Delicious steaks in Monroe County
There are two entrances leading into The Hoof Family Steakhouse in Madison and it doesn’t matter to co-owners Keith Thomas and Charles Wheeler which one you choose as long as you come on inside.
Once inside, Keith nods to a trail of cattle hoof imprints they added when pouring the floor years ago. “It was too much trouble to stamp those things all over the place,” says Keith, displaying a bit of his dry sense of humor. Then shaking his head, he adds: “We just let people think cattle ran through while we were working. It adds to the experience.”
The Hoof Family Restaurant is a laid-back country gathering spot where friends and family visit over a meal and visitors discover why it’s the place everyone enjoys meeting in the small town.
Open since New Year’s Eve of 2014, The Hoof offers a small menu with good variety of eats options for everyone to enjoy.
For meal starters, you can choose one of nine hearty appetizers, including Cactus Needles — huge onion pieces hand breaded and fried to a golden brown and served with The Hoof’s housemade Boom Boom Sauce (which is a bit addictive) or fried whole button mushrooms lightly coated with a butter breading. Other options include hand-battered fried dill pickles or jalapeno corn nuggets filled with fire-roasted corn, diced jalapenos and red peppers combined with a creamy blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses which is lightly battered, then fried.
As a farmer and longtime cattleman, Keith knows what it takes to raise good beef cattle and is proud The Hoof can offer guests the choicest cuts of steak. “We serve a lot of certified Hereford that’s been wet-aged for up to 43 days,” Keith says. Wet-aging is when beef is placed in vacuum-sealed bags under refrigeration so the meat can tenderize from within and deepen in flavor.
Aaron Neale, the chef for the restaurant, once asked Keith if he’d ever counted how many steaks were grilled in one evening.
“Aaron cooked 117 steaks alone,” says the member of Consolidated Electric Cooperative. “People love our steaks. On Friday and Saturday nights, it’s not unusual to have 250 people or more waiting in line for two or more hours just to get a table,” Keith adds, which is a large number, considering Madison has around 500 residents.
According to Keith, many guests drive up to two hours or more to enjoy a meal at The Hoof. He adds unless you’re coming to Madison for a reason you’re likely lost, so he’s glad when people stop by for a meal. That said, let’s jump to the main attraction: steaks.
“You’re in the Corn Belt and steak is pretty much what 90% of the people are going to eat,” he says.
The menu only boasts six steaks cuts, but those selections keep their loyal customers coming back for more. Telling you the breed might seem like getting in the weeds, but to a cattleman, it’s important stuff.
Options include a 12-ounce KC strip from an Angus/Hereford crossbred cattle known as “Black Baldy” and is hand cut and grilled to your preference. Center-cut sirloins, in 4- or 8-ounce portions, come from certified Hereford beef that’s been aged more than a month. A 10-ounce chopped sirloin also comes from choice Hereford stock and is ground and served topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms. The flavor-filled 8-ounce bacon wrapped filet comes to the grill aged for 35 days and is one of the most tender Angus steak cuts, coming from the center of the tenderloin.
The popular prime rib offered only Friday and Saturday in 10- or 14-ounce portions comes from certified Angus stock and is seasoned and slow-cooked to your preference of doneness. But the mega-steak is a hearty 14-ounce rib-eye from Hereford lineage which has been aged 40 days before it touches the grill at The Hoof Family Restaurant.
People often ask Keith and the staff for recommendations on how to order their steaks prepared. “Personally, I like medium to medium-rare,” he says. “A steak that’s ordered well-done is a just a shade above beef jerky in my opinion.”
Steaks come with buttered and grilled Texas toast and two sides, which can include baked potato (loaded or not), house-cut fries, steamed vegetables, applesauce, cottage cheese, coleslaw, soup (offered seasonally), grilled asparagus, sweet potato fries, house salad, onion rings or sweet potato.
Other menu offerings include a salmon filet seasoned and grilled and served with a Wild Turkey Bourbon sauce. A boneless 10-ounce center-cut pork chop is another option for pork fans.
Fans of seafood can enjoy skewers of grilled shrimp or deep-fried jumbo shrimp, fried catfish, deep-fried oysters or a grilled salmon filet, which is best served with a side of Chef Aaron’s Wild Turkey Bourbon sauce.
“We sell a lot of salmon. But I couldn’t tell you if it’s good or not because I’ve never eaten it,” says Keith, who admits to being a die-hard steak and potato fan.
Chicken addicts can enjoy jumbo southern-style breaded strips served with house-cut fries in a basket or an 8-ounce butterfly breast grilled and smothered with sauteed onions, mushrooms and provolone cheese. You can also come on Friday or Saturday and fight to get some of the fried chicken.
“Frying chicken must be a dying art,” Keith says. “I’ve been married 40 years and I can count on one hand the number of times my wife has pan-fried chicken.”
Keith’s wife, Marti, must still love her husband after that remark because most weekends she’s by his side at the restaurant managing order tickets and ringing up customers while he visits with guests. Co-owners Charles, and wife, Misty, might also be there.
Sandwich fans won’t be disappointed because The Hoof offers eight hearty options including grilled or breaded chicken breast, a 9-ounce hand-cut rib-eye sandwich, several half-pound burger options and a beef tenderloin sandwich “that never disappoints” according to one online recommendation. Another person comments “it’s bigger than your head!” That’s a pretty shareable tenderloin, if you ask us.
If you’re trying to stick to a diet comprised mostly of greenery while other people are enjoying delicious steaks and the like, you have three salad options which include grilled chicken, shrimp and steak. All are served over fresh, crisp greens with cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons and shredded cheese. Plentiful dressing options include a housemade ranch which is highly recommended.
What meal would be complete without dessert? While desserts aren’t made in-house, they offer patrons cheesecake selections from the Cheesecake Factory as well as a couple of cream pies, such as chocolate or peanut butter. But since you’ll likely be full after your meal, you might want to take dessert home.
“We want you to have a good meal and plenty of it,” says Keith. “I tell ya, if it ain’t good, we’ll try again.”
The Hoof Family Steakhouse
Specialties: Premium steaks, prime rib (on weekends) and fried catfish are popular options. Sandwiches include the 9-ounce rib-eye, hand-breaded tenderloin and half-pound burgers.
Price: Appetizers start at $6; sandwiches and entrees begin at $8
Details: Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday. Full bar. Credit cards, cash and local checks accepted. Kids menu available. Nonsmoking. Located at 401 Broadway St. in Madison. Contact at 660-291-4664 or follow on Facebook.