I had a meeting at OnRamp this morning to go over some final design issues for our customers’ websites. After my meeting I drove over to campus to pick up marketing supplies for the office. It was lunchtime so I called Elise to see if she wanted to have lunch since I was in Austin.
We met at her office and decided to try Hoffbrau Steakhouse. We’ve driven by it hundreds of times and have always said: “We should try that place sometime”. The Hoffbrau Steakhouse is a neat looking joint both inside and out.
“Opened in 1934 in a former feed-store building, Hoffbrau will remind you that Austin was once a small town.”
The restaurant reminds me of a someplace you might find yourself dining back where I spent my formative years near Bellville. A greasy spoon that’s been around for 70 years and is probably one of the oldest establishments on 6th street.
Our waitress came to the table and rattled off: “7 oz. sirloin, 14 oz. sirloin, 7 oz. t-bone, 14 oz. t-bone and today’s special is the 18 oz. t-bone and the price includes salad and iced tea.”
Huh? Okay. Where’s a menu? I didn’t ask that, but that’s what I was expecting. Elise and I sat befuddled for a moment. Okay, this is a unique dining experience. What we were just told were our dining options. I went in thinking I might just get a burger, maybe a chicken fried steak sandwich or something. I had five steak options. Elise quickly bought in and ordered a medium rare 7 oz. sirloin. Just as she ordered, her phone rang and she had to tend to work. I was still in Ozzy Osbourne mode, mumbling my inner monologue: “whu, whu, I I I I don’t think I get it. I have to choose a little steak or a big steak or a little steak or a big steak or a biggy big steak??!!”
Elise was still on the phone. The waitress was staring at me like I was wearing my underwear on my head. A quick decision had to be made. Don’t like sirloin as much as t-bone. Problem solved. I’m hungry. Big steak.
“For 88 cents more you can get the 18 oz. t-bone and that comes with the salad and tea.” I was told.
“How much is it?” I asked.
I don’t remember what she said, but it was something like $17. I ordered a medium rare 14 oz. sirloin instead.
A few minutes later our steaks came out. One plate, one steak in a pool of what looked like grease. The steaks are seared on a flattop grill. I know this because the small kitchen is visable from the small dining room. Our steaks indicated this as well because there were no grill marks, just spotted sear marks. We concurred that our lunch just didn’t look right.
I cut into my steak. It had a nice color on the inside. I took a bite of my steak. “Ummm, this is bad” I thought. Elise did the same. Her steak was cooked well done – no pink.
The separated liquid on our plates that I thought was grease left that infamous film on the top of my mouth, you know, like grease. We both thought about grinning and bearing it and just eating our lunch, paying our bill, being on our way and chalking it up to experience. The steaks themselves weren’t good. That moist, seared-in spongy texture wasn’t there. I just couldn’t do it. I put my silverware down after a second sampling of my steak. The waitress immediately came over and asked what was wrong.
“This just isn’t good. We don’t like our steaks. It’s not what we were expecting and I honestly don’t want to pay for a couple steaks that are sitting in a pool of flattop grease. My wife’s steak is overcooked and we just don’t like the way they taste. I’ll be more than happy to pay for our glasses of iced tea and the french fry that my wife ate, but I’m not going to pay for these steaks.”
The restaurant fell silent.
It was like the scene in those old western movies where the stranger strolls into the saloon and the music screaches to a stop, the talking stops, the bartender drops a glass, all eyes fall on the new guy. Dead silence.
Two big black guys were manning the grill (one of which Elise said she has met before and is the owner of the restaurant). I could feel both sets of their eyes burning a hole in the back of my head.
Oh yes, I offended. It was an awkward situation.
The waitress brought the check. She pointed out that the “grease” is their lemon butter sauce. She comped the steaks and only charged us for the iced tea. I left a $5 tip because I felt bad. Two teas cost us $9.
We were still hungry so we drove across the street and had lunch at Katz’s.
We didn’t like the sirloin steaks at Hoffbrau Steakhouse. The restaurant is located on a prime piece of real estate and has been around for a long time. A lot of other people must like the steaks. Maybe it’s the lemon butter sauce.
Note: if you’re the owner or a cook at Hoffbrau Steakhouse, I work at the Thundercloud Subs on Wm. Cannon and Brodie Ln. You can find me there if you want to beat me up.