7 Best And 7 Worst Steakhouse Chains In The US

When you're craving a steak dinner, but don't want to cook at home, you likely have a number of steakhouses nearby to choose from. Steakhouse chains typically stick to the same formula — steaks, seafood, and an array of sides. But not all steakhouses are created equal. Some offer the best cuts of steak, cook them to perfection, and serve them in stunning settings. Others just seem to drop the ball. From the quality of the food to the service and atmosphere, there are several factors that make some chains stand out from others.

If you're wondering where to indulge in a great steak dinner that won't leave you feeling like you were ripped off, these are some of the top-rated steakhouse chains that are worthy of a special evening out and some not-so-great spots that you may want to skip. We chose these restaurants based on our own experiences, as well as customer reviews and rankings on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Reddit. To help you plan a stellar steakhouse outing and avoid wasting your time and money, we give you the seven best and seven worst steakhouse chains in the U.S.

Best: Smith & Wollensky

If you're looking for an upscale spot to enjoy a superb steak dinner, Smith & Wollensky is a good bet. The flagship restaurant opened in Midtown Manhattan in 1977, and it wasn't long before it began earning accolades as one of the best steakhouses in New York City. Now there are locations across the United States and several international destinations. At each location, you can expect polished service, an extensive wine list, and top-quality steaks that come from the brand's own cattle ranch in Caldwell, Idaho. The attention to detail here is spot-on, from the beautifully plated dishes to the custom-made steak knives.

Diners have mostly good things to say about Smith & Wollensky. For example, one Yelp reviewer said, "Always a solid choice for cocktails and steaks. Old-school feel, service is very efficient, and the food is consistently good. The seafood is always fresh, fried calamari is amazing, and the steaks are always cooked perfectly as requested." Another reviewer on TripAdvisor said, "This was the best steak I have ever eaten! Go with the intention of having the best meal."

Worst: Outback

When Mashed took a poll of which steakhouse readers thought had the worst steak, Outback Steakhouse got the most votes. That may be due to the quality of its beef. A former server and restaurant manager explained on Quora, "Outback uses "USDA Choice," while a premium steakhouse uses only "USDA Prime." A prime steak earns that rating based on the marbling of the fat within the meat, which is what makes it juicier and more tender." That could explain why some diners complain that the steak is tough and dry.

Some people also find Outback's kitschy Aussie theme laughable. You might be surprised to hear that the chain is not actually from Australia. Outback was created in Tampa, Florida in 1988. The founders wanted to create a casual steakhouse that was different from the standard Western-themed spots, so they chose an Australian theme. This was shortly after "Crocodile Dundee" had exploded on the movie scene. You might think then that the menu would include dishes from "The Land Down Under." Not so much. Despite having names like the Kookaburra wings and Tasmanian chili, none of the menu items are authentically Australian. And yes, that includes the beloved Bloomin' Onion.

Best: The Palm

Whether you're celebrating an anniversary or entertaining clients over dinner, The Palm pulls out all the stops. The first restaurant opened in 1926 in New York City, and it was such an ongoing success that the brand has now expanded to 28 restaurants in three countries. From the early days, steak was the star and that still holds true today. No matter what location you visit, you can expect top-quality USDA Prime corn-fed beef aged at least 35 days. You can opt for the New York strip, filet mignon, or the bone-in rib-eye seasoned with kosher salt and topped with parsley butter. Pair it with sides like whipped potatoes or lobster mac n' cheese.

While there are plenty of dishes at The Palm that diners rave about, the steaks get the most fanfare. One Yelp reviewer commented, "What really made me fall in love with The Palm is that every single dish was simply but perfectly prepared and nothing was greasy or too rich (and at most steakhouses I've been to that is almost always the case). If I want a good steak, I just need quality meat — not a pound of butter melted over the top or creamy sauces to drown the dish. If the steak is good, it should only need a little salt and a nice sear."

Worst: Sizzler

For many of us, Sizzler is a blast from the past. This casual steakhouse chain has been around since the 1950s, and its goal has always been to serve budget-friendly steak dinners that the whole family could enjoy. It's still popular today thanks to its easy-going concept. You place your order at the counter, then grab a seat and a server will bring you your food, along with free cheese toast and drink refills. You can also load your plate up at the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

In terms of the food, Sizzler is not terrible. Just don't expect an over-the-top, super memorable meal. The offerings are pretty standard. Steaks are the focus of the menu, but you can also opt for seafood, chicken, ribs, and a variety of sides. If you're going for the nostalgia factor, be warned that many diners believe the quality of the food doesn't compare to the good old days. For example, one Yelp reviewer said, "Back in the 90s Sizzlers was a great steak restaurant with a great salad bar buffet with all the extra fixings. NOW you just get a small portion of steak, and the salad bar... never mind, save your money."

