Rustling up taste and value

February 20, 2005|by E.T. MOORE

If a hearty appetite has you hungering for a juicy steak and all the fixin's, take your crew just south of the Pennsylvania border for a meal that's delicious, reasonably priced and more than satisfying.

At Black Steer Family Steakhouse, you'll be greeted by a fire-breathing bull in the parking lot. There's nothing to fear. This is just a Western welcome mat. Perched atop the restaurant is a bull's head that erupts with a burst of flame every 15 to 20 minutes, just to let people know that beef really is what's for dinner.

Inside, mauve, hunter green and other earth tones are woven into a cozy southwestern decor that features cacti, wolves, horses and bears.

When we arrived around 6:30 on a recent weeknight, few people had ventured out to brave the cold. The hostess asked whether we preferred a table or booth. We picked the latter simply because it sounded warmer.


The special that evening was the San Antonio Top Sirloin smothered in sauted onions and mushrooms for $11.45, which I opted to try. My companion chose the Six Gun Barbecue Ribs for $11.75. The Kid's Stuff menu offered several options for the two little ones with us. One opted for the Chicken Strips and Fries for $5.50. The other one selected the Shrimp Basket for $6.50, and felt like a real cowpoke when he ordered a Roy Rogers drink (cola and cherry juice).

Our waitress, Annette, scored points right away with us when she brought extra napkins without being asked to do so. Maybe she was thinking of the two children or maybe she knows anyone who orders ribs needs extra cleanup help. Whichever the case, we were grateful.

After ordering our entrees, we were told to saddle up to the Rodeo soup, salad and dessert bar, which is included with the purchase of an entree.

The first thing I noticed was how clean and tidy the salad bar was. There were several signs proclaiming that "Parents must serve children." Perhaps that is one secret to the restaurant's tidiness.

All the Rodeo Bar ingredients were fresh, the vegetables were crisp, and there was a large variety of items. My companion and I decided to try the homemade honey dressing. It was so sweet and creamy I was tempted to go back for salad seconds but decided instead to save room for the steak.

The restaurant's soups were the perfect remedy to chase off winter's chill. The Crab Vegetable Soup was thick and had lots of vegetables. My companion's chili was seasoned just right. (That's quite a compliment from someone with a picky palate.)

When we asked Annette how the dressing was made, she said her boss, Bill, makes it and the soups, but that he won't share the recipes with anyone.

Just as we were beginning to feel warm, cozy and content, our sizzling entrees arrived. We were surprised at the ample size of the servings.

I had ordered my steak medium well, and it was tender and juicy, with the onions and mushrooms adding extra flavor. The baked potato was served hot and was done just right, with a crisp outer shell. The steak was so large, I brought half of it home.

My companion was equally pleased with his ribs. They had just the right balance of tang and sweetness. He brought half of his dinner home, too.

The kids also had more than they could eat.

However, we all suddenly had more room when Annette told us a slice of homemade cheesecake was included with our meal. We were glad we made room. The cheesecake was rich and creamy and yet fluffy all at once. We asked if Bill would share his recipe. Annette laughed and said he won't even share it with his co-workers.

Well, it's a surefire way to guarantee repeat customers. Would we return? Absolutely. The food was good, the price was right and the service jovial.

As a family of four, we spent $48.80, including the tip, and ended up with two meals apiece.

It would be hard to rustle in a better deal than that.

Restaurant reviews are contributed biweekly by Herald-Mail staff writers and editors alternating under the pseudonym E.T. Moore.

Black Steer Family Steakhouse

Four forks overall

Food: 4 forks (out of 4)

Service: 4 forks

Atmosphere: 3 forks

Value: 4 forks

Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday, closed.

Prices: Range from $9.49 for Four-piece Pressure Fried Fresh Chicken to $16.45 for Porterhouse Steak or Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon. The restaurant also offers Lobster Tails at market price. A Senior Sized menu for those 65 and older and a Kid's Stuff menu for those 10 and younger are available.

Phone: 301-790-1070

Location: 18203 Mason-Dixon Road, Hagerstown

Directions: From Hagerstown, take Interstate 81 north to the State Line exit. Turn right off the exit. The restaurant will be on your left.

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