Running from the Law: Jacquie's Birthday at Alexander's Steakhouse

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jacquie's Birthday at Alexander's Steakhouse

A few weeks ago we celebrated Jacquie's birthday at Alexander's Steakhouse in Springfield, IL.  Alexander's Steakhouse is a "cook your own" steakhouse.  Yep - you cook your own meat.  Classy joint, I'm telling you.  Why, might you ask, would we decide to meet at some random restaurant 2 hours from where we live, only to cook our own food?  Oh, obviously you've never been to Alexander's!

Alexander's occupies a special place in my heart.  It's where I met Jacquie.  And Melissa.  And Julie.  And Sal.  And Alison.  And Iris.  And Cassie.  And so many other amazing people in my life.  There used to be an Alexander's in Columbia. We ALL worked there in college. My sorority sister Kristen got me a job there, I got Kasey a job there, we got Heather a job there, and so on.  Can you believe I used to wait tables?! Shocking, I know. However it won't surprise you that I was probably the world's worst (and bitchiest) waitress. Urg, I am not cut out to be bossed around for $3/hour. So glad this whole lawyering thing is working out because if I had to support myself on tips I'd starve to death!
There are four Alexander's Steakhouses in Illinois, all owned by the same company: Springfield, Peoria, Champaign and Bloomington. The Alexander's in Columbia closed the year after I graduated college. I was actually working at the Peoria Alexander's when I heard the sad news that the Columbia steakhouse was closing. (YES, you heard that right. I was not only a horrible waitress at one restaurant, but TWO! They hired me again when I moved to Peoria. But that job was mildly better because I was partly management and got to boss people around. Well, I didn't actually get to boss anyone around, but I probably could have and that's really all I needed). Apparent authority. I worked at the Peoria steakhouse after college for a year to save money for law school. I spent my days substitute teaching and/or studying for the LSAT and spent my evenings waiting tables, bartending and drinking excessive amounts of wine. It was an awesome year. I met Iris that year (at Alexander's). She drank excessive amounts of wine with me - love you Iris!
I can't really say that waiting tables at Alexander's was extremely difficult work. I mean, the customers cooked their own freaking meals! They got their own salad from the salad bar! I was basically a glorified cocktail waitress. But for some reason, it really was hard! Hell, everything felt hard back then. And if you've ever worked at a restaurant (or watched that movie Waiting), you know that your best friends in the world are the people you work with at that restaurant. No matter where you came from, where you're going or how bitchy you are, you fit in at a restaurant. There's something about the experience that bonds you for life. 10 years later, my friends are still the people I worked with at Alexander's. That's love baby.

But anyway, back to our story. It was Jacquie and Alison's birthday. And they wanted steak!  And not just any steak, but "The Best Piece of Meat in Town."  So they hired a bus, packed up a group of friends and headed to the closest Alexander's to St. Louis, which is in Springfield, IL.   Other than being the Illinois state capital and the home of Abraham Lincoln (is that right? I'm too lazy to Wiki it.), I can't say that there are too many other highlights in Springfield.  I'll save you the trouble now and just tell you not to bother visiting.  However, should you happen to find yourself there, go to Alexander's Steakhouse!  And cook your own steak.  I'll walk you through the process so you don't look like a rookie.
Upon arrival at Alexander's, whether it be by bus (which happened to break down along the highway 20 miles away) or by mustang convertible (loaned to the bus driver by the guy that runs the convenience store where your busted-ass broke-down bus died), you proceed immediately to the bar area and order one Tall Bud Light draft. Or maybe two, if you really need it.

Spend about an hour hanging out in the bar.  It's worth it.  The bartenders are always chatty and nice (all except one old know who you are K.K.).  I can't even begin to add up all the hours I've spent sitting at an Alexander's bar.  Whoa, did that just make me sound like a lush?!  Let me justify that: I've done homework at the bar, took practice LSAT exams, filled out law school applications, read numerous books, filled out crossword puzzles and ONLY occasionally, did I have a drink.  :-)  You believe me, right?
It's always best to have these girls at the bar with you. 
They're awesome.
And I'm sure they'd be willing to drive to Springfield to dine at Alexander's with you whenver you make it there.  Just call me...I'll set it up.
Ryan and Jay did not have the privilege of working at an Alexander's in college.  They have no idea what they missed.  We took it upon ourselves to teach them the ropes and pass on our insider steakhouse knowledge: our steak-grilling techniques, our tried-and-true salad bar combinations, our Texas Toast-making skills, our mastery of the art of eating a Skillet Cookie.  Their lives will never be the same.  And now you too can be a part of this incredible experience.  Are you ready?
After you've received your Tall Bud Light, you can now proceed to your designated table.  Insider Tip: Yes, there is A-1 Steak Sauce on the table - but it is NEVER to be used.  That's a rookie mistake.  Only hacks that absolutely char their steaks need steak sauce.  Did you know that people that use steak sauce tip significantly less?  True story. 
Make sure to sit next to your friends at the table.  This way you can split an order of sauteed mushrooms with your steak.  And share a skillet cookies with them for dessert.  Insider tip: a skillet cookie is a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie in skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge, almond slivers and a cherry.  It's amazeballs.
Once you've sat down and ordered another Tall Bud Light from your waitress, you can proceed to the salad bar area.  The salad bar is not for amateurs.  You must fully assess the salad bar before beginning the salad-making process, otherwise you will end up with more salad on your plate than humanly possible to eat.  And believe me, you do NOT want to fill up on salad before you even start cooking your steak.  The salad bar is good, but not that damn good - it's salad!  And for the love of all things holy and chocolaty, do NOT forget about the skillet cookie.  Pace yourself!
You can tell from my salad that I showed significant restraint. 
After eating your salad, it is time for the main event. 
Order another Tall Bud Light because it's time to pick out your meat! 
Folks, you cannot legally get more excitement than this in Springfield, Illinois. 
Grab your plate.
And proceed to the meat cooler. 
Here are your choices...
Above: Top sirloin rubbed with their secret "Santa Maria" spice, perfectly marbled ribeyes, bone-in Kansas City strips larger than your head, giant T-bones that might have come from dinosaurs.  (And chicken for the wimpy non-red-meat-eater...although the chicken is really damn good.)
And in this case: marinated and regular top sirloins (don't get came all this way, get something good), regular and marinated kabobs, and regular and marinated filets.  Did you hear that...marinated filets.  That, my friends, is what you should get.
Insider tip: Don't like the steaks in the case?  Ask the cook for more.  They've got more in the back!
I picked out these beauties for Ryan and I.
Insider tip: the teriyaki marinade is a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, pineapple juice and garlic. It's a top secret recipe that I would never ever ever share. Unless you gave me a million dollars. Or just asked nicely. :)  Oh wait...did I just give it away?  Damn it.

