Can You Get a Decent Glass of Wine at a Chain: Not at Outback Steakhouse

It was my dad’s birthday this last Saturday and it’s a tradition in my family that the birthday person gets to pick the restaurant for their birthday dinner.  That has translated over the years to me dragging my sushi hating parents to sushi; my brothers dragging me to a pizza place while I was on a Weight Watchers diet and other family members sucking it up because the birthday boy or girl should always go where they want.

Let’s just say that I love to eat.  I love finding the new hot restaurant or hole-in-the-wall before any of my friends have tried them.  My husband loves to cook and we both love food/wine. 

So on to his selection.  My dad, who is on a gluten free diet after going to the Jerusalem over the holidays on a dream trip with my mom, choose Outback Steakhouse.  Outback has one of the largest gluten free menus that would give him a wider net of choices for his dinner.

I choose to use this as an opportunity.  It has been a while since I did my column on “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain.”  My stipulation is that it has to be a wine by the glass that is interesting and unique.  Overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  On Saturday it was Outback’s turn.  I went to the website and found lots of information about the “Bloomin’ Onion” and the “Bloomin’ Sirloin,” but it took me three trips back to Google to find a drink list.  And what I found was clearly a list purchased from a distributor full of uninspired, middle shelf grocery selection grog – with no vintages.  That trend continued when I picked up the restaurant wine list.

If you HAD to choose a wine because you found yourself in the restaurant, I found two that were acceptable – Alamos Malbec or Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc.  I actually ordered a cocktail.  There is no reason with the buying power of Outback that they wouldn’t put something off the beaten path on the list.  Olive Garden does.  It prides itself on its wide selection of by the glass wines to give consumers a choice.

After looking down at the menu, I chuckled a bit to myself.  The Outback company tagline, “No Rules.  Just Right.”  Except for the chain’s approach to wine selection.