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These aren’t just steaks, they’re works of art
The Capital Grille/ Yelp
Steakhouses hold a special place in the hearts of American diners. They’re the special occasion restaurants where we celebrate birthdays, promotions and anniversaries. While there are wonderful independent steakhouses in every state, there are also lots of high-end chain steakhouses, and today we’re honoring the very best.
There are two main varieties of steakhouse chains. The first is casual steakhouse restaurants like Outback and Texas Roadhouse. The second category includes more expensive and refined options — restaurants that are right up there with the 50 best non-chain steakhouses in the country. These are the best high-end steakhouse chains in America.
Smith &Wollensky/ Yelp
In order to compile our ranking, we assembled a list of all the high-end steakhouses in America with five or more locations and assessed them according to the variety of steaks on the menu, the sourcing and quality of the meat (dry-aging is always a plus), and the quality and variety of side dishes and other menu items. We also considered the quality and variety of the wine list, the décor, special promotions and the overall dining experience.
Founded by former NFL head coach Don Shula in Miami Lakes, Florida, in 1989, Shula’s Steakhouse serves only Black Angus beef at its eight locations nationwide. The steaks include two sizes of filet mignon, 16- or 20-ounce strips, a 22-ounce cowboy rib-eye and a 24- or 48-ounce porterhouse. Other options include prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp, filet Oscar which features jumbo lump crab, asparagus and hollandaise, and double-cut lamb chops.
#9 The Palm
The Palm West Side/Yelp
Even though The Palm has 24 locations in cities ranging from Beverly Hills, California, to Orlando, Florida, each outpost still retains that clubby, chummy atmosphere that made its original Manhattan location, which closed in 2015 after nearly 90 years in business, a New York City institution. In exchange for their meals when the original Palm opened, artists were invited to decorate the walls of the restaurant with cartoons and caricatures, and that tradition continues to this day. Before each new location opens, the likenesses of notable locals are painted onto the walls, with more added regularly. As for the food, the steaks are USDA Prime and aged for a minimum of 35 days. Offerings include a 9- or 12-ounce filet, a 14- or 18-ounce New York strip (including one topped with sauteed onions and roasted peppers), a 26-ounce bone-in rib-eye and double-cut lamb chops. The rest of the menu is classic steakhouse all the way: clams casino, crab or shrimp cocktail, whole lobsters and a handful of classic Italian dishes like veal Marsala and chicken parmigiana.
Photo courtesy Fleming's
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar has nearly 70 locations in 28 states and is the most upscale offering of parent company Bloomin’ Brands, which also owns Outback, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill. Fleming’s is constantly innovating, whether it’s by providing a full bio of every location’s head chef on its website. allowing those chefs to add their own specialty dishes to the menu, or via promotions like Tomahawk Tuesday, when there’s a three-course menu for two featuring tomahawk pork chops and rib-eyes. Beyond the specials, steaks include two sizes of filet mignon, bone-in or boneless rib-eyes and New York strips, as well as dry-aged rib-eyes. They can be topped with your choice of bearnaise, smoked chili butter or herbed horseradish butter and optional add-ons including truffle-poached lobster, spicy shrimp and Oscar-style. The rest of the menu blends the creative with the traditional and includes a seafood tower, seared pork belly with goat cheese grits, French onion soup, king crab legs and chipotle cheddar mac and cheese.
Morton's The Steakhouse/Yelp
Founded in Chicago in 1978 and now with more than 70 locations in the U.S. and abroad, Morton’s still buys its steaks from the same supplier as it did on day one. USDA Prime offerings include three rib-eye varieties (including one that’s Cajun-seasoned), a porterhouse, a New York strip, a filet, and pork, lamb and veal chops. Other menu items include mixed grills, braised short rib, two varieties of king crab legs, lobster tails, escargot, iceberg wedge and all the other classics that you’d expect from a great steakhouse. There are also special menus for gluten-free and soy-sensitive diners. Some locations also host “Celebrity Server” nights, when professional athletes don aprons to raise money for charity.
