Ranch Hand Steakhouse
6501 S Cooper St, Ste 101, Arlington. 817-617-2300. 12-9pm Sun, 4-10pm Tue-Thu, 11am-11 pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The building that houses the recently opened Ranch Hand Steakhouse has changed hands a few times over the last decade. The turnover isn’t as frequent as the oft-discussed cursed corner of Montgomery Plaza, but the prime corner spot on Cooper Street near the Arlington-Mansfield border still might be suffering from attachment issues.
The Ranch Hand’s white tablecloths, extensive down-home menu, and cowboy kitsch decor couldn’t be further from the pan-Asian vibe of the space’s former resident, BFF Bistro. It’s easy to see why would-be restaurateurs fall in love with the spot: ample parking (because Arlington), and there’s an attractive patio where you can steal views from the big-screen televisions on neighboring Rio Mambo’s balcony.
There are a ridiculous number of choices on the bill of fare, which is divvied up into five sections: Share (appetizers), Graze (soups and salads), Catch (fish and shellfish), Farm (anything that isn’t beef) and Herd (so many cow parts).
From the Share portion of the menu, the Cast Iron Corral appetizer offered a great sampling of meats and arrived on a clean-looking cast-iron pan that clearly had never seen a campfire. On the pristine piece of metal sat two kinds of sausage, bourbon-honey-glazed pork belly, and black angus sirloin. My dining companion and I couldn’t really discern which sausage was the plain variety and which was the apple-gouda-stuffed version, but no matter – both skins snapped and relinquished their juices, and neither was particularly greasy. The finger-sized pieces of sirloin were fois gras-tender. A vibrant, tangy green chimichurri sauce accompanied the appetizer and perfectly complemented the beef, while a rich, spicy mustard was magic when paired with the sausage. The super-sweet Dr Pepper barbecue sauce rode sidesaddle to the less cloying sauces. The only disappointment on the plate was the overly salty/sweet Duroc Ranch pork belly.
The shrimp and grits reminded me of something out of a much higher-priced, trendier kitchen with a view of the Trinity Trails or downtown Cowtown. Five perfectly grilled shrimp seasoned with the barest kiss of salt to let the sweet taste of the shellfish bloom sat around a bed of wonderfully seasoned chunky grits. Topping them was one gorgeously caramelized seared scallop.
Our selection from the Herd wasn’t as successful. While the char-crusted rib-eye steak arrived perfectly medium as ordered, the meat was wretchedly chewy, which made me question its provenance.
Each entree included two generously sized side dishes. We paired the carb-laden shrimp and grits with a healthy side salad, which was a nice combination of mixed greens, a little shredded carrot, and decent ranch dressing. Keeping with the corn theme, the splendid creamed corn was full of that Duroc pork, which, diced in small quantities, added a fabulously salty richness to the sweet vegetable. For the steak, the velvety housemade mac ’n’ cheese was an absolutely textbook pairing. A side of garlic mashed potatoes so thick with butter and cream that a spoon stood up in the bowl was also tasty. A little cream gravy (or even brown gray) might have made it better.
Because the menu is “in transition,” according to our server, several desserts weren’t available. Luckily, I discovered the dessert drinks menu and my new favorite cocktail dessert, The Wrangler: Kahlua, vodka, cream, and Coke. It’s nothing I would order at happy hour, and it wasn’t apple cobbler, but its creamy texture reminded me of a Coke float with a kick.
There are all kinds of daily drink specials at Ranch Hand, along with live music on the patio and free valet parking on weekends. Apparently between Ranch Hand and Rio Mambo, South Cooper Street is quite the fiesta – hopefully, that’s permanent now.
Cast Iron Corral $15
Shrimp and grits $18
The Wrangler $7