Texas Roadhouse Vs The Capital Grille: Which Is Better?

Two steaks in a pan
Two steaks in a pan - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

It seems like every day a new steakhouse chain emerges as the top choice for diners around the country. For a long time, family restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Sizzler were the go-to places for a solid steak. But in recent years, more upscale establishments have gained in popularity, even as the economy has struggled. Chains like Ruth's Chris Steak House and Morton's The Steakhouse have been garnering more attention than the family-friendly restaurants.

Two of the most popular steakhouse choices these days are Texas Roadhouse and The Capital Grille. At first glance they might seem to be of the same ilk -- both serve delectable steaks and a variety of seafood and chicken, with many of the same dishes appearing on both menus. But the two chains are less alike than you might think, and that's left diners with a dilemma when deciding where to eat.

Both restaurants, of course, have ranked in Mashed's list of top national steakhouse chains, but it's worth noting that The Capital Grille came in the coveted number two spot while Texas Roadhouse was several spots behind, at least at the time. Let's dig in and find out how the two really compare.

Read more: The Best Steakhouse In Every State

The Capital Grille Favors Higher Quality, Upscale Meals ... Or Does It?

steak on white plate
steak on white plate - The Capital Grille / Facebook

With one look at the menu at The Capital Grille, two things immediately stand out: the hefty prices and the upscale options. As many of you likely know, The Capital Grille is known for its more refined menu, with dishes like Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell and Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Mango, and Sriracha, not to mention its classic crème brûlée for dessert. This isn't your ordinary steakhouse chain, setting it apart from Texas Roadhouse in a major way. But is the food really worth the higher prices?

The Capital Grille offers only USDA-grade Prime and Certified Angus beef, while also using a time-consuming process called dry-aging to ensure the highest quality steaks. These are just two reasons why The Capital Grille steaks are so delicious, but if you ask some customers, the difference in quality isn't always as noticeable as the restaurant would have you believe.

Nevertheless, The Capital Grille takes great care in how it selects its steaks and even more care in cooking and preparing them. If it's within your budget, you won't be disappointed by the food, while its menu makes it more appealing for those with a somewhat more refined palate.

Texas Roadhouse Goes For Backyard Delicacies

A selection of food from Texas Roadhouse
A selection of food from Texas Roadhouse - Crawford Smith/Mashed

While The Capital Grille aims squarely at the fancy folks, Texas Roadhouse goes in the other direction. Everything from the signage outside to the decor inside evokes a backyard cookout, and it has a menu to match. Ditching the tartare and crème brûlée, Texas Roadhouse specializes in high-quality versions of the kinds of food you'd want at a neighborhood barbecue.

That means simple steaks, baked potatoes, fries, burgers, and sandwiches. Yes, there's a limited seafood menu and a surprisingly wide variety of entrée salads, but Texas Roadhouse is all about the ribs and steak. The appetizers include carnival favorites like fried pickles and tater skins, which we ranked among the best in the industry, while the dessert menu features apple pie, strawberry cheesecake, and a brownie.

While Texas Roadhouse's food may seem ordinary, the flavor is anything but average. From my own experiences, the food is as at least good as any other national steakhouse chain and indeed better than most -- it recently beat out LongHorn in a head-to-head matchup comparing ribeye steaks -- and its choice to keep the menu simple works.

Appetizer Options Make For A Tasty Dilemma

A bowl of oysters
A bowl of oysters - The Capital Grille/Facebook

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell and Tater Skins are just the tip of the iceberg when looking at the appetizer options from these two steakhouse chains. In addition to those $22 oysters at The Capital Grille, you can get a Jumbo Lump Crab Cocktail for $27, your choice of Tuna or Steak Tartare ($22 and $20, respectively, though prices may vary based on location). Of course, at the high end, there's the Cold Shellfish Platter, which serves up to four guests for $70, while the Grand Plateau serves four to six diners at a whopping $130. Smoked bacon with Korean BBQ, lobster and crab cakes, and prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella are also available.

