Yes, this is the same “Bobby” that owned the bars & grills Bobby’s and Bobby’s Too, which we’ve already reviewed. It even has some of the same serving staff as the old places, which are now both closed. But the menu at Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is sufficiently different from the old Bobby’ses that we deemed it worth reviewing again. Also, we like it a lot.
It’s also the same location as the old Colorado Steakhouse that we didn’t get around to reviewing before it closed. But don’t worry, it wasn’t much of a restaurant back then, so you’re not missing out much. What? You want to hear about it anyway? Fine, I guess I can tell you one story. Kira and I stopped by late one night with a number of friends and the specials menu near the door had the soup of the day listed as “chicken tort.” We asked the server what the “tort.” stood for, and he assured us that it was “chicken tortellini” soup. This sounded delicious, and several of us ordered the chicken tortellini soup. You can probably guess by now that “tort.” did not stand for “tortellini”. At a well-run restaurant, the server would’ve come back to the table, apologized, and asked us if we wanted to change our order. But at the old Colorado Steakhouse, they just brought the chicken tortilla soup without comment. So yeah, you’re not missing much.
Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse. Friday, August 8th, 2014. Happy hour.
The first thing that you’ll notice when you approach Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is the enormous neon* sign out front. In fact, according to Bobby, current Bloomington laws forbid building new signs that big. He says that the only reason why Bobby’s new restaurant has “Colorado Steakhouse” as part of its name is because that’s what’s on the sign, and getting a new sign would’ve meant getting a smaller sign.
*Fun fact: “neon” signs don’t always have neon in them. Different mixtures of noble gasses (including helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) produce different colors of light, and yet more colors are produced by using an argon-mercury mixture inside the tube and a phosphorescent paint on the outside of the tube.
On the outside, the steakhouse looks almost exactly the same as it did before, including the patio seating out front and the entrance to the “Saloon” in the back. But on the inside… well on the inside it looks exactly the same as it used to as well. The place has a cozy, homey feel to it with hardwood floors, visible wooden beams on the relatively low ceiling, and an enormous fireplace in the center of one of the dining rooms. The place is pretty big, but it’s divided up into smaller areas in a way that gives a more intimate feeling. Decor was just about the only thing the old place had going for it, and Bobby knows a good thing when he sees it.
Unless we’re heading to the Sunday brunch buffet (which is fabulous and probably deserves a review by itself), we usually head in the back door to the Saloon area, and that’s where we went for this visit. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the front of the restaurant and the bar area in the back. There are a couple of TVs back there, but the full menu is available in both locations. It’s the place where the regulars go, and the servers are always friendly and quick with a joke.
We met our friend Suzanne in the saloon on a Friday during happy hour (4-6pm), when they always have a free “munchie bar”. Bobby is big on specials and most workdays have some sort of regular drink special (Martini Mondays, 2 for Tuesday: double mixed drinks*, Winey Wednesday, and Sure Happy It’s Thursday: draft pints), but since I don’t drink alcohol and Kira drinks very little, we prefer to visit for the Friday munchie bar. The “munchies” are usually pretty good and in the past have included buffalo wings, potato skins, and nachos. On this particular visit, they had a tray full of Italian beef and a stack of little buns to put it on. The beef was tasty and very moist and all three of us liked it a lot. I could easily have just eaten that for dinner and been very happy. Heck, we would’ve been happy if we’d paid money for it. But there were other things on the menu that needed reviewing, so we had to order more food. The things we do for our readers…
*Frankly, I have no idea what a “double mixed drink” is.
There’s a bar menu and a restaurant menu, but you can order from both no matter where you sit. Most of the entrées on the restaurant menu come with access to the impressive salad bar. You’ll find all the usual salad fixings at the salad bar, but there’s also usually some kind baked dessert item (this time it was donut holes with apple butter), a soup (on this trip it was a properly labeled tortilla soup), and blinis and caviar. I find the the caviar and blinis* more amusing than tasty. I don’t really get caviar; it tastes very slightly of ocean, and that’s about it. The
tort. tortilla soup was good, but not fantastic. It wasn’t particularly spicy, and Kira enjoyed the big chunks of chicken in it.
*For those few of our readers who didn’t grow up eating caviar, blinis are tiny little tasteless pancake things that are really just there because if you just spooned caviar into your mouth, you’d run out of caviar pretty quickly.
We’ve been to the new Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse a number of times, and we’ve enjoyed almost everything we’ve ordered. I heartily recommend the American Kobe beef hamburger, which is hands-down the best burger in town.
