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Black Steer Grill is the place for comfort food

February 04, 2007|by SAVORY SAM

If you like meat-and-potatoes dining in a family setting, you must check out the recently relocated and expanded Black Steer Grill on Wesel Boulevard near Valley Mall. You'll find good food at decent prices served in a tasteful setting.

The Black Steer has brought its Western-themed menu to life on its walls, with a 40-foot, strikingly austere image of a desert along one wall of its main dining room. Wall paint and bathroom dcor continues the theme.

The Savory Sam clan scanned the menu - one of the best-designed in Hagerstown, by the way - and found plenty we wanted to try.

We opened our meal with a Western Bloomin' Onion, an appetizer inspired by one Outback Steakhouse. Like at Outback, the immense onion is cut into fingers and deep-fried. It is served with a cheesy dipping sauce that was a superb accompaniment not only for the onion but for the baked potato served with one of our main dishes.

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Of course, the Bloomin' Onion and its sauce are pretty high in fat content as well as flavor. But that's par for the course at the Black Steer. This is not Low-Cal Paradise, it's Comfort Food Heaven. Come here prepared to relax and enjoy.

At first, the Savory Sam clan's most vigilant vegetarian didn't relax. He pointed out that there was not a single dish on the menu that did not have meat, except three appetizers, the house salad and maybe the soup of the day. But he was a good sport. He ordered a house salad and the Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo (hold the chicken).

The salads at Black Steer are generous mounds of iceberg lettuce, big croutons and fresh red onion rings. I was still eating mine when the entrees arrived. In general, food was quick to the table, and service was good. Our waitress was thoughtful, honest and personable. She was more than willing to work with us when we special-ordered variations on a couple dishes, such as the chicken alfredo.

The Black Steer offers beef, chicken, veal and fish served in a variety of ways - broiled, grilled, fried, deep-fried and stir-fried - over rice or pasta or next to potatoes.

We tried dishes from across the menu - a Wrangler Sized Steak, Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry, a Bourbon Laced New York Strip Steak and the chicken alfredo.

The stir-fry went to another Savory Sam vegetarian, who felt the vegetables and Oriental sauce (she pulled out the chicken) were just OK. She prefers fresh vegetables and suspected these had been frozen. Also, the sweet-and-sour sauce was too sweet for her taste. But she was happy with the linguini - not overcooked - she ordered on the side instead of rice.

Not ones to waste, we found a taker for the teriyaki chicken, which was excellent on its own - juicy, salty, sweet, with a bit of heat.

The Wrangler Sized Steak, a large cut for a large appetite, got top marks - "big, flat, tasty, with little fat, which I prefer," reported our diner, who likes a good steak. He also ordered steak fries with his steak - thick fingers of potatoes that held up to the beef - and was satisfied but not thrilled with the result.

The Bourbon Laced Steak was a hit, at least among the two of us who eat beef. I'm not a big fan of steak, but the sauce was fun - sweet and strong, with onion, garlic and bits of pineapple. It complemented the steak.

The bar is a big deal at the Black Steer, with an extensive list of classic mixed drinks, margaritas, martinis and other specialty drinks. The beer list includes the usual suspects. Specialty domestics seemed a bit pricy at $4.25 apiece.

Except for Mr. Steak, we did not even begin to clean our plates. There was plenty of food, which we took home and enjoyed again later.

We capped our dinner with two desserts and some coffee. The coffee was decent, but the desserts spurred positive comments.

The Zebra Cake - dark chocolate cake with white frosting and zigzags of chocolate sauce - was rich, dense and moist without being too sweet. The crme brle was a bit sweet, but creamy and tasty.

There's a children's menu and a senior menu, each with eight reasonably priced entries.

It's all part of the Black Steer's mission - good food at decent prices.

Savory Sam is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail staff member who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

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