- 1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona, IA, 50009
- Overall User Rating:
- (5 ratings)
- 5pm – 10pm Mondays – Thursdays; 5pm – 11pm Fridays & Saturdays; 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays
- Official Web Site:
October 1, 2008
Fine dining at Prairie Meadows? AJ's Steakhouse tries its hand, and for the most part, succeeds.
My wife and I were quickly seated at a half-circle booth big enough for six. Our waitress asked us if we were celebrating anything (I was in shirt-and-tie work attire), and offered helpful suggestions as we navigated the large menu. Pleasant.
Just before 7 p.m. and the place was empty, with a few diners scattered between a series of small dining areas. AJ's is a white-tablecloth kind of place, but the food is reasonably priced and the vibe more subdued than elegant. Exhibit A: The '70s rock ("Blinded by the Light") gently pumping through the speakers. The restaurant also, don't forget, resides inside a casino, which we were reminded of seated near a window where a cast of characters passed by on their way to feeding the slots and county coffers.
We stopped in on a Tuesday, and were tempted by the daily special, a $19.95 24-ounce T-bone (Any other day the steak costs $27). Nothing stood out from the menu of steak, seafood, pasta and appetizers, so we each ordered reliable steakhouse favorites - me the "Queen Cut" prime rib and her the seared sea scallops.
A few dozen wine choices started at $6 a glass and soared to $250 for the best vintage bottle.
Finger-sized calamari strips were crispy and tender, a great teaser delivered to our table in less than 10 minutes. Fat sea scallops were delicate, cooked perfectly, except for the biggest of the four, which arrived underdone. A mushroom rice dish also impressed.
My prime rib was cooked a bit past the requested medium, but was still tender and flavorful. I noticed tiny rosemary sprigs in the jus. Somehow I pushed through 3/4 of the cut. I chose the steak fries as a side, and was surprised to be served just three - three! - fries.
I don't anticipate swinging by the casino next date night. But should I strike luck on the nickel slots, AJ's may be a stop for a celebratory plate-sized T-bone.
Receipt: Queen cut prime rib, $22.95, Seared sea scallops, $22.95, Raspberry iced tea, $1.95, Diet pepsi, $1.95, Calamari, $6.95, Total with tax and tip, $72.16