Thursday, July 06, 2006


It's a bit hard to believe the place has any visitors at all. It's a restaurant pinned against Interstate 185, and hidden behind a motel next to Cross Country Plaza. Who knows how many people have taken one wrong turn, given up and settled for Firehouse Subs?

Yet Longhorn Steakhouse has resisted the trend to move to the north side of Columbus - and it still can draw a big crowd in the middle of town on a weekend evening. I found that out a few Saturday nights ago, when I drove there for dinner. This sort of "Longhorn drive" seemed all right to me - although the Texas Longhorns driving on Kansas in football probably wouldn't be.

I arrived at Longhorn Steakhouse a bit after 8:30 on a Saturday night - and found not only a practically-full parking lot, but a couple of families waiting on the restaurant's long front porch. We would have had a lovely view of I-185 traffic, but some Texas-sized vegetation was in the way.

Even at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday, there was a 30-minute wait for a table at Longhorn Steakhouse. I'm not sure if it speaks to the high quality of the restaurant - or the fact that there aren't many other steakhouses south of Manchester Expressway.

Thankfully I brought a magazine to read while I waited for a table - but a big dog in the front parking lot distracted me. First it was in the bed of a parked pickup truck. A few minutes later, I looked up and saw it wandering around near the front porch. I assume this dog's owner did NOT use the currently popular phrase, "to-go box...."

When it grew too dark to read the magazine, I walked inside Longhorn Steakhouse with my strobe-light pager to continue the wait. It was a bit surprising to see NO peanuts on the floor anywhere. People in Midtown Columbus are much neater than some people realize....

Since it's a steak house, I ordered steak - an eight-ounce "Renegade," which the menu promised would be served with "prairie dust." I couldn't really tell the difference between prairie dust and the ordinary Southern kind in my kitchen.

My side dish with the Renegade steak was Longhorn's "brandied cinnamon apples." The taste didn't seem that unusual to me -- but then, I don't drink brandy. I'm not even watching Brandy on "America's Got Talent."

(The brandy makes Longhorn seem a little like an upscale steak house. At some Columbus barbecue restaurants, the only fancy extra for cinnamon apples might be a dab of bottled water.)

The Renegade was a nice, tasty steak - but the eight-ounce size seemed small to me. Hardee's seems to spread out its half-pound burger a bit wider, somehow....

Since I had a pie waiting at home, I skipped the dessert menu at Longhorn Steakhouse. So I can't tell you about the items with "decadence" in their names -- and the top-dollar decadent prices to match.

With a coupon I'd come across, I had a steak dinner with salad and a soda at Longhorn Steakhouse for less than 13 dollars. And yes, that included a standard tip. Now that's a meal which reminds me of Texas - a small town in Texas, about 20 years ago.

And dinner moved right along, once I was seated at Longhorn Steakhouse. I was finished and out the door in about 50 minutes. But one thing left me disappointed about this midtown survivor. When I went to Longhorn Steakhouse, I didn't see any relatives eating dinner with Alice Cooper or Lou Ferrigno.

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of food, we've finally prepared the "Famous Pumpkin Pie" we mentioned here a few weeks ago [11 Jun]. The recipe is designed to make you feel like a real chef - except I blew it, and used one mixing bowl instead of two.

This was a "progressive dessert" like none other, as the spices were so expensive that we bought them on TWO grocery trips to stay within budget. Thankfully the little containers of ground ginger and ground cloves were well-sealed, so nothing spilled when we measured them for the pumpkin pie. If they had, I suppose I could have experimented in making a new cologne.

The Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe on the famous-name company's can of pumpkin revealed something missing in my kitchen. It required 3/4 cup of sugar - and I haven't had any plain white sugar in the house for many years. The churches I've attended actually agree with the Nation of Islam on this. If it's white, avoid it - at least when it comes to cooking.

I have well-wrapped boxes of light brown and dark brown sugar in the pantry, as alternatives. Going light for the pumpkin pie seemed to be the right choice -- and the pie wound up with a deep orange tint, without my even burning it.

The recipe called for a nine-inch pie shell to hold the pumpkin mixture. Trouble is, I didn't guess right at the supermarket -- and apparently wound up with an eight-inch graham cracker shell, which was filled with a good bit of mixture to spare. By "good bit," I mean it was more than this single guy can lick from the bowl in one sitting.

Thankfully I bought a glass pie plate at a yard sale several months ago for one dollar. It easily held the rest of the pumpkin mixture, and without a shell came out of the oven a bit like pudding. It was like the test run for the main event - and since I didn't keel over, I think I passed.

