Review: Dear Toby Keith, You Don't Want Your Name on this Bar & Grill

Categories: Cafe Reviews

Cafe0813-Food.jpg
Photos by Troy Fields
The T.K. Stackers "South of You" burger actually isn't bad-- when the kitchen remembers to add all the toppings listed on the menu.
There is definitely a dress code at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill.

After sitting at a table waiting to get service for 20 minutes, I realized that the people around me in plaid, button-down shirts with pearl snaps and dusty brown cowboy boots with Wrangler jeans tucked into the top were getting drink after drink and platters of appetizers within minutes of being seated. I, in my green cardigan and Urban Outfitters sandals, still didn't have a glass of water. Once my friends came and we'd ordered and eaten, we all regretted that we had, eventually, been served.

Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, named after Keith's popular song "I Love This Bar," is anchored by a 95-foot guitar-shaped bar mirrored on the ceiling by a 95-foot guitar sculpture painted with an American flag. The rest of the space houses a large dance floor in front of a stage for live performances, multiple pool tables, private event rooms and all manner of Toby Keith and Americana memorabilia placed haphazardly on the walls and in cases by the front entrance. If that (as well as the ridiculous name of the place) isn't enough to convince you that Keith's hand is upon this godforsaken place, you need only glance at the dozen or so televisions above the bar, each playing a Toby Keith music video that does not sync up with the various other country artists being played over the speakers.

Keith's scruffy visage was easily visible on those televisions on each of my visits, not blocked by hordes of adoring fans descending upon the restaurant for a true country experience bookended by a Bud Light and some fried Twinkies. No, when I made the trek out to the veritable ghost town that is West Oaks Mall to mingle with Keith's Houston-area groupies, I found myself in a 500-seat restaurant with about 20 other people, a few of whom got up and danced or played a round of pool occasionally. But mostly, we were alone in our small groups, separated by what seemed like miles in the cavernous, empty restaurant, while Keith's face mouthed silent words on the TV screens.

I could have sworn the words were, "Go. Now. Before it's too late."

I'm still somewhat mystified by my experiences at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. From the nearly inedible food -- strangely one of the less memorable aspects of my adventures in Keith-Land -- to the "Whiskey Girls," who serve with a smile while their bare midriffs with sparkly navel rings meet diners at eye level, the whole place is like an amusement park that's seen far better days.

Supposedly some of the other outposts of TKILTB&G (as my friends and I have come to call it) are thriving in cities like Las Vegas...and Auburn Hills, Michigan. Which makes me wonder if, somehow, here in Houston, Toby Keith is punking us all. I intend to ask him.

---

Dear Toby Keith,

I have a few thoughts and questions regarding the latest countrified chain restaurant that bears your name right here in Houston, Texas, at a once grand but now majestically empty mall on the outskirts of town. My friends have some thoughts, too, which they were kind enough to share with me.

First, Mr. Keith, you really should've been a cowboy, not a restaurateur. I understand that you don't personally own any of these Americana abominations with your moniker -- you merely have a licensing agreement with the chain's CEO, Frank Capri -- but I'm somewhat amazed that you seriously want your name on items like the "T.K. Stacker Regulator." Honestly, that burger with two cooked-to-death but flavorful patties topped with cheese and chili is one of the better things on the menu. It was only later that my friends and I came to regret our decision to eat it.

And what was with those St. Louis-style ribs, featuring special "Toby's Barbecue Sauce" sweet enough to send a diabetic into a coma? As one who has lived in St. Louis, I can say with certainty that those are not St. Louis style. They're more akin to Chili's style, only the ribs I recall eating years ago at the national chain of family restaurants were juicy, even without being covered by a thick layer of gelatinous fat.

Location Info

Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill

1000 West Oaks Mall, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
100 comments
David O'Malley
David O'Malley

His music sucks and so does this, even in Rosemont IL it blows goats.

David Keith Schoppa
David Keith Schoppa

I've not eaten there, but one things for sure...I love the Dixie Chicks!

Heather Sheppard
Heather Sheppard

"veritable ghost town that is West Oaks Mall" truer words have never been spoken. Lol

Priscilla Monroe
Priscilla Monroe

Heather Sheppard Kaitlin Brown Fabian R. Prado Chris Davis lol

NealVanDuyle
NealVanDuyle

Given the crack town nature of that area (it didn't use to be that way), this Toby place won't last.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Shorts too short?  Now that's a matter of opinion.


twaynewren
twaynewren

Okay.  I read the comments and reread the review.  It's not funny; it's hilarious...

my86twrx
my86twrx

Bad restaurant. ..now Ms. Steiner for such an easy predictable target your review is boring and your zealous key tapping away seems -as you end -with a higher motive - revenge of the critic for some musical thing no one knows about but you. Please note to check out the new fall menu at Olive Garden.

