Thursday, August 9, 2012

It’s Never a Good Sign…

when you pull into a restaurant’s parking lot and find the place dark and much of the kitchen equipment sitting in the lot.

We had planned to eat at Fletcher’s Whatta Burger (not to be confused with the Whataburger chain of restaurants), since we had noticed a packed parking lot just a few days before. But, of course, we chose to go on one of the days they close for annual cleaning.

While driving to Fletcher’s, I noticed a place called Colton’s Steakhouse. While the exterior screamed “chain,” we had no other plan, so back we went.

One look at the interior confirmed my suspicions—this had to be a chain. It seems that the Colton’s operation started August 1996 with the first location being in Conway, Arkansas, and all Colton’s® Steak House & Grill restaurants operate as franchises, with locations in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. And the space was decorated in the way that a non-Texan would think a Texas roadhouse should look like.

Every table contained a galvanized bucket of peanuts. Chuck ate a few and declared them stale.

The light fixtures hanging from the ceiling were made from the same buckets.

There was the obligatory partial interior roof—this time made from corrugated metal—and lassos and other cowboy gear were hanging on the wall.

Most of the items on the menu seemed to offer way more food than either of us wanted on a 105° plus day. I was ready to settle on the quarter pound burger and then turned the menu over and saw that they offered lunch-sized portions of selected dinner entrees. Included were: Southwest Chipotle Tips—pieces of chicken grilled with sautéed peppers, onions, and shrimp, topped with a chipotle cream sauce and served over rice; Sirloin Tips with sautéed peppers and onions; a six-ounce sirloin steak; Mesquite Grilled Chicken served on a bed of rice pilaf; Chicken Fried Chicken topped with white gravy; and Colton’s “Loaded” Chicken—grilled chicken breast covered in sautéed mushrooms, bacon, green onions, and a blend of cheeses and served with honey mustard sauce.

From that list Chuck selected the Chicken Fried Steak with “smashed” potatoes and white gravy (the other choice was mushroom gravy). The piece of cube steak was decent sized and had a great crunchy coating. The potatoes—while somewhat lukewarm—were made with red skin-on potatoes and were—to someone who’s not a mashed potato lover—delicious.

My choice was the Fried Domestic Catfish with coleslaw and fries. Again, this was just the right sized portion. The plate contained four good sized fish “fingers” that were covered with a crunchy cornmeal-based coating. They were moist and flakey and quite good.
The sweet potato fries—like Chuck’s potatoes—could have been hotter. And the cole slaw was just--what’s the right word--blah.

After having eaten lightly, we went and blew it by sharing a large slice of New York cheesecake. “How is a New York Cheesecake unlike any other cheesecake? To begin, it’s very very tall. Most cheesecakes…use 3 bricks of cream cheese…
Most cheesecakes are cut or lightened with sour cream; not here, where firm and intense is the goal” ( New York cheesecake is dense and heavy. Just as cheesecake should be. And this version was topped with a not-too-sweet raspberry syrup.

Had I know anything about Colton’s, we probably wouldn’t have eaten there. On-line follow-up showed that most diners gave these place awful reviews. But most of those people had ordered steak. Not a good thing when a steakhouse gets bad reviews for their steaks. But we enjoyed our meal well enough to award it 3.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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