The Untold Truth Of Saltgrass Steakhouse

If you're not from Texas or somewhere near it, Saltgrass Steakhouse might not be a name that's come across your radar. And if you are, the name has most certainly come up alongside a whole host of rustic, wood and leather trimmed steakhouses serving up cowboy-themed cuisine in cast-iron skillets. 

Saltgrass may not necessarily be one-of-a-kind as far as restaurant concepts go, but the brand is rooted in a long-history and strong Texas traditions that it's proud of. And Saltgrass has built a decades-long reputation for serving hearty steaks, crave-inducing bread, and other Lone Star State favorites. This steakhouse chain has developed a business strategy that works and a comprehensive menu that keeps people coming back, proving that maybe everything really is better in Texas. 

Mashed did all the digging on Saltgrass, from their award-winning beef, to beefed-up drama that put the restaurant in the headlines. This is the untold truth of Saltgrass Steakhouse.

It all starts with the Legend of the Saltgrass Trail

Saltgrass Steakhouse got its name and its inspiration from an old Texas legend that dates back to the 1800s. Hundreds of years ago Longhorn cattle roamed all over the state, creating a source of wealth and prosperity for many cattle ranchers during the pioneer days. As the restaurant tells it, many of the cattle were driven down to the Texas gulf coast every winter "to graze on the rich coastal salt grass. And when they headed for market, they followed the legendary Salt Grass Trail, known far and wide for creating the best beef in the Lone Star State." Generations later, the Texas landscape changed and the Salt Grass Trail was mostly forgotten, but not entirely.

In 1952, this legendary trail ride was reenacted to mark the opening of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (via Library of Congress). The tradition has lived on ever since, and the annual trail ride still takes place every year to kick off the Houston Rodeo. A few decades after the annual trail rides kicked off another symbol of Texas's cattle-rich history and loyalty to tradition was born, when the first Saltgrass Steakhouse opened up right along the original path of the famous trail.

The first Saltgrass Steakhouse opened in 1991

Saltgrass Steakhouse is now celebrating 30 years of great steak dinners, done Texas-style. The first restaurant opened its doors in Houston, Texas in 1991, and still stands near the historic Saltgrass trail. Many new locations have opened since then, but the inspiration has remained the same. From the beginning, the restaurant has strived to embody Texas tradition in look and feel, from the moment guests walk in the door. According to the restaurant's parent company, you'll find decorative accents like warm wood furnishings, leather seating, and memorabilia from the Salt Grass Trail inside of each location. 

Add that to a menu packed with all the beef you could ever want, plus a host of Texas favorites, and clearly you've got a recipe for success. Which could be the reason Saltgrass has continued to see growth in both reach and revenue in recent years (via Forbes).

Saltgrass Steakhouse has since expanded far beyond the Lone Star State

While Saltgrass Steakhouse started out as a local chain, in true Texas-style, the tradition couldn't be contained to just the Lone Star State. "We started in Houston and then moved to Dallas and then opened in Beaumont, Texas, and then nearby in Lake Charles," the company's COO told Forbes. From there, the restaurant has expanded to nearly 100 locations in more than 10 states across the south and southwest, from Nevada to Nebraska to North Carolina, and nearly every state in between. And new Saltgrass locations have opened up as recently as 2020 (via Eater).

According to executives, Saltgrass Steakhouse has plans to keep growing. After three decades in business, Saltgrass has become not just a favorite among older adults, but also older millennials who grew up going to the restaurant with their families (via Forbes). And in an effort to keep up with our changing dining habits, nearly every single Saltgrass location offers delivery options from Uber Eats, Postmates, and more.

At Saltgrass Steakhouse, beef is the star of the menu

No surprises here — the menu at Saltgrass Steakhouse is all about the beef, above all else. Saltgrass promises steaks that are mouthwatering, and that starts with the quality of the meat itself. Saltgrass uses Certified Angus Beef steaks, which must pass a rigorous set of standards measuring marbling, size, appearance, and tenderness to earn the brand designation.

