Beef seems to be slowly getting stampeded right out of the American diet. Or at least that’s what one might think if they heeded the warnings of former surgeon general and all-around health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, super-sizer Morgan Spurlock, and the final say on American opinion, Oprah. A trip to the legendary Little Red Barn Steakhouse on SA’s southeast side, however, suggests otherwise. In fact, the Little Red Barn Steakhouse seems to be doing so well they’re building a whole new annex to their already massive structure.
And what a structure it is. The interior is somehow both surreal and gritty. It’s like a Pee-wee Herman playhouse painted in bright splashes of red. The waitresses dress in 1950s cowgirl outfits with pistol belts, while insignias of regional ranches and signatures of local law enforcers decorate every imaginable inch of the walls. The production design is impeccable and one might think it’s an over-the-top satire of ranch culture, but that culture is real and those ranchers fill the seats, giving this place its integrity.
Upon sitting down, one immediately receives a salad. It’s a wonderfully friendly gesture but also a brilliant tactical maneuver. Any health anxieties are addressed from the beginning, which then sets the stage for the real draw. The steak options — the irresistible force of gravity that magnetically pulls people through the door — are plentiful and affordable. A huge T-bone known as the “King of Steaks,” a massive Porterhouse, 12-oz. ribeyes, prime rib, New York strip — each less than $17, with many closer to $13. The steaks here aren’t the most tender, but for the price they are a good bargain. If one is looking for beef that has been massaged, sung to, and filled with positive reinforcement for all of its short life, there are other places to go.
I ordered the Porterhouse cooked medium. It’s a sprawling cut of meat. The outside portions of the short loin were a bit fatty, but that was easy to work around. The meat closer to the T-bone improved in flavor with almost every bite. Though there were few overtones or nuances, the flavor was classic and satisfying.
For the first 45 minutes of chewing I ate it straight. But as the night wore on I felt it was appropriate to go with some sort of steak sauce, and Heinz 57 helped carry me through to the end. I thought I would have passed out from the cannonball bolus of steak in my stomach but all the chewing must have burned off a few calories in the process. For those with less time, and jaw strength, there’s no shame in eating modestly. The leftovers are usually enough for another meal or two.