On the flip side, Texas Roadhouse slaps together a satisfying appetizer menu filled with starters like the Cactus Blossom (a massive fried onion for $7.99) and Boneless Buffalo Wings for $9.99, while the Texas Chili can be had for as little as $3.99 a cup. There are also Fried Pickles ($7.99), Tater Skins ($7.99), and Cheese Fries ($8.99). But coming in at $11.99 might be the best appetizer, at least if you're very hungry: the Killer Ribs. That's right, you can start your evening with a half rack of barbecued ribs and a handful of potato wedges.

Time To Pick A Side In This Battle Of The Steakhouses

A selection of Texas Roadhouse sides
A selection of Texas Roadhouse sides - Amber Winston/Mashed

If the appetizers from these two chains weren't different enough, get a load of the sides that can be had at Texas Roadhouse vs. The Capital Grille. Again, the difference is stark, with high prices at The Capital Grille with its menu of add-ons that are also far more exquisite, including Parmesan Truffle Fries, Au Gratin Potatoes, Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Sautéed Spinach, Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Mosto, and Creamed Corn with Bacon, all priced between $12 and $15. At the highest end are the Skillet Hash Browns with Royal Ossetra Caviar, a dish that will set you back a wallet-thinning $70.

As for Texas Roadhouse, the menu of sides couldn't be any more different. Hungry diners can get corn, mashed potatoes, a baked potato, fries, a bowl of chili, mac and cheese, seasoned rice, broccoli, or green beans, each priced between $2.99 and $4.99. We've even ranked Texas Roadhouse sides from worst to best to help you decide. While the food is much more plain, the prices reflect the difference and then some.

It's All About The Atmosphere

Interior of Texas Roadhouse
Interior of Texas Roadhouse - Texas Roadhouse / Instagram

The menus for The Capital Grille and Texas Roadhouse have loads of differences, but the most noticeable distinction might be the restaurants' overall atmospheres. Everything from the furnishings and the lighting to the attire of the waitstaff sets the tone for any meal, and The Capital Grille goes for a classy dining experience to match its upscale menu. Inside, depending on the location, you might even be fooled into thinking you've stepped into a five-star restaurant in New York City. The hosts and waitstaff are dressed to the nines, while the furniture and decor scream luxury. That makes for a regal evening, and while it may not be for everyone, the attention to detail certainly helps justify the restaurant's higher prices.

By comparison, Texas Roadhouse might as well be a rest stop. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're in a Texas Roadhouse, you're likely there for more down-home steaks and burgers, and so the wood and steel used on the walls and bar -- along with the eclectic decor -- build just the kind of atmosphere you're probably looking for. In short, each restaurant has a decidedly different goal, yet both often achieve them with aplomb.

The Capital Grille Has A Private Dining Option For The Most Particular Patrons

The Capital Grille Board Room
The Capital Grille Board Room - The Capital Grille

From the atmosphere to the menu, The Capital Grille sets itself apart from the competition by presenting itself as a premium option for diners seeking a more exceptional experience. With that positioning, The Capital Grille goes one step further than most by not just offering reservations, but also allowing patrons to reserve a private dining room for large parties.

A rarity for a chain restaurant, The Capital Grille's private dining room is advertised as being perfect for all occasions, whether it's a fancy party, a business dinner, or even a family celebration. It's not necessarily one private room, either. The location in Philadelphia, for example, has multiple options, including The Liberty Room (seating up to 75 guests) as well as smaller ones like The Board Room (up to 14 guests) and The Chestnut Room (up to 24). Prices aren't listed on the restaurant's website, but estimates suggest it could cost anywhere between $300 and $1,800.

Texas Roadhouse Has A Family Menu For Meals On A Budget

A Texas Roadhouse family meal
A Texas Roadhouse family meal - Texas Roadhouse/Facebook

No, Texas Roadhouse doesn't offer elegant fine dining in a luxurious, private room. Nor does it have a true catering option, at least as of this writing. It does, however, offer take-home family packs that allow you to bring home large quantities of food to feed a whole host of guests.

On the family pack menu at Texas Roadhouse are hearty meals like BBQ chicken, ribs, steak, and more. Each of these options includes multiple sides -- with classics including corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes -- as well as a dozen rolls. These meals will typically feed four people and range from around $30 to $65, depending on location. It's worth noting that not all Texas Roadhouse restaurants offer these family packs, but if one near you does, it's a solid option for takeout if you have a large family or group of friends.