At the restaurants, diners can choose from nearly 10 different cuts of steak in various sizes, from ribeyes to sirloin, a New York Strip, Porterhouse, and more. Each one is seasoned with signature Saltgrass-7 steak spice, chargrilled to order, and topped with fresh garlic butter while it's still hot. It becomes a true Texas meal with the addition of a salad and a hearty side choice — like mashed potatoes, green beans, and macaroni and cheese — that's included with every steak entrée.

There's a lot more on the menu at Saltgrass than just steaks

While Saltgrass Steakhouse is an obvious choice when a craving hits for a big, juicy chunk of beef, that's not all they want to be. The restaurant knows every night out can't be a steak dinner occasion, so they've got a selection of other Texas favorites on the menu as well, bound to satisfy almost any appetite (via Forbes). Guests can start with creative crowd pleasers like fried mushrooms or pickles, queso fresco, or Range Rattlers (basically cheesy, stuffed jalapeños), as well a range of soups and salads that are made fresh in house every day. For the entrée course, dig into comfort food classics like chicken fried chicken, BBQ baby back ribs, a double-bone pork chop, or a tried and true cheeseburger. 

Saltgrass also says it sells a lot of seafood (via Forbes), offering simple favorites like shrimp and grilled Atlantic salmon. If you manage to save room for dessert, expect classic treats like cheesecake, carrot cake, or seasonal and regional specialties.

The desserts at Saltgrass Steakhouse are made from scratch every day

Dessert often gets the short end of the stick when eating out. The better the meal, the better the chance of filling up before the sweets menu ever comes around. And a lot of the time, you're not missing out on the store-bought, frozen, and reheated dessert items that restaurants try to pass up as fresh. But that's not the case at Saltgrass Steakhouse. In fact, you'll definitely want to save room for their scratch-made desserts, all of which are homemade every day. 

The offerings vary from restaurant to restaurant, with some whipping up cheesecake, pecan pie, and carrot cake. Or hot and fresh skillet desserts like a fudge brownie sundae drizzled with warm caramel, a cinnamon sugar bread pudding, coated in tres leches sauce, and more. You really can't go wrong — all of the dessert items have rave reviews from fans online — unless you skip out on these sweet treats all together.

Every meal at Saltgrass Steakhouse comes with complimentary Texas beer bread

There's nothing better at a restaurant than getting a complimentary snack to whet your appetite as you wait for your food. At Saltgrass Steakhouse, you'll get to bide your time while your steak is on the grill with their signature Texas Bock beer-bread. The soft, fluffy rolls are freshly baked in house every morning, according to the restaurant, and so delicious when eaten warm and slathered with sweet and savory honey butter.

These rolls are so beloved, there are quite a few copycat recipes out there, so you can definitely try and recreate Saltgrass's beer bread recipe at home. But our advice is to just head out for steak night and indulge in the real thing. And according to diners on Yelp, you can get all the beer bread and honey butter your heart desires at Saltgrass. All you have to do is ask.

It's pretty tough to eat healthy at Saltgrass Steakhouse

A meal at Saltgrass Steakhouse will no doubt leave you feeling satiated, satisfied, and maybe even stuffed. But more than likely, it will also leave you with a calorie overload. Saltgrass doesn't hold back on the flavor, and that means sugar, fat, salt, and dairy make frequent appearances across the menu, not just on the steaks, which get slathered with butter upon serving. Saltgrass provides calorie counts for all the items on its menu, but it doesn't make nutrition facts beyond that readily available. For the rest, the nutrition tracking app My Fitness Pal has estimates for most of the restaurant's menu items.

To give you an example of what you're in for, a basic 12-ounce ribeye is estimated at 885 calories and 71 grams of fat. Add mashed potatoes for another 320 calories and 19 grams of fat, maybe a Caesar salad too, for 270 calories and 21 grams of fat. And don't forget the signature bread, with each roll coming in at 219 calories and 12 grams of fat. Combine all that together for one meal, and that's nearly a whole day's worth of calories, as recommended by health experts (via FDA). And that's not even counting dessert. 