#6 Ruth's Chris
Ruth's Chris Steak House/Yelp
Ruth Fertel purchased the failing Chris Steakhouse in New Orleans in 1965 and converted it into an empire with more than 140 locations. Some might think that the restaurant’s trademark way of serving steaks — on 500-degree plates in a pool of sizzling butter — is a little bit of a gimmick, but we beg to differ. It’s a nod to the sense of excess that great steakhouses inspire and, most importantly, it’s delicious. In fact, using a little butter is one of those steakhouse secrets only the experts know. Filets in two sizes, rib-eyes both boneless and bone-in, T-bones, New York strips and porterhouses for two are USDA Prime. Other dishes include New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, veal osso bucco ravioli and a killer white chocolate bread pudding for dessert. The wine list is expansive (with more than 200 bottles) and spans the world, and a stellar happy hour at the bar is one of the best chain restaurant happy hour deals around.
Mastro's Steakhouse/ Yelp
Mastro’s was founded in Scottsdale in 1999, and today there are 18 locations nationwide. Plush and opulent, Mastro’s prides itself on excellent service and also offers live music at its locations on most nights. The far-reaching menu includes more than a dozen steaks and chops, shellfish towers, king crab legs and claws, creative sushi rolls, caviar, foie gras, roasted bone marrow and stone crab when in season. The chain also offers more than 15 indulgent sides including king crab black truffle gnocchi, lobster mashed potatoes and gorgonzola mac and cheese. Its wine list was also given the Best of Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator for 2019. Each location of Mastro’s also happens to be insanely romantic.
Founded by Wolfgang Zwiener after he spent 40 years as head waiter at Brooklyn’s renowned Peter Luger Steakhouse, Wolfgang’s has 10 U.S. locations (including a Park Avenue flagship in New York) and 10 more in Asia. Its signature dish — the porterhouse — is a very faithful re-creation of the one served at its progenitor. USDA Prime, dry-aged in-house, and cooked under a ripping-hot broiler, it’s served thick-sliced, sizzling and perfectly cooked to order. Other steaks include New York strip, rib-eye and filet mignon. The menu is small and focused, with other dishes including lamb chops, grilled yellowfin tuna, sizzling Canadian bacon and whole lobsters. Luger’s influence is also clear through the classic tomato and onion salad, thick-sliced bacon and German potatoes. The California-heavy wine list is nicely varied.
#3 Smith and Wollensky
Smith &Wollensky/ Yelp
A comparatively small chain with seven locations nationwide, one in London and one in Taipei, Taiwan, Smith & Wollensky was founded in 1977 by Alan Stillman, the founder of TGI Friday’s, and business partner Ben Benson. They famously named it using random surnames selected from the phone book. The silliness ends there, though — this chain takes its steaks very seriously. Behind its trademark green-and-white façade is a temple to meat, and it sources beef from renowned purveyors including Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms. USDA Prime and dry-aged for 28 days, the impressively wide variety of steaks include eight variations on the filet, a 28-ounce Cajun-marinated bone-in rib-eye, a 21-ounce bone-in New York strip and a 64-ounce Snake River Farms porterhouse. The menu is pleasingly small — it’s really all about the steak — but other offerings include spice-crusted lamb chops, shellfish towers, fried “angry” shrimp in a spicy lobster butter sauce and its split pea soup, which is among the most iconic restaurant dishes in America.
#2 Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House/ Yelp
Lavish and opulent, Del Frisco’s, with 16 locations around the country, is one gorgeous place to eat a steak. The menu includes three sizes of filet, three New York strips, five rib-eyes, a 24-ounce porterhouse and a variety of wagyu options (including Japanese A5). The menu is ideal for those who are looking to splurge, with caviar and giant shellfish platters at the ready, and sides including king crab gnocchi, lobster mac and cheese and a tower of onion rings. There’s a wide-reaching wine list (most locations boast more than 1,200 bottles) and a sommelier ready to help you make your selection. For those in the know, lunch deals and weekend prix-fixes are usually great bargains, so you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to visit.
#1 The Capital Grille
The Capital Grille/ Yelp
The Capital Grille, founded in Providence in 1990, has locations in 25 states and Washington, D.C. Steaks including the 32-ounce porterhouse, 14-ounce New York strip and steak au poivre are dry-aged for at least 18 days. Among the other steaks are a 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye, a 10-ounce filet, a coffee-rubbed sirloin and the signature porcini-rubbed Delmonico with 15-year-aged balsamic. Appetizers include a shellfish platter that boasts a whole 1-pound lobster, steak tartare, cast iron garlic shrimp and pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers. Other specialties include a veal tomahawk pork chop with gorgonzola butter, double-cut lamb chops with mint gremolata and a broiled lobster. The wine list, selected by sommelier Brian Philips, features more than 350 bottles, and the décor is always tasteful and refined. Seasonal promotions are icing on the cake. The annual Generous Pour, for example, allows diners to try seven different acclaimed wines for just $28. The Capital Grille is right up there with the very best restaurants in America.
