So you know how Olive Garden is like the McDonald's of Italian restaurants? Well Ruby Tuesday's is the McDonald's of American restaurants with large salad bars, and places like RJ Grunts and The Claim Company are that next tier up (I'm not really sure if there's a tier above that since a large salad bar carries an inherent level of low class). What makes The Claim Company special is that it's got a BBQ theme and a build your own "motherlode" burger deal.
The Claim Company occupies a two story building in the middle of Northbrook Court. It's setup very similarly to Cheescake Factory in Old Orchard or the Grand Lux Cafe with a first floor entryway for show and the real restaurant on the second floor. Once you get up there, the restaurant is quite big with a large salad bar in the center. The walls are covered in corny cowboy decorations, but at points it's almost kind of funny.
Since it was a Sunday, and I had lots of work to do that evening, we decided to do dinner senior citizen style (aka at 5 PM). Because of this we were able to get sat right away, but by the time we were finished eating, the restaurant was packed. Supposedly, if you don't make a reservation, it's pretty likely that you'll have a half hour wait or more on any day of the week. Luckily though we didn't have to wait (plus we got some quality time in with the AARP). Also, the service was fantastic, and the food came out in a timely manner. It was a great place logistically for an earlier dinner.
We started off our meal with an order of the Chipotle Chicken Wings. I don't really know what to think about them overall. The chipotle sauce and spice rub was delicious and spicy without being overpowering, but the wings were cooked in varying amounts. Some were juicy and soft while others were too dry and stringy. I think of the 5 wings I had, that 3 were good and 2 were just so so. I would probably drink that sauce straight, so even the dry wings had a pretty good taste.
Chipotle Chicken Wings
For our entrees, I got the BBQ Skirt Steak Sandwich, and my mom got the build your own "Motherlode" burger. The Motherlode allows you to make a variety of selections, allowing for endless combinations, and you can load it up with as many toppings as you'd like. My mom had a tuna burger on a multi-grain bun with mozzarella cheese, avocado, sauteed onions, pickle, tomato, lettuce, and mushrooms. The thing was that this wasn't a ground tuna burger. It was a tuna steak burger, and it was cooked to perfection with a rare center. The portion was gigantic and came with a side of Sweet Potato Fries. These fries were really heavy on the sweet potato and really light on the fry. I wouldn't say they were the best I've had, but they were probably the most natural tasting.
Tuna Steak Motherlode with Sweet Potato Fries
My sandwich came with two pieces of skirt steak (cooked medium rare with a pink center just like I asked) on top of a garlic bun and covered with onion strings. The steak was tender and perfectly cooked. The BBQ sauce that came on it was sweet and thick, kind of like Sweet Baby Rays. I've never disliked an abundance of onion strings on anything. In this case, the portion was also gigantic, and it came with a side of house made chips. These were pretty good chips, and I appreciate that they came out unsalted so you could do that to your own preference.
BBQ Skirt Steak Sandwich with House Chips
Even though they're known for it, I didn't get the salad bar. I feel like food sitting out in any capacity for people to pick over is somewhat iffy, especially lots of prepared salads with mayo. Also, I didn't think it would be interesting enough to write about.
When I pulled out my camera to take a picture, a bunch of senior citizens at the table next to us started "oohing" and "aahing" and then asked why I would take a picture of food. My mom proudly explained that I write a food blog, to which the table looked puzzled, so she then said that I write about food on the internet. The look of bewilderment was still there (interwhat?). She then went on to give them the URL, which seemed pretty futile, but it's alright, I wasn't too embarrassed or anything.
So as far as the popularity of this place, I think it's mostly due to a recent comeback, and people just want to try what they used to think was such a great place. It's still pretty good, but there's no way I'd wait a long time in the middle of the week to get a table (or a really long time on a weekend for that matter). The portions were really big, and for the most part everything was tasty. As a BBQ place, it's nothing special, but everything is executed well. Overall, I'd give it 3 out of 5 Pearls.