This evening I crossed off one of the two remaining Galleria Mall eateries from my list, Buckhorn Grill. I did a little research on this one before heading out to make sure it wasn’t the type of place that has one in every shopping center on the face of the planet that I’ve somehow missed. Turns out they only have a dozen locations. They are mostly in Northern California, but a couple out in New York as well. During my time poking around on their website I skimmed over the menu. They seem to specialize in tri-tip and have many sandwiches with it. They also have a few chicken-based items and even salmon (which I find surprising for a food court stall).
I walked into an eerily quiet Galleria just after 5:30PM. Tuesday evening is apparently the time to come here. There were entire long runs of mall walkways you could look down and see maybe one person. Upstairs the food court was busier, but not by much. I walked right up to the Buckhorn Grill counter where one of two visible workers greeted me and told me she would help me as soon as I was ready. I was looking up at the big, bright white menu. Online, I had been drawn to one of the salads. I’ve found myself generally unimpressed by every tri-tip sandwich I’ve ever had and didn’t feel like adding another to the list. On top of that, one salad looked and sounded particularly delicious, The Cabo Chop (chopped romaine with honey-lime dressing, in a crispy tortilla with avocado, black beans, corn, jicama, radishes, tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles) [$7.99]. I hadn’t planned on trying any of their tri-tip and it seemed wrong, but I got over it quickly and settled on the salad. As I was ordering I was asked if I wanted to add any tri-tip, chicken or –third_option_that_I_can’t_recall–. I was caught off guard by that, having not seen this option on the menu online. I quickly looked up and also didn’t see it on the menu above me, but went ahead and said “Yeah sure, tri-tip.” It all worked out! This adder was $3, bringing the salad to $10.99. She then asked if medium rare was ok, and I said yes. That also surprised me. The fact that it was brought up makes me wonder if you can ask for it cooked differently. I didn’t see beverages on the menu and was obviously not sure what they had because she stepped aside to show me the fountain sodas behind her and then pointed out the bottled drinks available off to the right which included some beers, which again surprised me coming from the food court. I just got a Dr Pepper [1.99 w/free refills], paid and headed to find a seat nearby with the pager that was given to me.
Sitting in a spot where I could see Buckhorn, I watched as more workers started to appear from the back. There were at lest five or six and half of them were working on cleaning the place from top to bottom. Apparently a slow Tuesday is the time to get that sort of work done. Five minutes after sitting down, my pager started blinking and buzzing. I went up to the counter to retrieve my tray. On it was a MASSIVE salad sitting in a wide, two inch deep crispy shell. To the side was a huge cup of the honey-lime dressing (she had asked me if I wanted it on the side while I was ordering). I grabbed a fork and some napkins and went back to my seat to figure out if I had made a terrible mistake. This was literally twice the size I was expecting. The presentation was great and, unlike most products in the food world, actually looked like the photo on the website. In fact, dare I say, it even looked better than the photo on the website. How often does that happen? (my favorite example of this phenomenon: a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger I had at Carl’s Jr a couple years ago).
So anyway, the thing looked fantastic. Each topping was in it’s place and on display (except for a pocket of corn which I found a little deeper down along with most of the Romain). The one problem I had with this was that due to how much there was in this crispy, edible bowl, it was difficult to mix up without flinging a few black beans a seat to my left or tossing a cherry tomato overboard. The tomatoes were there in force, by the way. I counted nine. There may have even been ten. So anyway, yes, we get it Sean, the salad is big. Lets move on. I drizzled some dressing overtop, mixed the ingredients together as best I could and dug in. Everything in this was fresh and flavorful. The Romain was very crisp, the tomatoes juicy, the blue cheese nice and strong and the radishes….radishy (I don’t eat many radishes; I don’t really know how to describe them, they had a good crunch though). The tri-tip seemed to be cooked medium rare as stated. It was nice and pink for the most part, darker near the edge pieces. These chopped up bits of beef were cool, not warm as I was expecting. I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but it didn’t really bother me and seemed to work well in a salad. They were all tender and moist. Not a ton of flavor though, which has always been one of my problems with tri-tip. The dressing was creamy and sweet with a little bit of lime to it. It was quite tasty and they give you about twice as much as you need.
I can’t believe I almost finished this beast of a salad. I probably made it about 90% through the bulk and picked at the crispy bowl a bit at the end, which was now soggy in some spots and had a buttery flavor to it. Buckhorn Grill took me completely by surprise. I did not expect anything near the quality, size or presentation from this place in the food court. Well played Buckhorn Grill. Well played.