Ever since I saw that Office episode about Meredith trading sexual services with a supplier for a corporate discount and free Outback Steakhouse, I’ve wanted to eat at Outback Steakhouse. The episode closes with everyone in the break room happily feasting from a multitude of takeout containers. There’s no way you can watch that episode and not want to immediately go.
I’ve been waiting with bated breath to cash out my points for Outback Steakhouse.
At work we have a Facebook-like platform for recognizing our coworkers. Each month we get $5 worth of points to give away. Managers get more.
When you accumulate enough points, you can exchange them in the points store where you’ll find prizes ranging from jewelry to backpacks. There’s also gift cards to just about any chain restaurant you can imagine.
Some people hoard their points for years. Some only buy gifts for others. I cash out as soon as I get enough money to make a dent in a meal at a chain restaurant.
Outback gift cards only come in $25 denominations. I patiently bided by time until I reached $50.
When that last recognition arrived, I shouted with joy. I told my coworkers of my quest.
“WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU WENT TO AN OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE?” I exclaimed?
Their general reactions were something along the lines of, “Well, I guess I can’t actually remember.” But no one understood the gravity of my quest. They rarely do.
You know you’re at a good Outback when it’s anchoring a strip mall. We arrived at the Roseville location on a Thursday evening around six p.m. We imagined a quiet evening with cushy ‘burb parking.
Our friends reminded us that one of their favorite restaurants, Szechuan, is also located in this strip mall.
The parking lot was nuts. We joined a hive of circling cars looking for a spot. More cars entered the lot. Everyone circled. “Are you kidding me?” we bellowed, also laughing. Inside, the scene was strangely serene.
Every meal at Outback starts with free bread. It’s soft, sweet, and warm.
“Would you like more bread?” our server offered.
“You can have more?!” I asked Jake, but not before responding, “Yes, please!”
He remembers visiting Outback with his family as kids and sometimes receiving three loaves of bread.
Happy hour in Roseville, at least, runs until 7 p.m. Drinks are discounted; sweet cocktails more heavily so. We ordered the onion petals from the happy hour menu and crispy lobster and shrimp bites (a newer promotion). In hindsight, I had no idea this included lobster. It all tasted like shrimp to me.
I’ve ordered fried onion blossoms from various festivals and fairs; they’re always worse than Outback’s. The onion petals are less fun to eat than the blossom, but scratch the same itch. They’re fried in a perfectly salty crust and served with the same dipping sauce. It’s Outback’s breading that makes them better.
Serving bad ranch is a transgression. Serving no ranch and other dressings that taste worse than ranch is an abomination. Outback’s Ranch dressing is the good kind and no one will blink if you ask for some.
They’re known for having good ranch and proud if it, too. Upon searching for their recipe, I found this Reddit thread from an Outback employee who quit and offered to give away their cooking techniques:
“Just woke up to 24 new mail. All Ranch. dkcnkdjsfzcv ksjdfxcvnmkd,xcbjdzxcvbm ,xc You get ranch, you get ranch!” he writes.
Apparently you had to DM him for the recipe lol.
Jake ordered a steak. Medium rare, to be exact. It arrived medium rare and tasted pretty good.
I ordered the Queensland Chicken & Shrimp Pasta. This endless winter has made me obsessed with fettucine alfredo. Outback’s sauce was a little gluey but not in completely unpleasant way. Our server offered me a choice of all shrimp or all chicken, too, so chose shrimp. They were grilled to that ideal snappy texture, tails on. I liked the spicy seasoning that migrated its way around the pasta.
We left that evening happily toting a bag of leftovers home.
Say what you will about chain restaurants. Sometimes chains fulfill that need to be and eat somewhere that hasn’t changed much since you were a kid. Portions are large, warm bread flows freely, happy hour runs late. You won’t feel weird asking for more ranch. And the employees will act happier to see you than those from the last three hipster cafes I visited.
Maybe the food will blow your mind and maybe it won’t. But then again, that’s not always why we’re here.