Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Not as advertised
I don't think I've ever been to a Steak 'n Shake & this wasn't exactly a picturesque first impression. Adventuring out in the suburbs I found myself in Aurora. With my choices being between Steak 'n Shake, Hooters or Culver's & the latter closed until at least 10am I took my chances at Steak 'n Shake. With the almost non-stop advertisements through the 90s & early 2000s I felt like I was familiar with the establishment, but looks can be deceiving.
Upon entering things seemed ok. The place was empty & the waiter greeted me promptly. Steak 'n Shake's theme looks to be a classic roadhouse diner with the well known red & black coloring ever present. He handed me a lunch menu & I found a seat. As I walked around I could feel the grease & stickiness on my shoes. The floor was visibly dirty as well. I chose a corner bench seat (pretty much always a bad choice) only to find all sorts of goodies on the floor from straw wrappers to what looked like a crayon. As I went to grab the table in-order to move it so I could sit on the bench my hands stuck to the bottom of it...disgusting. The benches were also clearly broken as the seats came too far off the wall, creating a large gap with even more "treats" inside. Looking towards the window I notice a spider web on the condiment rack. With standard open ketchup & mustard bottles that's not a good sign as spiders could've crawled & nested inside. Luckily I carry hand sanitizer on me for these exact situations.
"It reminded me of the spaghetti as well as chili my father used to make which was barebones, watery & sugared to the point where it became kool-aid."
My appetite settles on a butter steakburger with fries, a chocolate chip cookie dough shake & even though it looked totally unappetizing...the chili mac supreme (don't know how you can call it "mac" if it's spaghetti. Even though it was 9:30am my food arrived within minutes which was startling. The burger I received looked to be regular steakburger upon inital inspection so I talked to the waiter. He spoke to the chef & said the butter was melted onto the burger & that they were out of grilled onions. Apparently the chef didn't think being out of a major ingredient was worth telling customers. I asked them to bring out raw onions as a substitute & they obliged.
Prices were average. $7 for a decently sized burger & fries is average. The shake was $5 & the chili mac $6. First off was the chili mac which tasted about what I expected which is like a amateur chef "had 7 minutes to whip up something quick & cheap to eat " at home & for some reason added it to the menu of a major chain restaurant. The chili was watery (probably from the spaghetti) & for some reason had a lot of sugar in it. It reminded me of the spaghetti as well as chili my father used to make which was barebones, watery & sugared to the point where it became kool-aid. My father had an excuse though, he was a military cook that didn't have anything to work with, just beans, chili seasoning, water & sugar. He unfortunately took that cooking style home with him after serving in Vietnam & being honorably discharged due to injuries sustained in battle. The fact that this is a major chain making military style food is unbelievable. The cherry on top is that the watery chili sauce splashed when I tried to dig in, ruining my brand new custom yellow shirt.
The burger was above average. Bread was a little over toasted, but not burnt. They didn't really give the burger juices time to sink into the bread like a good burger place, but at the same time the burger wasn't that greasy. Cheese was melted perfectly & once I added the onions the burger became so much better with the expanded flavor profile. For fun I added the steak seasoning at the table on a few bites which ruined the flavor. Fries were average as well, nothing to note here except they were dry, virtually no grease. The best part of the meal by far was the shake which was excellent, but definitely skimped on the chocolate chip cookie dough. The shake went down buttery smooth, wasn't too cold & was refreshing. Also note that the spoon they handed me for the shake was dirty as well. It had some caked on food & I ended up cleaning the spoon myself as I didn't trust anything they would give me.
Eventually I went to the bathroom to cleanse myself & even that was a mess. A broken diaper changing station, once white floors now turned greyish black from dirt, gum stuck in off spots welcomed me. Of course they don't even offer seat covers...
Overall, this was by far the worst first experience I've ever had at a chain & you're talking about a guy whose been to Denny's at 3am & watched drunken patrons scream, bicker & play the bongos with each other's heads.While the food & prices were average, the ambiance, service & cleanliness completely destroy what could've easily been a 3 or 4 star rating. When I got up to leave the entire staff disappeared (most likely for a meeting,) so I was standing at the counter for 10 minutes waiting to pay for my meal. Hopefully that meeting was about them having to clean this place.
1 out of 5 stars
Steak n' Shake - Aurora, Illinois
4333 Fox Valley Center Drive Aurora, IL 60504