More From The Daily Meal:
America's Best Inexpensive Steakhouses
The Most Expensive Restaurant in Every State
The 101 Best Burgers in America
The 101 Best Casual Restaurants in America
America's 50 Best Italian Restaurants
I've Eaten At Nearly Every Single Chain Restaurant&mdashThese Are The Best Menu Items
Two years later and 20 restaurants down, this is our official list.
People always ask: What are the *best* chain restaurant menu items? Honestly, I've tried too many to count they've all become a massive blur in my memory. So, to make your lives easier (and, selfishly, mine), I've made the official ranking of the best menu items at each restaurant I've visited. Buckle up y'all.
It truly hits the spot. The cherry tomatoes break up the creamy parm and rich lobster. Bring your sweatpants for this one.
That's right&mdasha burger didn't make this list for Hard Rock. (We were shocked too.) This pork sandwich comes with creamy, cold coleslaw and a thin slice of apple which gives a lil crunch.
One pop of these and you truly can't stop. The cream cheese frosting dipping sauce deserves to be bottled up and sold.
If you're going to get steak&mdashyou've gotta head to Outback. And if you're going to Outback, you can only order the bone-in natural cut ribeye. Its seasoning is simple and lets the meat shine through, which, by the way,melts like butter.
This was the most popular pizza when we polled our fans and we understand why. The combination of cilantro, steak, and Monterey jack cheese is a huge win.
I'd serve this at my wedding. It's creamy, savory, and tastes like luxury yet it doesn't break the bank.
Truly good luck attempting to share these. The crunch from the breading and the zip of flavor from the lemony-garlic shrimp will keep you coming back for more. And more. And more.
The burger is served on a toasted sourdough roll rather than a soggy burger bun which really gives it an oomph.
You're not alone in loving these. The fried rolls are the chain's most popular appetizer. The tamarind-cashew dipping sauce sends you to cloud nine.
You might think the ribs or margaritas would make the list for Chili's&mdashbut they don&rsquot stand a chance. The hand-battered chicken is oddly squishy and soft, which, yes, at first sounds like a negative, but when you bite into it, it's an addicting texture. Try one soft chicken tender and you'll never go back.
This is the most popular menu item at P.F. Chang's and there's a good reason for it. It's light, super crunchy, and tangy. Definitely order for the table.
This dish was actually made by accident! One of the founders took all the leftovers from the walk-in freezer, threw it together, and created a beautiful medley of creamy, cheesy pasta with moist chicken.
It's stuffed with mini cheesecake bites and topped with glazed strawberries. It's like dessert for breakfast!
Do not let the cute name fool you. These are spicy, sweet, and most importantly, they're delicious.
Hawaiian pizza has a bad rep, but Hawaiian burgers. not so much. The teriyaki glaze on the burger takes the patty over the edge.
We're not basing this list on quantity, but it's important for you to know Texas Roadhouse's ribs are the size of your entire forearm (and maybe more). They're savory yet sweet and the meat is perfectly juicy.
These are a staple! If you ask the servers why they're called "fried" apples, they'll tell you they have no idea it's a misnomer because they're actually sweet, sticky, and caramelized. If they decide to fry them though. I will be first in line to try.
This menu item is so good, it went from only being served on Wednesdays to being available every day of the week. Chicken pot pie is easy to mess up and can turn into a soggy soup, but Cracker Barrel's tastes like your grandma made it by hand the same day.
This is the softest, fudgiest cake you'll ever have. It's like a brownie and a cake had a baby.
If you've ever been to Bonefish Grill, it's pretty obvious this would take first place. It's spicy, creamy, crunchy and impossible to stop eating.
