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Apr 20, 2010 04:46 PM

Outback downhill slide?

We used to enjoy Outback as little as 5 years ago. My wife would order prime rib and I'd usually get the babyback/bbq chicken combo. Haven't been back until the other night. Is it our memory or have things really changed?

They apparently no longer offer their bbq chicken combo'ed with ribs but now you get it with a chicken breast drowned in mushrooms and cheese? My wife ordered a rib-eye medium and found it almost inedible. Very small portion and more fat than most ribeyes we'd buy at our local market. The baked potatoes are still good, but now about half the size we remembered.

I'm assuming that portion size is an adjustment they've made to maintain reasonable pricing, and I don't disagree in principle. But I'd rather have just a bbq chicken breast (the original way) than the glop with the cheese all over it. And changing portion and quality at the same time has lost me as a customer.

Was this just an off visit or is Outback really only "a shadow of it's former self"? At least the draft beers were good.

I really CAN make a MUCH better meal for less than half the price at home. Except for the prep time, it's a no brainer.

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  1. It has definitely gotten worse over the last 5-10 years.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Velvet Elvis

      You need to order correctly and/or more clearly and say you want a BBQ Chicken Breast and not Alice Springs chicken which sounds more like what you are claiming landed on your plate...melted cheese and shroom's over chicken.

      COMPLETELY differently entrees. ..

      1. re: HungryinBmore

        I know they're different. The menu didn't say that BBQ chicken was a sub option and I just gave the Alice Springs a try without asking. Sounded good. Bad decision.

        1. re: Midlife

          IMO, the menu should go back to the BBQ RIBS + BBQ CHICKEN,
          with a "glop" option, (cheese & mushrooms)....

          bbq item should go with another bbq item...
          make the BBQ CHICKEN the STANDARD/default choice...

          I noticed too much promoting of their gloppy dishes on the menu...
          IMO, just my own opinion...

          p.s . go easy on Midlife, fellow Chowhounders, (pretty please?!?)

          1. re: ellen4441

            Thanks ellen4441,

            I'm fine. I don't really see anyone taking issue with the quality, but some people read posts and see something other that what the poster wrote. Not sure what to do about that except point it out as I did in the part of the thread below this. HungryinBmore hasn't come back to rebut, so I can only presume they realized they'd misread. No harm..... no foul.

            I agree with your comments, but realize that I don't own Outback and don't have to answer for their bottom line.

            1. re: Midlife

              No, we don't own Outbacks, but we are still able to speak strong with our wallets ! (power in numbers, right?)

              1. re: ellen4441

                I understand, but I still see long waits at our local location when I go by. Apparently their 'average' customer is still fine with what they serve.

                1. re: Midlife

                  On the other hand, the Outback in my location, a northern suburb of Toronto, closed about six months ago. Meanwhile, just across the street, two Canadian chains of equally forgettable food, Kelsey's and Montana's, are still open.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I still prefer patroninzing the independant "ma pa's", though...
                    that's why I'm a "Chowhounder" ...!

                    1. re: ellen4441

                      I remember Outback being a little more distinguished than most steak chains. Meaning, no melted cheese on every item or a $10 meat subsitute for a steak. That did change they are turning into more of a Fridays type.

                      Ellen I agree with you, I love going to ma and pa places, even if i get a bad meal. I live in subarbs of Pittsburgh and unfortunatly the chains are taking over!!

      2. I would say in general the quality has suffered a bit in correlation with the affordable menu. I must say I miss quite of few of the older items. (Shrimp on the Barbie comes to mind specifically). Unrelated- I don't enjoy the regionality of the menu. My absolute favorite item in MD was to add a lobster tail with drawn butter (their drawn butter is like crack, SO ADDICTIVE). In PA, they used to do crab cakes instead.

        We still go to the Outback occasionally but I am more apt to try other things on the menu. Kudos to them for adding nutrition facts to their web site!

        14 Replies
        1. re: melpy

          Well it's not Outback's fault you didn't speak up and say exactly what you wanted. Take responsibility for your mistake(s) before coming to CH and bashing/critiquing a restaurant unnecessarily.
          You state "but now you get it with a chicken breast drowned in mushrooms and cheese?"

          No, you ordered APS, and got exactly that. How you expected APS Chicken to taste anything remotely like BBQ Chicken is beyond me. two different meals. Next time tell your server you want a BBQ Chicken breast. With or without sauce, or sauce on side.
          So instead of cheese and shroom's, you have BBQ Chicken. Simple.

