn I have had an awesome steak. The place is consistently great. The cuts of beef scream USDA Prime, they are always thick and they are perfectly done. If you order a medium rare steak you will get medium rare. I also like the different sizes. You can get anything from a six ounce piece to one that will feed a platoon and every one of them will be done perfectly. I personally like how I have control over my sides as well and can mix and match to put together my dinner however I wish to. The service has always been fantastic.
While down in Lancaster, PA last Father’s Day I wanted to take my dad to Longhorn Steakhouse for Father’s Day. I didn’t have the chance to make a reservation because things were crazy. He had just got out of the hospital and my mom was still in the hospital for different reasons. I knew we were doomed but I figured we’d try anyway and if it was too busy we could go somewhere else. We got there and when I asked there was a two hour wait. That’s right, two hours and people were waiting! That is how good Longhorn is. In short, if you can’t afford to go to 111 Chophouse go to Longhorn Steakhouse. 111 Chophouse gets all their steaks from Allen Brothers in Chicago (and you can too, google is your friend). I don’t know where Longhorn gets theirs but they are good. Better than you can ever get at a butcher or grocery store for sure. And that grass fed beef you can get at a local farm certainly is awesome but it is not USDA Prime grade.
So there you have it. If you want to trip over peanut shells, hear the same theme song played over and over and have wait staff line dancing next to your table you may be a redneck, or just be having dinner at Texas Roadhouse. If you want consistent greatness with an upscale atmosphere and not break the bank go to Longhorn Steakhouse.