Continuing our ranking of the 10 Best Steakhouses in Tucson, Ms. Karen, Neighbor Roy, and I saddled up and rode to Cattletown Steakhouse & Saloon about a 2 mile drive northeast of the TIA (aka TUS Airport). I had seen pictures of the exterior. It looked like someone had attempted to copy Trail Dust Town in miniature. While the exterior looks like it might include several Old West buildings, in reality it is only the restaurant & bar.
For our first impression, we could not help noticing that the surrounding area is comprised mainly of broken down trailer parks and grimy light manufacturing buildings. We were beginning to have second thoughts about dining here, but duty drove us on.
I admit to having reservations about this place even before parking our ponies. With over 100 dining reviews, our readers by now know that Ms. Karen does not like me to write negative reviews. So … I typically check out the usual suspect review sites – TripAdvisor; Yelp; Urban Spoon; etc. – to give us confidence that we are likely to have a good dining experience. Hundreds of Cattletown reviews were all over the place. Many diners wrote that they had a very good experience. But just as many wrote that their Cattletown dining experience was somewhere between awful and terrible. Thus informed, we crossed our fingers and entered through the front door.
Inside, however, was a pleasant surprise. The ambiance was a kind of a “country-western-subtle”, not “Cowboy-In-Your-Face” as at El Corral and Pinnacle Peak. The dining area is spacious, with both tables and booths. All of the tabletops looked to be laminated mesquite. Our observation at the end of our dining experience was that the inside of Cattletown is, unlike Daisy Mae's, exceptionally clean and well maintained. Our other primary observation was that there are no windows … not one. Given the surrounding neighborhood, that may be for the best.
The “saloon” is just a long, thin strip, a full bar adjacent to the large, open dining room. Nothing special.
Our server was Robyn, a slender young woman with a ready smile and pleasant disposition. While I had read several reviews complaining about Cattletown service, Robyn was attentive, efficient, and helpful. No complaints about service here. But, mind you, it was early and not busy.
We all three ordered a beer. Neither their wine nor beer offerings offer much. There was only one local brew and all the wines were of the “cheap” variety.
For an appetizer, Ms. Karen ordered a plate of batter-dipped zucchini. Not terribly interesting, but it was only $6.75, $3.75 during Happy Hour 3-6pm . We were early birds, arriving with the other early birds, (aka Seniors) for the Early Bird Specials.
Ms. Karen ordered the “Steak & Fried Shrimp”: a half-pound New York Strip Steak with “5 Big Fried Shrimp”, plus steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots ($17). She shared a bite of steak. It was rather thin and chewy, but with a distinct mesquite flavor from the very hot wood-burning fire. Actually, I thought that the mesquite flavor overpowered the taste of the meat. She wondered if they called it "strip" for it's thinness, or maybe its proximity to the airport.
As far as I was concerned, the “fried shrimp” was better than her steak. However, she complained that it had too much batter and proceeded to peel it off of the shrimp.
Neighbor Roy & I ordered off the “Summertime Dinner Special” menu. After inquiring as to the type of fish (cod), he had the “All-You-Can-Eat Fish Fry” with fries, fresh lemon, tartar sauce, and a “Deluxe” salad ($11).
Continuing my attempt to compare “apples to apples”, I ordered the half-pound USDA Choice Ribeye Steak with baked potato and “Deluxe” salad ($11). Again, the taste of mesquite was front and center. However, I thought my ribeye was better than Ms. Karen’s New York Strip Steak because I could actually taste the ribeye. Like her steak, my ribeye was thin but cooked “medium rare” as I had requested. She had ordered hers cooked “medium” which might have accounted for the “less meat, more mesquite” flavor and chewy characteristics. She indicated that had she known it was so thin, she would have ordered it "rare".
Neighbor Roy was about to finish off his plate of battered cod, when Robyn walked by and asked if he would like more fish. She said, “It is, after all, all-you-can-eat”. Roy, who had not eaten all day, and who is by nature, “frugal”, took about half a second to decide, “Yes, I believe I will have some more.” I was not long before his plate was again brimming with battered cod.
Regarding Roy’s fish and fries, two things are worth noting. First, Roy’s cod was lightly battered and not at all greasy. Second, when Roy had nearly finished off his second helping of battered cod, Robyn asked if he would like some more. My now-satiated neighbor said that he had had enough. To my mind and Roy’s, it was an amazing amount of good fried cod for only $11. Roy declared it "Very Good!"
Regarding those “Deluxe” salads, I’d like to see their “regular” salad. “Deluxe” does not come close to properly describing what was only a small bowl of fresh greens.
Two other items are worth mentioning. I requested a small bowl of their “Ranch Beans” just to sample, since all the other “Cowboy” steakhouses serve them. The other item that came with our dinners was a basket potato dinner rolls. They were indeed fresh. But the beans were rather uninteresting. Any can of Bush’s Beans from the grocery store would have been better. Ms. Karen believes that perhaps cowboy beans are supposed to be bland. It wouldn't hurt our feelings if some cowboy steakhouse broke that mold.
I would not recommend Cattletown for its steaks, even though the price is incredibly inexpensive. For example, a ribeye dinner at Daisy Mae’s is more than twice as expensive, but Daisy Mae’s steaks are twice as big (16 oz.). Instead, go to Cattletown for the seafood. With their steaks, you get what you pay for ... cheap steaks for a cheap price. With their seafood, you get more than you pay for ... lots of good seafood for very little dinero. Overall, we give Cattletown 3.5 Saguaros , for cleanliness, service and price.
Cattletown Steakhouse & Saloon
3141 E Drexel Rd, Tucson, AZ 85706