Texas Roadhouse Will Lure You Into Its Texas-Sized Gift Shop

Texas Roadhouse merchandise
Texas Roadhouse merchandise - Texas Roadhouse/Facebook

If you need any more proof of just how different the vibe is between The Capital Grille and Texas Roadhouse, it's this one. While The Capital Grille offers elegant fine dining via privately reserved rooms, Texas Roadhouse has a souvenir shop. Okay, it doesn't actually have a walk-in store like the one you typically find in a "Bubba Gump" or "Joe's Crab Shack," but with an online merch store, we see with crystal clarity just what kind of clientele the chain is chasing.

In the online gift shop, fans of Texas Roadhouse can pick up T-shirts, hoodies, and hats as well as magnets, stickers, and keychains. For the kitchen, it stocks pint glasses, coffee mugs, and tumblers, and, of course, everyone wants Texas Roadhouse scented candles and wax melts. Currently, there's a limited edition set of three plushies, including one shaped like a basket of bread rolls.

That's not all, though. In addition to kitschy souvenirs, Texas Roadhouse also sells full cuts of steak that can be mailed right to your door from what it dubs the Texas Roadhouse Butcher Shop.

The Capital Grille Goes Bigger And Bolder For Take-Home Options

A plank of raw steaks
A plank of raw steaks - The Capital Grille/Facebook

In its online store, Texas Roadhouse allows you to purchase steaks that are sent directly to your doorstep. This steak-by-mail program isn't exclusive to Texas Roadhouse, though. The Capital Grille offers a similar service called The Capital Butcher.

Like its in-restaurant offerings, The Capital Butcher's signature steaks are dry-aged and hand-cut by the restaurant's private butchers. You can order individual steaks or a box of four. Though the restaurant's full menu isn't available, it does offer bone-In New York strip, bone-in prime ribeye, filet mignon, and even burgers. There's also a selection of accompaniments such as mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, grilled asparagus, and lobster mac and cheese. Prices for The Capital Grille's steak-on-demand options range from $27 to $45 per steak, with other options, like the lobster mac and cheese being a little pricier.

The Texas Roadhouse Butcher Shop is -- like the restaurant -- a bit simpler, but its menu of steaks is more varied. It includes filet mignon, regular and bone-in ribeye, filet medallions, and filet tips. Steak options can be had in different sizes, depending on the cut, and range from $89 for four-packs of filet medallions to $169 for a four-pack of 20-ounce bone-in ribeyes.

Texas Roadhouse Is For The Children

A family eating at Texas Roadhouse
A family eating at Texas Roadhouse - Texas Roadhouse / Facebook

At this point, you probably won't be surprised to learn which chain -- Texas Roadhouse or The Capital Grille -- is a better choice for families. Particularly when it comes to those with young children, a night out at a fine-dining establishment can be a challenge for some parents -- both in terms of finding food the little tykes will eat and an atmosphere where they won't feel out of place. That choice is obviously Texas Roadhouse.

But it's not just the simpler food options and more upbeat, lively atmosphere. Texas Roadhouse offers a full kid's menu. Got fussy ones? No problem. Texas Roadhouse offers simple sliders, a hot dog and fries, chicken tenders, mac and cheese, grilled chicken with a side of corn, and its signature Lil' Dillo Steak Bites. All can be had for $8.99 or less.

There's more, though. Because it also has three Ranger Meal options for kids. These are mini versions of the steakhouse's best meals: Andy's Steak (a small hand-cut sirloin) and the Ranger Rib Basket, both for $10.99, and the Chicken Critters Basket, which comes in at $11.99. Suffice to say, if you're bringing the kids, Texas Roadhouse is hands-down the better choice.

There's No Contest When It Comes To Cocktails

A cocktail
A cocktail - The Capital Grille / Instagram

If Texas Roadhouse is the better restaurant for kids, what about the other end of the spectrum? We're talking about adults over the age of 21 who also want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. Make no mistake: While Texas Roadhouse makes its establishment welcoming for families and children, it also has a drinks menu with beer, wine, and cocktails.

