When passing by Quaker Steak and Lube, we have some advice: Apply the brakes.
A restaurant and bar with an automotive theme, Quaker Steak exudes a fun, sports-bar kind of vibe, yet one where diners can enjoy table conversation without shouting at each other.
The first part of the name is a play on Quaker State motor oil. The original restaurant in Pennsylvania was opened in a former gas station. That has been carried on in its Gonzales franchise, where race cars and a motorcycle hang from the ceiling, and there are auto product signs on the walls. Fortunately, the only grease being dispensed is in the food, and only if that’s the kind of food you want to order.
Quaker Steak’s menu features more traditional bar food, steaks, ribs and seafood. Everything we sampled was well-prepared and tasty.
It started with the onion rings ($8.99), which are stacked on a spike made to resemble a car radio antenna and came with the restaurant’s “Louisiana Lickers” sauce — a mix of garlic, and barbecue and hot sauces. It was moderately spicy and gave an interesting kick to the onion rings, which did pretty well on their own. Quaker Steak uses large onions, which we like, because the onion flavor doesn’t get overwhelmed by the thick, crisp batter.
Speaking of overwhelmed: There are a lot of things one can order, but it’s always a good idea to figure out what the restaurant seems to specialize in. In Quaker Steak’s case, chicken wings fall into that category. When it comes to wings, it all comes down to two issues — how many and how hot. As for heat, you can get all you want.
The menu includes a chart that lists each sauce based on its Scoville Heat Unit numbers. There are mild to moderate options, then four hot options, ranging from 3,000-30,000 SCU. Then, there are the Atomic (150,000 SCU) and Triple Atomic (500,000 SCU) sauces, in which the restaurant requires diners to sign a waiver and then sets off a red flashing light and siren if someone still places the order.
We did not go there. A guest went on the other end of the spectrum, ordering the quite mild Kentucky Bourbon Glaze sauce. This is OK on chicken wings, but quite good on baby back ribs ($17.99, full rack). The sweetness seems to work better on pork than chicken.
Another rule of thumb is if there is a particular food in the restaurant’s name, order it. We went with the ribeye ($19.99), which was large and appropriately cooked to our medium-rare order. The flavor was OK. We detected mostly salt and pepper, and it wasn’t evenly distributed. Some bites were a bit blah. We’ve had better.
With ribs, steak and wings, you might expect us to sample something from the lighter (sandwich, wrap) end of the menu. You don’t know us very well. We saw the section that began “Half Pound Steakburgers” and couldn’t help ourselves. The Lubeburger ($10.99) tops a slab of medium rare beef with bacon, sauteed mushrooms, hot sauce, melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion on a toasted brioche bun, with a blue cheese sauce on the side. We didn’t use much of the extra sauce because this burger already has a lot of moving parts, and is thick enough that just getting the incisors on either side of the bun is a challenge — but worth the effort. The burger comes with above-average French fries.
The fudge brownie ($6.49) is a decadent way to end a decadent meal — a rich, warm brownie topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup. It’s easily large enough for two to enjoy.