K. C. Steakhouse, Bakersfield, California

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The K. C. Steakhouse in Bakersfield was opened in 1939 by ‘Doc’ Kennedy from Oklahoma City at 630 Union Ave. In 1967 it moved into its current location at 2515 F Street, a restaurant formerly named Greg’s Hi Life, which originally opened in 1952. The interior is a combination of Mid-Century Modern and Western, with its free-form dropped ceiling, giant copper fireplace, red leatherette booths, and wagon-wheel chandeliers (most likely all installed in 1952), with some large mirrors framed by lights (added later). There have been several owners over the years. Today it is owned by Charlotte Carter and Terry Campbell.

 

fireplace and dining area - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

fireplace and dining area – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

My photos are pretty dark, I hope but they give you a better idea of the atmosphere that way. The fireplace is used during the colder winter months but it wasn’t in use during my recent visit in early November.

 

amazing free-form ceiling with cool lighting - photo by Dean Curtis

amazing free-form ceiling with cool lighting – photo by Dean Curtis

 

The bar and lounge have several TVs and a live band most nights of the week, but from the dining room the TVs were far enough away to not be a distraction or an annoyance.

 

view of bar (foreground) and lounge from dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

view of bar (foreground) and lounge from dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The menu‘s focus is on steaks, of course, with several offered including a 22 oz. Porterhouse, top sirloin, NY strip (2 sizes), filet mignon (2 sizes), and ribeye (regular cut and a 20 oz. bone-in cut), as well as prime rib Thursday-Saturday. My choice was the Porterhouse. It was very good and cooked just right. Other entrees include rack of lamb, a stuffed pork chop (a hand cut, bone-in loin chop stuffed with apple stuffing, which is one of their specialties), beef liver, and several chicken & seafood dishes. Their lobster mac ‘n cheese is famous. Dinners are a good deal as they come with soup or salad, choice of potato or rice, vegetable, beans, salsa, and bread.

 

band - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

band – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

They have live music Tuesday-Saturday starting at 6:00 or 6:30, depending on the night. The music is a mix of oldies, many from the 1970s. The pianist, Jimmy Gaines, plays nightly, joined by guitarist Mike Hall and drummer Bobby O. on Fridays and Saturdays (in my photo above the drummer and guitarist are hidden behind the keyboard). They have a wooden dance floor and dancing is encouraged! We didn’t find the music too loud in the dining room to interfere with conversation.

 

K. C. Steakhouse
2515 F St, Bakersfield, CA 93301
(661) 322-9910
Open Mon-Fri 11:00am-10:00pm (lounge open until midnight on Friday), Sat 4:30pm-12:00am (dinner served until 10:30; band plays until midnight), closed Sundays

 

 

What is the best steakhouse in the U.S.?

What is the best steakhouse in the U.S.? Le Continental’s pick is Bern’s in Tampa. I’ve only been twice (ten years apart) but one visit was enough to proclaim it THE BEST. Bern’s motto is “We do things differently here.”, so it’s more than a restaurant meal, rather they offer “A unique culinary experience.”.

 

Bern Laxer - image by Bern's Steak House via Tampa Bay Business journal

Bern Laxer – image by Bern’s Steak House via Tampa Bay Business journal

 

Bernard Laxer was born in New York City in 1923, served in WWII, and graduated from NYU with a degree in advertising. He married and moved to Florida with his wife Gertrude in 1951. After saving some cash from various jobs, they bought a juice bar in Tampa in 1953. Renamed Bern and Gert’s Little Midway, it was a successful breakfast and lunch counter. Quality was their emphasis from the beginning as they served fresh baked bread, fresh-squeezed juice, and 37 kinds of jam, jellies and preserves. In 1956 Bern and Gert bought a place called Beer Haven on Howard Ave right where Bern’s Bordeaux Room is today. To save money on the sign they renamed it Bern’s (dropping some of the letters from the Beer Haven sign and adding the apostrophe and the ‘s’). At first it was a hamburger restaurant with red checked tablecloths and Chianti bottle candle holders. Bern was the host, greeting customers, and Gert waited tables.

 

image by patch.com

Bern’s today (the building used to be brick but it was covered with stucco about a few years ago) – image by patch.com

 

Bern’s soon became a steak house and expanded in the 1960s and 1970s, eventually taking over the entire shopping center that was next door. Through hard work, clever advertising, and quality of food and service it became a dining destination. One local ad read  ”Steak Dinner, $66,000. Includes African safari and a good luck charm. Steak dinner alone: $2.50.”.

