Continuing on our quest for the best Tucson Steakhouse, we could not overlook Silver Saddle. Back in 2009, it was voted best Steakhouse by readers of the Arizona Daily Star’s Caliente section. But that was a very long time ago. What I wanted to know was why have they had not earned that honor since?
Did Silver Saddle quality decline? Did other steakhouses raise the bar? Were the votes rigged? Or is the Star’s decidedly unscientific poll too subjective and biased to be taken seriously? Who knows? But three of us, Ms. Karen, a co-worker named Denny, and I dined there to judge for ourselves.
Actually, Denny, on assignment from California, had dined at Silver Saddle the week before and told Ms. Karen that his Silver Saddle steak was the best he had enjoyed in a very long time.
So we three met at 6 PM on a pleasant Thursday evening. The first thing you should know about Silver Saddle Steakhouse is it’s harder to find than one might think. If you are a Tucsonan, you have probably spotted its sign as you’re driving along I-10 between 4th and 6th Avenue Downtown. You can see it. But how to actually get there?
Here are my suggested directions. If you are on I-10 driving eastbound, get off at 6th Avenue / 4th Avenue exit (261). At the end of the off ramp are traffic lights. If the light is red, stop. If it’s green, continue directly across 6th Avenue. You will now be on Benson Hwy, which at this point is also the freeway frontage road. Silver Saddle is between 6th and 4th. Once on the frontage road, there’s no way you can miss it.
At 6 PM on a Thursday night, we were seated right away. A half hour later, I noted that the place was packed. So if you plan on dining at Silver Saddle at peak times, do make reservations.
We were promptly served with glasses of cold water and our waitress took our drink order. Ms. Karen ordered a glass of Tierra Secreta Malbec; Denny ordered the Layer Cake Shiraz; and I had the Cavit Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio (all $6 per glass). Their wine list is not extensive. Nor are the wines expensive. But we were each satisfied with our choice.
We were still perusing the menu when our waitress returned to announce the evening special: a 17-oz Ribeye cooked to order and served with fresh baked rolls and our choice of (a) soup of the day, (b) homemade onion soup or (c) single trip to the salad bar; plus cowboy beans, and our choice of baked potato or French fries ($28). Neither Denny nor I hesitated. The Special. Denny chose French fries, I order a baked potato.
Ms. Karen ordered a half-rack of BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($16) with French fries. We all then headed for the salad bar which, like their wine list, was not extensive, but adequate.
To Season Or Not
At this point I should mention that when the waitress takes your steak order, she or he will ask you if you want yours seasoned or not. Of course, I inquired as to the seasoning. Salt, pepper, garlic and something else I don’t recall. If you want serious flavor, ask for “seasoned”. Both Denny & I did and were richly rewarded.
On the matter of seasoning steaks, I have BBQ’d for hundreds of guests at our home in the Tucson Mountains. I almost always get asked about the seasoning. No secret really. I always BBQ ribeye from Costco. It’s as good as AJ’s at La Encantada, but half the price. I also heat my barbie to 500 degrees or more. Before putting the steaks on the BBQ, I rub McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning on each ribeye … liberally and both sides. Cook to personal preference. Excellent! Which is why Ms, Karen & I seldom go out to eat at a steakhouse. But duty calls.
Having ordered and finished my salad, I took a stroll with my camera to check the place out. It’s bigger than it looks from the outside. In the back is a large cocktail lounge with one of the finest mesquite bars that I have ever seen. Beautiful wood surface. In fact, Silver Saddle’s BBQ is fueled by Arizona mesquite wood. The mesquite smoke is actually one of the ingredients that make Silver Saddle steaks taste so extraordinary.
The interior is definitely rustic: brick and dark wood all about. There is no view. There is no patio. But what’s inside is totally worthwhile, including the friendly and helpful wait staff.
Shortly, our entrees arrived on very hot plates. Ms. Karen thought her BBQ ribs were excellent. Denny's and my steak were cooked as we had ordered … medium. They were delicious. My baked potato could have come with half-dozen toppings, but I prefer just butter. Ms. Karen’s & Denny’s steak fries were very good. In short, it was a fine dinner. The ribeyes were more tender and flavorful than the steaks we have had at either Pinnacle Peak or El Corral.
Is Silver Saddle the best steakhouse in Tucson? We don't know yet. But it's likely to be high on our upcoming Top 10 List. Do we wholeheartedly recommend Silver Saddle to our friends & family? We do indeed.
Lunch: Monday – Friday 11 AM to 3 PM
Dinner: Sunday 1 PM to Close. Mon – Fri 3 PM to Close. Saturday 2 PM to Close.