Beef reigns at LongHorn Steakhouse

08/08/2013 4:05 PM

08/08/2013 4:05 PM

Wichita is home to lots of chain steakhouses, and those that start with an “L” are particularly plentiful, including two Logan’s Roadhouses and two LongHorn Steakhouses.

The first LongHorn, a franchise of the Orlando-based chain with 435 restaurants across the country, opened at 2720 N. Maize Road in December of 2011, and a year later, a second one opened in the Laham Development at 440 S. Towne East Mall Drive, near Towne East Square.

I’ve avoided reviewing LongHorn for a while, reasoning that if you’ve tried one casual upscale chain steakhouse, you’ve tried them all. But then an out-of-town high school friend was visiting and craving steak, so we headed to the newer of the two LongHorns near Towne East.

I was pleasantly surprised not only by the warm decor of the dining room but also by the variety of the menu and the deliciousness of my steak.

ON THE MENU: The menu features standard chain steakhouse fare: steaks, ribs, shrimp, chicken and – of course – onion blossoms. It also has a large selection of sandwiches, salads and soups.

But the wide variety of steaks is impressive – and steaks are definitely the best thing LongHorn serves. The menu boasts more than 15 cuts and varieties, including a ribeye, a filet, a strip, a T-bone, a porterhouse for two, a flat iron and even a cheddar- and bacon-stuffed filet.

DON’T-MISS DISHES: We sampled several varieties of steaks, and each one was a good cut of beef that had been nicely seasoned and – most important – perfectly cooked. Each of the steaks we ordered arrived at a precise medium rare, which has become harder and harder to get lately. I find myself sending my too-done steak back almost half the time anymore, and I am not someone who enjoys doing that.

My favorite came from a section of the menu called “Flavorful Under 500.” It lists eight entrees that, if diners accept veggies as a side item and vinaigrette as a salad dressing – total 500 calories or fewer. The choices include steaks, which surprised but pleased me. I’ve had several diners over the years ask about restaurants with smaller, more calorie-sensible meals, and I’ve finally found one.

I ordered the 7-ounce flat iron steak ($12.99), which had a wonderful rosemary flavoring, was pleasingly tender and had a perfect warm, red center. The green beans on the side were crisp and buttery, and I’m a sucker for an iceberg salad with croutons and steakhouse ranch dressing, so I decided to bust the calorie cap and get my salad with a side of ranch. LongHorn makes their own ranch, and it was more than worth the splurge.

On another visit, we tried the Kansas City strip, which is $18 for 11 ounces and $21.99 for 14 ounces. Again, it was perfectly cooked to medium rare and melted in our mouths. All entrees come with a salad and a choice of side, and with the strip, we chose some rich, whipped mashed potatoes.

Our other favorite dish was the grilled chicken and stuffed portabella ($13.79), which didn’t look like the picture on the menu at all but was delicious nonetheless. It was made of a juicy grilled chicken breast covered in a button-mushroom sauce and layered with a cheesy, stuffed portabella mushroom. The buttery sauce had a nice zing, and the mixture of mushrooms and melted cheesy goodness in the dish made it seem even more decadent than the steak entrees at the table.

The asparagus we ordered on the side was a disappointment, though. It was overcooked and underseasoned and only slightly better than the grilled corn on the cob we ordered on the side of one of the steak dishes. The corn is a limited-time special, and if diners want it as a side, there’s a $1.59 up charge, but the picture on the menu of a juicy cob covered in grill marks and seasoning made it seem worth it. In reality, it was overcooked to the point of dryness, and the emaciated, shrunken kernels on the cob were flavorless. Next time, we’d stick with potato sides. In addition to the mashed potatoes, the baked potato and french fries we had with other dishes were excellent.

We weren’t as happy with the fish dish we ordered – a grilled rainbow trout ($17.79) that was split in half and stuffed with shrimp, lobster, smoked bacon and roasted corn. The trout had an overly fishy flavor, which completely drowned out the presence of the limited corn and bacon in the dish. The chunks of lobster were nice, but not enough to save it.

We did enjoy the burger ($10.79), which was a half-pounder that was thick and full of smoky flavor.

AMBIANCE: The dining room is gorgeous, appointed with a beamed ceiling, decorative tile floors and booths and tables that are as attractive as they are comfortable. The room has a distinct Western theme in the decor, but it’s understated and classy rather than loud and hokey.

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers are $6.99 to $8.99. Steak dinners are $12.99 to $26.99. Other entrees are $12.99 to $18.49.

SERVICE: Our servers on both occasions were friendly and knowledgeable, but a little slow to respond to extra requests.

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