Bern bought a local liquor store to more easily supply his restaurant with liquor and wine. He became a lover of fine wines. Much of their profit went into the restaurant’s expansions, fine art he decorated the dining rooms with, and his wine collection, which grew to the largest in the world, around 500,000 bottles of around 6,800 selections. About 100,000 bottles are stored in the restaurant’s wine cellar today, with the other 400,000  kept in warehouses around Tampa. In 1974 the wine list was 1,236 pages long. By 1995 it was a whopping 2,500 pages of wine listings, maps of wine regions, interviews with wine connoisseurs, and reference information. Today you receive an abridged wine list at your table, however you can ask for the 179-page wine list, which is updated quarterly. Perhaps you may want a 1901 Château Mouton-Rothschild, a Château Latour from 1920, or a Château Lafite-Rothschild from 1881. They have all of these vintages available.

In 1993 Bern’s son Dave took over operation of Bern’s after Bern Laxer sustained injuries in a serious car accident, and he runs it today. Bern Laxer passed away in 2002.

 

Bern’s Dining Rooms

 

Lobby of Bern's today - image by Bren Hererra

Lobby of Bern’s today – image by Bren Hererra

 

Bern’s eight dining rooms and stunning lobby with its grand staircase to the restrooms (above photo)  were decorated in the 1960’s and 70s in red flocked wallpaper, red carpet, mirrors and classical art in gold frames, antique furniture, and sculpture, much of it personally collected by Bern Laxer. Many writers call this a “bordello” style, or perhaps rococo revival. The dining rooms were redecorated one-at-a-time from 1999 into the early 2000s, some a little (new carpet), some a lot (the Andre Tchelischeff room, named for a California winemaker, was redone in mahogany paneling with enlarged photos of Bern and Tchelischeff). The bar was completely redone at the time and TVs were removed from the dessert room (hooray!). In the past couple of years some of the dining rooms were redone again, but not drastically. The acoustic tiled ceilings were replaced with more attractive coffered ceilings. For example, here is the Florentine Room (sometimes also called the Cameo Room) before the recent remodel:

 

Florentine room before recent remodel - image by PontoOrlando.com

Florentine room before recent remodel – image by PontoOrlando.com

 

And here is the Florentine Room as it looks now (which I dined in on my recent visit). Still classy, still old-fashioned, but a bit more elegant with nicer chairs, a chandelier and spot lights, and a new ceiling.

 

Florentine room - image by Dining Out on an Expense Account

Florentine room now – image by Dining Out on an Expense Account

 

Before my last visit I found it hard to find good information online about Bern’s dining rooms and what they are called, so here I present my Le Continental readers with a showing of all of Bern’s dining rooms for your convenience, so when you make your reservation you can choose the room you want to dine in. We start at the bar.

 

Bar & lounge - image by Times Publishing Inc.

Bar & lounge – image by Times Publishing Inc.

 

The Bordeaux Room, where Bern's started in 1956 - Photo by Lara Cerri via Visit Florida Flickr page

Bordeaux Room, where Bern’s started in 1956 – Photo by Lara Cerri via Visit Florida Flickr page

 

Bronze Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Bronze Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Tchelistcheff Room - image by The Daily Meal

Tchelistcheff Room – image by The Daily Meal

 

Burgundy Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Burgundy Room, with a detailed map of the wine region – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Rhone room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Rhone room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Rhone room photo mural - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Rhone room photo mural – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Not shown are the Champagne and Port rooms, which I believe are used for private gatherings. Counting the Florentine Room shown above, that’s eight dining rooms, not counting the extra-special room which is actually the second floor of the building!

 

Harry Waugh Dessert Room - image by thecoolist.com

Harry Waugh Dessert Room – image by thecoolist.com

 

In 1985 the Harry Waugh Dessert Room was added, which is on the second floor (a friend of Bern’s, Harry Waugh, an Englishman, was director of Chateau Latour in France). It consists of a labyrinth of 48 semi-private dining booths made from redwood wine vats and glass (it’s hard to describe and must be experienced when you visit Bern’s).

Note: Bern’s dining rooms, lobby, and bar are quite dark (as they should be) inside, darker than is shown in these photos. There are NO WINDOWS in the entire restaurant! It doesn’t necessarily make for good pictures, as you can see in my photo below, but that’s OK. It gives you an idea of the atmosphere at Bern’s.

