Beef Relief

In Need Of A Red Meat Fix? Try The Texas T-Bone.
By Rebecca Cook

IT MIGHT HAVE been due to a drop in temperature. It could have been the result of a slight dip in hemoglobin levels. Or perhaps I was simply inspired by watching Arizona, obviously starved for respect and a national title, devour one powerhouse after another in the recent NCAA Tournament games.

Chow Whatever the cause, I began to obsess on red meat, the one and only foodstuff that would satisfy my profound craving. I couldn't help but reflect on the merits of such fare as described by that venerable food writer, Mark Twain.

"Imagine a poor exile," wrote Twain in A Tramp Abroad, "and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before him a mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy."

I became such an exile, seeking a similar kind of grace. How fortunate that I eventually stumbled upon the Texas T-Bone, Tucson's latest steak-as-deity eating establishment. It may be specious reasoning, but I figured any place with both a cut of beef and the Lone Star State in the title had to be worth a try.

I must confess, however, that upon entering the campy confines of the Texas T-Bone for the first time, I had cause to pause.

Located in a strip mall at Tanque Verde Road and Bear Canyon, Texas T-Bone is an open barn of a place, complete with a few flashing neon signs and a modest wet bar tucked into one corner. A few bales of hay are stacked towards the center of the space, along with a bathtub-sized aluminum vat of still-in-the-shell peanuts. The dulcet twanging tones of Nancy Griffith and Alan Jackson filter through the air, providing just the right touch of hoe-down ambiance.

Texas T-Bone looks and feels, well, like Texas. Or at least what many of us imagine Texas to be like, which is practically the same thing, especially when you don't know any better.

The peanuts, it turns out, aren't just for show. The hostess scoops a pail through the tub, filling it to the brim, before grabbing an additional empty pail (for shells) and escorting you to your table. Children are given crayons and something to color on. A balloon artist circulates, delighting children of all ages with inflatable hats, flowers and swords. Everyone at the table is, at least momentarily, happy.

Appetizers, or "Gitty-Up Grub" as it's known at Texas T-Bone, are not too imaginative--jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks and onion rings--and scarcely detract from the appeal of a (free) bucket of peanuts.

The main attraction here is the steak, which comes in various sizes of T-bones and sirloins, as well as selections of filet mignon and New York strips.

When you go to a place called Texas T-Bone, deciding what to order becomes a moot point. Ordering the grilled chicken or smoked salmon in this particular situation, even though both are offered, just isn't going to cut it.

The one-pound tenderfoot T-bone ($13.95) was a gem of a steak, indisputedly similar to Mark Twain's vision--medium-rare perfection, tender, juicy and packed with flavor. Only professional decorum prevented me from picking up the remaining telltale and gnawing greedily away. Texas T-Bone advertises it uses only USDA inspected premium aged beef and, if this steak was typical of this restaurant's fare, you can take them at their word.

In case you're not in the mood to carve your dinner out from around a bone, the 10-ounce, center-cut stockman sirloin ($9.95) was also tasty.

Prime rib is also featured on the menu, and I couldn't resist the temptation to deviate ever so slightly from the overwhelming steak theme developing at my table.

In a classic case of "your-eyes-are-bigger-than-your-stomach," I ordered the medium-sized, 16-ounce "bronco buster" cut ($14.95) of prime rib and nearly fainted when this slab of beef hit the table. A good three inches thick, slightly pink and juicy, this cut could easily have fed my family for the next week.

I couldn't help but think the enormity of the serving slightly compromised the overall taste of the cut. Cooked at low temperatures over applewood, the prime rib has a smoky-sweet, mesquite-like flavor, which I wasn't altogether sure I appreciated, especially when combined with an indispensable dab of horseradish.

A choice of soup or salad (including a pretty impressive Caesar variation) and a selection of either pinto beans, baked potato, sweet potato, french fries or Texas fries (seasoned, fried potato slices) are served with every entree. As mentioned earlier, there are alternatives for those keeping a close watch on their cholesterol.

For kids under 12 ("little buckaroos" in Texas-T-Bone parlance) there's a choice of grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger for $1.50, or an eight-ounce sirloin for $3, both served with a soft drink, fries and an ice cream cone. To say this is a pretty good deal is a bit of an understatement.

Probably not the classiest place in town to chow down, but if you're in the mood for a good steak dinner and a place to put your boot heels up for a while, you'll likely be pleased with the Texas T-Bone.

Photo by Sean Justice

Texas T-Bone Steakhouse. 8981 E. Tanque Verde Road. 760-8599. Open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. Full bar. V, MC, AMEX, DC, Checks. Menu items: $2.95-$19.95. TW

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