Review: Culpepper Steakhouse

Much like Rodney Dangerfield, suburban restaurants get no respect. That’s because foodies consider them either corporate-concocted chains or, even worse, family-friendly dining. It’s especially hard to get some respect if the place is east or west of Dallas. So it seems a backhanded compliment to say that owner Bob Clements’ Culpepper Steakhouse is a great restaurant for Rockwall, implying that what’s great for families east of Lake Ray Hubbard is merely adequate for their more metropolitan neighbors. But, alas, that’s essentially the case.

After a menu overhaul by renowned chef David Holben two years ago (he has since moved on to Del Frisco’s in North Dallas), Culpepper is tasty but inconsistent. The popular mesquite-grilled steaks are prepared well, accompanied by roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The cuts are affordable by steakhouse standards ($24 for a 10-ounce flat iron to $39 for a whopping 22-ounce cowboy ribeye). But some of Holben’s less family-friendly creations have survived, too. Chicken-fried lobster tail held up well, the dense, rich meat sparring nicely with the crispy crust. The black truffle butter sauce, though, was too assertive. Overcooked New Zealand venison was almost saved by a delicious cinnamon-chili rub. Conversely, sea bass bathed in a tomato broth with leek risotto was a lovely exercise in restraint. Sides of lemon griddled asparagus and rock shrimp polenta cakes delighted the table, though the same can’t be said for the bland Canadian smoked Cheddar macaroni. Culpepper’s wine list is especially robust (more than 230 choices) for a suburban restaurant.

Ah, that unfortunate phrase again: “suburban restaurant.” Based on its Rockwall competition, Culpepper is a dining oasis amid mass-market banality. It’s solid with flashes of brilliance. But it can’t hold a steak knife to its meatier kin in Dallas.

Get contact information for Culpepper.


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