B&B Butchers and Restaurant, Houston
Not just a great steakhouse, but a premium butcher shop too. Photo: Courtesy of B&B
Houston&rsquos B&B is a butcher shop first and a restaurant second. In fact, B&B has a 12-course meat tasting and wine pairing called &ldquoMeet Our Meat&rdquo that is exclusive to the butcher shop. This globe-spanning menu includes multiple preparations of rare, Japanese A5 kobe&mdashsuch as side vegetables sautéed in kobe fat&mdashand Texas Wagyu, plus offbeat items like smoked lamb bacon and palate cleansers like Meyer lemon sorbetto. Diners are encouraged to tour the dry-aging meat cellar one wall is completely covered in bricks of pink Himalayan salt, which helps draw out moisture from the meat and infuses it with salinity. At the restaurant, you can order four kinds of beef (including that worth-the-trip kobe) cut 22 different ways. Or, pop in at lunchtime for its famous Carpet Bagger burger the thick patty is made from ground filet mignon and dry-aged sirloin and then topped with thick-cut bacon, Cajun-fried oysters, blue cheese and hot sauce. It&rsquos a meal you probably won&rsquot want to go back to work after.
We had to do a little digging for this one, but we remembered that Chipotle shared its guacamole recipe with the world back in 2015. Because the company took the recipe down, there's no way to say for sure that these are still the ratios the Mexican casual restaurant uses, but they were good at one point in time, so we have no problem following this recipe to whip up some of the avocado condiment at home. In case the recipe disappears again, check out the ingredients here:
- 2 ripe Hass avocados
- 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp lime juice
- 1/2 jalapeño, including seeds (finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Get the recipe for Chipotle's Guacamole.
10 of America’s Most Powerful Restaurant Groups
In the restaurant industry, 2019 shaped up as a turbulent year. Many casual-dining chains found themselves on the defensive, facing declining revenue, and were forced to shutter weaker-performing outlets. As in any industry, when certain segments falter, others prosper.
Some large chains and independent restaurant groups, such as Landry’s, Union Square Hospitality, and Darden thrived amid the uncertainty. They satisfied customers across multiple occasions—fine dining for special events, mid-priced eateries, and casual, price-conscious options, enabling them to appeal to a wide swath of the U.S. during a time when consumer preference continues to shift rapidly.
It’s been a disruptive year for many restaurants because of rising “labor costs, poor market location, and narrow brand diversity,” says Thomas Delle Donne, an assistant dean of Culinary Relations and Special Projects at Johnson & Wales University, located in Providence, Rhode Island.
But some of the largest restaurant groups rose above the pack because people are “still spending their money dining out,” Delle Donne adds. These chains succeeded because they “managed to create craveable concepts, with innovative menu options, and are managed incredibly well.”
Their diversity of restaurant brands enables multiple generations to choose how they want to access the company.
Indeed, millennials tend to gravitate to the idiosyncratic and more personalized restaurants of Cameron Mitchell’s group, Southern Proper Hospitality, and Sage Restaurant Group, which tend to be driven by a chef’s tastes, more than the more traditional chain eatery.
Another bright spot across many top restaurant groups was a spike in off-premises sales—deliveries through third-party vendors, curbside dining, overall carryout, and mobile ordering.
Here is a look at 10 groups getting it right, and setting the bar for the rest of the industry as we approach a new decade.
Brands: Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V’s, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen
Darden owns a series of full-service restaurants that specialize in Italian food, mid-priced steak, Caribbean cuisine, and seafood, and has managed to appeal to families, seniors and millennials, cutting across generations. It has held its own and boosted revenue to $8.5 billion in 2019, up from $8 billion in 2018, a 5.3 percent spike, despite the rocky traffic concerns plaguing many restaurants.
In 2019, it included 866 Olive Garden’s, 514 LongHorn Steakhouses, 161 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, 79 Yard Houses, 58 The Capital Grilles, 42 Bahama Breezes, 44 Seasons 52 restaurants, and 21 Eddie V’s, totaling 1,785 restaurants. That number was up 1,746 restaurants year-over-year—no small feat in an industry where many restaurant groups consolidated. It serves more than 400 million people annually.
One of Darden’s keys to success has been in investing in and promoting its staff. In fact, it spent $40 million in training in 2019, and almost half of its 6,300 restaurants managers are promoted from within, and 90 percent of its general managers and managing partners are internally promoted.
Writing in Forbes.com, in 2018, investment manager Jon Markman attributed Darden’s success to staying one step ahead in online ordering and pick-up. In addition, its Buy One, Take One Olive Garden promotion, enabling customers to purchase one entrée and take home a second one proved successful. As did its “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” offering.
