When someone mentions the word steakhouse, eyebrows raise. What's the occasion? Is it Dad's birthday? Who's getting married? For most, going to a steakhouse and ordering up a prime cut of meat means something special is going on. Either an upscale environment or a funky cowboy style ranch house also means it's going to be an expensive meal.
Luckily for us here in Tucson, we have a history of traditional and elegant restaurants to get your meat fix and not every spot is on the pricey side.
Nevada Smith's Saloon is a good, tasty example, serving generous cuts of meat, in a comfy and unpretentious environment, that's delighted bellies and budgets for nearly 36 years.
"That right there is a 22-ounce thick cut porterhouse steak," prides Darryl Smith, the owner and namesake, pointing to a sizzling cut of meat on the wood-fire grill out back. "This comes with an old family recipe side of cowboy beans or a huge baked potato and an all you can eat salad bar with rolls."
Yeah, but for how much?
Yep. For less than $20, every Thursday night at Nevada Smith's you can get choice cuts of perfectly grilled and seasoned steaks without having to wear a suit and tie or put a second mortgage on the house. On this particular night, the house was lively but not overly crowded, as folks dove into a $12 10 oz. top sirloin or a $15 18 oz. T-bone. One would think at these prices there would be lines out the door but without advertising, a website and very limited social media use, Nevada Smith's has been a quiet neighborhood bonanza for over three decades, even though it can get kind of loud at times.
"We have karaoke here Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays," notes manager Mo Compton. "So, it gets a little lively on those nights. Every Friday we have our fish fry. For six bucks, you get an all you can eat fish but what a lot of people come for that night are the oysters."
You can get a dozen oysters for $10 on the half shell, flown in fresh from Chesapeake Bay and are about as big as your fist. These are the kind of ocean-farmed delicacies you would, once again, find in some pricy white table cloth establishment that would, yet again, find you back in the kitchen washing dishes if you can't muster up the bread to afford such luxury. Every Saturday night the menu changes, even though it mainly sticks to the steak objective, including the fifth Saturday of every month where they have their generous prime rib served up with potatoes and green beans for a measly $18.
As you watch the game on Sundays be prepared to pay just 50 cents each for their taco bar from noon to 6 p.m. This is Tucson, we are a taco town, and Nevada Smith's does the taco bar concept well. Along with every draft beer going for $2.50 a pint, Sunday's at Smith's will become a destination for those seeking friendly service and extremely tasty food at affordable prices.
Outside of the nightly specials, Nevada Smith's has a daily menu from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. which includes a four-piece fried chicken basket for $6, a dozen hot wings for $5.75, a full pound burger for $8.50 and a deli list of sandwiches, not one going above the $6 range, all of it generous, making any hungry cowpoke happy and content.
Darryl (who hails from Montana but spent a good amount of time in Nevada before settling in Tucson, hence the nickname) is there almost every night making sure folks are happy and the food comes out correct.
"I installed that grill myself over 30 years ago, so what you are tasting in our food is a bit of Tucson history," Smith says, checking the temperature on a glistening 20 oz. ribeye that sends sparks from the glowing wood flaming below as juices slowly cascade from the meat. "A lot of folks don't know that we serve food but once they taste it and see that it won't break their bank that's why they keep on coming back. It's why we love what we do and that's the reason we've been around all these years. As long as we have happy customers, we're not going anywhere."