 

lobby - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

lobby – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The Food

Where to begin? Let’s get to the meat of the matter! The steak menu:

  • filet mignon
  • chateaubriand
  • “special” chateaubriand, loin-aged 7 weeks
  • strip sirloin (New York), USDA Prime, aged 5-8 weeks
  • Delmonico (ribeye), USDA Prime, aged 5-8 weeks
  • porterhouse, USDA Prime, aged 5-8 weeks
  • t-bone, USDA Prime, aged 5-8 weeks

Each steak is hand-cut, trimmed, and weighed to order, offered in multiple sizes by weight. The menu shows how many people each sized steak can feed, and how thick it is, depending on how it’s cooked (rare to med. rare steaks are served thicker than steaks cooked more well done). All steaks are broiled over lump hardwood charcoal. The waiter was very helpful in giving suggestions as the menu can be a lot to study. For example, for two people one large thick steak is usually better than ordering two separate steaks (if you want the same steak done the same way). Anything you wish Bern’s will accommodate you.

Bern’s trims off most of the fat (and any gristle) so the steak may not look like the same cut in other steakhouses. They buy 3 to 4 pounds of beef for each 1 pound of steak. All you get is the best part. As you can see in my photo below my Delmonico (ribeye) had the fat removed so it was served as one large price and one smaller piece.

 

Delmonico, rare - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Delmonico, rare – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

A bit about Bern’s side dishes. In the 1970s Bern Laxer purchased an eight-acre farm so he could grow his own vegetables for the restaurant, organically. Today Bern’s still grows many of its vegetables on its farm and other local farms. The side dishes are all prepared to order and are delicious.

 

tableside Caesar salad - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

table-side Caesar salad preparation – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Bern’s menu is humongous. There is a large caviar selection, many appetizers to choose from, and entrees of beef, pork, lamb, and seafood, which is flown in fresh daily. There is a long menu of specials every night which change monthly based on what is in season and available called the Kitchen Within a Kitchen. There is a cheese menu featuring dozens of cheeses from around the world, some aged at Bern’s in their Cheese Cave.

 

Dessert Room table - photo by Dean Curtis, 2006

Dessert Room table – photo by Dean Curtis, 2006

 

Make sure you allow several hours for the full Bern’s experience: a cocktail in the bar, a leisurely dinner (you never feel rushed at Bern’s), dessert and an after-dinner drink in the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, and even a tour of the wine cellar and kitchen if you so desire. My advice is to make a dinner reservation for no later than 7pm so you can have plenty of time (arriving an hour or so earlier so you can visit the bar). The closing hours vary by the night of the week but you should plan to be finished by 10 or 11 (later on Friday or Saturday).

 

dessert room music system - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

dessert room music system – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Each booth in the dessert room has a sound system with choices of soft music and a phone so you can request a song played by the live piano player! About 50 desserts are offered on the menu. A highlight was the macadamia nut ice cream sundae. I ordered the Baked Alaska, served flambéed table-side.

 

Baked Alaska - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Baked Alaska – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The dessert room drinks menu has over 1,000 drinks, wines, liquors, and cordials. There are many vintage ports (dating back to 1957) and madeiras (from as far back as 1792), many at affordable prices.

 

The Jab, very satisfied (but full) after dining at Bern's, 2006

At Bern’s they treat you like a king! The Jab, very satisfied (but full) after dining at Bern’s, 2006

 

A final word on the service: impeccable! Every waiter is trained for a full year throughout the restaurant and even on the farm, then for another 8 to 12 weeks in the dining rooms.

If you love steaks, classic steakhouses, and fine dining you need to make a pilgrimage to Bern’s. It’s worth the trip from anywhere in the U.S. Save your money, go all out with the full Bern’s experience: caviar (if you desire), a great wine, an aged steak, perhaps with a lobster tail, and some dessert with a glass of vintage port. Jackets and ties are encouraged (but not required) at Bern’s. Get dressed up and do it right!

 

Bern’s Steak House
1208 S Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 251-2421
Open Sun-Thu 5:00pm-10:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-11:00pm

 

 

Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber, Clearwater, Florida

One of the great pleasures in life for me is discovering a restaurant that is well-preserved mid-century modern in design that also has terrific food. Before I travel somewhere I always pull out my vintage copies of Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating (I have one from the 1940s and one from 1962) and the AAA Tour Book (I have copies from 1953 and a 1959-60) and look in the areas where I’m going for restaurants that still exist (via an online search). I found Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber this way. From the 1962 Adventures in Good Eating:

Heilman’s Beachcomber…”Back-to-the-farm” fried chicken dinners served family style, seafood delicacies and N.Y. cut sirloin steaks. L., $1-$3. D., $2.25-$3.

