Monday, March 7, 2011

The Flamingo Bucket List (Tampa Edition): The Frontier Cattle Co. aka The Frontier Steakhouse

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of clicking on those stupid Facebook ads that purport to link you to the "Tampa Bucket List" where, invariably, you find the Florida Aquarium and Mel's Hot Dogs.

Been there. Done those.

So obvious.

Bucket Lists should point you to things you actually want to do, but might not have the nerve (or, in today's installment, the colon) to try unless someone dares you. Well, that infuses a bit more testosterone into the list than I necessarily intend, but the point is . . . let's take the road less traveled for a change. Seriously, how much of a risk are you taking if you go to the Aquarium? None. Don't you agree that when preparing to check off an item on your bucket list, you should have a knot in your stomach . . . whether from nervousness or fear of food poisoning?

So here's the first installment in the Tampa Edition of The Flamingo Bucket List (it's the Tampa Edition because after this thrilling first installment, I expect my List to be picked up for nationwide syndication).

Item #1 on the Flamingo Bucket List (Tampa Edition): The Frontier Steakhouse.

Actually, I'm not sure about the name. The sign at the intersection of Highway 301 and Sligh Avenue says this:

So it might be the Frontier Cattle Company and not the Frontier Steakhouse (I personally think a little schizophrenia in a steakhouse only increases its allure), but if you'll head north on Highway 301 off of I-4 and then turn left at the above sign, you'll find the restaurant. You'll know when you get there, by all the pickup trucks and the koi pond out front. Why a steakhouse whose claim to fame is the "6 Pond Challenge" would have a koi pond out front, I can't explain, but regardless, it's there.

We didn't actually plan to visit the Frontier Cattle Company/Steakhouse on Saturday night. Joe wanted to drive to the other side of town to see his friend play drums with a band at a church. Dez, Lauren and I were already hungry, but Joe wanted to wait until after we saw his friend's band before we ate. I smuggled a box of Thin Mints into the car to hold us over until after we saw the band, but even after we polished off the box, we were still hungry, so when it was time to leave the church, the princesses were getting cranky. Joe suggested the Frontier Cattle Company (we'd seen the sign on the way to the church) because it was close by. The princesses were skeptical -- we didn't really want to be seen at any establishment that offered a reward for eating 6 pounds' worth of meat. Doesn't really seem ladylike.

So Joe suggested somewhere in Ybor City. It was already after dark and we all know what happens after dark in Ybor City. Well, I don't really know what happens in Ybor after dark because I've never been to Ybor after dark. I have responsibilities . . . a house, children, a dog . . . I can't go gallivanting in Ybor after dark. But the other princesses in the car have been to Ybor after dark and were unwilling to take me there for fear my spotless reputation might be sullied, so we let Joe talk us into going to the Home of the 6 Pound Challenge.

The Frontier Cattle Co. is a large restaurant -- so large, in fact, that when we first walked into the restaurant we couldn't figure out where all the people were that drove all the pickups out front. They were scattered over three very large rooms. I have no idea when the Frontier Cattle Co.'s "heyday" was, but whenever it was, the place could accomodate hundreds.

When we walked into the restaurant, the wall to our right was covered with people who had attempted the 6 Pound Challenge. If you're considering taking the challenge, here are the guidelines:

None of us took the challenge. But I like how they insist on a $30.00 deposit just in case you drop dead after three pounds.

The decor at the Frontier Cattle Co. is classic, um . . . steakhouse. Note the tack on the wall behind Dez and Lauren, the wagon wheel light fixture above the window, and the longhorns (or is that technically only one longhorn?) above the exit:

Have I ever mentioned that Flamingo Joe was born in Canyon, Texas? That doesn't explain anything, I know. Not even his bowed legs -- those came from volleyball injuries.

Sorry, I digress.

A few minutes ago, I read some reviews for the Frontier Cattle Co. They were mixed -- some referred to poor service and harsh lighting. I totally agree with the harsh lighting criticism -- I did not look anything like a pretty princess in the bathroom mirror -- but we weren't there for the lighting, we were there to eat. And we had great service -- very matter of fact and punctual. Just what you'd expect at a real steakhouse. (Though you know, I prefer a bit of humor in my waitstaff -- if the waitress asks me how I'd like my eggs and I say "laid," I prefer that she at least make a show of laughing with me.) Our waitress at the Frontier Cattle Co. did not really have much joie de vivre as far as I could tell, but she definitely got the job done.

Now the Frontier Cattle Co. serves you a pretty typical steakhouse meal: rolls, salad, steak and potato. In that order. The butter and sour cream come out in packets. The rolls were good, the salad was fresh, the potato was decent, but the steak -- oh my.

The steak.

We all ordered steak and there was not one single bite left on any of our plates when we got up to leave. Flamingo Joe had to eat the last two bites of mine, but not because I was willing to be finished, I was just having a Monty Python "I can't eat another bite or I'll explode" moment.

Those steaks were each cooked perfectly over an open orange wood flame and rubbed down with some delectable combination of spices. They were great.

So to knock off the first item on the Flamingo Bucket List (Tampa Edition), drive to the outskirts of town and order a steak at the Frontier Cattle Co. If you're one of those people who like super expensive steaks from those trendy new Argentinian or Brazilian places, just overlook all the cowboy murals and close your eyes while you eat to minimize the effect of the harsh lighting.

With all that money you're saving, you can get your beer served to you in a plastic boot.