During the annual Consumer Electronics Show that was recently held in Las Vegas, our friends from Cambridge Audio invited the North American sales team out for dinner. Their pick for dinner was literally out in left field - a place called Austin's Steakhouse that was in the Texas Station casino on the far north side of Las Vegas. Actually, it's in North Las Vegas and it was a little bit of a drive from our hotel on the Strip. But we made the trek and met the Cambridge Audio crew there for dinner.
Austin's Steakhouse is sort of an oasis within Texas Station, a Station Casinos hotel/casino that includes other places such as Red Rock Resort and Casino, Green Valley Resort and Casino, Palace Station, Boulder Station and a handful of other hotel/casinos in the Las Vegas valley. Texas Station has been part of the Station Casinos line-up since 1995. The first Station Casino - Palace Station - has been around since the mid-70's. Frank Fertitta, Jr. opened what was then simply called "The Casino" that adjoined a low-priced motor inn in 1976. He had been in Las Vegas for over 15 years working his way up from a bellman to becoming the general manager of such places as the Stardust, Fremont, Circus Circus and the Tropicana. While many thought he was foolish for opening a casino, it turned out that many of the workers in the casinos didn't feel welcome to gamble in other places since they couldn't gamble in the places where they worked. Fertitta positioned the Casino to cater to the locals - primarily the card dealers, the waitresses and the cab drivers of Las Vegas. The Casino opened with 100 slot machines and six gaming tables.
Over time and as business grew, Frank Fertitta, Jr. eventually changed the name of the place to "The Bingo Palace" and eventually "Palace Station" in 1983. Frank Fertitta, Jr. retired from the business in 1993 and from there, his son Frank Fertitta III, oversaw the growth of the Station Casinos into the 90's with more "locals friendly" casinos with the opening of Boulder Station in 1994, Texas Station in 1995 and Sunset Station in 1997. Frank Fertitta III is also the co-owner of Zuffa, the parent corporation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Fertitta's brother, Lorenzo, is the CEO of Zuffa while both have a hand in the Station Casinos business, as well.
(As an aside, the Fertitta brothers' first cousin, Tilman Fertitta, has been mentioned on Road Tips a couple times in the past in connection with his ownership of Landry's Seafood restaurants. Click here to see my entry on Landry's. In all, the two Fertitta brothers and Tilman Fertitta are worth over a billion dollars on paper.)
We made it out to Texas Station after about a 20 minute drive from The Mirage. It's located at the corner of Rancho Dr. and Lake Mead Blvd., two main drags into North Las Vegas (see map). We parked the van at the valet and went into the somewhat smoky and run down casino. I don't want to say the people that we saw sitting at machines throughout the casino were bad, but the clientele was significantly more low brow than what you'd find at many of the upper scale hotel/casinos on the strip. Although this disheartened some of the guys in my group, I reminded them that The Steakhouse at Circus Circus (where we had eaten a couple three night prior - click here to see my previous review on the Steakhouse) is also located in a pretty bad hotel/casino.
Finding Austin's Steakhouse toward the backside of the casino floor, we were ushered through a very nice open dining area that was adorned with stone and dark wood walls with subdued lighting into a private dining room with a large table for 18. I have misgivings about dining in a large group as the service and the food tend to suffer, especially when you're ordering off the menu as we were that evening. But I've also learned to just go with the flow when it comes to situations like this and just try to make the best of it.
Once we all got seated and the menus were handed out, a couple people from Cambridge Audio took it upon themselves to order a number of appetizers for the table. These appetizers included bacon-wrapped shrimp, crab cakes, fresh oysters on the half-shell, and oysters Rockefeller. I'm going to save my breath and your time and tell you up front that none of them were very good.
Like the French people I work with at Focal, the Brits at Cambridge Audio are all big carnivores, looking forward to eating pounds of red meat when they come to the U.S. The primary steaks at Austin's are the filet, a New York strip, a porterhouse steak, and their specialty - the bone-in ribeye that is pan-seared, then grilled over mesquite. They have a number of sauces to compliment the steaks such as a creamy horseradish, a hollandaise or bearnaise sauce, a creamy peppercorn sauce, or Austin's house-made steak sauce. You could have your steak cooked in a peppercorn "au poivre" style, or topped with crabmeat, shrimp or encrusted in blue cheese. Salads and sides were all extra, but the prices weren't out of this world.
I ended up ordering a large filet with the peppercorn sauce. The waiter asked me if I wanted it cooked au poivre with the cracked peppercorns encrusted around the steak. "Sure," I replied. I also ordered a wedge salad and we ordered a number of sides that we were going to share such as garlic and horseradish mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, broccoli with a hollandaise sauce, and sauteed mushrooms.
The wedge salad (below left) was nothing special. It was just a chopped wedge of lettuce with a shitload of bacon bits on top of a creamy blue cheese dressing with a little bit of chopped tomatoes mixed in. It wasn't bad, but it was nothing of note.
It's very difficult to get all the orders for a big party to come out at the same time, but Austin's pulled it off. 18 meals came out at the same time. It helped that it was late and there weren't many people in the main dining room at the restaurant. My filet (above right) was literally covered in cracked black peppercorns, completely covered in cracked black peppercorns. I love cracked black pepper, but this may have been too much. There was a small serving of the peppercorn sauce, which was just basically gravy with a little bit of cracked black pepper in it. There were some veggies on the plate with the steak and I know it's not a good picture but if you look closely, you can see some blu-ish items that look like broccoli. They were broccoli. The broccoli had been cooked for so long they turned blue. Whoa!
I like my filets rare and this one was over-cooked to a medium rare. The mesquite-charred outer shell of the cracked peppercorns was overpowering to the taste. It wasn't that great of a steak. My colleague, Simon, seated next to me and who got the exact same thing that I did down to the temperature of the steak, was even more critical and vocal about how bad his meal was. Mine was edible, but it wasn't what I had expected.
My colleague, Ian, had also ordered the filet, medium-rare, and without all the "busy-stuff", as he called the peppercorns on our filets. He felt his was fine, cooked perfectly, had a nice flavor and was tender to the cut and the chew. My colleague, Matt, had gotten the porterhouse and he, too, said it was very good.
One of the Brits seated next to me, Ben, had ordered up the bone-in ribeye and he said it was outstanding. It looked very good and I sort of wished afterward that I would have gotten that instead.
The sides were all OK. The mac and cheese was rather pedestrian as were the garlic/horseradish potatoes. Thankfully, the sauteed mushrooms were pretty good and the broccoli in the hollandaise sauce wasn't overcooked like the ones that were on my entree plate.
While my steak wasn't the greatest (and Simon would tell you that it was complete shit), the service was still very good with three servers doting on the table of 18 all through the evening. The wine continued to flow, the conversation was fun, and it turned into a nearly three-hour meal by the time we were finished. By the end of the evening, we were all full and tired, ready to get back to the hotel as there was still another day of the show left to go.
With all the world-class steakhouses in Las Vegas, I can name probably a dozen that I'd recommend over Austin's. But the menu prices weren't outrageous, the service was pretty good, however my steak was pretty average, at best. If I ever make it back to Austin's, and I'm not certain I will, I won't order the filet au poivre style. But for the most part, it was a good value and an OK place to eat in an otherwise dingy and seedy casino in Vegas.