Food & Drink » Appetite

Head west (again)


Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, to correct errors related to the source of the restaurant's beef.

Take the affordable comfort-food concept that's sustained the Mason Jar for 19 years, and combine it with typical Western décor (hello, wood-log wallpaper), some ranch-y food and a location that's spurned two iterations of New South Wales restaurant, and you've got Zane's Steak House.

Of course, Zane's wasn't always Zane's: For a while, it was the second location of the Mason Jar, which moved in when NSW moved out. In late August, with sales there lagging behind expectations, the spot was rebooted, says co-owner Jeff Yauger.

"While we felt the Mason Jar was a great concept for a neighborhood restaurant, we felt that a steak house would be more of a destination for people," he says.

In my two visits, it certainly seemed a destination for elderly people, but that's probably because the menu's accessible and affordable, and the food's pretty good. But I don't mean the steaks — because the steaks, from Cargill Inc.'s Sterling Silver Premium Meats, are phenomenal.

Properly cross-hatched, finished with a compound butter and rested for three minutes before serving, a six-ounce filet ($15.99) and a 10-ounce ribeye ($13.99) give as good as they get; the filet doesn't at all resist being sheared into buttery bites, while the ribeye is almost gleeful in its rich fattiness.

Meatheads can continue with the serviceable Lefty's Baby Back Ribs (half/$11.99), which are braised, then covered with a thick, almost tomato-chutney-like, sauce. Yauger won't give all the ingredients, but does mention sauerkraut and mushrooms. Accompanying is a cup of one-dimensional stuffed bell pepper soup — ground beef and chopped peppers in a tomato broth, left over from the Mason Jar days.

Moving to somewhat lighter items, Silent's Sandwich ($8.29) offers slightly dry roast beef with tomatoes and horseradish sauce on a great, toasted Parmesan sourdough. And a barbecue chicken sandwich ($7.99) with cheddar cheese is smoky and tender, with really good bacon. Outshining both, though, are the house-made onion rings, battered red onions that gush flavor and are easy to eat.

You can get those rings as an appetizer ($5.49), too, though you'll be just as happy with a set of quesadillas ($5.99; plus $1.99 with grilled chicken), pushing out fresh and chunky green chilies, peppers, onions and tomatoes with cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, and toasted right. Skip Fast Frank's Spicy Chicken Strips ($6.99), which are just average.

On the other end of your meal, huge slices of chocolate fudge cake ($5.79) and caramel-drizzled apple pie ($4.99) come with vanilla ice cream, not to mention a brush with diabetes. No complaints there, as long as you don't mind that they're corporately sourced. (Yauger declined to name the desserts' origin.)

As far as service, our waiter was overenthusiastic to an exit-delaying fault during one visit. But things mellowed at dinner, where my girlfriend and I found ourselves surprised at how much we enjoyed the cowboy art, and complimentary homemade green-chili-and-cheddar cornbread-in-a-pan.

Of course, it didn't hurt that among the faux was a genuine find: a print of Frederic S. Remington's painting The Fall of the Cowboy. Art nut that she is, my girlfriend couldn't stop talking about what a surprise it was, to discover such a quality delight at Zane's.

My steak-centered sentiments, exactly.

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