Mack’s parents were in town for a week, and wanted to treat a few of us to dinner on Friday. Originally intending to snag a table at the Keg, the wait of eighty-five minutes ended up being too much to bear, so the group settled on the nearby Outback Steakhouse. The venue was likely a better choice anyway, as we had a two-year old amongst us.
The Outback had never occurred to me as a go-to choice for steak. Not that I am one to eat steak all that often anyway, but having passed by their three locations in the city more times that I can count, I can say that nothing has ever implored me to step inside their doors. Their set-up is very family and group oriented, in a casual way reminiscent of other run-of-the-mill chains like Boston Pizza and Kelsey’s. I liked the wooden fixtures and spot lighting, things I didn’t expect to find. For a Friday night, it actually was not busy at all – there were quite a few tables that sat empty throughout the night, probably not a good sign, even though a Western Canadian representative just reiterated how strong the Edmonton market is (Outback just closed nine locations in Ontario).
Menu-wise, crowd-pleasing entrees including steak, sandwiches, pastas and salads didn’t do much to make Outback unique in the sea of chains, with the exception of some silly dish names. Highlights include: Kookaburra Wings and Mac-A-Roo ’N Cheese. I have to think that the restaurant came to be during the Crocodile Dundee era, with someone assuming Americans would jump at the opportunity to immerse themselves in Aussie slang. That said, the prices were fairly reasonable – Mack’s 6oz. Sirloin with Grilled Lobster Tail Combo ran $24.95, while the 10oz. prime rib that Martin and Tom ordered was $22.75. I was craving a burger that night, and decided the All-In ($14.95) would best suit my needs, and customized it with bacon, swiss, lettuce and tomatoes. The Bloomin’ Onion ($8.75), described as being “hand-carved by a dedicated bloomologist” intrigued us after we found out that the chain sells over 15 million a year.
Our server showed herself to be promising, and didn’t waiver too much over the night, given that we were a fairly needy group. My biggest complaint had to do with the wait for our mains – though it likely had to do with the size of our group, I saw many late-seated tables around us receiving entrees even before our appetizer arrived.
The Bloomin’ Onion was just that – a giant onion that has been cut-up to look like a flower, battered, then deep-fried whole so that it retains its shape. As a result, the onion-ring like morsels also retain much of the grease that would normally be shaken off in a fryer basket, but boy, did it taste good. Mack disagreed though, and didn’t eat many more than a few petals. It is definitely meant to be shared amongst a large group though.
Our entrees were nothing special – Mack thought his steak and lobster were unexceptional, and that the latter could have been much better. My burger was pretty standard, bordering on dry. Though it was my choice to decide on that dish, I kept thinking about how the burgers over at Red Robin’s are a much better comparable deal. I also couldn’t figure out what made the accompanying Aussie fries “Aussie”, besides a dash of what looked like pepper.
Sirloin with Grilled Lobster Tail
All-In Burger with Aussie Fries
Before we left, our waitress inundated us with eight 2-for-1 coupons, good for dinners between Monday and Thursdays. While it seemed like a nice gesture, there was a whiff of desperation to the hand-out. I’m not sure we’d be interested in returning anyway, even with the discount.
12832 137 Avenue NW, Edmonton (two other locations)