Hence Darden demonstrated that to be successful in 2019, restaurant chains have to stay current with technology, give value for a meal, and stay tuned to customer needs.
Brands: Morton’s The Steakhouse, Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Joe’s Crab Shack, many others
When the going gets tough for casual-dining restaurants, Tilman Fertitta, who owns Landry’s Restaurant Group, pounces. He has built a budding empire acquiring bankrupt and struggling restaurant chains at rock-bottom prices, often assuming their debt.
Since 2010, he bought a bevy of chains, including: McCormick & Schmick’s, The Oceanaire, Morton’s Steakhouse, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Landry’s has expanded to more than 60 brands and generated $2.6 billion in 2018.
Fertitta turned Landry’s seafood restaurant, which he acquired from the original owners, into a hit. He was raised in the restaurant business since his dad ran Pier 23 on Galveston Island, near Houston.
Fertitta, a billionaire, also owns the Golden Nugget Casinos and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. He once acquired the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and turned it into a Golden Nugget.
More recently, in 2019, Landry’s acquired Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse and Del Frisco’s Grille from private equity firm L Catterton. And it is reported to have offered $40 million to gain control of Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc, the bankrupt casual-dining chain.
Brands: Urban Farmer Steakhouse, Original Dinerant, Kachina Cantina, Emporium Kitchen, Hello Betty, The Corner Office, Mercat a la Planxa, Departure
Brands: Jaleo, China Chilcano, Beefsteak, Pepe, Zaytinya, Mercado Little Spain, The Bazaar, Minibar, China Poblano, America Eats Tavern, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Fish, Somni, Tres
José Andrés and his food group do it all: high-end Spanish restaurants, festive Mexican restaurants, bars, mini-bars, food trucks, the gamut. He also sells cookbooks and a range of Spanish culinary products, including virgin oil and Spanish seafood.
And Andrés has demonstrated a knack for staying in the spotlight and opening high-profile restaurants and food spaces that draw attention and attract a high-volume of customers. For example, in 2019, Andrés’ Think Food Group was one of the three restaurateurs that debuted Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000 square-foot food hall in the new Hudson Yards complex in Manhattan that has been attracting hordes of tourists and locals.
Mercado Little Spain emulates a food market that one would experience in Madrid or Barcelona. It includes three full-service eateries, cocktail bars, a coffee shop, and three shops.
The group also launched another Jaleo’s eatery (its fifth) at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and opened its first fast-casual Beefsteak in Chicago. It’s headquartered in Washington, D.C, where some of its powerhouse restaurants include Oyamel, Zaytinya, and China Chilcano.
Brands: Daniel, The Bar at Daniel, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, Café Boulud, Bar Pleiades, DB Bistro Moderne, Épicerie Boulud
Headquartered in New York City, the Dinex Group, previously called the Maison Boulud Group, is spearheaded by Michelin-rated chef Daniel Boulud. It owns a stable of eateries globally and domestically, in London, Singapore, Toronto and Montreal, and domestically in New York, Miami, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Palm Beach, Florida.
Boulud’s flagship restaurant in New York, the eponymous Daniel, earned two-stars from the Michelin guide and catapulted his restaurant empire. In May 2018, Daniel celebrated its 25th anniversary in New York, which is no small feat considering the sky-high rents and competition.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Boulud is establishing a Dinex Group presence in a very large development project, near Grand Central Station, One Vanderbilt. It is slated to open in 2020 and will constitute New York’s second largest tower, after the rebuilt World Trade Center.
On December 13, the company appointed Sebastien Silvestri (above left) as its first CEO. The company said he will lead Dinex Group’s growth through “strategic acquisitions.” Silvestri was formerly the COO at Disruptive Restaurant Group, a division of SBE, the parent company of Umami Burger.
"With the opening of our new dining concept as well as our fourth Épicerie Boulud both at One Vanderbilt in fall 2020, the multiple opportunities that have been presented to us for consideration in other parts of the world, our existing portfolio of 19 locations globally and a successful catering business, the time was right to engage the expertise of a veteran industry executive to help both fuel and manage our growth, as well as to ensure the level of excellence within our existing operation," Boulud said in a statement. "Sebastien has a tremendous track record for assisting some of the most revered hospitality businesses' experience remarkable growth, and I could not be more thrilled to have him by my side as we begin an exciting new era of Daniel Boulud restaurants."