And now it's time to take your steak to the grill and cook!
At the grill you will find various spices to season your steak.  You've got salt, pepper, above-reference Santa Maria seasoning, garlic powder, Lawry's, etc.  If you get the marinated filet, a little salt is all you need.
Once your steaks are on and cooking, it's time for another Tall Bud Light!
And if you get a little hungry, you can make yourself some Texas Toast on the grill.
Kasey makes excellent Texas Toast. 
She is from Texas after all, so she has an advantage.
Yes, Alexander's will cook your steak for you (for $3.00!) if you don't want to cook yourself, but why not?  Cooking your own steak is part of the experience.  It's so much fun to stand around the grill, eat toast, play with the butter in the fire, drink beer and hang out with your friends.  Yes, you can do all this at home, but at Alexander's you don't have to clean up or do dishes! 
And someone just keeps bringing you Tall Bud Lights!
So you just chill out by the grill with your friends. 
It's almost like sitting around a campfire telling stories.
One of the funniest things about working at a steakhouse in college was definitely always smelling like steak.  I tell you LOVE the smell of steak.  It was the best perfume you could ever find.  In college, we would go out after work and guys would constantly tell us how great we smelled!  So funny!  We had to beat them off with a stick!  (ok, maybe that's exaggerating a little, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it)
Obviously my man likes a lady that smells like steak!
And before you know it, your steak is done.
12 ounces of medium-rare perfection.
Time to grab your toast and a baked potato (and another Tall Bud Light) and EAT!

Insider tip: The baked potatoes are already baked and hot and waiting for you. No need to put them directly in the flame to heat up for 20+ minutes. That will only burn them and dry them out so bad you'll need 17 scoops of butter and sour cream to eat it.  Everyone knows, a perfectly cooked Alexander's baked potato only needs around 9 scoops of butter and sour cream.  Moderation people.
Make sure you get an order of sauteed mushrooms to accompany your steak.  You can thank me later.

If you want something a little more "manly" than a filet, we've got you covered there too.  One of the most disgusting coolest items that Alexander's offers is called "The Beefeater."  It's a 3 lb. top sirloin.  THREE POUNDS of meat!  It's a novelty item that is cut to order and comes with rules: if you want the Beefeater (and to be included on the Beefeater Hall of Fame plaque in the hallway), you must eat the salad bar, a baked potato, Texas Toast and the entire THREE pound sirloin in one hour
This is the stuff legends are made of.  I've seen a 15 year old kid eat the entire thing no problem!  I've seen 300 pound Mizzou football player eat the whole thing and then throw it all up on the table in front of his date.  I've seen it all, folks.  But tonight, we got to see this man take on the Beefeater. 
Robby v. Beefeater
This is one ginormous hunk of meat.
And despite the shirt Robby was wearing, the Beefeater is NOT the best piece of meat in town.  It's absolutely disgusting.  However, it is definitely the largest!  And why go for quality when you can gorge on THREE full pounds of fat and gristle. 
Our man Robby started out strong. 
Salad - check.
Baked potato - check.
Toast - check.
Steak - in progress.
About 30 minutes later, he'd slowed significantly. 
And was starting to turn a strange shade of green.
We cheered our competitor on!
Go Robby!  Go Robby!
And he did it!  Kinda. 
We were all so proud.  Kinda.
Mostly disgusted and slightly horrified.
After dinner, just sit back and relax. 
And maybe have just one more Tall Bud Light.

Happy Birthday Jacquie!!
I hope you had a great one!
Your next Tall Bud Light is on me!


  1. That looks SO fun! I don't even like steak and I would totally go there. Wish we had them here!!

  2. My husband would love that place! I'm not a huge fan of steak, but you made it sound crazy delicious! Hell, I'd go just for the cookie skillet...which, by the way, I did not see a picture of :(

  3. Wow--what a neat place!

    i lurrve steak, but Eric doesn't so much, so I'm not sure I could drag him to a place like that. But it looks like a lot of fun for a group of friends!

    ps. I think we are a lot alike. The way you described yourself as a waitress is exactly how I imagine I would be. Thankfully the college library employed me through school (NERD alert!)-so no one would have to suffer my terrible wait service.

  4. I think you guys had a little to much fun!

  5. Thank you for that amazing post. I miss that place!


  6. I love there teriyaki marinade. Can you tell me how to make it and how they marinate the steaks and for how long. Thanks!!!