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Quaker Steak & Lube – Portage, IN

December 27, 2009

  • 6425 Ameriplex Drive
  • Portage, IN 46368
  • (219) 764-9464
  • Website
  • Menu

A few years ago, my family and new girlfriend made the trip down to Bristol, TN for the spring Sprint Cup race.   It was the second time my dad, brother and I had made the trip.  It was J’s first time. 

Around Knoxville, we drove by a place off the highway that looked awesome.  All I saw were the words “steak” and “lube.”  At the time, I thought it was some magical local place that served steak while getting your oil changed.  When I got an Internet connection and searched the place, I found out it was a chain.

I had never heard of the place and never saw it again until we moved to Lansing.  Along the way on I-94 we started seeing signs for Quaker Steak & Lube.  For the last two years, I’ve been wanting to stop, but when J worked in Lansing, we always traveled at weird times and the extra hour drive usually prevented us from stopping.

After a quick trip home for Christmas, we loaded up and headed back towards Kalamazoo.  We got just in to Indiana and I asked J if she was hungry.  She said yeah, but she wanted to keep going.  A few miles later, she asked if I had anything in mind.  I told her I really wanted to try Quaker Steak & Lube.  She changed her mind and said that sounded like a good idea, so we got off the highway.

Quaker Steak & Lube is just outside Portage, IN on Ameriplex Drive which is right next to I-94.  It’s a small commercial area with a gas station, a couple restaurants and a huge Bass Pro Shop.

Quaker Steak & Lube got it’s start in Sharon, PA in the mid-1970’s.  The original shop was actually an old service station that the original owner decided to run with.  They decorated the place with license plates and old cars.  The original concept was a cook your own steak which is where the “steak” part of the name comes from.  They’re now more of a casual dining restaurant with their signature item being chicken wings which they even advertise on their signage.  There are about 40 restaurants with most locations in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  This location in Portage would be the closest to Kalamazoo. 

The Portage location sort of has the look of an old service station, but it’s really just a building designed that way.  They even go as far as having fake bay doors for windows and a gas pump handle on the doors. 

When you walk in to the restaurant, you come in to a little game room area.  There’s a hostess just off to the right waiting for you.  To your right is a dining room.  To your left is another dining room.  We got asked a question neither of us were expecting.  Smoking or non-smoking?  We both assumed (wrongly) that Indiana is a smoking ban state.  They have a number of municipal bans, but not a statewide ban.  Porter County has no ban.  We, of course, took non-smoking and headed to the dining room to the left. 

The nice thing about this area was that even though it was non-smoking, it had its own bar.  Usually, places put non-smokers in a closed off area with no bar access.  Being a Sunday afternoon, there was a lot of football watching and while no one was sitting at the bar, there were several groups of guys enjoying a bucket of beer while watching the various NFL games on one of several LCD TV’s in the area.

J and I were shown to a booth near the bar.  The menus were already on the table, so the hostess just dropped off some silverware and let us get going on the menu.  The waitress came over to get our drink orders.  They have Pepsi products so we got the typical Diet and Regular.  She came back and asked if we wanted to start with an appetizer, but we jumped right to entrée. 

J was excited to see they had some really good-looking salads.  In fact, she couldn’t decide on which one she wanted.  She eventually chose the Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla Salad.  She also added a bowl of the Potato Lovers Soup.  The soup came out first.  It was a big bowl or a creamy, potato-y soup that was topped with bacon and scallions.  She really liked it and was glad she chose it as a starter.  The salad she got was huge.  It started with fresh greens, grape tomatoes, corn salsa, and sour cream with a Salsa Ranch dressing.  In addition to a salad that could have fed both of us, she got a full quesadilla that was filled with Chipotle chicken and Cheddar-Jack cheese.  She really, really liked the meal and told me several times she was glad I talked her in to stopping.  She wasn’t expecting a full menu and she was really surprised to find such a delicious salad.  She only ate a few triangles of the quesadilla.  She liked it, but it was hot.  We ended up taking home and I will eventually eat it for dinner. 

Since wings are the specialty, I had to get wings.  The dilemma was which sauce to choose.  The cool thing about the menu is they actually have to Scoville heat scale next to each flavor.  I ended up ordering the Wings & Magna Fries Combo.  I sort of wimped out on sauce and just chose a medium.  I knew I wanted a Buffalo sauce, but I didn’t feel like killing my taste buds.  The combo came with eight wings which were delicious.  The sauce was much creamier than most Buffalo sauces.  It had a little bit of heat to it, but not very much.  I probably should have went up to the hot.  These were some of the best wings I’ve ever had.  The Magna Fries were pretty typical restaurant fries, but they were covered with Cheddar, bacon, and scallions.  I could have done without all the extras to save a few calories, but it was delicious. The whole meal was served in an aluminum foil boat inside a larger plastic serving tray, so I had a place to store my bones.  The funny thing was they didn’t give me any extra napkins.  I was trying very hard to use the one napkin I had sparingly, but come on, they’re wings.  J eventually asked for more.

Our bill was a little pricey at $30 for the two of us, but we both agreed the food was worth getting off the Interstate for.  When the waitress brought us the check, she also brought four Twizzlers and two wet wipes.  The wet wipes aren’t really a new idea with wing places, but they went a step further and actually warmed the wet wipes.  It was awesome.  I almost wish I still had hot sauce on my face, so I could have really taken advantage of the warmed wipes. 

There’s not a lot of places to eat along the I-94 corridor right off the Interstate.  This is definitely a stop worth making.  Whether you’re heading into the city or out, Quaker Steak & Lube deserves a chance.

Potato Lover's Soup

Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla Salad

Medium Chicken Wings

Magna Fries

Quaker Steak & Lube on Urbanspoon

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