The next thing I usually do is do an image search and check out pictures of the place on Yelp and Tripadvisor to see if it’s been remodeled. In most cases they are. In the case of the Beachcomber it looked remodeled on the outside but there weren’t good photos of the inside so my hopes weren’t that high, though I still put it on the top of my to-dine-at list. I’m glad I did!

 

Heilman's Ohio

Heilman’s, Lorain, Ohio – image by http://danielebrady.blogspot.com

 

In 1920 Ross Heilman and his brother Alton opened a small grill on Broadway in Lorain, Ohio. They expanded into a larger building in 1936 and renamed it Heilman’s Marine Dining Room and Grill, decorating it in a lightly nautical theme.

 

Marine Dining Room, Lorain, Ohio - image by http://danielebrady.blogspot.com

Marine Dining Room, Lorain, Ohio – image by http://danielebrady.blogspot.com

 

Ross Heilman’s son Bob opened Heilman’s Beachcomber in 1948 in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

 

Original Heilman's Beachcomber, Clearwater, Florida - image by William Bird on Flickr

Original Heilman’s Beachcomber, Clearwater, Florida – image by William Bird on Flickr

 

Ross’ other son Hubert opened a Heilman’s restaurant in Fort Lauderdale in 1958.

 

Heilman's Fort Lauderdale, Florida - image by SwellMap on Flickr

Heilman’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida – image by SwellMap on Flickr

 

In 1959 the Beachcomber was badly damaged by fire so it was rebuilt. The new Heilman’s Beachcomber had two dining rooms, The Seascape Room and The Gallery, and the  Jester Bar. I’m not sure but I’m going to guess that the Seascape Room is now the front dining room where you enter that has large windows on two walls while the Gallery Room is the split-level dining room and bar to the right as you enter (part of it can be seen in the vintage postcard view below).

 

early postcard of Heilman's Beachcomber's Gallery Room - image by William Bird on Flickr

early postcard of Heilman’s Beachcomber’ – image by William Bird on Flickr

 

In 1961 a fourth Heilman family restaurant opened: Heilman’s Ranch House on West Erie in Lorain, Ohio, not far from Heilman’s Marine Dining Room. It was decorated with pine walls, cattle hides, longhorn skulls and lariats, and was open 24-hours serving “ranchburgers” and other American fare. In 1964 the Beachcomber expanded by adding the “Room For One More Room”. In 1968 the original Heilman’s closed, leaving the Fort Lauderdale Heilman’s (closing year unknown), the Ranch House (closed, 1974), and the lone survivor to date: Heilman’s Beachcomber. Bob Heilman passed away in 2007.

 

later postcard of Heilman's Fort Lauderdale - image by William Bird on Flickr

later postcard of Heilman’s Fort Lauderdale – image by William Bird on Flickr

 

Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber today

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

entrance - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

As I stated above, the Seascape Room was somewhat remodeled recently with some sailboat wall sculptures (but the chandelier is still there) along with the outside of the building (I haven’t found any pics of the outside of the 1959 Beachcomber before the remodel).

 

early postcard of Seascape Room

early postcard of Seascape Room

 

recent photo of Seascape Room via Tripadvisor

recent photo of Seascape Room via Tripadvisor

 

As you enter the second dining room (which I think is the Gallery Room) you first notice that it is spilt-level, with tables on the first level and booths and tables on the second level. At the front of the room is a wonderful mural, white banquettes, and a wood beam ceiling, all of which can be seen in the vintage postcard above (now with fabric between the beams).

 

mural - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

mural – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

On closer inspection you can see that the mural, portraying Caribbean island activities such as preparing food, fishing, and playing music, is actually in mixed media (such as, the boat section is really made of wood). And then you spy the Beachcomber character in the mural, who wears a striped shirt, a white linen suit with the pants rolled up, and a white Captain’s hat (he also appears on the menus, old matchbooks, and there is a statue of him in one corner of the Gallery Room).

 

detail of mural - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

detail of mural – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

One of the fine folks at Tiki Central traced the origin of this beachcomber character to a 1940s painting by Albert Dorne (there are also some dandy matchbooks and other ephemera to view).

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

beachcomber statue in Gallery Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

I like the Beachcomber’s use of classic house plants, a nice touch that adds to the vintage feel (more restaurants should start using house plants again).