Brands: Anchovy Social, Blue Smoke, Cedric’s at The Shed, Cafes at MOMA, Caffe Marchio, Daily Provisions, Gramercy Tavern, Intersect by Lexus, Jazz Standard, Maialino, Maialino Mare, Manhatta, Marta, The Modern, Porchlight, Studio Café, Tacocina, Union Square Café, Untitled, Vini E Fritti
Restaurant visionary Danny Meyer, the founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), has become as well-known for his hospitality as his food. And that’s a rarity in restaurants these days, where convenience garners all the buzz.
Although fine-dining at Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern established USHG’s reputation, Meyer has shown deft versatility in being able to appeal to multiple audiences and price points. For example, his Shake Shack burger and malted joint, which started al fresco in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, was spun off as a public company.
His Blue Smoke barbecue joint became known for pan-regional barbecue but then expanded and broadened to include Texas-style brisket and baby-back ribs, and more unorthodox dishes such as Alabama white wings and turkey pastrami.
Meyer’s moderately-priced bakery café Daily Provision near Union Square in Manhattan became revered for its tasty muffins and crullers, soups and salads, followed by serving tasty barbecue chicken for dinner.
In October 2019, he opened a second Daily Provisions on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the brand expanding in the future.
Brands: L’Atelier de Joel Robunchon, Le Jardinier, Benno, Le Grill, Shun, La Table
Run by the New York-based investment boutique firm Invest Hospitality, this group operates a variety of restaurants with different culinary themes, including French, Italian, and Mediterranean. It owns 10 restaurants, with outposts in Houston and Miami. But Rachel Walensky, its director of marketing and communication, says all the eateries have one thing in common: they’re all chef-driven.
In fact, Benno and Le Jardinier earned one-star from the 2020 Michelin Guide and L’Atelier de Joel Robunchon New York garnered two-stars.
“While we do not consider any of our properties to be chains—as they are all high-end restaurant brands, Invest Hospitality has created and/or opened restaurants with multiple locations,” Walensky says. For example, it opened a second L’Atelier de Joel Robunchon in Miami in 2019, and a second Le Jardinier, also in Miami, in August 2019.
But Walensky says each eatery is dedicated to a “meticulous attention to detail, high-quality ingredients, an exceptional level of service, and ambiance and décor.”
Brands: Ocean Prime, Del Mar SoCal Kitchen, Lincoln Social, The Avenue, The Barn, Cap City, Cameron’s American Bistro, The Guild House, Hudson 29, M Restaurant/Lounge, Martini Modern Italian, Marcella’s, Mitchell’s Ocean Club, Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro, The Pearl, Budd Dairy Food Hall (coming soon)
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants prides itself on producing innovative restaurant concepts attuned to its customers. In fact, its 36 restaurants stem from 15 different concepts that run the gamut from Asian, steak, and Italian and include Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro, the Avenue Steak Tavern, and Martini Modern Italian.
In 2020, it plans to introduce Budd Dairy Food Hall.
One reason it has garnered so much continuity stems from founder Cameron Mitchell, who is still steering the ship and serving as CEO.
David Miller, president of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, attributes its success to always “being a specialty restaurant creator, and if we were fortunate to have one of our concepts be very successful, we’d look to grow it outside of Columbus (where it is headquartered). He calls the restaurant group “opportunistic” and always on the prowl for a “location that inspires a new concept.”
Brands: 99 Restaurant & Pub, O’Charley’s, Village Inn, Baker’s Square, Legendary Baking
Even though American Blue Ribbon Holdings is owned 66 percent by the public company Cannae Holdings, a $1.2 billion firm that also runs Dun & Bradstreet, it faced challenges in 2018. Its 2018 annual report noted that its restaurant group developed a “turnaround plan” that included reducing expenses, improving the customer experience, driving customer traffic, and boosting revenue.
Of its concept, 99 Restaurants had a strong year. It noted that it was a “standout performer that outperformed the market and generated strong free cash flow.”
Craig Barber, CEO of American Blue Ribbon Holdings, says one of its major strategic initiatives for 2019 “includes continued refinement of the restaurant portfolio, including closing 46 restaurants through the third quarter.” It also sold $28 million worth of real-estate in that same period.