I’m about to go off on a digression about Kobe beef burgers in general. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you like. You may have heard of Kobe beef before; it’s renowned for being flavorful, tender, and well-marbled with fat. You’ll also hear plenty of stories about how the cows in Kobe are treated, including being brushed every day and fed beer to drink. Some of those stories might even be partly true. The beer, massages, and classical music are almost certainly not true. But if you’re eating in the U.S., you’re almost certainly not eating beef from cows grown in Kobe, Japan. Like “Champagne” or “Vidalia onions”, usage of the phrase “Kobe beef” is heavily controlled in Japan. Until 2012, it wasn’t even legal to export true “Kobe beef” out of Japan. If you see “Kobe” and “beef” on a menu item in the U.S., it’s probably not made with genuine “Kobe beef”, but rather with an American hybrid of the same kind of cattle. This is usually a good thing as otherwise it would be absurdly expensive, to the point where making a hamburger out of it would just be ridiculous. However, I’ve been to a number of places (only one in Bloomington) that serve hamburgers made with American Kobe beef, and they’re usually quite good. They’ve got a lot of fat in them, but instead of tasting greasy, they have a juicy, almost buttery quality to them. If you’re going to order a Kobe burger, do not order it medium-well or well-done, no matter how you usually like your burgers cooked. If you can’t bring yourself to eat a medium-rare burger, then just save your money and get a regular beef burger.
The Kobe burger at Bobby’s is a fantastic example of this kind of burger. It’s buttery and meaty and oh-so delicious. But… it’s not always consistently cooked. For whatever reason, sometimes when I order it medium rare, it comes out medium-well or even well-done. This has happened to me maybe three times out of the maybe ten times I’ve ordered the Kobe burger here. If this were just an ordinary hamburger, I wouldn’t even complain, but when they get it right, it’s so, so good. So if you want to taste the best burger in Bloomington, send it back if it comes out overdone. They’ll be happy to get you a new one, and you’ll probably get a visit from Bobby to make sure the second one came out done properly
The one thing on the menu that I’d recommend most people avoid is the “Ultimate Grilled Cheese”. It’s made with bleu cheese, cheddar, and Swiss and topped with radish and arugula. Sometimes when I see a disgusting-sounding description like this on a menu, it turns out that it actually tastes fantastic. This is not one of those cases. The blue cheese is extremely overpowering, and the veggies do nothing to cut into that flavor. I can imagine somebody who would like this sandwich, but that person is definitely not me. Fortunately, there are a few other vegetarian items on the menu (eggplant parmesan, the quiche of the day, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a veggie quesadilla, and a couple of pasta dishes). There are a couple of vegan options, but not many, although there’s always the wonderful salad bar.
On this particular visit, we wanted to try some of the dishes that we hadn’t tried before. In particular, I (Erik) had somehow managed to avoid ordering steak at this steakhouse, so that’s what I decided to order. Initially, I’d planned on ordering the filet mignon or the prime rib, but the server talked me into the rib-eye instead. It was maybe a bit too fatty for me, but I think that’s just me. The meat was tasty and cooked as requested: a true medium rare, with a nice brown crust and a dark reddish-pink center. It came with a single fried mushroom, which was delicious. I’m not usually crazy about the standard white mushroom, but battered and fried, it is delicious. Also hot. I’m not sure what it is about fried mushrooms, but they seem to maintain their heat longer than other battered and deep-fried vegetables. I ordered broccoli for my side dish, and I think it was a tad over-cooked, but I like a bit more crunch in my cooked veggies than some.
Kira ordered the Jack Daniels salmon with a baked potato. I thought the fish was a bit too fishy, but then I always think that about salmon (unless we cook it at home ourselves for some reason). Kira liked the salmon: “a good thick portion with good flavor.” The baked potato was also good, although, as she put it, “you can’t really screw up a baked potato.”*
*If you’re anything like me, the pedant in you really wants to provide a counterargument, but I think we all know what she means.
Suzanne ordered the fish and chips, which were very tender, as all good fish and chips should be. Nothing fancy, but definitely tasty. The “chips” were your standard thick-cut steak fries, tasty with ketchup and malt vinegar.*
*Kira is probably screwing up her face at this, since we have a difference of opinion about malt vinegar. The difference being that I’m right and she’s wrong. (Hey, if she disagrees, then she can volunteer to write up the reviews herself.)
To finish things off, we ordered a slice of pecan pie (Kira’s favorite kind of pie). It’s kind of a fad these days to make pecan pie with bourbon, and maybe there’s something to it, but the bourbon flavor was a bit too strong for Kira and I. But it was still a good pecan pie, and it’s hard to go wrong with that.
The short version: Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse has all the best parts of the old Bobby’s and not much of the old Colorado Steakhouse. The servers are friendly, especially back in the Saloon. There are lots of good food options: the Sunday brunch is fantastic, the Kobe burger is the best burger in town (but send it back if it’s overcooked), the salad bar is great, and there are free munchies on Fridays. But unless you’re a blue cheese masochist, avoid the grilled cheese.