This is one of those reviews I really don't want to write. It's about a great little place, tucked out of the way in suburban north Orange County.
I want to keep it my little secret. I don't want hundreds of people to descend on it and overwhelm the kitchen. But this casual, unpretentious place with good steaks and chops deserves some recognition.
Apopka's Back Room Steakhouse is adjacent to a Beef O'Brady's sports bar. Both are owned by restaurateur Ed Conlan, but other than a connecting door between the two eateries, these siblings have little else in common.
The Back Room's exterior does little to lure newcomers. The windows and door are dark and offer no hint as to what is inside.
The modest room has soft lighting and dark wood tables and chairs. My expectations weren't high at this point. A friendly server told us to sit wherever we wanted and promptly returned with menus.
The menu's scope isn't as broad as high-end steakhouses such as Morton's, Fleming's and Christner's Del Frisco's. But what is offered is handled with deft attention to detail.
We started with the steamed picante cabra dumplings ($11), four plump pouches of goat cheese blended with fresh herbs and chorizo sausage on a sweet-spicy chili sauce. The spices and textures fused together nicely.
The soup of the day ($4.50) was Thai chicken, flush with herbal aromas and an earthy broth.
For entrees, the 16-ounce black Angus boneless rib-eye ($24) came with sauteed asparagus and a baked potato. The aged beef was a spot-on medium rare. The pleasant mineral and bitter notes of the tender asparagus were a good foil for the richness of the meat. The hot potato fluffed easily with fork tines.
Steaks get top billing in the restaurant's name, but the herb-crusted pork chop ($17) is just as much of a star. Lightly covered with chopped parsley, the pork was grilled to medium doneness, leaving the meat juicy. And the creamed spinach was a fresh prep. The tender leaves were wilted in a sweet cream broth and had a smidge of nutmeg on the finish.
For dessert, the key lime pie ($7) was a sweet-tart, creamy delight.
Service was efficient and our courses were nicely paced. All presentations were clearly thoughtful without going over the top with frills and garnish.
With 60 seats and a few chairs along the short bar, the Back Room serves food comparable to bigger operations sans the pomp and circumstance.
The restaurant is clearly a neighborhood haunt — and a good one at that.
Is it worth a drive from south Orlando, Lake Nona or Kissimmee? Maybe not.
But for those who live in the maze of suburban homes that link Longwood and Apopka, The Back Room Steakhouse is a hidden neighborhood gem.
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The Back Room Steakhouse
¿¿1/2 out of four
Where: 1418 N. Rock Springs Road, Apopka (near the Welch Road intersection)
When: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
How much: $10-$30
Beverages: Full bar
Wines by the glass: From $6
Extras: Catering, limited vegetarian options, takes reservations, good for groups
Music: Live entertainment on occasion
Wheelchair access: Easy
Noise level: Quiet to lively buzz
Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
steakhouse.com and Facebook
Dining on a budget
Pair the scallop appetizer ($11) served over polenta with a classic wedge salad ($7).