In addition, reducing headcount, consolidating its Nashville support center and closing its Legendary Baking plant in California, “yielded more than $20 million in incremental annual cash flow,” Barber says.
Moreover, it focused on boosting each restaurant’s performance, zeroing in on sales and margins, and shedding lower margin eateries.
Shrinking weaker performing locations will result in improved margins, Barber says. For example, O’Charley’s shuttered 23 of those planned 46 restaurants to date. That downsizing resulted in “higher margins and improved cash flow with lower overall sales,” he says.
Another bright spot was the spike in off-premises sales or delivery, which has risen to 20–25 percent of all premise revenue, depending on the location.
Brands: The Southern Gentleman, Gypsy Kitchen, The Blind Pig, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, Ocean & Acre, Tin Lizzy’s, Chido & Padre’s Baja Mexicana, Beni’s Cubano, Artisan Hospitality, Street Taco
Southern Proper Hospitality operates 23 restaurants, mostly in Atlanta and its environs, but it has expanded with Tin Lizzy’s Cantina to Tallahassee, Florida, and Greenville, South Carolina, and the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Alex Curley, its chief operating officer, says that what unifies the company’s stable of eateries, “is our hospitality. Whether a guest is settling in for a weekend at the Monte Vista Hotel or partying late night at the Blind Pig Parlous Bar, we recognize that they want and deserve to experience the highest level of genuine hospitality.”
Having multiple units enables it to “appeal to everyone,” Curley adds. “By having so many different approaches, from sexy tapas, to laid-back beach bar to late-night speakeasy, to higher-end seafood, we widen the scope of guests.”
Despite the turbulence in the industry, Curley says, Southern Proper Hospitality focused on adding staff and talent to appeal to a wide-range of customers. “The guest,” he says, “doesn’t care about market trends or labor laws or the cost of a case of avocados. They want a world-class experience.”
In 2020, Curley says it plans on opening a rebrand of Tin Lizzy’s in Atlanta, its first Gypsy Kitchen in Washington D.C., and several other projects are in the works.
In mid-November, the company named Juan Rivera (pictured above) corporate chef, overseeing menu engineering, kitchen design, and the hiring and development of staff. He most recently served as the senior executive chef for Barcelona Wine Bar for two years.
Triple Chocolate Meltdown at Applebee’s
What is it: A fudge-filled chocolate cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.
Why we love it: Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep, playing Anna Wintour, breaks down the path of cerulean blue from Oscar de la Renta runway shows to the bargain bins of Casual Corner? Chocolate fondant cake has had a similar evolution, beginning in haute kitchens—many attribute its creation to either Michel Bras or Jean-Georges Vongerichten—then trickling down to, well, places like Applebee’s. You can tell your family this story while eating the Triple Chocolate Meltdown to prove that college was not a complete waste of money. Find a location.
Over-the-Top Steakhouse Sides
Like a supporting actor, side dishes help elevate steaks to greatness. Here's where you'll find the tastiest unsung heroes from coast to coast.
Photo By: Butcher and Singer
Photo By: Keens Steakhouse
Photo By: Butcher and Singer
Photo By: Bern's Steak House
Steak's Trusty Sidekicks
A nice thick and juicy steak is heaven. But we all know the real fun comes from the sides — the potatoes, the veggies, the creamed everything. We scoured the country to find the most-outrageous sidekicks for your next steakhouse adventure.
Austin: Roaring Fork
Boston: Abe & Louie's
Freshly shucked corn is tossed with apple-wood-smoked bacon, shallots and bechamel sauce, then topped with panko breadcrumbs for a toasty golden crust, for the impossibly popular creamed corn at Abe & Louie's. It's technically a vegetable, so pass the guilt.
Charleston, SC: Oak Steakhouse
Macaroni and cheese is such a solid classic that you might wonder why anyone would mess with it. But the folks at Oak Steakhouse in Charleston were not content to leave well enough alone. Thank goodness. Just saying the words "smoky bacon macaroni and cheese" may be enough to put a smile on your face. But eating it is even better.
Chicago: RPM Steak
Chicago is a steakhouse city, so you'd think it would be hard to stand out. Not so for Chef/Partner Doug Psaltis at RPM Steak. Psaltis doesn't hold back with the Millionaire's Potato — it's kind of like your standard double-baked baby, except this one’s stuffed with Fontina and mountains of black truffles. It is the gilded lily.
