Steak night, like football, is practically an inalienable right in Houston. Growing up as a carnivore, it's one of the things I love about our great food city. If you know where to look, every night each week, there are restaurants offering up unbelievable steak dinner deals, usually involving a 12- to 16-ounce steak and a mashed potato or side of fries, for $12 to $17.
A favorite among my friends has been Tuesday nights at The Community Bar in Midtown. For $17, you get a 16-ounce rib eye topped with chimichurri sauce, and sides of mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and grilled pineapple. It sounds a little haphazard, but the first time I tried it, more than a year ago when the Community Bar's Chef Bob was still in residence, it was freakin' fantastic. So fantastic that when some friends of mine came in from out of town last Tuesday night, and I wanted to show them a little piece of what makes Houston so great, I took them to the Community Bar for Steak Night.
Community Bar looks like an icehouse. The modest, one-story wooden building sits close to Smith Street, so that on most nights, you can just pull your car up directly in front of the building and walk right in.
The scene that greeted us was classic Houston. To the side of the building, a cook was grilling steaks on a gas grill outside, and the smell was good enough to make your mouth water. On the patio, small groups of friends were lazily enjoying the fall weather, drinking beer or some other drink of choice, and dining on steak. Inside, the reddish glow from the bar gave the place some ambience, while the awesome sound system blasted a great music selection, setting the scene for our little reunion.
Community Bar has a normal menu, but on Steak Night, you can only order the steak special because they aren't equipped for anything else. All three of us ordered the Steak Night special and then got down to the business of catching up on all the years since we'd seen each other. In spite of my enjoyment, I noticed that it took an inordinate amount of time for the steak to arrive. And sadly, when it did, it didn't come anywhere near the memory of the gourmet-tasting, delicious steak I'd had in the past.
The first offense was the temperature. My steak was lukewarm, not piping hot off the grill as I remembered, and the meat was tough instead of tender. It was obvious that the steak had been sitting out for some time before making it to our table. The plate wasn't quite so appetizing, either. The mashed potatoes were runny, the plate looking like something you'd get in a cafeteria line, with the sides just dumped onto the plate. I was disappointed and embarrassed. I had raved about this really great steak night which turned out to be a total bust. My friends, who didn't have anything to compare it to, couldn't have been nicer about it, but I really had a hard time masking my disappointment (I made up for it by taking them to Uchi for dessert).
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Now before you go on about how I shouldn't be complaining about a $17 steak dinner, which was a steal for the sheer quantity of food we received, I'm really just sad that something that used to be so good turned into something much less than mediocre. Perhaps the fact that Chef Bob is no longer there contributed to the decline in quality, or perhaps we just had some bad luck and it was an off night. Whatever the case, I hope they improve soon.
In the meantime, I need to find myself another good steak night in Houston. Anyone care to point me in the right direction?