Like everything else I write here I fully blame our Piker "sub-editor" (is that her current title?) Sand. I mentioned that I was going out to different restaurants here and she squealed -- in a dignified manner of course -- and asked when I'd be writing a review. I chuckled and said I wanted to go back first because everything was a blur. Nah, that was a fib -- I wanted to try the pulled pork again and see if the meal had been a fluke or it was their standard.
First off, I am not a fan of the basics of barbecue meats. You know where they smother a lovely cut of pork or beef with sauces and flavors hiding the lushness of a prime chunk of meat. Add in I had succumbed to a severe case of the flu way back when I was a 'tween' and lost any taste for barbecue sauce. I rarely ate anything with sauces unless I was being polite and had a very large disposable napkin. But I've gotten older and figured that maybe my taste buds had aged too and possibly forgotten the abuse.
Smokey Bones is a sports bar chain that apparently runs rampant throughout the South. My first meal at the Boca Raton franchise was a 'choose your own combo' and I had picked the pulled pork and chicken breast. For my two sides I got mashed potatoes and broccoli. Feeling a tad puckish and having never eaten there before I added a side Caesar salad to start. A nice brewed tea -- not sweet -- sorry, I wasn't ready to venture that far into the South just yet -- was my beverage of choice. The salad came out promptly and was crisp and tasty and not too heavily dressed. Then the food arrived along with two pitchers of sauces to dip. Honey mustard for the chicken and their barbecue sauce went on my plate in small dabs. I liked their barbecue sauce. It was smoky and flavorful but not cloying. The dish was served with a piece of garlic toast and a smile.
There was more than enough food for two people. The combo was under ten dollars and the receipt came with one of those all-too-scary survey requests that are springing up on most receipts. I went for broke and did the survey that netted me a coupon for my 'next' visit.
The next visit was not delightful in any way or worthy of any praise. I switched up the combo and picked their idea of chicken fingers instead of the chicken breast. I asked for a salad and I think the mashed potato and broccoli again -- I am not sure and admittedly I'd have to go find my receipt to see what I picked that time because the meal was an absolute disaster.
The salad never showed up. Neither did the chipper waitress once the order was placed. The restaurant wasn't overly crowded and there didn't seem to be buckets of take-out leaving the kitchen so I was somewhat puzzled and eventually irritated. One of the major selling points of the chain is their frequent customer cards. Both times I asked for one and never was given the card. I wasn't happy, but after watching the clouds chase across the January sky my food showed up.
It was tossed down on the table by a rather surly guy. He tried to quickly run off but I had a chance to ask him where my salad was -- incorrectly I'd assumed he was the food runner, but it soon dawned on me that he was in fact one of the cooks. He bit my head off saying it wasn't his concern and ran for the kitchen. My waitress eventually wandered over to see if I had a credit card and a pulse. I mentioned nicely that I didn't have any sauces much less my ordered salad. She ran off to get the sauces after I declined her rather reluctant offer to make a salad. I then found out that most of the food on my plate was lukewarm to cold. I told her when she returned and she shrugged and promptly disappeared back to wherever she was hiding. I paid my bill eventually after I had to flag down another of the wait staff to find my waitress and left. She saw over half my meal was on my plate and didn't comment or offer a to-go box. I am not sure that I'll ever go back.
A few weeks later I was in Fort Lauderdale fussing with my hair. Okay, paying someone to fuss with my hair. I was starving by the end of my two-hour ordeal and asked the stylist which of the restaurants around the mini-mall was good. She told me her three favorites. I was craving meat so I decided on the one closest -- it was the Longhorn Steakhouse -- I was promptly greeted and seated. The restaurant is another well-known haunt for the locals I later found out. I looked around and saw the large bar, the mounted heads and Texas motif and figured out quickly it was a 'real' steakhouse not a Sizzler Light.
My waitress showed up with a nice smile and asked me if I was familiar with their menu. I freely admitted that I hadn't ever been there and glanced at the menu. I saw that they had a pomegranate sweet tea and asked how it was. She said it was very popular, but I was pretty reluctant given my Smokey Bones experience. She offered to make it telling me if I didn't like it she'd get me something else. It was delicious. Not overly sweet but the bite of pomegranate tasted great with the brewed tea.
Then I looked over the menu. I saw a few of the nearby customers inhaling the large burgers while some others were nibbling on fresh looking salads. But what was really tempting me was one of their new lunch selections. Yep, I caved and chose the Bacon Crusted Sirloin. The blurb on the menu was the clincher: "A juicy top sirloin, seared with a crisp hickory-smoked bacon crust, grilled and topped with bourbon glaze served with a choice of side and salad." At 6 ounces for $11.99 I was sold -- I mean how could I resist?
I ordered the six-ounce sirloin medium rare with a baked potato and asparagus. She told me the asparagus was an upgrade and that would cost me extra but for that price I said no problem. Then she brought me out the waistline wrecker. Warm wheat bread with butter -- I resisted gobbling up the entire loaf by begging for a side salad knowing that was a smarter choice.
I've worked in kitchens. When my meal arrived I thought I'd mistakenly told the waitress the wrong size of beef. The meat I was served was absolutely melt in your mouth perfect but in no way did it look like a mere six ounces. After gorging on the beef and nearly everything else on my plate the waitress brought me the bill and asked how my meal was. I raved. She explained she hadn't realized how good Longhorn Steakhouse was until she'd began working for them and that they not only had prime slices of meat but slathered the steak with a butter spread before finishing it off with the bacon and bourbon crust. It was wickedly good. I definitely will be going back for seconds the next time I go to abuse my hair.