Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steak and Shake

Steak and Shake
999 Veterans Blvd.

Festus Mo.


Once again, we’re doing burgers, which is okay. Oddly enough, although Angel, Adam and myself have lived within spitting distance of Steak and Shakes most of our natural lives, none of us recalled ever actually eating at one. So Adam’s recommendation was well within the bounds of the quest.
The Place.
Located in the shadow of a hotel, and just across a small parking lot from an Italian restaurant, and a “Bob Evans” sits the faux-diner. Black, white and red inside and out, brightly lit it is constructed from the franchise’s template. Built to look like a drive-up and / or diner from the 50’s it is kind of kitschy.
It was also kind of cold. Angel commented on this almost immediately. I hadn’t noticed, but that was due to the fact that I lost the ability to sense most modest changes in ambient temperature in my second divorce. (I had no money at the time so the lawyers went after my dignity, pride, will to live and my ability to sense ambient temperature changes. It was a compromise, they actually wanted my toenails and my eyebrows.) Anyway after a while, a long while (more later) I noticed it as well. Guessing, I’d say it was around sixty degrees. Adam was wearing a fleece hoody and did not complain. In fact I think he chuckled. I recalled and mentioned reading somewhere that some fast-food establishments lower the thermostats in order to get people to leave quicker, stepping up the pace of turnover. Uncomfortable people may eat, but they don’t linger.
We were seated in a half-booth, a booth seat against the wall, with two chairs on the opposite side of the table. I sat with Adam for the first time in our adventures simply because the booth seats looked out into the restaurant and I prefer a view. My choice to sit by him bothered him a little since it was a dramatic break from convention. I told him to shut up.
The small tables were convenient for the staff. They could arrange them into small or large groups as the need arose, which it did quite often in this busy place. There were several families, but just as many individuals (at the bar) and couples. No alcohol available here, so not as many children (see previous post: Red Robin).
The menus were colorful, not too large, and straightforward. There was a picture of just about everything. We ordered our drinks, two unsweetened ice teas and a chocolate shake. The tea arrived quickly in real glasses! We were also given silverware wrapped in a napkin. Adam was served water, also in a real glass, while his shake was being constructed. We discussed the offerings and finally decided. I ordered the bacon-cheese double steak burger, Angel the classic double and Adam, always the bolder one, chose the chipotle double.

The Food:
The food did not arrive quickly. We were patient, and just chatted, made fun of other patrons and each other, and shivered. The waiter came by after about ten or fifteen minutes and apologized for the delay. Apparently they were out of thawed patties. This is pretty serious for a place that pretty much only serves burgers.
Finally after at least twenty minutes the plates arrived. Yes plates, real stoneware plates (take notice Red Robin, real plates, silverware and real glasses!) The fries were of the shoestring variety, which I like. The one downside was the small end bits, and there were lots of them. The end bits were about 1/16th of an inch thick and only about ¼ inch long, making it very, very difficult to dip them in or retrieve them from the ketchup. They were cooked perfectly though, had it not been for the very large number of tiny ones I would have no complaint at all.
The burgers were all doubles; two thin patties made of leaner stuff then other chain burgers. None were cooked to order which is understandable since they are so thin that catching them at pink would be nearly impossible. They were delicious though. We all asked for our own combinations of lettuce, pickles, etc. I asked for everything except relish. The pickles were long cut and a little on the sweet side. The burgers were quite good, and not too terribly messy. Adam mentioned that his ‘chipotle’ was not too hot, apparently just enough of the peppers were used to add taste rather than to inflict gastric distress. They were also lighter than ‘gourmet’ burgers. By the end of the meal we all felt satisfied, but not weighed down and greasy.
Adam was quite satisfied with his shake though it was pretty much gone before the food arrived. The tea was Lipton, I could tell, but it was fresh and clear.

The Service:
For a place at this price and of this theme the service was exceptional. Our waiter was mid twenties, tall, cut and square jawed and quite pleasant. He did struggle a bit with the apology for the delay, but at least he was straightforward and sincere. The remaining staff stayed busy and teamed up to clear tables, re-arrange seating and were quite quick to refill drinks. The check arrived before we were finished eating, once again pointing to a possible desire to speed up turnover. Frankly this is fine with me, we’re not lingerers. Now for the best part You’re not going to believe it. The total tab including tip: Twenty five dollars and four cents. Yup, I checked it again just to be sure, twenty five dollars and four cents including tax and tip.

The only solid criticism was the temperature of the place. Even the delay was not that bad. Had the temperature been more tolerable the delay might have gone less noticed. It was so cold that I was not at all inclined to order a shake, which is half of the business’s name. (disclaimer: I don’t like shakes anyhow, but if I did , I am sure I would have been too cold to want one)
The price was simply unbelievable. Recall that there were real waiters, real silverware, glasses, and plates. Go back and read the Red Robin review again for a real comparison.
Price: one hundred points +, food: ninety eight points, temperature: sixty degrees. I won’t ding them for the delay too much since it was likely a rare fluke. That sixty degree thing however drives the total down to a mere chilly 92 points, a B in my book. Highly recommended, we will return, with hoodies or a sweater.

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