Photographs by Jennifer Christman
Pat’s Ribeye comes in two sizes, 12 and 16 ounces (pictured), at Saltgrass Steak House in Little Rock.
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Saltgrass Steak House -- a Texas-based chain that recently opened a Little Rock restaurant by Bass Pro Shops and The Outlets of Little Rock -- is worth its salt.
Even if we're not sure it's worth an hour wait. (Really, is any restaurant?)
We never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a table during any of our three visits to the bustling casual (but not too casual -- there are no peanuts and, therefore, no shells littering the floor) eatery made lively with country accents and country music.
That's because we twice snagged first-come, first-served tables in the full-service bar for dinner, and because we showed up at 10:50 a.m. for lunch.
Saltgrass Steak House
Address: 10 Anglers Way, Little Rock
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cuisine: Steak, ribs, shrimp, chicken, etc.
Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
There are no reservations and there is no call-ahead seating. But -- sales pitch -- Landry's Select Club members who pay a $25 membership fee (and get a $25 welcome reward within 24 hours) do get priority seating.
Back to the bar, there are domestic, imported and craft beers, wine and cocktails like the Coronarita and Texas Tea. Happy-hour drink and appetizer specials are available 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
With meals, Saltgrass serves complimentary Shiner Bock beer bread with honey butter, which is certainly appetizer enough. And meals typically come with a side and possible soup or salad. But each time we caved and requested a fried and/or cheesy appetizer, which meant we had to request takeout boxes later.
The Range Rattlers ($11.49), four fried big bundles of jalapeno, shrimp and jack cheese, served with a tangle of fried onions and ranch dressing for dipping, were tasty, though steep. Saltgrass' signature starter was ideal for a smaller party, but wouldn't go far for a group.
Same goes for the Shrimp & Chicken Enbrochette ($9.49), four savory barbecue-sauce-brushed, bacon-wrapped bunches of chicken and shrimp, served in a small skillet with fried onions and an unidentified dipping sauce.
The filling Seafood Fondeaux ($10.49), a plentiful creamy dip of crawfish, shrimp, spinach, mushrooms and jack cheese, served with garlic bread, is more suited for group sharing.
On the first visit, I had my sights set on a simple steak ($18.99-$32.99 or market price). But I let myself be talked into Southwest Steak & Shrimp ($24.99), an 8-ounce sirloin steak topped with blackened shrimp, tomatoes, garlic herb butter and sausage. A bit busy? Yes, but the adornment was appreciated in this case, since the medium-rare steak I requested was cooked to a grim medium-well. Either the kitchen overcooked it, or the server misheard me in the busy bar. I'm less inclined to blame the server; all the ones who waited on us were knowledgeable, friendly and professional.
It's just as well, I was plenty full from the bread. And from the appetizer. And from the wedge salad, an adequate hunk of iceberg with blue cheese dressing, bacon and tomatoes. (All steaks and chops come with soup, garden salad, Caesar salad or, for a $2.79 upgrade, a wedge salad.) And from the side, a very salty scoop of shaved Brussels sprouts. Oh, and from the also very salty Sauteed Mushrooms for Sharing ($5.99), served in a skillet. During this meal, I made plenty of use of the water carafe that Saltgrass leaves on tables.
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Photos by Jennifer Christman
Photos by Jennifer Christman
My companion couldn't have been more pleased with his 14-ounce Double-Bone Smoked Pork Chop ($23.99). The thick pork was served with yet more pork, smothered in a bacon jam. A loaded baked potato with sour cream, scallions, cheese and yet more bacon rounded out the pork trifecta. He selected soup before his meal; the robust chicken tortilla not only had a kick, it had plenty of tortilla strips and chunks of avocado.
Our next dinner visit, he went with steak, selecting the 16-ounce Pat's Ribeye ($27.99, $23.99 for the 12-ounce) and emphasizing medium-rare with successful results. The butter-topped beef was blissfully cooked. Though he -- and I, who stole a few bites -- wouldn't have minded more seasoning, as the overwhelming flavor was char.
Same with the Chicken Laredo ($17.49). Although it was heartily topped with other ingredients -- jack cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes, poblano peppers, cilantro, green onions, feta cheese and avocado -- I mostly tasted char. Still, it was quite juicy.
My side of seasonal vegetables featured mainly broccoli with some carrots and green beans. The Caesar of romaine that preceded it was packed with shaved parmesan -- in other words, perfect. He went the potato route with sides, ordering the plush baked potato soup as well as the steak fries, not the expected fat fries but rather chunked home fries. Which he clearly liked, because he'd order them again, instead of regular fries, with his burger at lunch.
Because the lunch menu ($10.99-$19.99) is only available Monday-Friday, we ordered lunch-y food off the dinner menu on a Sunday afternoon -- well, morning. Again, we showed up 10 minutes before the restaurant actually opened; we weren't the first people there and the hostess did graciously seat us early.
He ordered the Brisket Burger ($13.99), a magnificent, more-than-a-mouthful stack of beef (1/2 pound), smoked gouda, shredded braised brisket, barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles on a homemade bun. Burgers and sandwiches come with fries; add a salad or soup for $2.99.
I ordered the medium-rare Steak Salad ($15.79) and was so impressed by lovely nesting slices of beef, I almost didn't notice that the blue cheese was left out (not a problem, as I ordered blue cheese dressing) and I didn't care that the red potatoes, which I asked to be left out, stayed in. The rest of the bountiful, fresh salad, featuring romaine, boiled eggs, green beans, black olives, onions and tomatoes, was just as expected.
And as expected, we were again too full to attempt anything sweet at Saltgrass.
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