Best: Fogo de Chão

Fogo de Chão is a Brazilian steakhouse chain that specializes in churrasco-style meat grilled over an open flame. It has a level of authenticity to it that most steakhouse chains lack, given that the founders were two brothers who grew up on a Brazilian ranch and were taught gaucho cooking traditions from a young age. If you're going with a group, you'll probably want to try the Full Churrasco Experience, which includes an array of meats carved at the table. You can also make unlimited trips to the Market Table, which is a Brazilian steakhouse salad bar with a huge range of options, including charcuterie, fresh vegetables, cheeses, and fruit.

"To say it was amazing, is an understatement," said one TripAdvisor reviewer. "Food was great, plentiful, staff incredibly friendly and the extra little touches such as the fermented pineapple drink, the cooked pineapple, and the grilled cheese with honey, just capped off a great night. My only suggestion, is to go very hungry." Another reviewer complimented the high-quality food and wine selection, saying: "We had the full churrasco experience of unlimited meats. Meats were cooked perfectly and presented by the Gauchos very professionally. The lamb was our favorite and was cooked perfectly. The house malbec was excellent as well. Paired very well with the steak selections."

Worst: Ponderosa

Back in the 90s, Ponderosa was killing the steakhouse scene. At that time, it had over 700 restaurants worldwide. Now there are just a handful left in the United States. Perhaps it's because the brand never quite moved on from the all-you-can-eat buffet model that seems incredibly dated today. Not much seems to have changed over the years, and in fact, many reviewers comment on how the quality has worsened. Diners often comment on the shabby interiors and poor service. Then there is the quality of the food.

One TripAdvisor said, "Food quality was shocking. Mac 'n' cheese was literally pasta and yellow water, no cheese flavor. Steak tips were undercooked and full of fat, shrimp overcooked." Josh Wussow wrote on The Takeout, "I'd eaten a very good steak the night prior to my visit, so I opted for the sirloin tips as my entrée. This was a mistake ... Shame on me for going against my instincts, but shame on Ponderosa for sullying its own good name. The onions lacked color and flavor, and the half-decent mushrooms were the best part of the plate. The fries were cold and limp, but were saved by their coating of seasoned salt." He followed up with, "You don't come to Ponderosa to eat well. You come to eat a lot, and to straddle the border of too much."

Best: The Capital Grille

Exceptional steak dinners are the norm at The Capital Grille, a high-end steakhouse chain that prides itself on its top-notch food, service, and elegant interiors. There are 66 locations in the U.S., and each has sophisticated design features like floor-to-ceiling windows or Art Deco chandeliers. A meal here probably won't be cheap, but many diners believe it's worth the expense. As one TripAdvisor reviewer commented, "It is a bit on the expensive side, but for the class of the establishment and the quality of the food, this is value for money."

All of the steaks at The Capital Grille are dry-aged on-site for a minimum of 18 days, and then hand-cut by in-house butchers to ensure they have the perfect balance of fat and meat. There are plenty of cuts to choose from, including the porcini-rubbed bone-in ribeye, the tomahawk veal chop, and the classic New York Strip. The seafood is just as enticing with offerings like the sushi-grade seared sesame tuna and the silky lobster bisque. If you want to complement your meal with wine pairings, there is a good selection of wines from around the world on its wine list.

Worst: Sirloin Stockade

Sirloin Stockade is another all-you-can-eat concept that offers hot and cold buffet options like steak, fried chicken, and salads. There are nine locations across the South and Midwest. While the food is relatively affordable compared to some other steakhouse chains, it may not be worth a road trip. Most locations get poor reviews for the appalling quality of the food, bad service, and depressing interiors. One Yelp reviewer said, "Even if you feel like slumming it, there are better options than Sirloin."

In terms of the food, Sirloin Stockade gets some pretty scathing reviews. One Google reviewer said, "It's time to close this horrible place. The steak was the size of a baby shoe and just as tough, salad bar items (cottage cheese) are spoiled and even after telling them that they left it out, rolls are hard on the bottom as if they have been sitting for a couple of days. All in all, save your hard-earned money and eat anywhere else." Another diner on TripAdvisor called the desserts, "The worst, most fake, foul-tasting, meal-ruining deserts in the state of Texas."

Best: CUT by Wolfgang Puck

When celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck opened CUT in 2006 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, it was his first steakhouse concept. It was an instant hit. Just one year later, it had earned a coveted Michelin star. There are four CUT restaurants in the U.S. Each gets glowing reviews from diners. People love the way the servers go above and beyond to accommodate them, as well as the incredible food and the ambiance of the restaurants. One diner said on OpenTable, "The consistency of food and service at this restaurant is outstanding! We always have an amazing experience at CUT. One of our favorite restaurants."

CUT takes a modern approach to the classic steakhouse concept with innovative dishes from the land and sea. Steak is the main attraction with USDA Prime beef cuts like the New York strip, ribeye, and filet mignon. The Japanese A5 Wagyu also gets a high ranking. Non-steak options include the beet root tartare with whipped feta cheese, the loup de mer (sea bass) with toasted almonds and raisins infused with rum, and the double cut pork chop with chicharrón.

