Name: Texas Roadhouse
Location: 4399 Vestal Parkway E., Vestal, NY 13850
Phone: (607) 729-8200
Cuisine: American steakhouse
Price: Usually around $40 for two
I normally don't do reviews of chain restaurants, but I had a request from a loyal reader on our Facebook page for a review of Texas Roadhouse, and who am I to deny the masses?
Texas Roadhouse is situated across from the Binghamton University campus on the Vestal Parkway. It's immediately adjacent to Route 201 and you can enter the parking area from either the Parkway or from Old Vestal Road. The restaurant, as the name would suggest, specializes in steaks, ribs, barbecued chicken, and other classic American fare. They tend to be very busy during the prime dining hours on weekend nights, so I advise either eating there at an offpeak time (think mid-afternoon) or calling ahead for seating, which can drive down the waiting time. Otherwise, expect to wait for a half hour or more. They do have a bar, so you can wait there if you prefer.
Upon entering the Texas Roadhouse you'll notice the hostess stand immediately in front of you, and a large waiting area off to the right. In the waiting area are two gigantic barrels full of shelled peanuts. If you happen to have a peanut allergy, I would suggest staying at least a football field's length from Texas Roadhouse at all times. There are peanuts, peanut dust, and peanut shells EVERYWHERE throughout this place. Anyway, for those inclined, grab a few peanuts to eat while you're waiting and feel free to throw the shells on the ground. The place is decorated with all sorts of Texas-style paraphernalia including an entire corner dedicated to Willie Nelson. It makes for a pretty decent atmosphere, if more-than-slightly kitschy.
Upon being seated each table is given a basket of rolls with cinnamon butter and a bucket of peanuts. The rolls are pretty tasty and the butter takes them to the next level. Great way to start the meal. Service is fairly variable at the Texas Roadhouse. Sometimes it's prompt and friendly, sometimes it's very slow and/or slightly rude. It all depends on how busy it is, how quickly the kitchen is churning out the food, and of course which server you get.
I usually get the Onion Blossom appetizer which is the Texas Roadhouse equivalent of Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion. It's pretty much the same exact thing. Served with a horseradish dipping sauce, sometimes this fried/breaded onion can be very good, other times it's a little burnt, or too greasy. I have tried the wings as an appetizer before as well, and they were a little on the fatty side. I did not care for them too much.
For entrees, I've tried a few different things on the menu, but I tend to go with one of their special combos, either the Sirloin & Ribs or Ribeye & Ribs. With each entree you get your choice of two sides. You can get a baked potato (loaded with bacon/cheese/chives/butter/sour cream if you like, or loaded with chili and cheese), a sweet potato (loaded with cinnamon and marshmallow if you ask for it), baked beans, a side salad, a cup of chili, mac & cheese....there are a number of options. I normally go with a cup of chili and one of the potatoes. The chili is very good, with lots of beef. It's not too spicy but you can ask for tabasco if you want to kick it up a notch. The potato (whichever you get) is usually a highlight of the meal which I usually save for last.
The ribs/steaks are usually pretty good. Texas Roadhouse tends to be one of the best places to get a reasonably priced steak in the Binghamton area. Places like Number 5 Restaurant, Lampy's, and P.S. Restaurant definitely have better steaks, but they are wallet-busters ($20-$25 or more). Most steaks at the Roadhouse tend to hover around the $12-$15 range, which is pretty reasonable, especially given the amount of food you get. You can add onions and/or mushrooms to your steak for an additional $1 or so. The ribs are typically good and tend to fall right off the bone very easily. No comparison with the recently-departed Theo's in the rib department, but not bad if you are craving some baby backs.
One negative I have noticed about Texas Roadhouse is that the quality of the food has declined on recent visits. When they first opened, Megan and I went there quite a bit (this was before we started discovering a lot of the better local restaurants) and it was always good. Lately, it hasn't been as good. There was even one time I got pretty sick after eating there. I don't know if my stomach bug was directly related to the Roadhouse, but let's just say I was fine before I got there.
Overall, as chain restaurants go, Texas Roadhouse is a pretty good place to eat. They do fill a need for a reasonably priced steakhouse in the Binghamton area, and are in a very good location across from the BU campus. Food and service can be a little subpar from time to time, but on a good day, the meals I've gotten at Texas Roadhouse have been among the better steak dinners I've had in the Triple Cities. I recommend checking out the local fare first, but you can definitely do a lot worse than the Texas Roadhouse.