Throwback: Food For Thought and From Someone Else's Kitchen

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

by Cande Day

September 1995 cover image. This cover was underwritten by Secon Corporation. Photo of Summerfield Office Park by Vortex Imaging

Throwback with TODAY

Food For Thought and From Someone Else's Kitchen by Cande Day

September 1995 (4th issue) page 78

What's all the commotion about at the corners of Route 19 and East McMurray Road? Upper St. Clair is home to a new restaurant, Outback Steakhouse. The Phantom Diners (Mystery Porkers), who are always looking for an excuse to eat, knew that you would want to know all about it and seized the opportunity! It's 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. We've cruised the upper and lower parking lot for at least 15 minutes; there isn't even a handicapped spot available. We've contemplated parking in the lot next door, but the towing at owners' expense sign doesn't seem very friendly. My companion spots a road leading from the back of the lower lot and is just sure they've provided annex parking at the end of it - you know, "Out back." My advice to you is not to try this approach unless you plan to visit the private home that resides at the end of it. Since I'm in 4-wheel drive, we're even considering going "off road" and making our own. Persistence finally pays off, as I spot a man leaving the restaurant and stalk him all the way to his car. (If you want to make a little extra money and are able to secure a spot here, you probably would be able to sell it.) We're in!

I've inquired about the wait and am told 65-75 minutes. I worked too hard to get that parking spot; we're staying if it takes all night. There is a sign on the door that reads, "No Worries Hour 4-6." My friend thinks it means you don't have to worry about getting a parking space if you come then. I'm wondering if it's the Australian equivalent of "Jamaica - No Problem," at least not for the Jamaican. I am issued a cute little beeper to alert me when my table is ready. However, this beeper doesn't beep; it vibrates. Why then, do they call it a beeper . . . ? I think I understand. In case you're not lucky enough to get one, don't worry about it. It's only operable if you stay within the "patio area" and there's a loud intercom blasting everyone's name over it anyway, so who needs it?

If you have to wait inside for 65-75 minutes, there is seating with Legos and Etch-a-Sketches provided, presumably for the children. Outside, a waitress is serving drinks on the patio area, which is small and getting smaller as a torrential downpour is down pouring. This is a great time to make new friends and get reacquainted with old neighbors. We were sort of having our own little cocktail party and I was disappointed when my name was called. (The beeper never did shake - all for the show.)

We are seated in a remote corner. Probably a good decision on management's part. We've memorized the menu by now, but we still want to go through this part of the experience with our waitress, Julie. There is a nice selection of "tucker," which evidently means food in Australia. Where's the beef? It's been found and it's here, although there are selections of shrimp, chicken, pork, fish and pasta as well. Just about everything comes "On the Barbie." I didn't realize at first that this referred to bar-b-que and couldn't imagine. (Char-broiled dolls with blonde hair and bikinis - nasty.) Being "Phantom Diners," we should be ordering different items and sampling more, but we both want the exact same things. We are cranky after the 90 minute parking lot tour and patio party, and neither of us is willing to back down. I should warn you about unrolling your napkin expecting to find silverware. You will be greeted with what I'm sure is the knife in "the mysterious envelope" on Judge Lance Ito's desk. The forks could pitch hay and if you have a big mouth, the spoon will be just right.

As appetizers, we start with the "Grilled Shrimp On The Barbie," served with a Remoulade sauce, and the "Walkabout Soup,"a creamy onion soup with cheese. Both are excellent! There is a choice of House of Caesar salad; we choose the House with bleu cheese dressing and it is very good. Even better is the "bushman bread," a brown bread served warm. Our fillets are very good, but by this time, I am glutted and can't finish mine. My friend is never "glutted" and can't wait for dessert. She orders the "Chocolate Thunder From Down Under," possibly a more suitable name for a bean dish, but she is pleased. This is your basic, homemade brownie with vanilla ice cream and hot homemade chocolate sauce. If you have kids, the brownie is a little heavy on the nuts.

As we get up to visit the restroom before leaving, I realize that my friend has had the pleasure of viewing a large picture, hanging directly above my head, of a bunch of sheep being sheared and not looking too happy about it. Better her than me. And speaking of restrooms, there is a decision to make - "Bloke" or "Sheila?" I have a reputation for going into Men's rooms (by mistake), so I'm taking this very seriously. We take a vote and go with Sheila. Good choice, however Sheila wasn't there.

On our way out of the restaurant we're checking in with a few familiar faces to see how they are enjoying their meals. Don and Heidi Daley seem to be quite pleased (and have ordered quite a bit, I might add). Their friends, Troy and Arlene Cook and Bob and Nancy Snow are delighted as well. The Cooks tell us this is their second visit in one week. How's that for a recommendation? (Mr. Cook confides he "came back for the 'beeper'.") We see Laura and Greg Fino with son Greg, who likewise give Outback three thumbs up. We had interviewed people on the patio earlier as they were coming out, and never received a negative comment. The manager, Mr. Joe Castellarin, tells us this is one of their worst nights since opening. The computers are down due to the rainstorm mentioned earlier, the creek running through the parking lot has flooded, and power has almost been lost twice. As diners, it didn't seem to matter. We enjoyed it all (except the parking lot, flood or no flood). I only wish they would open for lunch. G'Day Mates!

Rating: 🐷 🐷 🐷

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