Worst: Steak 48

Steak 48 is a high-end steakhouse chain that offers quality meats and seafood in sophisticated settings. So why is it on our worst list? Well, the brand has some rules that many people find off-putting. For one, the strict dress code. As per the Steak 48 website, "​​In order to maintain an enjoyable environment for all of our guests, athletic wear, ... excessively revealing clothing, or exposed undergarments, will not be permitted. We prefer no printed t-shirts, hats or visors and always appreciate collared shirts and/or sports coats."

In addition, Steak 48 caused some controversy when it started implementing a minimum spend of $100 at several of its locations. Chances are you'd likely spend over $100 on a nice steak dinner anyway, but some people found the rule to be overly pretentious. The last straw for some diners is that gratuity is automatically added to the bill. A commenter on TripAdvisor said, "Requiring gratuity no longer makes it gratuity, it is merely a service fee and to then add an additional line item under gratuity to provide an additional "tip" is beyond offensive."

Best: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

If you want a classic steakhouse experience that consistently delivers, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is a good bet. The chain is renowned for its excellent steaks, as well as traditional steakhouse dishes like crab cakes, Caesar salad, and lobster bisque. Toppings and sides include lobster tail, creamed spinach, and garlic mashed potatoes. No matter which location you visit, you can expect USDA Prime beef cooked using the chain's own broiling method and served on a piping hot, 500-degree plate.

It's always a good sign when restaurants have repeat customers, and that seems to be a common thread with Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. As one TripAdvisor reviewer said, "We have eaten at many RC locations around the country because we have never been disappointed. We always get the filet and it is always amazing ... Sides are always excellent (sweet potato casserole OMG) and the desserts are always decadent. Outstanding bar and waitstaff service as well." Another fan on Quora said, "Ruth's Chris is the McDonald's of fine dining steakhouses — and I mean that as a compliment. Their primary virtue is consistency. If I walk into a Ruth's Chris anywhere in the country (or world) I pretty much know what I'm going to get in terms of menu, service, and ambiance." 

Worst: Texas Roadhouse

With over 600 restaurants across the United States, there's a good chance you have a Texas Roadhouse near you. The neon signs beckon diners in with the promise of Texas-style feasts at affordable prices. It certainly has a fan following, with many people loving the bang that you get for your buck. The free freshly baked rolls with honey-cinnamon butter also have somewhat of a cult following. But is the steak up to par? In general, most people find it average at best.

One Reddit user said, "If you're trying to go somewhere for a steak that's going to be top of the line, this ain't it. But it's decent enough for the $20 or so you'll spend." Another user on the same thread commented, "Texas Roadhouse is to steak as Chili's is to hamburgers. It's fine, generally speaking, but there is nothing that will really thrill anyone. It's cooked by recipe, which is fine. It's a business, and they cook to please 80% of people. Which means it's generally boring."

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

When we discovered that Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar was owned by the same company that owns and operates Outback Steakhouse, we were surprised, to say the least. Whereas Outback is consistently called out for its not-so-great atmosphere and steak, Fleming's is a fine dining spot that gets mostly stellar reviews for its outstanding food, service, and ambiance. As one Reddit user said, "I LOVE Flemings! This is one of the only expensive steakhouse experiences that I've actually enjoyed." The L.A. location is so good that it made our list of the best steakhouses in Los Angeles.

Just like the name suggests, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar serves USDA Prime beef sourced from family-run Midwest farms. Cuts include the bone-in ribeye, tomahawk, and New York strip. Each steak is seasoned with the house blend of spices and finished under the broiler at 1600 degrees. You can top your steak with béarnaise, smoked chili, or horseradish sauce, or enjoy it as is. If you want to go all out, add some truffle poached lobster or jumbo lump crab meat. Fleming's also has a killer wine list and a good selection of hand-crafted cocktails.

Worst: Claim Jumper Steakhouse & Bar

Claim Jumper Steakhouse & Bar has the word "steakhouse" right in the name, and it does indeed serve steak. However, steak is only one of the categories on its massive menu. As is so often the case when restaurants have huge menus, the food tends to be all over the map in terms of quality. It stands to reason that if the kitchen is cooking up everything from steaks to wood-fired pizzas, pastas, burgers, tacos, and chicken pot pie, it's probably not excelling at any one particular thing.

That being said, this casual steakhouse chain does use quality USDA Prime beef. Diners also say the portions are substantial. However, many former customers found the food and atmosphere underwhelming. One Yelp reviewer said, "Everything about the experience was average. The service was average, the appetizers were average, and the ambiance was average. Absolutely zero reasons for me to go back (unless my work holds another function there, I suppose.) For the money, you'll get a much better steak at Ruby River."