590 Chamber Drive
Adam Richman, the congenial host of Man vs. Food, suckered us in again. For those unfamiliar with his Travel Channel show, Richman travels the country in search of iconic eateries and attempts food challenges along the way. He’s done the 72 oz. steak challenge in Amarillo, The 11-pound, 30” Carnivore pizza in Atlanta, and in Pittsburgh it was the Quaker Steak & Lube hot wings challenge. Although neither of us was interested in the restaurant’s hot wings challenge, we thought the décor looked fun.
Fast forward several months to a rainy weekend. Steve and I were out in Milford and happened to see a Quaker Steak & Lube in passing. We hadn’t realized that the restaurant featured on Man vs. Food was a chain because usually the food challenges are in independently owned restaurants, but we were intrigued enough to stop in and give it a spin.
The chain originated in Sharon, PA in 1974 when two friends came up with the idea of preserving the culture of old gas stations by setting up a restaurant inside an abandoned one. The idea took off and the chain now boasts 38 locations throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The auto racing theme is well executed here, but there isn’t a single vegetarian entrée on the vast menu. Instead, meat-free choices are relegated to a few side dishes (baked potato, steamed broccoli, mac & cheese), a side salad called “The Garage” and a couple of deep-fried appetizers.
In the spirit of investigation, I opted for the side salad and the Four-Wheeler appy consisting of mozzarella sticks, onion rings, soft pretzels and fried pickles. Even a die-hard grease monkey would have to admit that there’s a lot of fried food on the plate. The thick and crunchy onion rings were qualifiers but the other three limped along the shoulder on the rim and are best avoided, particularly the abysmal pretzels. Unless, that is, you happen to enjoy chewing rubber rather than peeling it.
Steve didn't have any better luck with his choice of Mustang Chicken sandwich, which he said didn't have much flavor, despite the BBQ sauce, smoked bacon and garlic-buttered buns. He was also disappointed in the fries, which were cold on the first lap and had to be sent back.
On the day we visited, Quaker Steak & Lube was bustling with families and fans catching a Bengals game. Everyone seemed quite content with their choices and were enjoying themselves, and I think it's a fine place to go for drinks or to watch a game, but due to the lack of a bona fide meat-free option, I’m not going to be waving the checkered flag their way.