November 24th, 2009
Taste of Texas: Stake Claim to Your Steak
In 6 Words: Cowboy, Porterhouse, Greens, Pewter, Tag, Handkerchief
I make it a point to stay within the confines of the 610 loop. Work exists outside the loop, recreation within. This is something that I don’t mind and don’t care to change. However, on the rare occasion, commitment and duty dictate that I venture past the limits of my playful prison. The 40th birthday of a friend of mine seems like an event of enough importance to break the mostly brittle rules of my social life. The invite popped up in my email account weeks ago for a dinner at Taste of Texas. It has been roughly eight years since my last encounter with the Houston steakhouse. The memory of that first experience has never faded and I have hopes that their signature steaks live up to that lofty remembrance.
In order to make the specified 6:30 reservation for dinner, I have to leave work half an hour early to fight the Friday traffic back into the city. It’s really no different than any other day, but the added pressure of a party seems to slow the freeways down to a crawl. There’s enough time to clean up, iron a decent shirt and make myself presentable, keeping in mind that my mustache being grown for Movember will detract and distract from any efforts I make to look appropriate.
When we get to the restaurant, we’re informed by the hostess that we’re the first of the party to check in. This was not expected. I tend to be notoriously late. We, instead, head to the bar located past the waiting area to grab a couple of drinks and find a few friends sitting on the padded stools. The discussion switches between business and cliched banter about the married life. Such is the social nature of the mid-thirties circuit.
Nearly three Budweisers into our bullshit session, the birthday boy and his girlfriend show up and we’re off to a table that’s tucked into the furthest corner of Taste of Texas, behind the expanse of the salad bar. Are we deemed too rowdy to be situated amongst the other guests tonight? A more logical explanation would be that this area is reserved for the very large parties that come to the restaurant on occasion. It would be better to take it as a compliment that they’re lifting the red-velvet rope for our party.
We sit down and order drinks from one of three waiters that have been assigned to our table. I glance through the menu quickly. There’s no reason to let the eyes loiter. I’m here for steak and steak is what I’m having. There’s an option to buy your ribeye by the ounce; a tempting offer to say the least. A “Cowboy Cut” of 24 ounces of juicy goodness. Porterhouse. Porterhouse for two. Prime rib. Whatever cut you could ever desire is on the menu. The only thing that’s missing is a 72 ounce challenge like the Big Texan in Amarillo offers. I decide on the T-bone. Twenty ounces split between New York Strip and tenderloin should do more than quell any outspoken appetite.
My friend across from me asks if I want to order an appetizer, to which I ask “why wouldn’t I want an appetizer?” He dutifully orders the Spinach and Artichoke dip from the menu along with a Cowboy Cut steak. He has one-upped me. Rather than stake my masculinity on steak, I choose to ignore the ante thrown down by the threat to my manhood sitting across the table from me. It’s easy to look past, as the lady friend to my left is tapping me on the elbow, imploring me to accompany her on her visit to the salad bar. It is what she has looked forward to most about this evening.
We make the quick jaunt over to the salad bar, set neatly in a cove, near the table at which we’re seated. The plates sit in a freezer at the edge of the bar, a fact that I’m unaware of until they are pointed out to me. I grab my plate, load it with greens, sprinkle on bleu cheese crumbles, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onions and more importantly more bleu cheese this time in dressing form. At the end of the rail is the final hurrah; an oven, keeping the bread warm. The baskets of bread and servings of salad are endless, but I wouldn’t suggest filling yourself.
As we make our way back to the table my friend gets my attention and asks me, “do you think you get a handkerchief if you order the Cowboy steak?” I look around and there’s an entire table of business men with bright red handkerchiefs with paisley print. “I really hope that you have to wear one of those,” I say. “I really, really hope you have to,” making evident my desire for my friend to look like a fool among our friends. As we sit down, one of our waitresses is refilling empty water glasses around the table. We ask the expert about the neckerchiefs. She replies back, “that’s only for first-time, foreign guests.” And, this country wants to know what’s wrong with our foreign policy… I would start at Taste of Texas and their desire to make out-of-towners look like buffoons.
The service has picked up quite a bit at our table. Whereas, it seemed like our initial order took forever to be recorded by our waitstaff, we barely finish our salads and appetizers before the trays weighed down by thick slabs of beef get carried out. The lady friend to my right takes the opportunity to order a bottle of wine from the list. She asks for a vintage that ends up costing $40. She could have purchased the same bottle at the local grocery store for no more than $12. As they say, “you pay for the service.”
There is not much talking as we dive into the plates in front of us. Each of us has a goal; make sure that every morsel is consumed in order to make the price of the evening worth every penny. No sense in wasting anything, especially if this is only your second trip of this decade. I attack my pewter, cow-shaped plate and it’s prize as if I’ve a score to settle with it. I don’t even pick up my head to answer questions from the rest of the party as I wield my knife in my left hand and fork in my right. The baked potato that was delivered as part of the meal is left out of the fray for the most part. A potato ain’t never done nothing bad to nobody. It just becomes a witness to the massacre.
With only the bone left on my plate, I lean back in my chair, satisfied with my conquest. I’m full, uncomfortably so. Even though there is nothing left of the T-bone, it’s still unclear who the winner of this war will be. The dessert tray is escorted to the table. Some glance at the offerings, but I can’t even consider a sweet treat. The waitress offers coffee or espresso. No and no, thank you. It’s clear who the winner is: Taste of Texas. The battle of attrition is definitely in their favor. I could take no more and they kept coming. But, in the end, that’s what keeps us coming back to Taste of Texas.
Where – 10505 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX 77024 (View Map)
What – Steakhouse With an Alliterative Name
Wear – Jeans and a Dress Shirt, What You Wore to Work or Break out the Bolo Tie
Who – Steak Seekers, Salad Bar Connoisseurs
How Much – $50 For T-Bone and Appetizer
When – Mon.-Thu. 11AM-10PM, Fri. 11AM-11PM, Sat. 3:30PM-11PM Sun. 3:00PM-10PM
Web – http://tasteoftexas.com/