Especially on a recent foggy and rainy night, Lineberger's Steakhouse seems to rise out of Lake Norman like a warm and cozy oasis, ready to surround its customers with an inviting atmosphere and fill their stomachs with a soul-satisfying meal. Lineberger's is a tradition on Lake Norman, having been around for more than 40 years. A kitchen fire last December was a setback. But a half-million dollars in renovations later, it has rebounded and is back to providing a quality steakhouse experience to a loyal clientele, says owner Ralph Starling, who bought the restaurant 11 years ago. Lineberger's has prospered even during the recession, he says, because it never really swayed from its principles of consistency, quality and great service . Customers appreciate a family-owned, family-friendly restaurant, Starling says. Lineberger's often hosts impromptu group gatherings in its rustic, lodge-like environment with its wood-paneled walls decorated with taxidermy animal heads and antler light fixtures. The restaurant can seat about 300 people and there are private rooms seating 12 and 50, as well the bar area, which seats 80. Lineberger's hosts many rehearsal dinners and corporate gatherings, Starling says. The floor plan feels simultaneously intimate and spacious, as booths line the walls and the private rooms are well-spaced. Choice aged char-grilled steaks are the specialty here, and to prove it, the N.C. Cattlemen's Association deemed them best restaurant in the state in 2010. There are many different cuts and variations of high-grade USDA meat to choose from, all cooked on wood-burning grills over mesquite or hickory. All of the chefs are also butchers, so each steak is hand-cut. Filet mignon, available in 7-ounce ($20.49) and 9-10 ounce portions ($23.49), is butterflied and cooked to a requested medium temperature. The juicy cut has a nice char as well as a richness, depth and unmistakable tanginess from the aging that accentuates and stretches out the beef’s flavor. Also on offer is a nine-ounce center cut sirloin steak ($15.49), an 11-ounce New York strip ($21.49) and a well-marbled 10-ounce Delmonico ($17.99). Lineberger's also features "Kickin' Cowboy Steaks," which are served on iron skillets with a spicy onion crisp. These include a 10-ounce Trail Boss (rubbed with a blend of spices creating a black crusted exterior) for $19.29, the Cowboy, (a 10-ounce rib eye rubbed with a special blend of Tex-Mex seasoning for $18.99) and a hefty 16-17 ounce rib eye called the Rio Grande, seasoned "the Cowboy way" for $27.50. All steaks come with a choice of potato (baked, sweet, mashed garlic, steak fries) or seasonal steamed vegetables, toasted garlic bread and a trip to the salad bar. The 50-item salad bar has some unusual offerings, like a prime rib salad and a crab salad, and is fresh, well-stocked and tasty. You can order the salad bar as a meal for $9.35. Other options abound if steak is not your preference. For seafood lovers, there's a grilled salmon fillet ($17.39), fried shrimp ($14.99), catfish fillets ($14.49) and flounder fillets ($14.99). Fresh seafood is brought in weekly, Starling says. There's also a grilled chicken breast ($14.29) and St. Louis-style ribs ($17.99 for a half rack, $20.59 for a whole). But let's be honest - you're here for the steak. In addition to its char-grilled specialties, Lineberger's features slow-roasted, cut to order prime rib. The restaurant has a 9-ounce maiden's cut ($17.29), a 12-ounce farmer's cut ($19.29) and a 16-ounce extra-thick cut ($24.99). Thursday night is prime rib night, when a dollar can be knocked off the first two cuts. On Tuesdays, beef tips ($13.99) and a petite 7-ounce prime rib ($14.59) are specials and Wednesday nights also feature the beef tips along with a center cut sirloin steak for $14.49. Appetizers and dessert are not forgotten here. You can start your meal with shrimp cocktail ($7.99), Texas howlers (diced jalapenos with cheddar cheese in a crispy breading) for $6.99, or skillet mushrooms ($6.99), among other choices. And save room for Lineberger's current special dessert, a pumpkin cheesecake ($4.99), made in-house like all of their desserts. Luscious and fluffy pumpkin filling, redolent of nutmeg and topped with dollops of whipped cream, it makes a sweet ending to a hearty and fulfilling dinner. "We want everyone to feel welcome here," Starling says. Their customers are a very eclectic mix of individuals from all over the region ¬- some traveling 40-50 miles. With its genuinely friendly service , succulent steaks and reasonable prices, it's not hard to see why. Above all, Starling says, "we don't want you to go away hungry." At Lineberger's, that's just not possible.
6747 Hwy 150 East, Sherrills Ford704-483-2276; www.linebergers.com
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Hours: Open Tues.-Fri. 5 p.m. until, Saturday 4 p.m. until; Closed Sun-Mon
Dinner specials Tues.-Wed.; prime rib special Thursdays.