Monday, January 16, 2006

The Big Steer

1715 Adventureland Dr
Altoona
515-967-6933
5-9:30 Monday thorough Thursday
5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

“A” and “D” stopped in at The Big Steer about 5:45 p.m. on a Saturday evening. After managing a salmon-like swim upstream through the throngs of assembled waiting diners, we got our name on the wait list and headed to the bar. The bar was jammed with people, but everybody seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to visit and have a drink while waiting for their table to be called. The bar offers a nice selection of beer and wines by the glass as well as mixed drinks.

We waited about forty minutes for our table and again, managed to weave our way through the now really packed bar and waiting area. While we were waiting for the hostess to show us to our table, a lady came in to add her party to the reservation list and was told the wait was about 1 ½ hours. She didn’t even flinch which was a clear indication to us that the food was well-worth any wait. This is a restaurant frequented by regulars, and they obviously enjoy the experience.

Watching the wait staff at The Big Steer is fascinating. They are a well-oiled group of superb wait staff without an ounce of wasted motion. As soon as a table empties, the bus boys are on it and, if a hostess happens to be passing by, she grabs empty glasses for the bar and deposits them on the way back to the front of the house. Wait staff does not make you feel you are being rushed in any respect and, despite the huge crowds, they are efficient and attentive. Nothing fancy, just great service and efficiency. The restaurant seems to do about 400 people on a Saturday night.

Of course, the big item on The Big Steer menu is beef so we ordered accordingly. “A” got the 16 oz prime rib and “D” tried the special for the evening of a 6 ounce filet mignon and 4 ounce lobster tail. While we waited for dinner, we ordered a half basket of onion rings which were delicious. They are thinly sliced, lightly battered, crisply fried and almost impossible to stop eating. A half order would comfortably serve four people but the two of us put a pretty decent dent in it.

We both ordered the house creamy garlic for our tossed salads. Both salads were comprised of a nice assortment of glistening, crisp, cold greens. “A”’s was beautifully tossed with just the perfect amount of dressing and the surprise of garlic melba bits in lieu of the usual croutons. “D” asked for his dressing on the side and the melba croutons were also provided on the side, making the addition of carbohydrates the diner’s preference.

Each meal is accompanied by a loaf of fresh and hot from the oven bread. The bread is soft and yeasty bringing back memories of loaves lovingly made at home in days of yore.

“A’s” prime rib arrived perfectly prepared – a huge cut of beautifully marbled beef cooked to a rosy medium rare, as requested. A steak knife was provided for the meat but it was unnecessary as the prime rib was absolutely fork tender with a flavor rarely found in restaurants in recent years. The beef was accompanied by a side of pasta with red sauce which was very good, but the beef was the main event.

“D’s” filet and lobster entrée were also fork tender and loaded with rich flavors. The lobster was so sweet and flavorful it scarcely needed to be dipped in the butter sauce that accompanied the plate. “D” opted for the vegetable du jour which was fresh green beans cooked with bacon, adding a great flavor to the usual offerings in many restaurants.

The Big Steer offers cheesecake and ice cream sundaes for dessert but the dinner portions are so generous, we didn’t even attempt a selection.

The Big Steer’s menu includes several fish and seafood offerings along with fried chicken, chicken livers and/or gizzards and a smattering of Italian dishes. We observed several of those dishes being served at other tables and they all looked worthy of a try on a future visit, especially the fried chicken which is a large portion of beautifully dark, crisp and not greasy pieces.

This is a well-rehearsed restaurant that delivers quality and value without being overly fancy. The customers have packed the place for years and they keep coming back. We rate it a 4 within its type of restaurant. The Big Steer is “THE” place to go for Beef in Iowa – no doubt about it!

Rating 4 Absolutely
Quality Excellent
Service: Top quality
Value: Excellent
Recommended: Yes

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