Written by Josh Spencer
For this week’s review, I trekked across I-45 to take in Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Now, normally I try to stay away from chains for my reviews, since by their very nature, they are not distinctive and offer less to comment on (I mean, do you really need a review on Chili’s?). However, Montana Mike’s is one franchise that I had never even heard of before its opening, so I was intrigued enough to give it a try.
The restaurant is located at 708 I-35 South, just down from City Lights Theatres and before Wal-Mart. As you would guess, it tries to impart an outdoors atmosphere with hunting and fishing items on the walls, which does the make the place interesting but borders on the cheesy (though the row of deer mounts was cool).
My group and I were seated in a booth, and Montana Mike’s got its first strike as I had to wipe off the seat myself of bits of chips before sitting down. Still not that big of a deal considering that the rest of the restaurant appears clean and that was the only issue with sanitation we had for the meal.
To start off the night, we took a look at the drink menu, which contains a pretty standard list of domestics, imports, wines, and mixed drinks. We ordered a Mountaintop margarita and a blue mountain margarita since there was nothing else on the list that really caught our eye; however, as is the case with many non-Mexican restaurants, the margarita quality was a bit sub-par. The Mountaintop was too sweet and did not have enough tequila to balance the flavor, whereas the Blue Mountain was just the opposite with so much tequila that it was difficult to enjoy any other flavor at all.
For appetizers, we selected fried zucchini and mountain-stuffed mushrooms, both of which helped to put Montana Mike’s on the right track following our experience with their margaritas. The fried zucchini had a great crust that was perfect with the dip, and the mushrooms were succulent with an equally good crust that added up to a tremendous flavor. Completing the pre-entrée meal were the complimentary rolls that were warm and soft and in general, delicious.
For entrees, Montana Mike’s offers a traditional fare of steaks, chicken, and burgers with a few seafood and pasta selections as well. Beef was the order of the day for our group as we went with a combo of sirloin steak and ribs, a hickory burger, a regular hamburger and the obligatory chicken fried chicken. Before I comment on those, though, for once I can actually include salads in my review as they are included with one side in the steak meals. I got a traditional Caesar salad and, while not being a salad connoisseur, was not disappointed. The lettuce leaves were fresh, the croutons crunchy and the dressing good.
Unfortunately, once finished with my salad, sirloin steak was a little chewy and lacking in flavor with the ribs doing a little bit better but still definitely needing a good amount of sauce to improve the overall taste. It was actually my side of sweet potato with cinnamon sugar that was the best item on the plate. A similar sentiment of good but not great was expressed with the other meals with the notable exception of the chicken fried chicken which was big, juicy and at the upper end of flavor scores.
To round off the evening, I looked at the dessert menu which offers a few options of cakes and cobbler. I ordered a Rocky Mountain Mudslide, which is a combination of vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake. The thing was humongous, so much so that there was no way I was going to be able to finish it (a rare occurrence with my meals). Size aside, though, the Mudslide was very good since it’s pretty hard to go wrong with ice cream and chocolate cake.
Leaving Montana Mike’s, my sentiments were what they usually are for franchise operations – decent but not overly impressive. Service was good, despite the fact that our waiter was new, and the meal was not bad, it just lacked the “wow” factor that leaves a mark in one’s mind. Personally, I might return to Montana Mike’s if a group was going there; however, if given a choice, I think I will stick to other dining options (such as some of the other places that have been featured in this column) that offer a little more uniqueness and flavor.
Thanks to Winston Pool, Stephanie Seaman, and Shannon Ploeger for their assistance.