I arrived at Rackhouse around 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, and I wasn’t the first customer. The restaurant, which opened March 6 and is restaurateur Bob Taylor’s latest venture, is well-situated in downtown Gulfport, in the former Lookout Steakhouse location. It’s an ideal place for downtown workers to meet up for drinks or switch to dinner mode.
There’s a lot of natural light in the dining area, supplemented by attractive industrial-style fixtures in each booth and scattered around. The music is unexpectedly indie rock, such as “Heaven” by The Walkmen and “Celeste” by Ezra Vine.
You can find the entire menu at rackhousesteaks.com; that’s where I went to plan my visit. One thing you’ll notice is that the prices are manageable. For example, the 6-ounce USDA Choice center-cut filet I ordered (medium rare) is $24. A 10-ounce USDA Prime center-cut sirlion is $22, and a USDA Choice 10-ounce center-cut fillet is $34. The most expensive steak is the 28-ounce USDA High Choice angus tomahawk ribeye at $69. The menu notes that each steak is seasoned with a blend of Himalayan pink salt and coarse-ground black pepper and cooked in a high-temperature flame broiler. Once they’re cooked, they’re finished off with a housemade herb-infused olive oil.
At Rackhouse, an entree comes with a choice of five salads: Fresh Garden, Caesar, Iceberg Wedge, Spinach or Caprese. That’s not all. You also get fresh garlic rolls served with three kinds of whipped butter (regular, honey and herb), and my steak was paired with half of a large roasted garlic head. I was feeling a bit fancy, so I added a small ramekin of truffle butter ($3) and got a side of steamed asparagus ($6 for individual serving). Sides are a la carte, but you get to choose how much of each you want (except for baked potatoes). For example, my fresh steamed asparagus with rosemary Parmesan and housemade hollandaise is $6 for an individual serving or $9 for a shareable size. I selected the Iceberg Wedge salad.
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For the record, I think a wedge or chopped salad is a safer choice when dining out with others. Full-leaf lettuces and spinach can get revenge as you prepare to load them in your mouth, and trying to reduce them to a daintier size can become a preoccupation, taking away from sparkling conversation. Cutting into the wedge is much easier to manage and multitask. Rackhouse’s wedge salad comes with housemade Danish bleu cheese dressing and crumbles, grape tomatoes (cut in half), a bit of red onion, chopped bourbon glazed bacon and a drizzle of thick, aged balsamic. I loved the juxtaposition of the sweet balsamic and the tangy bleu cheese, with the bacon meeting both worlds.
My server, Kelly, arrived with the entree just as I finished the salad. The steak was exactly medium rare and garnished with a rosemary sprig, and the seasoning was just right. That is, not too salty, and I could discern the herbs in the infused olive oil. The truffle butter was a decadent addition, and I dunked my steak into its rich goodness. Roasting gives garlic a caramelized consistency and a softer pungency, and it’s a great accompaniment to the steak.
Just because the asparagus was an individual portion, that doesn’t mean it was a dinky portion. You still get plenty. In fact, I kept half the steak, half the asparagus and a roll (and the delicious butters) for lunch the next day.
Yes, dessert options were tempting, but I had plans upstairs in the bar. I mean, I somehow looked past Chocolate Gran Marnier Creme Brulee, Waffles and Ice Cream, Banana Nut Bread Pudding and New York Style Cheesecake with housemade pecan pie topping (each $8) to try a couple of bourbons on the extensive list (50 as of now). I know much more about wine than bourbon, but life is a learning process, and why not start now? A couple of friends had given me suggestions, but I went with Ashley the bartender’s recommendations for a newbie; I intend to circle back another time to try my friends’ list. All bourbons are available in servings of 1, 2 or 6 ounces. I first went with Basil Hayden’s (1 ounce, of course, $8), a smooth, light and slightly herbal rye-centric bourbon that Ashley served on the rocks and with a quick squirt of water. She also recommended Breckenridge, which she said some bourbon afficionados actually like more than the wildly legendary Pappy Van Winkle. It was a much more robust bourbon, with a peppery zing (also $8) and a hint of vanilla.
Rackhouse also offers a variety of whiskeys, with bourbon or whiskey flights also available, and a very good wine selection.
I sat at the bar with my libations, but there’s plenty of luxe seating, with sofas and arm chairs creating conversation areas and one purple velvet sectional in the back that was occupied by a lively group. If you are bourbon fan, consider joining Rackhouse’s Bourbon Society for $25 annually.
By the way, Rackhouse isn’t just about steaks. The menu also offers seafood and chicken dishes, veal, lamb, duck, veal rib and pork rib chops and short ribs as well as a varied cold and hot appetizer list. Manager Kenneth Burkhardt says the Tuna & Crabmeat Stack ($15) and Lamb Lollipops ($16) appetizers are hugely popular, and the 6-ounce filet I ordered and their 16-ounce USDA Prime Delmonico Ribeye ($37) are big sellers.
Rackhouse Steak & Spirits
Where: 1301 26th Ave., Gulfport
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Details: Strong focus on steaks with seafood, chicken, veal, lamb, duck and pork also on the menu. A variety of hot and cold appetizers, and the upstairs bar has a huge selection of bourbon, whiskey and other spirits.
What’s with the name? A rackhouse is a warehouse where distillers store their barrels to age, restaurateur Bob Taylor explained. This building, more than a century old, retains several original features, and the interior of Rackhouse reflects the idea of a distiller’s warehouse with some barrels similarly arranged.