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THE CHARCOAL ROOM

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Santa Fe Station

4949 N. Rancho Rd.

Las Vegas, NV 89130

702-515-4385

website

$30-$60

Sun-Thu 5-10pm

Fri-Sat 5-11pm

Steaks & Seafood

B

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A well-rounded steakhouse offering the typical fare at prices that won't break your budget.

Where is it?

At Santa Fe Station on the north side of Las Vegas.

What kind of food is served?

Excellent array of all things cow and plenty of other things to keep you entertained.

What is the atmosphere like?

A gorgeous dining room with a retro-mod '60s appeal.

How is the service?

Good but could probably dial it down a notch.

What are the prices like?

Won't cost you as much as a steak on The Strip but not so cheap to make it worth it for cost alone.

What else do I need to know?

Austins is just down the street.

What's the bottom line?

A good steakhouse that could be better.

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FULL REVIEW

Steak is a great American tradition and Las Vegas has embraced that to a degree that is almost silly. Almost every Vegas hotel has some variation of a steakhouse and that doesn't even count the independents like Morton's or the chain places like Outback or Ruth's Chris located all over town.

So when I heard about the Charcoal Room steakhouse at Santa Fe Station in the northwest part of town I wanted to roll my eyes a little. Enough meat already! But then I got hungry. And then I remembered that the Station hotels chain does a great job with steakhouses, specifically the brilliant Austins at Texas Station and the quite fine Hank's at Green Valley Ranch. So I decided to give the place a try.

The dining room is a stunner. Charcoal grays, reds, and warm earth tones in the stone and woodwork conspire to create a truly inviting space with just enough whimsy to keep it from getting overly serious. It actually took me awhile to "get" the ceiling treatment - it's meant to evoke a barbecue grill over hot red coals - so they're having fun but not being obnoxious about the whole thing.

A big bar with televisions dominates the main room with a quieter tables and booths only area is separated from the louder action by a giant 60's era stone wall.

But you really didn't come here for the décor, did you? Okay, let's get to the menu. It's fairly basic - one page featuring a few appetizers, a couple of salads and soups, entrees (steak, seafood, poultry), and sides. There are no surprises here, which unfortunately is a knock in my book. To stand out in the steakhouse crowd you have to do something original and they haven't accomplished it in terms of the menu selections.

The appetizers are mostly seafood, something that I've grown increasingly weary of since I'm not a big fan of the fish. But we sampled the artichoke and spinach dip, a creamy confection that wound up tasting mostly like zesty cheese - a good thing in my opinion. The crusty bread slices were perfect to coat with the hearty mixture that even those that would turn their noses up at spinach and/or artichokes will probably enjoy.

The chopped salad was giant but surprisingly mild. I would've preferred a little more of the bleu cheese dressing thrown into the mix but as chopped salads go it was fine.

For entrees we sampled the filet mignon and the bone-in New York strip, two very generous cuts of meat prepared exactly to our specifications. While good and ultimately satisfying there was nothing to them that made us sit up and say "Wow," another sin when making the inevitable comparisons between competing steakhouses.

All entrees are served ala carte with a variety of veggie side dishes available for an extra charge. I tried the baked potato because it's required by law when having a steak and the mashed potatoes, the latter of which brought out the extremely rare comment of "too much butter." I'm usually a "more butter is better" kind of guy but this crossed the line.

A small separate dessert menu featured more of the usual suspects, of which I finally settled on the warm chocolate cake. As with the rest of the meal it was good but not knock-your-socks-off good.

Service was attentive and efficient although a tad obsequious at times. Could've been because they knew I was there to review the joint and went a bit overboard.

Prices are moderate and certainly cheaper than what you'll pay at a similar restaurant on The Strip. Two of us did all of the above (which is more than most normal people will eat because of the whole "sampling" thing) plus cocktails, wine, tax, and tip for about $100. The same thing at a place on The Strip would probably be $50-75 more.

So now we come to the meat of the matter, so to speak: the location. If The Charcoal Room was located on, or closer to, The Strip I'd say go and have a very satisfying meal at a decent price. Unfortunately Santa Fe Station is located on the far northwest side of town, a solid 25-minute drive if there is no traffic and more if you're going at rush hour. That seriously reduces the appeal in my opinion simply because there are better steakhouses closer (Austins for example).

So it becomes a "if you're in the neighborhood" proposition, which makes sense since The Charcoal Room will probably be getting the bulk of their customers from people staying at the hotel and the local neighborhoods surrounding the place. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in the area and in the mood for a steak dinner you don't need to drive all the way to The Strip to find one - stop here instead.

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