The Steak n’ Shake in lower Powell has been hyped to hell and back since I started taking classes on the Richmond campus in January. After a few weeks, I began to understand it. Apart from the buffet in Case, there wasn’t really a place to get burgers on campus, and if I’m being totally honest, my fat, food snob ass is a fan of some Steak n’ Shake. 

And so time goes by. I go through my usual lunch routine of going by the Chik-Fil-A in Case or going off campus for Raising Cane’s or Thai Smile. Before I knew it, we were starting the fall semester and the faint whispers of excitement had grown into an audible roar. Steak n’ Shake opened its doors on Sept. 14. I didn’t get to try it myself for about a week later, and as far as word of mouth goes, all I had heard was that the lines inside were absolutely brutal. 

So the first thing to know about our Steak n’ Shake is that it’s not like your typical college eatery. I stepped into Powell expecting to find something close to a mall food court vibe we have in lower Case. What I got was the interior of an actual Steak n’ Shake. Barring servers and a drive-thru, that’s essentially what it is.

The retro 1950’s aesthetic that the franchise is known is upheld to a T. 

What I had heard about the lines inside the restaurant were painfully accurate. I was greeted with a long, slow line that seemingly had no beginning or end. It was like a conglomerated, writhing mass of people. 

With no idea where the line began, I walked over to what looked like the back of a line and asked a young woman if this was where the line started. 

“No, I already got my food, this is where we wait to pick it up,” she replied. 

This helped clear up my confusion, as she also steered me to what appeared to be the end of the line. 

Word of advice, don’t go to Steak n’ Shake unless you’ve got a pretty sizable break before your next class. All in all it took me at least 35 to 40 minutes to get my food, and that time was roughly evenly divided between waiting to order and waiting for my food to get done.  

The ordering system is just like the Chik-Fil-A in Case; you make your order, then wait for one of the people at the counter to call your name when it’s done. It’s a tried and true system, but given the longer food preparation times at Steak n’ Shake, it’s not exactly ideal. 

The whole system is disorganized and, unless your downtime between classes lasts well over an hour, it just takes too long. 

There are some glaring issues with the food here. I ordered a Western BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger and fries. The fries were on point. Steak n’ Shake has the best fries in all of fast food, and that remains the same with the one on our campus. 

This wasn’t the case with the burger. The meat was dry. This wasn’t helped by the sauce on the burger all being lumped on one side of the sandwich; most of it had leaked into the wrapper before I started eating. 

The largest issue I took with it was the absolutely ungodly amount of onions on the burger. They weren’t the fried onions advertised on the menu either. Those were there, but the standard diced onions were too, and there was a whole damn lot of them. It may sound nitpicky, but the onions were overpowering. So much so that at times it seemed like they were all I could taste from the meal. 

There are some kinks to be worked out at the Steak n’ Shake in lower Powell. Though my fries were fantastic, the burger left a lot to be desired. 

The biggest issue plaguing the restaurant is the sense of disorganization in its ordering system. That’s not a criticism of the people that work there, who in my experience were all astute and kind.  It just takes way too much time to get your food here. At times I thought they might have been better off to just hire some servers and operate like something off-campus. 

Ironically, it’s that very feeling that our Steak n’ Shake could be off-campus is what serves it more than anything else. 

To come and sit down in an actual restaurant after a couple hours of class without having to actually leave campus is a refreshing feeling, one that I hope this establishment begins taking full advantage of. Based on my first experience alone, the Steak n’ Shake in lower Powell has not lived up to the hype. But ultimately, it’s still very new, there’s still plenty of time and potential to work out those kinks. 

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