What’s On The Barbie? — Outback Steakhouse

| March 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Many “foodies” look down their plates at chain restaurants. There is a sense of superiority or even snobbery to claiming that chains are inferior the venues where a chef-proprietor labors in his kitchen to turn out dishes which cause foodies to sway in rapture.

But, in truth, many chains turn out excellent food and often can do so at lower prices, because economies of scale in ordering, administration and overhead allow them to pass on savings to diners. Some moderately priced chains have become so successful that they have “gobbled up” high quality brands.

Outback Steakhouse, in particular, is a chain that has achieved unparalleled success in growth and marketing. Founded in 1988, less than 25 years ago, it has expanded to over 1200 locations worldwide. It is located in more than 20 countries outside of the US. And, it has acquired, among other brands, both Roy’s and Fleming’s, two brands that connote upscale ambiance and quality.

The company positions itself as a moderately priced restaurant, offering good food, and generous portions. The theme is Australian although the head office is in Florida, where the company was founded. Paul Hogan, who created the popular Australian “Crocodile Dundee” character in several movies did a great job as a spokesperson for the company to accentuate its Australian image, even though much of the menu and interior design is emphatically American. The company’s advertising made the phrase “put another shrimp on the barbie” part of our vernacular.

There are eight Outback Steakhouse locations in San Diego county, a significant presence. I visited the location in Clairemont Mesa, convenient to Reading Theaters for a pre- or post-movie dinner. As I approached, the front door to the restaurant was opened by two smiling staff members, to make sure I felt warmly welcomed.

The interior has a woodsy feel, with booths and tables. TVs hang around the room, in case one would rather watch a game than engage in conversation. A large bar dominates a section of the room. Guests may dine at the bar as well as at high-top tables that circle it. Servers were friendly and accommodating.

Shrimp and Steak on the barbie offers a delicious meal for Outback Clientele.

Steaks are a prominent part of the restaurant’s offerings. Descriptions of the choices occupy center-stage on the menu’s main page. Steaks can be ordered prepared either on a standard grill, heavily seasoned, or prepared on a wood-fired grill and seasoned lightly. The smoke from the wood fire adds to the flavor. One may choose between sirloin, filet, ribeye and other cuts, which are prepared in varying sizes, depending upon one’s appetite. Herb roasted prime rib is also often (though not always) available.

The menu also lists calories for the dishes, which can be very helpful if one is watching one’s weight. Some dishes are absolute whoppers when it comes to caloric consumption. For example, the appetizer menu (Aussie-tizers) includes bloomin’ onion (1966 calories) and Aussie cheese fries (1973 calories). However, they are meant to be shared.

Of course, there are many “lighter” choices. There are many salad choices including a Queensland salad and Aussie chicken Cobb. Caloric values vary with the ingredients. There are combination dishes such as ribs & chicken on the barbie or filet & grilled shrimp on the barbie. Diners who prefer simpler preparations can order chicken or seafood grillers.

A full menu of “sides” is available to complement entrees, including sweet potato fries, steamed green beans and classic blue cheese wedge salad. Seafood selections include lobster, mahi, salmon and tilapia – available in a range of preparations.

When entrees have been cleared from the table, look at the delectable dessert menu. Carrot cake, cheesecake and chocolate tower can all be tempting. Just don’t look at the calorie figures, or, share. Dish sizes seem to be calculated so that, when shared, a diner ingests only about 300.

The bar is full — but beer seems to be most popular. The glasses being served were large, full and well received.

Outback has really done it! The company serves good food in a comfortable and inviting setting at prices that generally are less than $20 for entrees. No wonder it is so successful. No wonder it has gobbled up other brands. No wonder it has expanded worldwide.

The Clairemont Mesa location is at 4196 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Call (858) 274-6283 for information or directions. Or, check the website for the one of the eight locations that is most convenient.

Juicy and delicous ribeye.

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