Nevertheless, this is one area where simpler isn't necessarily better. The Texas Roadhouse beer list, for example, is short -- it currently includes three San Miguels, Corona, Heineken, Budweiser, and a few other common if unremarkable selections. It has a handful of bog-standard cocktails, which we reviewed and ranked, plus a long list of fruit-flavored margaritas. From my experience, though, mixed drinks at a mid-tier chain restaurant are hit-or-miss. While I've enjoyed Roadhouse's drinks at times, I'd never go there for the drinks alone.

At The Capital Grille, though, the drinks menu is where this restaurant shines. In addition to an extensive wine list that Texas Roadhouse can't even hope to match, it also offers higher-shelf cocktails like a Blackberry Bourbon Sidecar, Passion Fruit Mojito, and Yuzu Highball, among others, all typically made with finer brands of booze than you'd find at Texas Roadhouse. Once again, you'll be shelling out a bit more for these drinks. But if you're really looking for a good cocktail, The Capital Grille is clearly the better choice.

What Do Customers Think?

Steak dinner from Texas Roadhouse
Steak dinner from Texas Roadhouse - Texas Roadhouse / Instagram

You can listen to food critics when looking to decide between Texas Roadhouse and The Capital Grille. But let's not discount reviews from ordinary diners who've shared their own opinions on both chains. There are even plenty of folks who've directly compared the two.

Not too long ago, a user on Reddit posted about being impressed by the quality of food at Texas Roadhouse relative to the price. "Like kind of blown away," they stated. Most commenters seemed to agree that the chain's prime rib was to die for and that Texas Roadhouse more broadly was underrated and judged perhaps a bit too harshly because of its lower prices and simple menu. But how about a direct comparison with The Capital Grille?

A different Reddit user claimed, "Most fancy steakhouses aren't any better than Texas Roadhouse." Yet one commenter disagreed, saying they are not the same at all. "Texas Roadhouse is as good as any middle-rung chain steakhouse," they wrote, adding, "When you get a properly cooked steak at either a local high-quality steakhouse or high-end national chain such as Palms, Ruth's Chris or Capital Grille (or Wolfgang's in NYC) ... sorry, it does not compare."

Is The Capital Grille The Creme De La Creme Of Steakhouses?

Awning for The Capital Grille
Awning for The Capital Grille - George Rose/Getty Images

From food to atmosphere, we've discussed the biggest differences between Texas Roadhouse and The Capital Grille. So now we come down to the big question: Which is the better steakhouse? Well, we're in something of a fried pickle here because the differences between them make the decision a lot more complicated than simply declaring which chain is best, even when we acknowledge it's largely based on personal opinion.

The reality is that each chain offers up something so unique in relation to the other that the choice comes down to you. If you're going with a family for a fun, lively night out -- particularly if you have kids -- then Texas Roadhouse is the easy call. Its kids' menu, simpler fare, and more relaxed atmosphere make it perfect for those seeking a meal to unwind with friends or family.

If you're on a date or are just looking for a classier experience, then The Capital Grille's menu and focus on luxury dining makes it more than worth the heftier price of admission. At the end of the day, based solely on food, this is really not much of a contest. The Capital Grille offers higher quality ingredients and more premium preparation methods, not to mention a more varied menu, leaving Texas Roadhouse's simple steaks and burgers looking ordinary by comparison.

Our Methodology

A steak dinner with vegetables
A steak dinner with vegetables - Mohamed-Kareem Mohamed/Shutterstock

Let's be honest here: When it comes to ranking restaurants, much of the analysis is going to come down to one's own personal preferences, including your taste in food and what you want out of a dining experience. For this comparison, I relied on information gleaned from each restaurant's menu as well as my own taste tests following multiple visits.

I also researched what others are saying. In addition to reading forums where customers talked about their own opinions, I've also looked at other critics and what they had to say to hopefully find some kind of consensus.  Of course, no two people's experiences will be the same, and we encourage you, dear reader, to try both chains for yourself and decide which one is better.

Read the original article on Mashed.