          1. re: HungryinBmore

            Whoa there, HungryinBmore. I admire your defense of Outback, but I think you've got some things a bit out of whack.

            First, In my original post I never said that they served me something other than what I ordered. I said: "They APPARENTLY no longer OFFER their bbq chicken combo'ed with ribs but now you get it with a chicken breast drowned in mushrooms and cheese?" If you would be kind enough to think about it, I didn't blame Outback for what they served me. I was criticizing the item they now offer as the chicken pairing with ribs on the menu. In my opinion, obviously, Alice Springs Chicken is not a good dish. If you like it..... fine, all I said was that I didn't. In my humble opinion, Outback made a menu sub to keep a price point. I applaud them for that, but I didn't enjoy the new item. Period...

            Second........... I understand that, even with a relatively short topic like this, people don't read every post before they comment, but...........I responded to your first post with "I know they're different. The menu didn't say that BBQ chicken was a sub option and I just gave the Alice Springs a try without asking. Sounded good. Bad decision.". Didn't that clear it up for you?

            There's a topic going now (I think in Site Talk) about things we don't like about Chowhound. I really love these boards, except when someone posts with both barrels blazing and has really misinterpreted the person they're blasting. It's only human, I guess, but I think a re-read will prove to you that you were off-base. I ORDERED THE COMBO KNOWING IT CAME WITH ALICE SPRINGS CHICKEN. I didn't like the Alice Springs Chicken, my wife's ribeye was pitifully fatty, and the baked potatoes were much smaller than they used to be. Those are all facts, not opinions.

            1. re: Midlife

              Outbacks used to be excellent. Key words are "used to be".

              1. re: werewolf

                I agree. We almost always ordered the Outback Special, which was thick, juicy sirloin steak and is now not so tender, thinner and rarely cooked correctly to order.
                The salads used to be huge (love the garlicky Caesar) and are skimpy now, too.
                How much does lettuce cost???

                We used to go often, but rarely do these days for various reasons, but it's slipped out of our rotation due to disappointing meals.

                1. re: mcf

                  "How much does lettuce cost???"

                  Not a defense of Outback, but depending on where the lettuce comes from, it can be expensive. California has had a drought for the last several years, so produce has been more costly.

                  I ate at Outback last week (Stockton CA) and couldn't tell any difference from when I first ate at that location 4+ years ago. But then again, my order is pretty standard--fish (salmon) and veggies, or baby back ribs. Ribs (3 weeks ago) were almost falling off the bone, as usual. Salmon may have been an ounce or 2 smaller, but otherwise the usual fare.

                  1. re: rednails

                    I'm comparing it to more than four years back, though it's been a bit more disappointing any time I've gone in the past few years, too.

                    1. re: mcf

                      I'm remembering them from like twenty years ago

                      1. re: werewolf

                        OK then, you may have a point there. I first ate at Outback sometime in the fall of 2005/early 2006 when my son started college in Stockton CA. They didn't open in my area til about 2 years ago.

                  2. re: mcf

                    I always order the Outback Special. To me it had a gamey livery tatste, not sure if it was grass fed or not but I enjoyed the flavor and never had any fat or grizzle.Yesterday we went back and I ordered the special again and I noticed immediately it lacked that flavor I always enjoyed and the steak itself seemed like a different cut with different texture. I know Outback was recently sold sometime this year or last so I am assuming things are being cheapened up.

                    1. re: javaandjazz

                      I always ordered the Outback Special, too, and the meat quality went downhill long before this year. Smaller, thinner, less flavor, less tender... bleah

                      1. re: javaandjazz

                        javaandjazz said: "To me it had a gamey livery taste....."

                        Interesting. That "gamey livery taste" is exactly why I DON'T like the steaks at Outback, and haven't for years, ever since they started tasting that way. My understanding is that the livery taste is from improper wet aging. Personally, I don't think that steaks should taste like liver, but to each his own.

                        1. re: Steve Green

                          I never tasted a gamey, livery steak when I still enjoyed Outback (the only chain I've ever frequented). The steaks used to be thick, juicy, tender and well charred outside. I'm with you about livery, off tastes.

                    2. re: werewolf

                      Hence.............. the title of this topic.

                      I remember Outback being pretty good as little as 5 years ago. The last 2+ years have forced major changes in lots of businesses.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        Compared to 10 or more years ago, as werewolf says, five years ago was already showing decline, but a lot better than now. Including service, not just food quality and prep.

