If there's one slap-in-the-face quality to Bob's Steak & Chop House in Grapevine, it's unabashed masculinity—even more so than at the cozier, well-worn 15-year-old original Dallas location. From décor to dishes, it's a man's world. Or at least, it tries to be, with high-backed booths and wood details, old photos that don't include many dames and huge portion sizes (including the phallic glazed carrot that lounges across every plate). The vibe almost recalls a men's club that now lets the womenfolk in but didn't update anything save the bathroom. It's your father's steakhouse, and it's old-school in its efforts.
Old-school is certainly good when it comes to prime steaks, freshly baked bread and desserts, but it loses points when other elements on the menu are hackneyed or boring. Yes, Bob's forte is meat, but as clientele varies, so should a menu. All aspects should be up to spec with the broiled beast, but something was lost in the translation from Dallas to Grapevine.
Dad's steakhouse certainly made me feel young. On the first visit, our group of hungry feeders faced the traditional condescension of a tony restaurant on prom night, as though our server was just waiting for our parents to show up so we could order. In the meantime, we sampled the fresh loaf of white bread and real butter. It was crusty on the outside with a steamy, soft center. No complaint breadwise, aside from the threat of a dinner ruined by carb overload.
The calamari came piled high. Greaseless and crispy, it was tender with succulent rings and tentacles. The cocktail sauce yielded enough heat and tartness to cut through the fried coating and showcase the freshness of the squid.
The Maryland-style crab cake is said to come with "honey mustard sauce." Not so. The lone, warm lump crab cake sat atop a pool of cool, yellowish honey mustard dressing. No sauce about it. It's poured out in excess, and its sticky sweetness deters from the fresh hunks of crab that ache for a more appropriate, more substantial, less liquid sauce. More mustard and less honey would be a fine start.
Salads at Bob's are man-sized. One could make a meal just of the blue cheese salad. It's a more impassioned option than the traditional wedge (available, but not on the menu), trading bacon for roasted pecans to create a savory crunch. The dressing is full of glorious tangy cheese chunks that hang out under and on the romaine leaves. Chopped eggs add depth and texture without adding more richness to the already wealthy dish. The salad comes tossed, so all elements are enjoyed with each bite—a contrast to the testy wedge that loses grip on many of its adornments when knife and fork go in for the kill.
The chopped tomato, onion and fresh mozzarella salad was an overly doused disappointment, as was the spinach salad, but the Caesar fared well with a creamy homemade dressing that satisfied despite a lack of anchovy.
To fillet or to bone-in? It's the question one faces at the beef hour. Bob's filet mignon was a tall hunk of love, manly despite its dainty moniker. It was almost difficult to maneuver it was so tender. A perfect medium rare with a crisp edge, this USDA prime doesn't falter. The fillet also appeared in a surf and turf, paired with a basic lobster tail and bathed in a champagne-rosemary-Parmesan crema that, shockingly, was not overpowering.
Its neighbor in the short rib area, the Kansas City strip steak weighs in at twice the size of Bob's smallest filet mignon, but then, KC is bone-in. Like the filet, the KC strip was tender, simply seasoned and flavorful. It had two gristly areas, however, and was more medium than the requested medium rare.
From further up the cow came the surprise winner of battle beef: the bone-in rib eye, or, as Bob's calls it, the côte de boeuf. Sure, the rib eye is a popular cut, but this côte de boeuf was almost unspeakably delectable. Marbling is a steak's friend when it comes to natural tenderizing and flavor, and this gem was an absolute joy—the muscle cowering to the slightest bite, the sear singing on the taste buds and providing a touch of seasoning and hint of crunch. It provided swagger and soul where other steaks were just bravado. As I chewed the côte de boeuf, the stick-up-the-ass server, drunken patrons in starched Wranglers and bad Mavs plays on giant flat screens melted away.
At Bob's, all entrees come with a choice of "smashed" garlic potatoes, a baked potato or skillet-fried potatoes with peppercorn gravy and onions. Boring, boring and better. The whole meat and potatoes thing is tried and true, but at some point we need an upgrade. The skillet-fried potatoes were a good start, what with the mild spice of the peppercorn gravy, but the garlic mashed potatoes were just trite filler. Not one person on our dining ventures loved the smashed. They picked, poked, tasted and turned back to the meat. Again, the meat is obviously the star, but if half the plate is potato and half is better-than-sex prime, the potatoes should also be fantastic.
Then there's that "signature glazed carrot." If you enjoy glazed carrots, go for it, but the presentation is formidable, to say nothing of the glaze. That gigantic root cock is one of those culinary phenomena that takes three or four bites before you realize exactly how sweet it really is. And then it's too late.
Bob's non-beef options are lackluster—acned pubescents to the beef's aged character. The pork chops were fair, but I've had better, and so have you. They were slightly dry and paired with cinnamon sauce. Not plain applesauce—which would invigorate the pork—but a homemade Myers's Rum applesauce so heavily spiced it could have been dessert. Pass.
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The fish special on one visit was a pan-seared sea bass with tomato-basil salsa. The sea bass was out-danced by the salsa, and I felt slighted. It was well-cooked, but I didn't eat much of it. I wanted sauced fish instead of fished sauce.
Culinary redemption is sweet, however, as crème brûlée and carrot cake made for a large and lovely end. All desserts are made on site, and it's evident with every bite. The thick, chilly vanilla custard luxuriated below a perfect crust of burned sugar. A thick custard, it was oddly light, not too rich and incredibly smooth and creamy. The four-layer carrot cake was dressed in a rich cream cheese icing. The cake was akin to gingerbread with a perfect balance of savory and sweet. The carrots and nuts provided the perfect crunch. It was, however, so large it should serve four or one giant.
At first, one wants to give Bob's Grapevine a big, comforting and sympathetic hug. Not many folks there dress for fine dining. Is it not an event to throw down a Grant for meat and potatoes? Because it should be. But then it becomes clear: Because of those nagging little deficiencies, Bob's Grapevine is no event. Little efforts could change Grapevine's steakery into more than just a loud restaurant in the suburbs that's got great beef. It's the little things, after all, that can turn boys into real men.
Bob's Steak & Chop House, 1255 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-481-5555. Open 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m.–11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday. $$$$