30.26604° N, 97.74509° W
Aesthetically, there’s nothing wrong with Sullivan’s, except that the wood wood wood steakhouse look is starting to get tired. They have a pretty nice bar, but the extreme sports show on the TV (while fun to watch: especially the spectacular bicycle crash) didn’t really belong.
I thought it was kind of strange for our waiter to start out by pushing the stone crab claws. While I applaud steakhouses that offer some variety for those who don’t eat red meat, the server’s hard sell set the wrong tone.
One of my fellow diners (who had been to Sullivan’s several times in the past) commented that he had better steaks at Outback. I think that’s harsh, but accurate. My steak lacked the tenderness and flavor of those I’ve had at both Ruth’s Chris and Fleming’s: I finished about half of it and tossed the rest later.
I am glad that Sullivan’s does include a (decent) wedge salad in the price of the steak: I wish that more high-end steakhouses would do this. As for the sides, the au gratin potatos were competent, but pale in comparison to Fleming’s kicked-up version. I was unimpressed with the sauteed mushrooms and onions.
It is possible that Sullivan’s was having an off night. But since it also seemed to be prom night, I would expect them to be at their best (unless what they were interested in was hustling the rubes). I might consider a return trip, if I heard better things from people I trusted. But at these prices I’d only give them one more chance.
It was time once again for our yearly Big Steak trip, and having sampled downtown’s other high end options (Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Fleming’s), we decided to try Sullivan’s. While it has its virtues, I have to rank it as the least interesting of the three.
As for ambiance, the restaurant is attractive, but doesn’t have the touch of elegance that elevates Fleming’s, nor the Serious Wood Tone look of Ruth’s Chris. Also, while the restroom is better designed than Ruth’s Chris, its overwhelming ordinariness (save for the nice, thick paper towels, which I do appreciate) pales in comparison to Fleming’s swanky water closet. For appetizers, we skipped the hideously overpriced crab claws (did they swipe this idea from Truluck’s?) and instead went for escargot, calamari, and a cajun crab cake. The escargot was very good and quite large, thought it could have used more garlic. The crab cake was also fairly tasty, and a much better deal than that offered at Mrs. B’s. The calamari was fine, but I’m afraid that The Clay Pit’s numinous offering has ruined merely competent calamari for us.
One virtue Sullivan’s has over its competitors is the inclusion of a wedge salad with your steak. Though smaller than the gargantuan field of greens Ruth’s Chris lays out, the price savings makes it worth the tradeoff. I also very much liked my side of hashbrowns (real hashbrowns, not that cubed potato crap lazy restaurants try to pass off as hashbrowns these days). And my porterhouse? Tasty enough, but still disappointing, being neither as generous nor “vertical” as that offered at Ruth’s Chris, nor as flavorful as either Ruth’s Chris or Fleming’s offerings. The creme brulee was very good, but the caramelized topping seemed just a touch thicker than I usually prefer it, leaving Ruth’s Chris the winner here as well.
Service was reasonably attentive but a bit “average” by high end steak house standards. The water refill busgirl managed to slop water on one of Andrew “Simple Minds and Severed Heads” Wimsatt’s fortunately empty side plates while refilling his glass, then walked blithely away. I also had to wait a bit longer than necessary for soft drink refills and ketchup for my hashbrowns. These lapses were small enough that I wouldn’t usually note them (except perhaps for the water; that was a bit odd), but it did provide an unwelcome contrast to the hyper-attentive service offered at other restaurants in this price range.
All in all, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Sullivan’s. While a bit more affordable (“affordable” being a relative term) than it’s swanky competitors, it seems to lack those special touches that elevate the fine dining experience. It lacks sizzle. At these prices, I expect sizzle.