The other day, my family went to Texas Roadhouse. In case you haven’t heard of it, this is a restaurant chain that started in Indiana and currently has headquarters in Kentucky. For those of you not familiar with US geography, Indiana and Kentucky are both states that are not Texas.
You’ve heard of Texas. That’s a southern state full of crazy people with guns. They have two political parties—the Republicans, and the other Republicans who call themselves Democrats to avoid confusion. We have a similar system here in Massachusetts. We have the Democrats, and the other Democrats who call themselves Republicans to avoid confusion. I’ve been to Texas several times, and it is basically exactly a caricature of itself. So it’s relatively easy to make a Texas-themed restaurant, even with the disadvantage of being from Kentuckiana. (Kentuckiana is what the locals call the area where Kentucky and Indiana bump into each other — I know this because I’ve been there and they all think it’s such a clever thing to say that they all say it constantly.)
The second thing you’ll notice about the Texas Roadhouse is the barrel of peanuts in the corner. The first thing you notice is all the peanut shells on the floor, but you quickly deduce the source (unless you are actually from Texas, in which case, what the fuck are you doing at Texas Roadhouse). My kids really enjoyed this part of the experience. There is a deep visceral pleasure to be found in tearing the shells from peanuts and throwing them on the floor. Apparently. My youngest doesn’t even like peanuts, and she was shelling them too. She simply threw the peanuts on the floor as well. God knows where they ended up.
The next thing you’ll notice is the noise. Oh. My. God. THE. NOISE. It’s as if the place is designed to maximize the fucking noise. I’m pretty sure the employees should be wearing earplugs to protect them from the GODDAMN NOISE, but since they have to take orders from customers, that’s clearly not practical. Every interaction involves quite a lot of shouting. This is an excellent place to go with people you really do not want to interact with. For example, it would be a top notch destination for after-work drinks with coworkers.
A major contributor to the noise is country music. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I hate country music. My loathing of this “art form” goes so much deeper than just hate. I despise it wholly and viscerally. And the funny thing is that it would be so easy to fix this problem with country music. The “vocalists” just need to shut the fuck up.
If you compare rock and roll to country music, and you listen carefully, you’ll notice that the chord progressions, rhythms, and instrumentation are nearly identical. They are playing the same simple songs. But country music is different because of that twangy, warbling (twarbling?) way the performers sing. If they just shut the fuck up, it would actually be quite listenable.
Anyway, popular country music is blaring at this place. This contributes quite a bit to the noise, and to my general revulsion at the atmosphere. (That, and trying to recreate Texas of all places.)
We arrived at the table and were greeted by our waiter, who was clearly stoned. However, he made it work. He had found just the right level of THC to take the edge off, but still allow him to write orders accurately in his little notepad. My wife ordered a Hendricks and Tonic. We were pleasantly surprised when he affirmed that they had Hendricks, so I ordered one as well. He asked if I wanted a “double for $2 more.” I quickly did the math. Assuming a single is 1oz and a double is 2oz, then I’m paying $2 for an ounce of gin. There are about 25 oz in a 750ml bottle, and so that’s valuing the bottle at about $50. A bit high, but not outrageous, so sure! Double mine!
He had to come back shortly thereafter to give us the bad news that they didn’t actually have Hendricks, so we’d have to settle for Bombay Sapphire, which is still a hell of a good gin.
Alas, there was an error in my math. It turns out that a “single” contains no gin at all, and the “double” contains twice that much. In retrospect, I wonder why he bothered to tell us about the gin mix-up, since they could have not poured the Hendricks that they didn’t have just as easily as not pouring the Sapphire that they did have. They could have even charge a premium for the notional spirit. But at least the tonic was awful.
I’ve mentioned before that the key to a good gin and tonic is to use a tonic water that is not horrible. Store-brand tonic should be avoided. The same is true for bar-gun tonic. If the tonic destined for your gin comes out of a hose and not a bottle, find a new bar. As it turns out, leaving the gin out of a bad tonic doesn’t help it one bit.
As we were sipping our bad tonics, the strangest thing started happening. Eight of the servers started line dancing. Line dancing is to actual dancing as country music is to actual music. Dancing and line dancing have nothing in common, despite the name. There is no joy in line dancing. It’s people with dour expressions staring at one another’s feet and trying to remember a series of steps and turns and claps. I’ve seen more emotion from a Japanese dancing robot. This bizarre ritual went on for a few minutes, and then as suddenly as it started, the employees all dispersed and went back to work. It was quite odd.
My 8-year-old noted the irony that all these miserable-looking people were wearing shirts that said “I ❤️ my job.” You can imagine the management consultant who came up with that idea. “The employees hate their jobs and hate the restaurant. Instead of turning down the wretched music, or getting rid of the peanuts underfoot, or discontinuing the required line dancing, how about we just make them wear shirts that convince them they are happy.” It was actually kind of funny. In kind of a miserable way.
As it turns out, this restaurant also serves food. And it really wasn’t too bad. They start with fresh rolls that are packed with sugar and give you lots of butter that has cinnamon mixed into it, so you basically have cake as an appetizer. Really, really, really good cake.
I ordered a simple 6oz filet rare. I usually order “black and blue” which means cooking for an extremely short time on extremely high heat. But they had no idea what that meant (how does a steak place not know this?), so I ordered rare. Each entree comes with two sides, so I ordered steak fries and a salad. The salad was fine. The fries were fine. And the steak was perfect.
The key to a good steak is to not fuck it up. Start with a good cut (not hard for a restaurant—they get all the good cuts). Just a little salt and pepper and don’t overcook it. Boom. Great steak. That’s exactly what this place did.
The prices are also extremely reasonable.
My wife and kids were happy with their food as well.
So what I’m saying is, it’s actually not that bad, and I’m sure we’ll be going back again and again.