Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ponderosa / Steak and Shake

Ponderosa Steakhouse

6516 S Lindberg Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63123


Saturday, cool, misty, icky all day. We’d all held out for a big meal.

The Place:

South county, on Lindberg, near I-55.

Dan Blocker (‘Hoss’ of ‘Bonanza’ fame) opened up the Bonanza Steakhouse chain in 1963. In 1997 that chain joined up with the similar Ponderosa chain. The latter also derived its name from that same old TV series. Since the merger the parent companies, which also owned Bennigan’s and Steak and Ale have struggled to stay afloat. Bennigans and S&A are gone now, except for a few that have been reopened under completely new management. The remaining steakhouses parent companies have been in and out of bankruptcy protection.

I think I know why, more on this later.

You order as you walk in, as if it were a fast food place. If you haven’t been before, or in quite a while, it can be a bit daunting and rushed. I knew they had an all-you-can-eat buffet, which was what we all ordered.

This was a mistake. At other steakhouse/buffets, the buffet is enormous. (Ryan’s for example) At Ponderosa, not so much. We should have ordered steak.

We were shown our seats and sat our drink-laden (T,T,C)tray on the booth table. We headed immediately to the buffet line. It was a little underwhelming.

The Food:

The hot food section was no bigger than the salad section, not a lot of choices.

Among the three of us, we sampled: (along with overall comments)

Tea Not bad, not bad at all.

Mashed potatoes/gravy. Good

Macaroni/cheese. Very good, creamy, thick.

Chili. Pretty good.

Catfish. Salty/greasy

Chicken Thighs, Not Adam’s favorite part of the bird.

Green beans. Yawn.

Potatoes Au Gratin WAAAAAY too peppery.

Dinner rolls Nice, pretty good.

Ice Cream with Gummy bears (Angel’s choice) Seriously?

Boiled Cabbage (Angel’s choice) Very good! (LOL, blech..)

What you see in this list unfortunately is pretty much eighty or ninety percent of what they offered. Kind of skimpy. There was no roast, turkey, or ham, or other meats. We got the impression that the buffet was available primarily as a side offering / afterthought. Next time we’ll get steak.


Aside from the limited offerings and a couple of noted exceptions, the overall impression was okay to good. The service was very good, friendly, quick and attentive. A couple of little gripes though.

There was no silverware at the buffet line so I had to go all the way back to the initial order line to get one for my chili. Also the plates were almost too small to hold a substantial amount of food.

The dessert selection was minimal, no pie.

The bill came in at around thirty seven dollars, not too bad, but similar places offer more choices for that amount. Ponderosa could be better, it lacks originality and uniqueness, and seems to be without direction and drive. They offer nothing outstanding, and what they do serve is only average. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t jump out in my mind when I’m hungry.

Sunday, still raining, all day.

We’d spent the day cursing the infernal, unending misty rain. I’d taken a couple of days off work to try to catch up on some yard work and other projects, but the rain was so dreary that I ended up napping a lot instead. By evening we realized that we hadn’t thawed anything out and were too depressed to whip something up, so we headed for:

Steak and Shake

Angel had told me a while back that S&S offered chili. This was my goal for this trip.

The Place:

On a hill above I-55 in Festus, next to that awful Fazoli’s. As we got there we looked into the nasty pasta place and scratched our heads as to why so many people were eating there. It’s like they looked around at the five other eating joints within walking distance and said “Sure all that looks great, but what I’m really hungry for is some under or over cooked, doughy pasta dish with timid, canned marinara sauce! Just like Mom used to thaw out!”

We really liked S&S the last time we went, simple, tasty food for a good price. This time we decided to stray form the classics and try different stuff. The place was packed and bustling, a line was forming. Unlike at Ponderosa we were seated and offered menus. The nice Italian-ish lady was friendly and efficient. She took our drink orders, tea, sweet tea and root beer.

There was a lot to choose from on the menu. Even though I knew I wanted to try the chili, I decided I’d better hedge my bet and get a little something on the side.

Me: Chili Deluxe (Onions and cheese), an A1 ‘Shooter’ (small, slider-sized burger) and onion rings.

Angel: Grilled Chicken Sandwich, with a side of chili. (with fries)

Adam: Chipotle Chicken sandwich, (hold just about everything) and fries.

Angel asked for her chili to be served ahead of the meal, I opted for everything at the same time.

The Food:

Her chili came shortly after our drinks, about three bites in she curled her cute little nose and said “Uh oh.”

I looked at her, she had an expression on her face that could only indicate extreme disappointment. But then again that’s usually the only expression I ever see on her face when she’s talking to me.

“It’s too salty.” She finally fess’ed up.

This was bad news. For HER to admit something was too salty was really saying something. Of all the times I’ve remarked (whined) about this sort of thing she rarely agrees, calling me too sensitive, too picky, along with a host of other disrespectful things, too mean spirited and cruel to mention here.

My plates arrived, the bowl was wide and shallow. Too shallow. Alongside it were two packets of saltines. I asked for more. (duh!)

The chili was not too salty. I stated as much and Angel seemed relieved. We blamed it on her crackers. She’d added tiny oyster crackers, I used the proper saltines.

I like to dip my chili for a while, loading a cracker up half way then double dipping to keep anyone else form wanting any of it, I’m a prolific drooler. This technique proved to be problematic. The bowl was about eight inches wide, but only an inch deep. Pushing the saltine through the thick broth merely pushed the chili over the rim of the bowl. It was like soup on a plate. Once I stopped trying and used my spoon, it got a little better. However as far as chili goes, this was single-note stuff. There were plenty of beans, which I like, but the overall taste was the same overall. There was no depth of flavor. I prefer chili, like that from Wendy’s that has little nuggets of veggies that still maintain their own individual tastes. The peppers taste like peppers, onions like onions. At S&S everything in the bowl tasted like the chili broth itself. It wasn’t bad at all, but it just didn’t sparkle.

The onion rings were very good, the little burger was quite tasty, maybe a little too much A1 sauce, but not enough to make it bad. Adam and Angel considered the chicken sandwiches a little skimpy, but otherwise quite good. On the waitress’ last check on our happiness Angel asked for a Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Shake to go. Adam chimed in excitedly and ordered one as well. I of course did not since I’m lactose ambivalent (I neither hate it or love it) and besides, I had a package of Nutter Butter Crème Patties waiting for me (hidden) at home.*


The service was very good. The Italian-ish woman stayed on top of the drinks and the empty dishes, and a manager inquired about the meal as well. It was like a fast food place, but with the service of an uptown sit-down restaurant.

Of course there were too many kids. It was quite noisy, but that probably couldn’t be helped under current law. Once I become supreme dictator, restaurants other than McDonalds will be off limits to anyone under twenty five.

The bill came in at thirty-two bucks and change, not bad for the variety of stuff we ordered. I really, really like this place.

Once home I quaffed down a half bag of the cookies.

Helpful Medical Hint:

If you are going to have chili, onion rings and tiny burgers for dinner, then shove down a half bag of cookies, I recommend NOT adding a big glass of orange juice at bedtime to the mix! It was not pretty.


* Nutter Butter Crème Patties: I was celebrating once again, my mini-vacation and a successful presentation at the Writer’s Society meeting: ‘Internet Platforms for Writers’.

Ponderosa Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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