Oh and by the way....yes..There is a reason the Whiskey Girls' shorts are too short.....

You can do better....don't be boring.

Abel Rodriguez
Abel Rodriguez

"OUCH"... but not far from the truth; I've been in there, had a beer & left... it is a big place. Sad to see they tore down Alamo Cinema for THAT!

quikboy_
quikboy_

The name of this bar and grill doesn't help. Though I do think it's cool they reconverted a giant mall store for this location.

Anse
Anse

Um...this review reminds me of another review. The New York Times take-down of Guy Fieri's Time Square restaurant, which was laugh-out-loud funny.

twaynewren
twaynewren

Very funny. My wife and I are very casual TK fans and were thinking of going there. Looks like we have another think coming.  Thanks...kudos.

StickToInnerLoopYupi
StickToInnerLoopYupi

Kaitlin is too good for tacky places like this. I'm really surprised she didn't bump her nose on the top of the door on the way in.

newtohouston3
newtohouston3

Kaitlin, you nailed this review. I definitely laughed aloud during several parts. To the few trolls below that think reviewing a place like this is a waste of time or that this type of restaurant is "low hanging fruit," you should adjust your expectations for what is acceptable quality in the food service industry. Just because this is a chain does not make it acceptable for them to have horrendous service & food that is practically inedible due to what it does to your body afterwards. I don't even want to know the millions of dollars that went into constructing this disgusting behemoth of a building as well as the nauseating & kitschy "this-is-what-being-a-cowboy-looks-like" decor on the inside. I have been to Chili's (or insert any other various national chain restaurant) 100 times. I've never left saying, "That was the best meal I've ever had." I've also never left saying, "That was the worst meal and dining experience of my entire life." However, the latter is very possibly true about my experience at TKILTB&G. And people that might be inclined to go spend their money at an establishment like this (which is a lot of people, mind you, otherwise places like this wouldn't exist in multitudes), then it is absolutely worth a critic's time to review it & skewer it for its laundry list of failures. 

fleurie
fleurie

Funny review, thanks for the laughs. I'm going to stop by for a peek at this odd duck. I occasionally pass by on the way home and always wonder why they would locate in West Oaks versus Katy Mills. 

Brazos
Brazos

The bar we go to is close to West Oaks Mall (shameless plug JP Hops House) and we watched them tear down the old Alamo Draft House to build this. It was the longest construction project I've ever witnessed.  Well over 1 year, maybe 16 months.  It became of a standing joke for all the regulars. Have never been but it sounds exactly like I expected.

Tony LaCombe
Tony LaCombe

Turds made me laugh....will not be dining there.

firebird65
firebird65

Well, at the very least, we have learned that the Houston Press is capable of reviewing restaurants outside the Loop. The Chronicle? That's another story. Their reviewer wouldn't have like the food either, I'm sure, but she would have spent half the article moaning about how far she had to drive.

devindude
devindude

@Mike681 

yeah, yeah, yeah...a negative review is always a ripoff, right? The NYTimes piece was a copy of Jim Sherman's Houston Press review of Fukawee Lodge from '97

devindude
devindude

@NealVanDuyle 

right....but wouldn't it be a wonderfully dramatic Broadway smash to have a dancin' musical where this really dopey C&W Bar serves to unite a racially torn community of blacks, country bumpkins, Indians and Middle Eastern Moslems?

 

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@my86twrx You can do better, too. The spelling of my name is there, right under the headline. Please get it right next time. 

Whoops
Whoops

@StickToInnerLoopYupi I hate to be the one to do this, but it's too good of an opportunity to point out the decidedly incorrect use of "to" in the post above.

newtohouston3
newtohouston3

And people that might be inclined to go spend their money at an establishment like this (which is a lot of people, mind you, otherwise places like this wouldn't exist in multitudes) deserve to know.** It is absolutely worth a critic's time to review it & skewer it for its laundry list of failures

Brazos
Brazos

@fleurie Who ever picked that location should be fired or forced to work there.

Gibbon
Gibbon

@firebird65

(She, of the Chronicle, would be taking a taxi here, trust me...or would be in very big trouble)

Dupuis
Dupuis

Negativity can startle, shock and stultify some of the aged amongst us, and ought to be avoided at all costs, I agree.

klipsch
klipsch

@KaitlinS @my86twrx 

Tombstone: RIP Zealous Key Tapper

kagan34
kagan34

@StickToInnerLoopYupi

...and ending a sentence with a preposition is decidedly declasse. 

Brazos
Brazos

@StickToInnerLoopYupi You should come there on Open Spin every Thur. Bring your vinyl and play in over their speaker system. Avg age, 25. HaHa

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...