The American Steakhouse in West Haven sits just off southbound exit 42 of I-95. I can't remember ever eating there, but in the '70s and '80s, I was a frequent diner at the Branford Hills location at what is now the site of SBC Restaurant and Brewery.
The American Steakhouse boasted a variety of different cuts of steak from sirloin, T-bone, porterhouse, ribeye, New York strip, chopped steak, etc., with your choice of baked, mashed, or French Fried potatoes, vegetables, and a long piece of what today might be called Texas toast. I can still remember the loud sizzle of the steaks as the chefs placed them on the large fry top. The steam soared upward and the wonderful aroma of the beef permeated the air.
The thing that made the place unique for me was that I remember it as the first restaurant I had ever been to that had a salad bar. There was an even an option to choose the salad bar only for your meal, as it was stocked with plenty of healthy salads and vegetables and even fruit and pudding for dessert.
One family member liked the steakhouse for a different reason. Since you stood in line and served yourself cafeteria style, tips were not necessary. There were no waiters or waitresses and I remember clearing our own tables afterward. Apparently that was a big draw for the older crowd, always conscious of saving money.
Today of course, salad bars with all the fixin's are everywhere as are cafeteria-style eateries. Sadly the American Steakhouse-Branford version left town years ago, but the smell of the sizzling steaks stick in my memory.
Mike Russo is a lifelong Branford resident and proud parent of two children.