Las Vegas: Bazaar Meat
Sin City is not exactly a place of sensible moderation. So it's no surprise that the sides at Bazaar Meat by José Andrés — a wild and wonderful celebration of all things carnivorous — are high on the decadence scale. In true Andrés form, a classic side of Potatoes Delmonico is served perfectly: a potato pie covered in cream and bubbling cheddar cheese.
New York City: Keens Steakhouse
A side of hash browns is a thing of beauty — a giant potato pancake, fried to golden brown, with crisped edges. It's a latke gone wild. But the one at New York City's legendary Keens Steakhouse is truly one of a kind, and that’s because it's got hunks of prime beef mixed into the potato pancake and the entire Frisbee-sized portion is topped with a sunny-side-up egg. Yeah.
New York City: Quality Meats
If you were to mate creamed corn with creme brulee, their love child would be the delicious Corn Crème Brûlée served at Quality Meats in New York City. Chef Craig Koketsu's savory-and-sweet classic is a hybrid spin on one of his comfort-food favorites, creamed corn, and a creme brulee. Secreted underneath caramelized sugar crust is a sweet corn custard. It's almost dessert.
Philadelphia: Butcher and Singer
Stuffed hash browns, you say? Yes! At Butcher and Singer, Stephen Starr's popular Philadelphia steakhouse that pays homage to old Hollywood, you’ll find these golden beauties stuffed with sour cream and chives, fried and baked. Take the leftovers home for breakfast — that is, if there are any.
Tampa: Bern's Steak House
The Steak House French Onion Soup Au Gratin, a side dish at the acclaimed Florida steakhouse, Bern's, is the best French onion soup you've ever had. The stock is made from veal bones (you can watch them roasting and brewing in their pots). The rich broth comes swimming with caramelized onions and topped with volcanic layers of gooey cheese. Truth be told, it's a meal, not a side, but we're not complaining.
West Hollywood: BOA Steakhouse
King Crab & Black Truffle Gnocchi may sound more like a main course than a side. But why bicker about categories? It's a must-have at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood. Delicate potato dumplings are cast in a Parmesan cream sauce piled high with fresh king crab, black truffle shavings, breadcrumbs and parsley. The dish is so rich that it's sort of optional to have the steak.
A classic on the Indianapolis restaurant scene, St. Elmo Steakhouse has been around, and served the same menu, for 117 years. During quarantine, you can order steak and shrimp dinner kits from their website, and recreate the magic of their famous aged pure black Angus NY strips and shrimp cocktail right at home. Several options for different-sized parties are available. You can also purchase their famous steak seasoning and sauces. Thinking of grilling? Check out these 24 essential grilling tips from top chefs.
Murray's in Minneapolis is offering grill kits for curbside pickup. They consist of four 14-ounce New York Strip steaks, their signature steak seasoning, and a bottle of wine. For special occasions, try their prime rib—you'll get a 10- to 12-ounce piece that comes with all the side-fixin's, including potato gratin and Ceasar salad. Individual high-quality wine bottles are also available for pickup.
3. Black Angus Steakhouse
A West Coast chain, there are 44 locations of Black Angus in California, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii. The chain dates back to 1964, and all steaks served here are from Black Angus cows and are aged for a minimum of three weeks, grilled over an open flame, and basted with seasoned butter. Filet, NY Strip, rib-eye, top sirloin, flat iron, and prime rib are available, and the 16 sides include steak soup, fresh green beans with bacon, and loaded baked potato. As opposed to the sprawling menus at a lot of other chains it’s all about the steak here, and a "feast for two" comes with steaks, appetizers, and dessert. There’s also a special menu for large parties, and some locations have a separate Bull’s Eye Bar sports bar attached.
1 Carrabba’s Italian Grill
If you love Italian food, you’re in luck. There’s no shortage of Italian chain restaurants, even if you want a higher-end establishment. One of the most popular is Carrabba’s Italian Grill, which has more than 250 locations around the country. The chain is based in Tampa, Florida, and owned by Bloomin’ Brands.
You can get all the usual Italian classics here, such as meatballs, pasta, bruschetta, and wood-fired pizza. Being a grill, they also serve quality steaks. There are always specials on during the week, and Carrabba’s also provides a kids’ menu and a gluten-free menu.