Rating: 2 cows
After a few steakhouses that did their best to break our wallets, we decided to kick off the new year with a decidedly more low-key and fun-loving experience. Saddle Ranch Steaks and Chops sits on the famous Universal Citywalk, just outside the Universal Studios theme park. Entering the establishment you are greeted by multiple mechanical bulls in the outdoor seating area. The bar is big and airy, with high ceilings and light wood construction. It's absolutely something you'd expect to be right out of Texas.
We took a seat at the bar while waiting for everyone to arrive. This is not a place where you look at the wine menu, so we kicked things off with beers and a personal pitcher of margarita for a mere $15. To call it a slow night would be an understatement. It was deserted. The restaurant is quite large, with seating for over 500 in both indoor and outdoor settings. The staff were having a good time, and before we had finished our first drinks, we all received a free round of shots. It was the first time since college I had tasted the unmistakable flavor of Midori liqueur. Ah, memories.
We were led around and through the restaurant until we came to the back corner which was the designated seating area for all patrons that night. The prices at Saddle Ranch are about what you'd expect; roughly $30 will get you a good-sized steak and a couple of hearty side dishes. While we waited for our food, our hostess came around with another free round of shots, this time they were red and strawberry-flavored (supposedly her favorite). Did I mention it was a slow night? It made me wonder if the staff was trying to spice things up by seeing how drunk they could get the patrons.
The food at Saddle Ranch was not great, to be quite blunt about it. Still having been spoiled by the surprisingly adequate meal we had at Outback for the same price, our expectations weren't outrageous, but nevertheless ended up being too damn high. The steaks were tough, and while they had some flavor, it was not enough. The portions were large, but that hardly matters when your raison d'être is to serve "steaks and chops". The sides were barely adequate and certainly not remarkable, and by mentioning them here we've already given them more attention than they deserve.
At the end of the meal, we were treated to another freebie: a 3' tower of cotton candy. We ate some of it, and spent the rest of our time trying to see how much could be dissolved into a glass of water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unscientific answer is A LOT.
We left Saddle Ranch with full bellies, though we were really far from satisfied. It seems unlikely that we will be returning any time in the foreseeable future.