It's nice to know that whenever you see a familiar chain name you will get the same kind of food and service you are expecting.
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The LOOK and FEEL
The Outback restaurants I have been to have a rustic feel to them. I would compare their look as similar to a lodge pole pine structure of the American west. Inside the feel continues. The floors, tables, booths, and bar are all dark woods. Scattered about on all walls are reminders that you are in an Australian atmosphere. Pictures of exotic animals from the island, nation continent are on the walls. Aborginine tools and artifacts are screwed into the walls too. Boomerangs abound! Maps of Australia are also a given in their restaurants.
Another thing I have noticed is that they have piles of cardboard coasters on the end of each table.
BUT WAIT, and wait and wait.
It always seem there are lines at the Outback. I have never gone in without being given one of those pagers with the buzz and the lights doing their thing.
It seems that the people are resigned to that fact. Many people I have talked to agree that the wait is part of the experience, like it or not.
Now they do have a call ahead seating system. This does not mean you get seated as soon as you walk in or at a particular time. What it supposedly does is gets things in motion and saves you about half the usual waiting time. The only place I have tried the call in is at our local outback. It saved some time but it's certainly not a cure all. Most other Outbacks we were walk ins.
All the Outbacks I have been in have TVs playing in the bar area that consists of stools and tables and chairs.
In NY there is no smoking allowed anywhere inside. This is different in other cities and states. We have been to some where smoking is still the norm. I say this because eating at tables near the bar is also an option at many Outbacks. Smoking or non-smoking, you decide. More about drinks in a bit.
OK, the hostess has called us in, we are seated, given menus and over comes our waiter. Most times they give their names and then squat down to put themselves at your eye level. I have found that a nice touch and I have always found the help extremely friendly. They do try to please. The fact is, in all the times I have been to different Outbacks, I don't believe I have ever met a rude or unfriendly person. That's saying a lot!!
I should also mention that they know their menus well. On occasion two waiters have come up to us, one in training. They seem to take this very seriously while keeping an upbeat attitude.
Small loaves of a brown bread, and butter are brought to the tables. It is hot and and has a sweet taste to it. Order more if you like. They are quick to bring it. That is, after you have ordered an appetizer. I have found that the few times we did not order the appetizer the bread seemed to be a bit slower coming out. Maybe I'm just waiting to munch on something as soon as I can.
With all this reaching and grabbing of the appetizers, in our family, the large cloth napkins they provide are quite useful. I also like the oversized utensils they offer. The forks are large and the huge steak knife feels good in the hand and kind of reminds me of what is yet to come.
The workers are trained to immediately ask for your appetizer order. They call them Aussie-tizers. It's hard to go to the Outback and not have one. The most popular on the list is the Bloomin' Onion. This is a trademark item of theirs. You will see these crispy wonders being hustled to most tables. Yes, we do order one. They are delicious but, I have noticed, they have become smaller over the years. It's a large onion in a light batter that is presented on a plate cut like the petals of a flower. Yes, they can be a bit greasy. Just reach across and grab a piece. It also comes with a dip. With my family it disappears very quickly. That is why we order a couple of other favorites. The Aussie Cheese Fries are another favorite along with Kookaburra Wings. No, these are not wings of the Australian bird sung of in the Kookaburra song down under. These are Buffalo chicken wings. Choose your spice, mild, medium or hot!!
Other appetizers are also available like Darling Point Crab Cakes, Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie, Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp,they are large and absolutely delicious, and a couple of soups. Most of these are in the six to eight dollar price range. Soups are three and four dollars if they don't come with your particular dinner.
Just a reminder that the menus may differ slightly at each Outback, as do prices.
THE MAIN COURSE
The main dishes at the Outback vary but meat is the primary menu offering. These are listed under Land Rovers. With the choices, you get a cup of soup or salad, and a choice of potato or steamed vegetables.
I enjoy the rare Prime Minister's Prime Rib. I have never been disappointed. This is where you have a choice of filling the belly or not. You can choose an 8 ounce, 12 ounce, or 16 ounce cut at the price of $14, $16, or $18. I have the 12 ounce and it is perfect.
Though you can have a baked or fried potatoes don't do it. You MUST try the Roasted garlic mashed They are fantastic!
When the platter comes to me, I'm a happy man. No pretty garnished dished here with a lovely presentation. Instead you get your meat nice and hot with the mashed potatoes plopped on and piled next to it. These potatoes have garlic in them, fine pieces of the skin, and chunks of potato. The Outback knows how to make them right!!
SIDE DISHES and DESSERT
Just so you know, you can get a side lobster tail with any meal for $7.29. Five of their huge grilled shrimp go $5.49 as an add on. Also, my wife always orders a side dish of grilled onions. they are great and for 99 cents they are a bargain. There other side dishes are reasonably priced too. Jacket Potato, steamed veggies, sweet potato, or their Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes all go for $1.99. Sauteed Mushrooms are $2.49. They are goooood.
If you want to watch the waist line and/or pocketbook there are still other options. They serve some great salads. You can even have some shrimp from the barbie added. They have a soup and salad special too at 7.99. See you can keep it lighter. Just add a side of mashed potatoes, some grilled onion, sauteed Mushrooms, and a sweet potato and you are set! Just kiddin!
Pastas and sandwiches are also available.
The desserts at the Outback are good. The fact is we rarely have room for it. Try the pecan pie ala mode with their home mixed chocolate sauce. Heavenly!
WHAT ABOUT LITTLE ONES?
I did say this was a good place for the family. My children have outgrown the kids menu but there is something for younger ones under ten. They have what they call the Joey Menu for $3.99 and $4.99 prices they have a Joey Sirloin, Junior Ribs, Maca A Roo'N Cheese, a burger, and chicken fingers. These dishes come with beverages too.
OUTBACK IN ISLAMORADA, FLORIDA
We have had different success with mixed drinks in the Outback. Ours in NY just doesn't get it right. We have been told that they all use the same drink recipe. I don't think so.
The fact is, in Islamorada Outback in Florida, the drinks were great!! Let me just talk about this Outback for a moment. While doing a couple of Florida Key vacations, a year and a half ago, we stayed at a Hampton Inn. It had a pool area. Part of the complex had a Tiki bar and tables to eat at. All this overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. This was run by the Outback!. The Outback restaurant was right next door. We loved it. The meals and drinks were charged to our room in the Hampton. The Outback had live music a couple of nights too. It was a great atmosphere. The food was the usual good fare, and the drinks were awesome. I suppose these guys down in Islamorada Florida don't follow the usual Outback recipe for drinks. Oh, Man!! I want to be there right now!
TRY SOME AUSSIE BEER
Beer on tap is served in a frosted glass. The Australian beer is Fosters. I suggest "While in Outback do as the Aussies do, drink Fosters." My wife happens to enjoy Killian's Red whenever we go to one. Most have had it for her.
I like the Outback Steakhouse because I know what, service, atmosphere, quality of food, and yes even what the wait is like in most every Outback out there. Well maybe I haven't been to the over six hundred of them, but the ones I been to have been excellent.
I find the place, though not romantic because it's too busy, good for couples, fun for groups of friends and great for families.
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