Until last weekend, I had never tried Truluck's. I confess, it really is not my kind of restaurant. It is a chain, with locations in towns like Boca Raton, Florida and Addison, Texas. It specializes in steaks and crabs. Its menu is not very creative.
When I finally did try it, I was amazed by the high prices they charge and by the enormous crowd. Almost all entrees were over $20 and many were between $30 and $45. Yet, even in their new large location, we barely obtained a reservation for Saturday night a day in advance, and even then they had no reservations available before 8:30. The restaurant was completely packed.
What makes this pricey restaurant so successful? My theory is that it offers high end dining with maximum safety. It soothes any anxiety a diner might have about going to a "fancy" restaurant.
-Intimidated by snooty waiters? Not at Truluck's. Your waiter is likely to be friendly and highly enthusiastic. He or she probably will know less about the food and wine than you will, but will cater to your every wish - promptly.
-Concerned about weird, confusing dishes? There are no confusing foods at Truluck's. The core of the menu are simple foods that most Houstonians love -- crab and steak. And most other dishes are cooked here with a simple preparation. Sure, Truluck's offers a more adventurous "Seafood Creations" menu. But even this part of the menu contains proven dishes that were trendy 10 years ago, such as miso-glazed sea bass, and sesame tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes.
-Worried that you might not get enough food? Not at Truluck's. Two of us ordered a total of one salad, one cup of soup, one appetizer, and one entree. We could not even eat half of the soup, salad and entree. We also were too full for dessert, but I noticed that the dessert dishes looked bigger than most people's heads. Even the truly obese will get full here.
-Afraid that your date might order the wrong bottle of wine? No worries at Truluck's. Most wines are available by the glass, so you will not get stuck with a disappointing bottle. And helpful wine flights allow you to sample five different, completely unrelated, wines for novices to figure out what they like.
-Concerned about quality? Despite the lack of imagination, every dish we tried had quality ingredients and was cooked professionally. My wild Copper River sockeye salmon was an outstanding piece of fish, seared with a crunch crust on the flesh side, and slightly rare inside. It was a perfect preparation, even if its cherry sauce was a bit dull, and the wasabi mashed potatoes were a bit cliched.
Truluck's is all about safety. It is a great place for people who do not eat out often and want guaranteed quality -- and no adventure -- when they drop a lot of money on food. It would be a great place to go on prom night. And it would be a dream creation for a restaurant marketer who wants to make a lot of money.
Of course, Truluck's has no art. It has no soul.
But I wouldn't mind eating there again -- especially if someone else is paying.