DINING: Texas Roadhouse has tasty, salty, cheesy menu items

November 17, 2008

Last week, IBJ visited New York — courtesy of the new northside eatery Manhattan. Before that, it was a westward journey to Ted's Montana Grill. This time, I look south, with a stop at Texas Roadhouse (9111 N. Michigan Road, 876-5480-plus other locations).

It may not be the best little roadhouse in Texas, but this chain — which was actually launched in Clarksville, Ind.— has its pleasures. The subdued lighting, country soundtrack and toss-your-peanut-shells-wherever atmosphere is conducive to a sort of salt-content-be-damned dining.

The borderline tempura Chicken Critters — chicken strips to those of us who aren't 7 years old — on the Combo Appetizer platter ($8.29) far transcended their fast-food brethren. And the Tater Skins weren't shabby either. Only the Rattlesnake Bites — jalapenos and jack cheese nuggets — were disappointing. Texas Red Chili ($2.99/cup, $3.99/bowl) came buried in a Medusa-like web of shredded cheese — remove half and there's still plenty. The menu boasted that the chili was made-from-scratch, and it tasted as good if not better than I've found in other chains.

For those dining with children, Texas Roadhouse offers the expected Kid Meals, plus intermediary Ranger Meals for those up to 12. Andy's Steak — six ounces of USDA choice sirloin ($5.99, including drink and a side) — was tasty enough to promote parental larceny from junior's plate.

The BBQ Chicken Sandwich ($7.49) was sizable and good enough for the "We're staying in the hotel across the street and we're really hungry" crowd. A side sweet potato (a $.79 upgrade) — salt encrusted, of course — more than bumped the meal simultaneously into the "extremely filling" and the "guilty pleasure" category, leaving no room for dessert.

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