When it comes to business strategy, Saltgrass Steakhouse takes the middle road, and it works

Some might find it difficult to put Saltgrass Steakhouse into a restaurant category. It's not quite as fancy as some white tablecloth steakhouse chains like Ruth's Chris, but it's a little more upscale in atmosphere and price point than a local Chili's or Outback Steakhouse. Saltgrass falls somewhere in the gray area between all those options. And as it turns out, that's a specific business strategy that executives at Saltgrass say plays a huge role in keeping the brand popular among the competition. 

"Because we're placed in the middle, we attract from both sides," Saltgrass COO, Terry Turney, told Forbes. Clearly, it's a strategy that works, and Saltgrass has got the numbers to prove it, which show the restaurant growing aggressively in relation to other steakhouse chains. Restaurant group Landry's, which owns Saltgrass Steakhouse, calls it one of the company's fastest growing brands.

Saltgrass Steakhouse has racked up dozens of awards

Saltgrass Steakhouse boasts fresh, high-quality ingredients, and promises a satisfying dining experience that evokes "the flavor of the open campfire" and lives up to its legendary roots. That seems like a high bar to meet, but it would seem Saltgrass is stepping up to the culinary challenge. The restaurant has racked up nearly 100 different awards over the years, all listed on its website, which is a big deal considering all the other steakhouse competitors they're up against. 

Most recently, Saltgrass received a 2020 Travelers' Choice award from TripAdvisor, and the year before that it was named one of the Local Favorites of Southwest Louisiana. But that's just a drop in the bucket. Saltgrass has swept up the title of "Best Steak" and "Best Steakhouse" in dozens of cities across Texas, and in several states. You definitely don't get that far serving up mediocre beef.

You can (try to) get the signature Saltgrass taste on your steaks at home

If you don't have a Saltgrass Steakhouse near you, or you just like to take on new challenges in the kitchen, you can try to throw together a typical Saltgrass-style steak dinner. There are countless copycat recipes online, to help you recreate a range of Saltgrass menu favorites. But you can also get your hands on a special ingredient that will help you make the next best thing to a steak right from the Saltgrass kitchen. 

We're talking about Saltgrass's signature seasoning blend, used on all of its steaks. It's made with a perfect balance of salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, and ground thyme. But don't worry, you don't have to try and guess the ratios. The restaurant sells bottles of its 7 Spice Steak Seasoning blend for home cooks to ship right to their own kitchens. You can also find it at some grocery stores.

Saltgrass Steakhouse made headlines over an alleged racist incident

A few years ago, Saltgrass Steakhouse found itself in the spotlight over an alleged racist incident, and things took a strange twist. In mid-2018, it was reported that a customer at Saltgrass had written a racist note to a server on a receipt. The restaurant issued a statement in support of the server and banned the customer from the establishment in response (via CBS). 

However, a few days later, Saltgrass executives discovered the employee involved had actually faked the entire story and the note (via Washington Post). The details behind why the server, who was let go at the time, fabricated the incident isn't totally clear. Some sources suggest the server was attempting to draw attention to a serious issue, but clearly went about it all wrong. Saltgrass says it reached out to the customer that was banned, and invited them back to dine at the restaurant for free (via My San Antonio).

Saltgrass faced a lawsuit related to the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought strife for everyone in different forms, and restaurants in particular faced a unique set of struggles. Saltgrass Steakhouse happened to find itself on the wrong end of a pandemic-related incident that took place at a location in Little Rock, Arkansas, back in September 2020. According to reports, a couple decided to sue the restaurant after a fight broke out over pandemic safety measures (via ABC News).

Apparently, the couple who filed the lawsuit had asked patrons near them in the restaurant to adhere to social distancing measures, and stand further away. What happened next is unclear. Some reports say the patrons then blatantly coughed on the couple. Other reports say the opposite happened. Either way, a fight escalated, with nearly 10 people getting involved, and a glass bottle being thrown (via Insider). The lawsuit alleges that restaurant management did not do anything to stop the violence, and that the Saltgrass location was not following proper government-mandated pandemic protocols at the time, including limiting restaurant capacity, and enforcing social distancing and facial coverings. Saltgrass stood its ground in response and said that while it does not condone disrespectful acts of any kind, it "will not compensate these individuals for a fight that began and ended with their violent acts" (via ABC News).