My time here in South Carolina is quickly drawing to a close, so some friends and I decided to go to Outback Steakhouse for dinner last night. It is an “Australian-themed” restaurant found throughout the US and we thought it would be a bit of fun to check it out. There were four Americans and three Australians in our group. And let’s just say that the three of us Aussies agreed that the term “Australian-themed” is used very loosely.
Do not let the guy with the thick Australian accent in their ads fool you.
Let me start with the good stuff. Regardless of whether it is particularly Australian or not, the food is delicious. Our whole group thoroughly enjoyed what we ordered. I had the Tilapia with pure clump crab meat, which was tasty. I also got a drink, which I discuss further below, and it was good. There are two things that I am glad the restaurant does not follow about Australia – the staff happily split the bill and the menu is reasonably priced. There are some Australian-themed pictures and signs around the restaurant. But that is pretty much where the authenticity stops. Basically, Outback Steakhouse serves American food with Australian locations tacked on to the beginning of their names.
The signature item is the Bloomin’ Onion. And right off the bat, this is something that is so American in all of its huge, deep-fried, greasy, salty but sweet goodness. I have never seen or heard of this in Australia. It is in good company amongst other menu items such Alice Springs Quesadillas, Alice Springs Chicken (not sure what is with the fascination with Alice Springs), Aussie Cheese Fries, Aussie Fish Tacos and Chocolate Thunder from Down Under (clearly just a regular brownie). Mate, no. Just no. Then there are the items that do not try to be even slightly Australian. California Chicken Sandwich, Baby Back Ribs, New York Strip, New York Cheesecake… Please tell me how this is not just a typical American restaurant?
The drinks menu is also interesting. It includes cocktails such as the Gold Coast Margarita, New South Wales Sangria, Sydney’s Cosmo and The Wallaby Darned (a peach bellini). All of these appear to just be the standard version of the drink. I can confirm this firsthand for the Gold Coast Margarita. It was your typical, delicious margarita – nothing particularly “Gold Coast” about it. Though, I am not sure I would want to know what the taste of the Gold Coast would be. In its defence, Outback Steakhouse does serve a range of Australian wine and beer – including my beloved Jacob’s Creek Moscato, which is a staple in my diet back home.
Perhaps the greatest insult at Outback Steakhouse is that one of the dishes is New Zealand lamb. Serving something from across the ditch at an Australian-themed restaurant?! Do these people know nothing about our country or its rivalries?! Just kidding. Obviously the Sam Kekovich ads did not make it over to the US. Or maybe they just think New Zealand is a part of Australia.
Rumour has it that the owners of Outback Steakhouse have never actually visited Australia… and it shows. At least serve a bloody burger with some beetroot on it, mate!
The founders of Outback Steakhouse have never been to Australia.