By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
You must admit, it's an odd name for a steakhouse. Steakhouses are more apt to tout their hangar-sized wine cellars and rosters of fine red wines. But Keg Steakhouse & Bar is more than just a place to let red-meat juice moisten your chin while dribbles of Cabernet ruin your South Park tie. It's more casual than that. As the press kit propaganda conveys: "At the Keg, you'll find guests toasting a recent promotion, enjoying pretheater fare with friends, or simply celebrating the end of the day. In one booth, business associates are tossing around new ideas while enjoying The Keg's famous Baseball Steak. Around the corner, a table of four is sharing vacation pictures at the end of their meal over coffee and dessert. And in the bar area, golfers are wrapping up an afternoon on the links next to the couple nestled into a cozy corner."
5760 SW Loop 820 @ Bryant-Irvin Road
Fort Worth, TX 76132
Region: Fort Worth
Now an astute reader might ask the obvious question: What the hell is a baseball steak? Is it a pure ground sirloin meatball stitched with rump-roast string? Or is it a solid marbled meat sphere scooped out of a side of beef with a special butcher's scoop? It's neither. It's a sirloin that is "so thick that medium rare is the most we can cook it." What this has to do with baseball is a mystery.
The exceptionally astute reader might ask the not-so-obvious question: What the hell is that couple nestled in the cozy corner doing next to a clan of golfers chewing on the day's birdies, bogies, pings, and sand wedges? Is anything on earth more likely to douse a case of amatory cozies more effectively than a group of golfers braying about tees and putts?
Yet I suppose all of this Keg verbiage was assembled to demonstrate what a casual, come-as-you-are-in-any-garb type of steakhouse the Keg is. And it is comfortable, with lots of wood, stone, mirrors, fireplaces burning off precious natural gas, and rustic ceiling beams surrounding prefab booths. There's even a heavy metal-framed glass door sliding on rollers to seal off one of the dining room sectors. Our perky and polite hostess said this apparatus was added after construction because too many diners complained of the drafts swirling around the dining area as the front door opened. It looked to us like overkill--but maybe not when you consider what people might be wearing as they come through the entrance.
The Keg also makes a lot of its steaks, too. Company propaganda conveys incessantly that it has had to fly "experts in to ensure that every steak is trimmed exactly the way we like it." The funny thing is it never mentions to where those experts are flown and from whence they came. Maybe the company just keeps them in the air all of the time like the Strategic Air Command used to do with its B-52s.
While the Keg's meat is not prime, it is aged a minimum of 28 days. It is also, according to press materials, closely scrutinized for premium grade, superior quality, proper cut, texture, and flavor. Few steaks are actually worthy of attaining the title of Keg Steak. Why does this designation not sound appetizing?
Perhaps fitting with this theme, the Keg calls its servers "steak experts" or "steak know-it-alls" and even "steakologists." I'd simply call them green. Which doesn't mean they are necessarily inept or rude or even dressed as badly as most of the patrons. On the contrary, they wear white shirts and ties, are courteous, and they seem to know a lot about the meat, as you would expect from a steakologist.
Except at times, it didn't exactly come to the table as ordered. The 7-ounce filet mignon, a startlingly thin piece of meat (almost resembling a strip), was ordered medium rare. Yet it arrived with barely a pinch of pink peeking through the fibers. Still, it was tender, dank, and overall acceptable.
Other Keg offerings flirted with spectacular. Scallops and bacon were served in one of those escargot dishes. The sweet little white mollusks were tightly swaddled in strips of crisp bacon--a welcome departure from the undercooked and gelatinous bacon that usually swathes these things.
Also in an escargot dish were...snails. They were plush little plump slugs in mushroom caps and covered with a rich veneer of herbs, cheese, garlic, and bread crumbs all drenched in a buttery lubricant.
Despite the clumsy name, the Keg Caesar was a passable effort. It arrived with nice shavings of Parmesan, minimal crouton clutter, and a dressing that, though it wasn't riddled with lemon and anchovy potency (or even appreciable traces thereof), wasn't annoyingly white and slithering, like the stuff that might top your aunt's 7Up lime Jell-O mold. Perhaps sensing that there might be some quasi-Caesar aficionados in their audience, the food assemblers thought it prudent to include a lemon wedge on the edge of the bowl. Why no dead fish?
But who cares about Mexican salads named after two-bit emperors driven insane by too much wine sweetened with lead when there is steak to be had. The best one sampled on our visits had the crabs. Literally. The Keg's steak and crab plate held a simple undersized lump of sirloin (a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked lump I might add) next to the dismembered remains of a crab. In contrast to the steak, the crab was a little dry and rubbery. No problem, though. The Keg outfitted the meal with a little pot of butter on a wire support apparatus over a votive candle to keep the butter hot. But the butter was foamy, which made it a little like a butter crab cappuccino. Yet it worked well when poured into the baked potato slathered in three-cheese butter (cheddar, Monterrey, and God knows) transforming this spud into a delicious decadent clash of fats and starch.
The Keg was launched in 1971 in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and it spread into Seattle a short time later. Now a chain with more than 80 restaurants under its belt, Keg Restaurants Ltd. sees this Fort Worth location as the beginning of its red-meat encroachment into the land of steak. The company promises several more Texas steakhouses in places such as Addison, Grapevine, and other metroplex spots.
And like most steakhouses to be found in these parts, there's more to be had than just steak. Keg steakologists also serve seafood and pork, as well. Honey-barbecued ribs, a grilled rack of pork back spindles, were meaty and moist without much fattiness. And though there was a dearth of sauce varnishing these pork babies upon delivery, an ample little dish of viscously brisk sweet honey lubricant was provided. Wet naps would have made these ribs taste even better.
When applied to salmon, the steakology didn't work as well. The bright pink fish was dry and dense. All the flakiness had been cooked out of it. Yet a fascinating singed orange and lemon zest herb topping kept it from descending into culinary malfeasance, which can't be said of the heavy, pasty garlic potatoes that included no perceptible presence of this bulbous herb.
But that doesn't mean things can't be enjoyed around the edges of this Keg. The baked French onion soup, a beef broth-based crock of potency with Spanish onion slurry diked with a lid of gooey Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, was founded on a clean light broth--maybe too light. Those onions could have been cooked down a little more to intensify the sweet rich onion flavor a bit.
Served warm, the apple crumble is a classic case of unsophisticated heartwarming goo instilled with crunch. Enveloped in caramel viscosity, this hearty dessert was topped with a pair of vanilla ice cream scoops and populated by too few apple wedges. Still, it was good, as this restaurant is overall. It's a fine place to visit and drink and eat and use sharp knives during dinner.
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