Al’s Steak House & Banquets: Don’t Judge this Book by its Cover

als-steak-houseAl’s Steak House & Banquets
1990 W. Jefferson St., Joliet, IL 60435
(815)725-2388

You know that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, I think there needs to be a restaurant version —

Don’t judge a restaurant by its exterior.

OK, I know that’s not as catchy, but you get the concept.

Located on a length of Jefferson Street, in Joliet that is a mish-mash of outdated, smallish strip malls from the 60s and 70s, intermixed with an occasional office building or car dealership. The area isn’t one I’d normal equate with “fine dining.” To compound this, the exterior of Al’s looks more like an old Mexican restaurant — complete with stucco exterior, flat roof and a red ring of roof tiles.

Remember what I said about not judging a book by its cover?

Don’t!

As soon as I actually entered Al’s Steak House, my perception changed to – “OK, this is actually really nice!” So different from the outside! And, so different from the surrounding area!

It was like walking into the TARDIS and discovering it was bigger on the inside. (Actually, that’s really accurate, because Al’s feels so much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside!)  But, the main point is, the exterior and the location really is underwhelming, and then you go in and think, “Oh, wow!”

Now, we’re not talking glitzy, nuovo restaurant styling here. Al’s is classic, upscale, Chicago steakhouse. It’s the kind of place my parents would go to once a year on a special occasion — without my brother or I! — because they new they were going to have an exceptional meal.

Seating is spacious and abundant – timeless and comfortable wood and leather. And, despite the main dining room being a huge, open room, it wasn’t loud.

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I apologize for the blurry picture.

Dress code is non-existent. Grant was in slacks and a button-down shirt. I had on a simple black cocktail dress. We saw others in similar attire, even a few jacketed men. However, we also saw several folks in jeans, and even one lady who was in overly-tight jeans, cotton tank top (like something I’d work out in) and gold heels! That outfit shouldn’t be worn anywhere. Period.

Our waitress greeted us immediately and took our drink orders. One stumbling point for Al’s is their beer selection. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know we enjoy microbrews (or even macro-microbrews – microbreweries now owned by the big guys). Mass-produced American lagers are fine for a hot, summer day when you’re mowing the lawn or working in the garden, but not what either my husband or I want when going to a nice restaurant. Sadly, Al’s is heavy on the Big 3 – Anheuser, Coors and Miller – with the only other variant being Sam Adams (which is what Grant settled for, while I just opted for iced tea.) With so many amazing local microbreweries in the area (Pollyanna in Lemont, IL and Werk Force in Plainfield, IL, just to name two), Al’s really needs to think about giving customers some sort of craft beer offering — I know it would’ve increased our dinner bill.

Our waitress also quickly brought us a basket with two rolls (one whole wheat, one white — both soft, warm and DELICIOUS!!!) and a basket of crackers and crakery breadsticks. This also reminded me of when I was a kid, when the only “appetizer” we ever had was Saltines brought to the table that we would spread butter on. :-)

Grant started with the salad bar. It was a well-stocked bar, with everything you need to start the meal off right. The veggies were fresh and crisp, and the staff take pride in keeping it clean.

I started with a bowl of French Onion soup (an upcharge from the Soup of the Day that comes with the meal). This was a generous bowl with a thick, wonderful layer of cheese melted over the top – as it should be. The soup itself was served at the perfect temperature – hot but not scalding. I appreciated that. You could taste that it was made with red wine, which was a nice change, since I make mine with stout beer. In general, it was a little saltier than I’d make at home, but I gobbled it up anyway.

Then the steaks came…

MMMMMMM!!!!

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This is what I’d been looking forward to, and Al’s Steak House didn’t disappoint! Grant had the Top Sirloin Butt Steak, I opted for the Rib-Eye.

Both were char-grilled on the outside and beautifully pink and juicy in the center. Grant’s sirloin was lean and flavorful, as a good sirloin should be. My rib-eye was gorgeously marbled, making it super-tender and it would almost melt in my mouth! Oh so good!!

This is the way steak is meant to be cooked!

0309161906[1]Oh, and did I mention the double-baked potato? That could literally be a meal in itself. Fluffy, flavorful and so decadent with the smothering of butter and chive-infused sour cream!  I had to force myself to stop eating it, because I knew we wanted to try a dessert, and I was getting so full! It was probably the hardest thing I have done in a long time — preventing myself from continuing to scarf down every delicious potatoey bit!

Then came dessert. And it didn’t disappoint!

0309161929[1]Death by chocolate. Yes, please! If you’ve got to go, this is the way to do it!! Smooth, creamy and, yes, CHOCOLATEY!! Even though we were splitting this slice, it was so, very decadent, we couldn’t finish it!

I tried. I really, really did!

I literally walked out of Al’s Steak House going, “Oh my God! I ate WAY too much!!”

That doesn’t happen often. That’s a sign of food so good that I just can’t help myself! A definite compliment!

Two thumbs up!!

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