              2. They've definitely gone downhill. While I don't care for chain restaurants in general, Outback was one that I always loved because their food was so fresh. Now, the bread (my family's former crack-like addiction) seems stale, the vegetables are often overcooked, and the salads are skimpy. I also wish they trimmed their NY strips a bit more.

                Now I only go when I must.

                1. I'll usually do the curbside take away about once a month or so, & I order VERY carefully!!
                  I always say "pittsburgh style", medium, on the steak, so I get some good crust ...
                  or else it just looks like roasted steak...very BORING, yawn)

                  & lately I mostly just stick with their 6 ounce steak for $9.99....
                  (& occasionally, the porterhouse)......they seem to taste better than the others...
                  (I did'nt like dropping $25 for some of the others, & not liking them...
                  IMO, the prime rib is less than average!!!)

                  I've had better experiences with most of you regarding the salads, as the Egg Harbor Township, NJ (10 miles from Atlantic City) always has given me very nice sized salads, to go along with that $9.99 special...

                  & I do like their caesar salad with grilled chicken..

                  It's funny, cuz one time last year I was so disappointed after I got home with the stingy portion on the "Tassie buffalo chicken fingers", that I actually brought them back to the curbside takeaway booth.... apparently, it called for the manager to come out and explain to me, very nicely, that YES, this was actually supposed to be the proper serving size...
                  However, they did appease me by making me a much better new one...
                  Well, IRONICALLY (?), when I got the chicken fingers last month, I noticed a much bigger looking portion!! (maybe some others voiced their opinions, besides me?!?)

                  Outback fits in nicely for me, cuz it's only a mile away from my condo, and I can hit the take away on my way home from's a decent hometown spot, cuz I can't eat pizza and cheesteaks here in AC area every night!
                  I would'nt eat there while I'm out of town , or on vacation, though!!!
                  (too many other places to try!)

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: ellen4441

                    p.s. ...I've delegated Outback to curbside takeaway....don't feel the desire to actually eat
                    inside the restaurant anymore, (have'nt been inside there in about 5 years)
                    I'd rather just give the gal a couple of bucks, and pull away with my food...
                    & I'm home in 5 minutes...

                    pps.... I could'nt see waiting an hour to get into the place...(are the waits even that long anymore for Outback? Maybe on a Saturday night ? (espescially in a town with limited dining options?)

                    1. re: ellen4441

                      I have had excellent take out steak dinners at work but not from out back. Instead of take out grilling your own doesn't take much more time. Steak at grocery has jumped lately.

                      1. re: divadmas

                        Agreed on grilling steaks @ home but I go to Outback for one thing, roast prime rib. That's hard to do and expensive @ home for two people. Outback used to be great but I agreee, they've slipped.I'd love a Longhorn to open around here.

                        1. re: zackly

                          For whatever reason Longhorn doesn't seem to have any locations anywhere in California. :o(

                          1. re: zackly

                            , roast prime rib. That's hard to do and expensive @ home for two people.


                            Rib Eye is always under $9.99/lb., usually 7-8 bucks, but often on sale for $4.99, especially at the holidays. A two or three rib roast extends to under $25....less than the cost of Prime Rib at most restaurants for one. Here's a thread on how to do it. It as simple as seasoning and sticking it in the oven for a couple of hours.


                            1. re: fourunder

                              I never see rib roasts bonesless or bone in less than $50.00 where I shop and that usually only around Christmas plus it's a hassle roasting them (I've cooked thousands in restaurants) compared to grilling a steak.

                      2. Yes, as little as 5 years ago we occasionally enjoyed Outback. Not now. I've been twice in the last year and can't see ever wanting to go back. When I noticed they no longer list Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie separately, but offer it with a steak option, I asked about ordering. The response was that they are not allowed by corporate to do that. Well, that's ridiculous. If they make it, they should be able to serve it separately. I don't eat beef so the shrimp were what I ordered if I went there.

                        Chopped bleu cheese salad used to be good. Now it is mostly lettuce and to find any pecans or bleu cheese you need a magnifying glass.

                        Also agree that the potatoes are smaller - both the white potatoes and the sweet potatoes.

                        They took the Drover's Platter off the menu quite some time back, but would still make it if you ordered it. The last time my spouse tried to do that it was another, "Corporate won't let us do that." Perhaps that's the cop-out local management is using, but it doesn't make us ever want to go back.

                        If Outback had not been so ready and willing in the past to sell things not "on the menu" perhaps it wouldn't be as disappointing now.