Bridging the Gap Between High-End & Low-End Steakhouses

I haven’t had a steak worth mentioning for a really long time. It’s not that steak at chain or local restaurants aren’t worth mentioning (they are good), but I wanted something really good. To get something like that, you have to go out of your way to an upscale restaurant & dish out the cash to get it. I originally wanted to go to one of the few places in Nashville that serves USDA Prime steaks because I haven’t had one in over a year but I didn’t want Haley to “suffer” from dining at a restaurant like that. Generally every high-end restaurant has limited choices on entrees and Haley has an even tougher time choosing them because 1) her palate isn’t used to the intense tastes that accompany entrees of that scale and 2) she cannot fathom spending $20+ on an entree. The only alternative I could come up with is Stoney River Legendary Steaks. We’ve been to multiple locations in the past and decided that Stoney River Legendary Steaks in Franklin, TN would be the location of choice.

Stoney River is a chain steakhouse that is owned by O’Charley’s and comprises of only 11 locations in the United States. O’Charley’s markets the brand as an upscale steakhouse and does so by their atmosphere as well as 2-page menu with numerous cuts & sizes of steak available ranging from the $20 – $34 range. Each Stoney River restaurant is styled to resemble a gigantic lodge (which they say provides comfort and “sanctuary”) with a signature red canoe mounted somewhere in the premises.

Franklin’s Stoney River is probably one of the nicer ones I’ve visited. Dimly lit, yet very clean, wide open spaces with wooden and brick architecture reminiscent of some of the higher end chalets in the Smoky Mountains. The wait wasn’t very long, but Haley was there waiting for me so I assumed she already put her name while I was on my way. We were directed to the right corner of the farthest dining room in the restaurant. In this section, there were no patrons, so it was almost like we had a VIP experience by dining alone. Upon being seated, we were greeted by our waiter who was very good but unfortunately I forgot his name. He was polite, had lots of suggestions, and was very prompt. I was beamed by his level of service; however it plummeted off as the night progressed. I’m not sure if it was the fact that we were tucked away in the corner but luckily for him, Stoney River is the kind of restaurant where every waiter/waitress helps every table. So his colleagues helped deliver the food, bused our empty plates, and gave us refills… so that was his lifeline to keep us from getting annoyed by is lack of attention.

Seeing how I ate at Chuy’s earlier that day, I didn’t think I was very hungry until I saw the menu. I ended up getting a large meal consisting of Roasted Onion Soup, Baked Potato with Butter, Sautéed Mushrooms, Steamed Broccoli, and the largest steak they offered, a 22 oz Bone-In (Cowboy) Ribeye cooked medium rare. I couldn’t wait to dig in.

We started out with a basket of Stone Puppies, Stoney River’s signature bread with a sweet butter.  Stone Puppies are tiny bread balls that taste like yeast rolls, but are fried. The taste is similar to a warm, fresh doughnut hole without the sugar glaze. I like doughnuts and I like sweet butter, so you can imagine how many I ate.

Next came my Roasted Onion soup, a soup made from roasted caramelized sweet onions with a touch of fresh cream. The only time I’ve ever had “French onion soup” that compared was when I made it myself from a recipe I lost long ago. The recipe called for caramelizing onions for over 8 hours (which I did in a slow cooker) and provided the sweetest onions I’ve ever tasted and the most delicious onion soup I’ve ever eaten. This soup was as good if not better.

As for my main course, the only memorable thing was obviously the steak. It’s not that the sides weren’t good but there’s only so much you can do with vegetables without adding something to them. The baked potato was large, cooked piping hot with a dollop of butter. The broccoli was steamed to perfection, still slightly crisp with a splash of lemon juice. The mushrooms were sautéed just right (not too long to where you get massive shrinkage of the mushrooms). As for the 22 oz Bone-In (Cowboy) Ribeye, it wasn’t USDA Prime but it was cooked perfectly. The waiter even asked me to cut into it to make sure it was done right and I applaud Stoney River for being concerned about that upon delivering my food rather than checking with me a couple minutes later. There’s nothing more disappointing than buying a $30+ steak to find that it’s cooked not to your specification. Having the branding “steakhouse” means that their sole purpose is to cook steaks and know how to do it right. With that said, Stoney River has never delivered a badly cooked steak when I’ve dined there.

So how did the steak fare? One of the better steaks I’ve had and I contribute that to the cut, the powerful seasoning of garlic, herbs, and salt, and the bone. There’s nothing that delivers like a bone-in steak. Many of you may be wondering, why bone-in? It is widely known to cooks and chefs that meat with the bone provides a more flavorful, intense taste than the same cut with the bone removed. The reason for this is because the bone & fat surrounding it transfers the natural juices over to the meat during the cooking process, resulting in juicy, tender meat with a “sweeter” taste. This is why bone-in cuts of meat are typically more expensive than their deboned counterparts.

Unfortunately we didn’t get dessert. Haley wanted ice cream so I shall save that for my next review. Overall the meal at Stoney River was as good as it gets for mid-range steakhouses. I believe Stoney River is that bridge that sets steak apart from lower-scale steakhouses like Texas Roadhouse and Logan’s and upscale chains like Fleming’s, Morton’s, and Ruth Chris. I don’t think you could ask for better quality beef at that price range. Could you get a better steak by paying more? Only if it was USDA Prime but expect to pay almost 1.5 times more for your steak. So if you happen to fall upon one of Stoney River’s 11 locations in the United States and are craving steak, I suggest you give it a try.

Stoney River Legendary Steaks
1726 Galleria Boulevard
Franklin, TN‎
(615) 778-0230‎

Bill Total: $54 For Two

Stoney River Legendary Steaks on Urbanspoon

Food:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Service:3.5/5.0 ★★★½☆ 
Atmosphere:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Price:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Overall:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 

2 comments to Bridging the Gap Between High-End & Low-End Steakhouses

  • Have you ever eaten at a Smith and Wolensky’s? We’ve never had a bad steak there. Pricey, in a Ruth Chris sort of way, but the steaks are better. They age their beef in house. If you want a really good piece of beef age it 28 days before cutting it. The reason prime steaks used to be required to have their bone in when cooked and served is that in the “old days” some restaurants would try to substitute an inferior cut for a prime one if they could get away with it. Just a touch of trivia. So if you ever buy a beef (or a half), to be slaughtered for your freezer remember to tell the butcher to hang it for 28 days before cutting and packaging.

    • Unfortunately I haven’t. It seems they are only in the bigger select cities around the US so maybe it’s time for another vacation/roadtrip!

      I don’t think I’ll ever delve into that much detail of slaughtering cattle. I’d rather have someone serve it to me aged & cut.

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