Originally created 07/10/98

Sagebrush has taste of West in heart of South



The Sagebrush Steak House and Saloon is a place where you can get a big slab of beef and a bucket of peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.

Bull horns hang over the swinging front door inside the Texas roadhouse-style restaurant. Barrels of peanuts flank the entrance as you walk into a wood-paneled room hung with pictures of John Wayne.

The Sagebrush Steak House and Saloon, which opened in Aiken April 20, is one of a chain of about 40 restaurants in the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. (The company is thinking about moving into Georgia.)

Two dining rooms for people with kids flank the bar/singles dining area.

Kids automatically get free drinks and a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. They can order pizza, corn dogs or chicken fingers if they don't feel like eating beef.

Outside the "cowgirls" and "cowboys" restrooms is a Wizard of Oz display, surrounded by pictures of a chubby Shirley Temple and the Little Rascals.

That's for kids waiting for parents to finish washing their hands, says David Osborne, the general manager.

"They might not recognize Marilyn and James Dean -- but everybody knows the Wizard of Oz," he says.

The restaurant has a NASCAR wall, an NFL wall and a Gone With the Wind wall. Elvis, James Dean and the Duke are everywhere. A model train runs through the ceiling along the entranceway and through both dining rooms.

"Little kids just sit and stare at that for hours," Mr. Osborne says.On the tables are A-1 and the Sagebrush Steak Sauce, labeled "A little taste of heaven."

"It's closer to Texas Mesquite Barbecue Sauce than A-1," Mr. Osborne says.

The Sagebrush seasons its steaks with a lemon butter sauce, Lawry's seasoning salt and a few other ingredients Mr. Osborne won't reveal.

The steaks aren't char-grilled but flat grilled to sear in all the juices, he says.

"It's a different taste," he says.

And since the restaurant grills the steaks on one side and broils them on the other, cooking time is shortened. The biggest thickest steak, the porterhouse, would still take 15 to 20 minutes to cook well-done. But the best seller, the 7-ounce Miss Kitty Filet cooked to medium, takes about 10 minutes. That gives you time to eat your almond covered salad and honey-wheat bread, he says.

At lunch time there's a $4.99 blue-plate special -- with fried catfish every Friday. The evening specials run $12.99 to $15.99 and include combinations such as rib-eye and grilled shrimp or grilled chicken and salmon.

Dining out

What: The Sagebrush Steakhouse and Saloon

Where: 190 Aiken Mall Road

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Cuisine: Steak, chicken, fish and salads.

Attire: Casual

Alcohol Served: Yes

Style/description: Peanut shells are on the floor, and steaks are on the grill.

Phone: (803) 502-1008