By Stacey Patton Wallace
Back in the early 1970s, my family had a new experience at a steakhouse. Daddy, Mama, my two much older brothers and I were vacationing in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Our waitress brought flaming steaks to our table. Mama said that we just sat there looking at the steaks for a moment, a little stunned. We Pattons were used to the fire being UNDER the steak on a grill and not on top of it. Breaking our trance, the waitress leaned over and whispered to my brother Jim, “You’re supposed to blow it out.” That was our first flambé experience, and it was a little embarrassing.
How do you like your steak prepared? I like my well done; the only pink I want to see is in my cheeks and not in my food. However, my husband Mike prefers medium well; he says that well done steaks aren’t as juicy as medium ones. My polar opposite as far as steak preference would be my nephew Ryan, who lives in Dothan with his wife Brittney. Ryan enjoys his steak raw, that is, rare. When he bites into his steak, the cow says “moo.”
However you enjoy your steak, Big Mike’s Steakhouse at 610 Shug Jordan Parkway in Auburn is the best place in Lee County to eat one. In fact, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association gave it the impressive honor of “Best Steak in Alabama,” and that award is well deserved.
Before the pandemic, Big Mike’s staff handled cleaning tables in a simple yet effective way. Tables are covered with brown butcher block paper and are taken up and thrown away after the customers leave. I appreciate that customers get a fresh table covering each time they dine there.
Also, the service staff at Big Mike’s is always pleasant, attentive and helpful. Recently, our server was Drew, and he was fabulous. He seated us at a table for four because we were meeting our friends Larry and Amelia, who live in Phenix City. We were celebrating Larry’s birthday.
Amelia texted that they were running late because of traffic. When they arrived, their daughter Emma and Amelia’s sister Mary Ann were with them, so we had to change to a table for six. No problem. Drew and another server were so accommodating and took it in stride, setting us up again.
Mike and I decided not to get an appetizer, but I recommend the mozzarella cheese wedges, which are hand breaded and served with marinara. They are really good. My husband and I are creatures of habit; we know what we want. Therefore, we both ordered our usual: the 9-ounce filet mignon wrapped in applewood bacon. Since mine was well done, it was butterflied. We also ordered our steaks smothered. That is, they were topped with herb butter, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms.
Our steaks, as always, were cooked to perfection. They were so tender we could cut them with our forks. Also, Mike and I love filet mignons because they are always very lean. The flavor of the steak was further enhanced by the mouth-watering “smothered” topping. Our friends’ steaks and Mary Ann’s shrimp were excellent as well.
Entrees at Big Mike’s are served with a house salad, bread and choice of baked potato or steak fries. Besides steak, Big Mike’s offers a great selection of chicken, seafood, sandwiches, soup and salads.
Trying to be good, I didn’t order a dessert. However, Amelia and Mary Ann kindly let me have a bite of the slice of caramel cake they shared. When my A1C comes down, I definitely want my own slice; it was delicious, moist and homemade.
I’m also happy that when Mike and I finally get to travel to Orange Beach, our favorite beach in the world, we will be able to eat at Big Mike’s; that restaurant opened before the one in Auburn. We like to have a good steak among all that amazing Gulf seafood. Big Mike’s Steakhouse in Auburn is open on Wednesday-Sunday from 4 until 9 p.m.
Big Mike’s Steakhouse makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!
Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in the Observer. Stacey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org