Published October 17. 2013 4:00AM
Now that the weather is turning truly autumnal, like clockwork these old bones crave comfort foods. It is the season of stews and starch, pie and potatoes - and steak.
Naturally, that also makes it the season of Steak Loft, and restaurants of its type.
Now listen, I love my gastro-chic eateries and vegetarian delights. I actually like tofu and vegan cupcakes. But sometimes, I need to get back to my roots and dig on some meat and taters, and Steak Loft does not disappoint in providing those creature comforts.
The Loft hasn't been in business for 40 years for nothing. Reliability is its own menu item, particularly for the loads of hungry tourists who pass through the Olde Mistick Village area every year.
I decided to start my Steak Loft tastings on the lighter side, just to see if a steakery can hang in the non-meat-y arena. For late lunch, the quiche of the day ($6.50) seemed a great place to start; the day's preparation paired tomatoes and ham, and it is a dish I would gladly order again. The key here was a perfect dice on ample ham and tomato, which made for a quiche bursting with even flavor. No runniness to report, and the crust was just fine. One note: it might've been a little warmer when it arrived. Still, the generous side salad that came with the quiche sweetened the deal. Non-Iceberg greens, plus tomatoes and carrots proved a nice accompaniment.
Of course, that was a busy day at the office and I felt far too behaved ordering such a nice lunch, so I pepped it up with an order of onion rings ($2.75). Great decision. Thick-cut and crispy, they actually tasted like - onions! Delicious, but filling.
But I'm never really satsified until I've had something sweet, and the day's dessert special isn't the sort of thing I can ignore, so I ordered the house-made Chocolate Banana Kahlua Bread Pudding ($5.50) to go. My concerns that all three main flavors would disappear into each other were unfounded. Heady bursts of chocolate, banana and Kahlua emerged, and they were very enjoyable. The issue, in the end, was a bit of dryness in some of the bread bits. Still, how wrong can you go with such a decadent mix?
On another visit, we kept things a bit more adult, starting with Mystic Seaport Pale Ale ($5.50 for a 16-ouncer) and the Mystic Martini, priced at a heady $9.50. While I enjoyed the cocktail - a mix of Tito's vodka, Limoncello and cranberry and lime juice - I've had bigger and cheaper martinis. Still, the cocktail list is worth a look, and a smattering of wines offer still more options.
Drinks in hand, we set about selecting a hearty meal. Note: the only non-entree items available at dinner, aside from the salad bar, are soups and a shrimp cocktail. We decided to load up on the salad bar - nicely stocked with at least three kinds of greens, beans salads, antipasto and a very nice potato salad, plus breads.
My meal, the turkey dinner ($18.50), included two slices of thick-cut turkey, cranberry relish, stuffing, carrots and mashed potatoes (other potato options available). While the turkey was pretty average, I still enjoyed it, as well as the gravy atop it and the stuffing beneath it. Nothing fancy, just reliable home-style eats that feed the soul. The mashed potatoes were scrumptious and the carrots a bit of a bore, but they at least offered a bit of toothy crunch.
We collaborated on my dining partner's entree to maximize our tasting experience and conserve on stomach space. As it turns out, the New York strip steak ($33 for an 11-ounce piece) goes very well with the garlic shrimp, available as an add-on ($3.50 apiece). Prepared perfectly to order, the tender steak satisfied. As for the shrimp, we loved them. These babies were grilled, thereby making for great flavor in combination with the garlic. Add on the baked stuffed potato on the side - very good with its undertones of cheese and other goodness - and you've got two very happy people.
Plus, twilight was falling outdoors, which made the candlelight and live, soft jazz all the more delightful. So of course we had to linger for dessert - this time, the house-made apple crisp a la mode ($7.50). We chose vanilla ice cream, which melted divinely into a warm crock of stewed apples, oat-y crumbles and whipped cream. It was fabulous, thanks in part to well-selected apples.
We left the Steak Loft with a sense of Thanksgiving-style contentment: we were full on classic American fare; we felt grateful for the largesse that permits such meals; and we were looking forward to our next visit/mealtime holiday.