Charco Broiler Is An Oak Cliff Institution. But That Doesn't Mean It's Very Good.

Charco Broiler.
413 West Jefferson Boulevard.
Oak Cliff.

Ambiance: 2 out of 4 fiberglass cows.
Food: 1.5 out of 4 fiberglass cows.
Service: 3 out of 4 fiberglass cows.

Hang around North Oak Cliff for even the slightest amount of time and you'll notice a fixture named Sonny.

He, of course, is the one-ton, white-faced fiberglass Hereford that sits atop 413 West Jefferson Boulevard, calling the attention of any and all passersby to the fact that the Charco Broiler steakhouse — what else could it be? — lies beneath.

Your typical steakhouse, however, Charco broiler is not. For one thing, the most expensive thing on the menu — the 14-ounce T-Bone — only costs $14.99. For another, the restaurant doesn't have traditional wait service; customers instead order their meals cafeteria-style. To that end, Charco Broiler kind of acts like the world's beefiest school lunch. And that's actually pretty awesome. So, too, is the fact that the place turned 50 years old this year, and that it rocks a strong, old-school vibe to prove it, cowhide print booth tables included.

But just because a place has been around for five decades doesn't necessarily mean that it's all that great. It does, however, seem to be a strong indicator of a good value. Order the Chopped Steak ($6.75), the eight-ounce ribeye ($10.99) or the large cheeseburger ($6.49), and you'll find that these dishes aren't simply served a la carte; the two steaks come with a loaded baked potato, a dinner salad and some Texas toast, and the burger comes complete with fries and a drink — all included in those initial costs. My group was certainly pleased with that initially apparent bang for our bucks.

One problem, though, with all of those meals: Kudos to the restaurant for cooking everything in sight, I guess, but my friends and I really could have done without knowing that every piece of meat in our order was being prepared from what looked to be a deep-frozen initial state during a recent trip.

Still, credit where it's due: The restaurant's service is nothing if not snappy. Within a couple of minutes of ordering, our meals were brought out from behind the counter and to our table.

Unfortunately, what came out just wasn't very good. The ribeye was cooked to our order — medium — and it was definitely edible, if terribly bland. The chopped steak, on the other hand, hadn't even reached rare by the time it hit our table. The burger, meanwhile, was utterly pedestrian, topped with mostly unmelted, bright yellow American cheese and served with soggy fries.

I guess what I'm saying is that our experience wasn't amazing.

Still, I'll offer this much as a consolation of sorts: Charco Broiler is worth checking out, if only for the kitsch and history. The place, after all, is an Oak Cliff institution. And the food? It's cheap enough that you won't horrible regret having experienced its mediocrity afterwards.

It's a pretty fun place to check out once, even if, after doing so, you really won't feel a strong need to ever return.

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