I Ate At Texas Roadhouse For The Very First Time—And Probably The Last

I can't say I'd never heard of Texas Roadhouse before eating there — but even so, I knew practically nothing about the chain. Personally, I blame the name for my lack of interest: "Texas Roadhouse" is arguably a pretty generic moniker, one that would fit any steakhouse situated off the highway. So, imagine my surprise when my fiancé told me Texas Roadhouse is currently "a thing" on TikTok.

Why? Apparently, it's the rolls. I've had my fair share of noteworthy free bread at places like Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. Still, I don't regularly eat at those chains, let alone rave about them on social media. Rolls do not make a meal, but is that all there is to Texas Roadhouse's fame?

Far from it. Over just a couple of decades, Texas Roadhouse has spread to 49 out of 50 states (sorry, Hawaii). Generally speaking, this is largely thanks to its made-from-scratch sides, legendary margaritas, ice-bold beers, hand-cut steaks, and yes, fresh-baked bread.

However, there's also a cultural element to Texas Roadhouse's success. Each location has unique murals celebrating its local community, and every site depicts Native Americans in honor of its land's original inhabitants. The company behind this brand also seems to foster an employee-friendly environment, backed up by a plethora of awards. Add in the charity work, and you've got a food service brand whose whole identity is about serving people in a very wholesome, Americana kind of way. So naturally, I had to experience this for myself.

Was Texas Roadhouse truly welcoming?

I should be fair to Texas Roadhouse: Its name is the opposite of false advertising. Upon entering my first location, my fiancé and I were greeted by décor reminiscent of Southwestern Americana. One mural featured an armadillo holding Mexican and U.S. flags. Crafts that appeared to be made by Indigenous Americans sat alongside cowboy hats. Caricatures of country stars and NASCAR drivers smiled down at us. Fake taxidermy deer heads jutted out the walls. Neon signs advertised beef and beer.

Aside from the paraphernalia, we were also greeted by a two-hour wait. That was quite the letdown, and there was nowhere to sit until our table was ready, but fortunately, there was plenty of entertainment provided. A jukebox let me play country songs for free, while a large handful of big-screen TVs showed live sports, and line-dancing performances broke up the monotony. Eventually, though, I resorted to grabbing a children's coloring book to fill time.

Still, Texas Roadhouse knew what I was truly there for. Upon arrival, the kitchen, located off to the side through an open window, caught my eye. Hot rolls were placed on the adjoining countertop for servers to grab, and hand-cut steaks were refrigerated in a glass display. As the scent of fresh food was becoming too appetizing to bear, my name was finally called, at long last. Impressively, the instant we reported to the hostess, she grabbed a basket of rolls and led us to the table with it.

Texas Roadhouse's offerings ended up being a hit-or-miss

The second we sat down, I dug into warm, fluffy bread, which tasted savory, sweet, and a little salty. The honey cinnamon butter was just icing on top. (I now understand why TikTok is obsessed.) As advertised, my draft beer was perfectly ice-cold. Meanwhile, my fiancé ordered the classic margarita, but declined the kicker; perhaps that's why my sip of it tasted watery and forgettable. (It didn't help that the glass was too heavy to lift and drink from its salt rim.)

The traditional star at Texas Roadhouse, though, is steak — but despite ordering it cooked medium, our steak arrived well-done, and it tasted merely like dry meat. The steak sauce, while spicy, did little to help. Instead, the made-from-scratch side dish — baked sweet potato with toasted marshmallows and caramel sauce — stole the show. Regardless, the true appeal of the menu lies in its affordability. My fiancé and I left the restaurant feeling full, with boxes of leftovers in hand, without emptying our wallets.

Service-wise, nearly every employee wore a shirt with the words "I love my job" printed across the back, and while that's likely mandatory, it was nice the workers, at least, acted like this was true. Our orders, unfortunately, sometimes got lost in the mix, and empty dishes began to pile up by the end. Regardless, on the whole, our servers went out of their way to be both friendly and helpful. But is inconsistency worth a two-hour wait?

Texas Roadhouse is not all it's hyped up to be

Dining at my first Texas Roadhouse was a novel experience, but it's not a chain I'll revisit anytime soon. The rolls arguably are all there is to the chain's fame. Why wait two hours for rolls?

Admittedly, the in-your-face ambiance sets a perfect stage for group celebrations. Still, without reservations, how is that convenient for anybody to plan? Additionally, the staff is friendly, but unless all those workers made their shirts themselves, I assume it's more of a curated image than anything else. Texas Roadhouse is, at least, undeniably proud of its heritage. Right?

Texas Roadhouse began in Indiana, not Texas, and it's now based in Kentucky. Its patriotic Texan vibe is a product, not a true identity. Besides, the theme is a fairly acquired taste; if you think a mural of U.S. soldiers staring down a parallel mural of Native Americans is charming rather than problematic, you'll enjoy Texas Roadhouse's unabashedly 'Merican identity. Consider, though, that each restaurant features a mural celebrating its modern U.S. community, while every site also features the same "older, distinguished Native American," Texas Roadhouse claims, "which honors the Native American culture," as if thousands of years of Indigenous American cultures deserve a single homage.

To make Texas Roadhouse a perfect pit stop, snag your single seat at the bar, passively enjoy its ambience, fill up on affordable food, and take home leftovers. As for me, I won't be raving about it on TikTok.