I’ve heard about this little steakhouse with a few locations in St. Paul. I heard it’s pretty bare bones, but cheap steak is better than no steak. In fact, someone said, why would spend $50 on a steak when you can spend $15. I had to check this place out. D.Rough’s family invited us out to dinner and when I heard we were finally going to go here, I was pretty excited.
The place IS pretty bare bones with a very unique Greek wagon train feel, based on the interior design. Pictures of Santorini line the walls, illuminated by wagon wheel candelabras. And the guy that runs the place isn’t even Greek, as we found out. Unusual? Yes.
The menu is on the wall right before you get in the cafeteria-style line to place your order. The guy doesn’t write anything down – he just locks in your meat order, along with how you want it cooked, and what sides you want. You slide your tray down past the grill, where you get to watch your steak being prepared (or watch your lobster tail being toaster oven-ed), and load up on the salad bar. “Load up” might be an exaggeration, since the bowls are about 4” in diameter and really shallow. But hey, we’re there for steak, right? I got the T-bone special with 3 jumbo shrimp and a baked potato.
This plate of food looks pretty impressive. 16oz T-Bone? All day! I started with my tiny salad. I made it myself, so there really isn’t much to complain about. Sure, they only have iceberg lettuce sitting in a hotel pan full of water, but they DID have chick peas, which I love, so it all balances out, right? Besides, the salad is merely a speed bump on the way to the steak. You know, pretend I’m eating healthy!
The shrimp were pretty ho-hum. Coated in breading, but pretty sure they came out of a freezer. It was more breading than shrimp, but since I like fried anything, I liked these just fine. Just not something I need a plateful of, obviously.
The baked potato came with an ice cream scoop of butter in it. Not even margarine. Serious butter. I wasn’t thinking about topping my baked potato at the salad bar, but I should have. My fault on this one, but I still love baked potatoes with two cups of butter in them, so I devoured this thing.
It was STEAK TIME. 16 oz T-Bone time! I dug into my first corner of this thing and was surprised how chewy it was. I order my steaks medium or medium-rare to avoid the chewiness of a well-done steak. My first bite wasn’t great and had a generous layer of fat to contend with. I like a layer of fat and usually clean my plate entirely, including the delicious juicy fat. But this was too much fat. (Yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing, either. Weird.) The next couple of bites didn’t get any better, and in fact changed color of meat as I moved towards the center. Most of the time, the center of a steak is a little more pink than the edges – that’s just science. This one changed color a few times throughout the steak, as if part of the steak wasn’t even on the grill while the rest of it was over coals borrowed from the surface of the sun. I looked around and saw other people at our table fighting with their steaks. I watched others chewing the same piece of meat for about 5 minutes, trying to break it down enough to swallow. It wasn’t good. It continued to be not good through to the end of the steak. I poured a generous helping of A1 Steak Sauce on what was left of my steak and D.Rough said, “I’ve never seen you use A1 in the whole time we’ve been together!” I assured her that if she saw me use A1, I was NOT happy with my steak and it was a last ditch effort to make it more edible.
When I was finished with my steak, D.Rough still had a lot of her steak left, which should have been a sign. Her fillet was considerably softer than the T-Bone I just had, but still just as chewy (she also got her steak medium). Her steak was only slightly better than mine. That being said, I finished her steak, as well. The remaining steak pieces (and there WERE remaining pieces) got boxed up for the family dog.
I have to say, I can see the logic behind paying $15 for a steak, rather than $50, but it has to taste like a steak. When Taco Bell or Perkin’s steak sounds like magic, you know you can skip this place in the future. I’m sure they have other things they do well here – gyros, burgers, possibly ribs and lobster – so maybe go with one of those if you find yourself here. And, for the record, they do make the fries from actual potatoes and fry them fresh. And the super buttery garlic bread that comes with it is delicious and salty. Those were pretty good.
I don’t like to give bad reviews of restaurants, because I know this is people’s livelihood, but in this case, it doesn’t deserve a better review. This place doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities – at least on my first visit. I’m just not sure it will get a second chance. If it does, you readers will be the first to know.
Best Steak House
1676 White Bear Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55106