Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Elmo's Steakhouse

Well, I figured since I grew up here, and have been back now for three years this month, and I have never been to St. Elmo’s, it was time. Now, I went in with a certain degree of skepticism since I have not heard a lot of positive things about St. Elmo’s. But determined to keep an open mind, we checked it out.

Well, one thing you can say about this place—it certainly doesn’t lack customers. We were there on a Wednesday night and the place was nearly full (at least the parts I could see). We were promptly seated and give the menu. One quick look around told us every table in our room was either tourists or businesspeople with maybe one or two exceptions. (You can tell they’re tourists when they are wearing shorts and baseball caps. Clearly St. Elmo’s isn’t turning anyone away.) (But seriously, on a side note it is depressing to me that people would choose to go to a nice restaurant and wear shorts and baseball caps).

Anyway, the menu is very basic and offers only one appetizer—the infamous shrimp cocktail (well, and salads which are at the bottom of the menu). Of course we had to order the shrimp cocktail. Now this may get me into trouble, as I know it is sort of an institution, but the one word which I think best describes the shrimp cocktail is “stupid.” Seriously, who is enjoying this thing? I can handle spicy food, but as I have said before, nothing turns me off more than something that is so spicy, you can no longer taste the food. This is such a dish. Basically, they take 4-5 shrimp, put them in a bowl, and pour a ton of their “cocktail” sauce on top so every inch is covered, which is far as I can tell is 12 parts horseradish to 1 part tomato juice (not even the slight sweetness of ketchup in there—and since one of the choices with your steak is tomato juice, and I can’t imagine a lot of people are ordering a side of tomato juice with their steak, I am assuming it is an ingredient used elsewhere—just my guess though). This “preparation” is particularly annoying when you look at their website menu and they show a nice shrimp cocktail with the shrimp hanging over the side of the bowl and the cocktail sauce in the middle (as the thing should be served). They basically give you no option of how much of the “sauce” to use because they just dump it on top. Anyway, it is not good in my opinion, and I would never order it again. I guess I should say just for the sake of saying it, the shrimp themselves are good and cooked properly, although it is really hard to tell because all you can really taste is the horseradish. So do yourself a favor, and order a salad.

One thing that is nice is that the entrees all come with a potato side and your choice of navy bean soup or the aforementioned tomato juice. I appreciate that while the food has the heft of a steakhouse price tag, at least you get something more than just the steak for your money. So I ordered a filet (10oz) with the baked potato on the side (you can get fries, baked potato, mashed, or green beans) and had a bit of the soup. The soup was nothing special, wasn’t bad, wasn’t great—hubby said it tasted like the same kind you could buy in a can. The steak, however, was perfect. I was pleasantly surprised with how good the steak was, and how perfectly cooked it was. When I saw it, with the nice dark grill marks, I have to say, I was worried it would be overcooked, but no, it was delicious. And cooked medium rare all the way through, not the kind you get sometimes that are raw in the center and overcooked on the edges. I really liked this steak. The baked potato was fine, nothing spectacular, but I ordered it “loaded” on the side after being asked by the waiter if I wanted it. This includes butter, sour cream, chives, bacon and cheese. I was slightly annoyed that there was an up charge for this that was not mentioned by the waiter, but the bacon pieces were tasty.

Hubby had the ribeye, his favorite, and agreed with my assessment of the steak. He really liked his also (of course we couldn’t agree on whom had the better steak, but we have different taste this way). He wasn’t impressed with his fries though (he said they weren’t very crispy) and wouldn’t order them again.

We also ordered additional sides of creamed spinach (can you tell this is hubby’s favorite side?) which wasn’t very good at all we thought, and king crab mac and cheese which was pretty good, but honestly, I don’t think the crab added much to it (except for raising the price). The mac and cheese would be a nice thing to order on its own, but unfortunately, it isn’t offered that way.

We also had a dessert which was described as chocolate cherry bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. It didn’t really come across as such, but it was good nonetheless. It was like two dense pieces of cake that were chocolaty in color, but had a flavor, strangely, more like sticky toffee pudding. It was really tasty though, and a nice surprise. I think it was a special though, so may not always be on the menu.

All in all, I actually enjoyed St. Elmo’s more than I thought I would. But I would never, ever, order that shrimp cocktail again. I don’t care if it is an institution.

St. Elmo’s Steakhouse
127 S. Illinois Street
Indy 46225

St. Elmo Steak House on Urbanspoon


  1. I owe St. Elmos a visit as well, I have been sitting on a gift certificate for a year. Agree with the bean soup comment. Bean soup and tomato juice...I don;t get it.

    Their steaks are good, but I never felt like they are better than Eddie Merlot’s or Fleming’s. I think shrimp cocktail should be about the shrimp, not the case here. Good review.

  2. As usual your timing was perfect for us. Thank you. We were planning on taking a friend from California to St. Elmo’s this week. I don’t think we will now.

    But is this what we’ve come to in Indy? You said the steak and dessert were good but everything else (baked potato, creamed spinach, crab mac and cheese, bean soup and shrimp cocktail) was average or not very good. All of this at top dollar! Yet you said you enjoyed it.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it but I’d be totally bummed if that much of my meal was average or not very good at one of Indy's top steak houses.

    -Disgruntled Foodie

  3. I guess the shrimp cocktail is a personal preference. Funny, I don't typically like spicy food, but LOVE the cocktail sauce at Elmo's.

    For me the bean soup, etc are nostalgic - this is the restaurant I went to for every special event growing up in the 60's. I guess if you didn't grow up in the era, you might not get that same feeling. I will say we did dress up to dine at St. Elmo in the day.

    You didn't mention the service. To me it is unbeatable as the best in town. Professional, unobtrusive, attentive, seems to understand the fine art of service which is hard to come by these days.

  4. DF: I actually said, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I really had very low expectations. And the steak was very good.

    Anon: Obviously, someone is liking that shrimp cocktail, it just isn't me. As for the service, it was pretty good, other than the big grin he got when he set the shrimp down and asked if we had ever had it and warned us to "be careful." I thought that was a little cheeky, and I don't think you should have to be warned about food. But that's just me maybe. I don't go for shock value with food.

  5. I love that shrimp cocktail as well! Definitely not for the faint of heart, it so hot it makes my hair tingle! As for the steaks..... not bad, nothing great though. I personally think The Oceanaire might have the best steaks in the kidding! They use Fisher Farms an all organic ranch just south of Indy.

  6. We may never get to try a steak at Oceanaire as it has declared bankruptcy and closed several locations including the original Seattle location. The Indy location is still open for the time being.

  7. my understanding is that there is no problem with the Indy branch.

  8. I hate St. Elmo. Have eaten there several times over the last 15 years and have been SNUBBED every time. Steaks are burned.