The Famous Pumpkin Pie wound up with a slightly blackened pie shell, but tasted right and overall turned out well. If I can make pumpkin pie in June when no one is expecting it, maybe I'll be able to sneak it into the church Thanksgiving dinner in November - and maybe people actually will try some.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now that we've had dinner and dessert, let's get down to more substantial things - and what one blog reader calls some "random thoughts:"

I was quite surprised to see the Cols Ledger-Enquirer publish a Letter to the Editor signed "Brother Love" [30 Jun]. I thought one of their rules was you have to sign your name. Or is that his legal name?

You stated that Paul Olson "lost" the complaint he brought before the state Ethics Commission [30 Jun]. I think whoever paid those high-priced Atlanta attorneys who represented the city officials were the real losers. Would that happen to be.... the taxpayers? And how many thousand dollars was that?

I read that Paul Olson did not hire an attorney. I guess the city officials either didn't feel comfortable representing themselves or saw no need for that if they could have others pick up the tab for their attorneys.

And finally - ref: David Glisson. I understand his wife has a high paid position with the city of Columbus so maybe he doesn't need to work. The newspaper indicated that he was now disabled so maybe he's drawing a disability check.

I'm assuming there really is a person with the name Brother Love. The Columbus phone book lists two lines for a "B Love" - and don't you wonder about the comments "Poppy Love" has received over the years.

Keep in mind the late-June letter from Brother Love also was "endorsed" by other familiar names - such as Bill Madison and Edward DuBose of the NAACP. Maybe they're recruiting new leaders from the hip-hop circuit....

Were those really Atlanta attorneys at the ethics commission hearing last week, with Mayor Bob Poydasheff and former City Manager Carmen Cavezza? Did the Columbus attorneys have to stay behind, because the shuttle bus was full?

But you know, maybe Paul Olson could have used an attorney at that ethics commission hearing last week. Maybe the complaints would have moved forward. And certainly the attorney would have found a way to prevent Olson from claiming victory, after all his arguments were dismissed.

It's true that as of two years ago, David Glisson's wife was working for the city of Columbus. I don't know if it's a "high-paid position" or not. Haven't the recent budget hearings taught us that no one in city government is overpaid - at least in their own eyes?

We have one more e-mail, which drives us back toward Longhorn Steakhouse. It's titled "Library Condos":

Who is going to want to live at the corner of Macon Rd and Rigdon Rd?..When that land was purchased with my tax dollars I thought some of that was to be left as a park. Guess I was wrong.....Now the city wants to sell it to developers to pay the city manager's new raise..Hey,maybe he will get his teeth fixed..

Ouch -- what IS it with some of our readers? They can't stare at Candice Cook's hair anymore, so now they're fixated on Isaiah Hugley's teeth.

There's plenty of area around the Columbus Public Library for development - so why can't there be room for both condominiums AND a park? If you build the condos ten stories high like they're doing along Panama City Beach, it's possible....

And why wouldn't someone want to live at Macon and Rigdon Roads? You'd be within walking distance of a library, Denny's, a Publix store, a K mart - and the sign outside Action Buildings across the street claims business is great right now.

Now some final thoughts from another hot July day in Columbus:

+ The heat reached 98 degrees F. again. It was SO HOT that the group "98 Degrees" refuses to perform here until it cools off.

+ Columbus Water Works began a one-month project to install 24-inch sewer pipes around Baker Middle School. That'll teach those students! Now they'll have to use giant rolls of toilet paper to stop things up....

+ Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Synovus Chairman Richard Anthony to the Georgia Board of Economic Development. Maybe he'll find a way to persuade the Army to relocate soldiers at places other than Fort Benning.

+ The Phenix City Council held its first budget work session of the year. WRBL reported to balance the city budget, the pay for school crossing guards may have to be cut. We're now waiting for the first e-mail from "AreOurCitiesSafe."

+ Atlanta firefighters staged a march on City Hall, because the mayor vetoed a budget giving them a pay raise. Quick, somebody check the tape - did Columbus Fire Chief Jeff Myer show up in time, with open contracts?

+ Instant Message to Columbus Police detectives: One bottle rocket is at Fifth Street and First Avenue. Another is on the Chattahoochee Promenade, around Sixth Street. Run the DNA samples on them, and you can arrest a couple of those Thunder on the Hooch wanna-bes.

COMING SOON: A poem about a surprising death (the time's not right for it now)....

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