 

Second level of Gallery Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Second level of Gallery Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

copper wall sculpture in Gallery Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

copper wall sculpture in Gallery Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

There is live piano music nightly in the Gallery Room next to the bar. I enjoyed the piano player’s mix of old standards and classic rock ‘n roll songs. Live music is a tradition at the Beachcomber: in the 1960s they featured Ruth Crane on the Hammond organ. Speaking of the bar, the back wall of the bar is all rocks and on the right side of the bar is a gorgeous long stained glass mural of abstract bottles, which is signed and dated ‘1959’.

 

stained glass in bar - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

stained glass in bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

detail of stained glass - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

detail of stained glass with rock wall behind – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016 (open to enlarge)

 

 

 

Behind the Gallery Room is another small dining room with a copper fireplace, which I think is the Room For One More Room.

 

 

 

Room For One More Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Room For One More Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The Menu consists mainly of seafood, several cuts of beef, and their famous fried chicken. They have some classic specialties such as vichyssoise, served in a bowl on a bed of crushed ice, fried frogs legs, clams Casino, oysters Florentine, escargot, chicken livers, and their version of the Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich of roast turkey on toast with Mornay sauce baked until it’s browned and topped with bacon, tomato, olives, and asparagus (it originated in Lousiville, Kentucky, at the Brown Hotel in 1926 but the Beachcomber says they’ve made it this way since 1948). Dinners are served with a chilled relish tray of house made relishes & spreads with crackers, salad (or soup with the fried chicken dinner), vegetable, and a basket of their homemade banana bread, muffins, and rolls.

 

relish tray of (clockwise from LL) farmers cheese, apple butter, beet horseradish, and corn relish - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

relish tray of (clockwise from LL) farmers cheese, apple butter, beet horseradish, and corn relish – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The service was outstanding. Thank goodness that Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber survives and thrives. I can’t wait to return.

 

Bob Heilman, 1921-2007

Bob Heilman, 1921-2007

 

 

Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber
447 Mandalay Ave, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
(727) 442-4144
Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11:00pm, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm

 

Plaza III, Kansas City, Missouri

Recently I visited Kansas City for the first time after having wanted to go for the last several years to experience the Paris of the Plains (Kansas City has more public fountains than any city except Rome). I loved it! It was easy to get around (by car), downtown is thriving, there are beautiful homes all over the place, and some fine museums. Then there’s the food! Bar-be-que, burgers, bar-be-que, chili, bar-be-que…you get the picture. And I had to get a Kansas City steak, in a city that was once a major beef producing city. At its peak in the 1920s Kansas City’s stockyards were second only in size to Chicago’s. Following a flood in 1951 they began their decline until they closed in 1991.

 

Plaza III Steakhouse

photo by t-mizo on Flickr

 

In 1961 Paul Robinson, manager of the Golden Ox Steakhouse in Kansas City (now closed but due to reopen later this year), met Joe Gilbert, founder of the Four Winds Restaurant at the Kansas City Downtown Airport (now closed but the TWA Museum there is well worth a visit). They teamed up with Joe’s son Bill Gilbert and opened the Plaza III in 1963 in Country Club Plaza, a lovely Spanish style outdoor shopping center designed by J. C. Nichols and architect Edward Buehler Delk that opened in 1923, which is considered the first planned shopping center in the U.S.

 

Ad from 1971

Ad from 1971

 

In 1972 the Gilbert-Robinson group opened a more casual restaurant next door to the Plaza III in an old clothing store called Tom Houlihan’s, naming it Houlihan’s Old Place. That restaurant eventually expanded in the Houlihan’s chain of restaurants, numbering 79 locations by 2012. The original Houlihan’s relocated in 2003 to nearby Fairway, Kansas. Plaza III ‘s dining rooms (which started out decorated in 60s Spanish) were remodeled in 1986 in a classic steakhouse look with lots of wood, dark brown leather booths, brass lamps, and potted palms. The large downstairs space was a disco in the 70s, then a series of clubs until its remodel in 2005 for use as additional dining space for the restaurant, with live jazz on weekend nights.

 

Plaza III Steakhouse

dining room

 

The Plaza III menu is classic steakhouse all the way. First comes out a chilled relish tray. Their famous steak soup is a must. It’s a rich, thick, dark brown stew with large chunks of tender steak and vegetables. A bowl would be enough for a meal.

 

Plaza III Steakhouse

beef soup – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

Steaks are à la carte, USDA Prime, wet aged, and a presented tableside wrapped in plastic before you choose one. I had the famous Kansas City Strip, center cut, because “when in Rome…”, which comes in two sizes (I got the large despite having three lunches earlier. I’m not kidding.). Other options are the ribeye (two sizes), porterhouse, t-bone, filet mignon (two sizes), strip steak au poivre (brandy cream sauce), strip steak au fromage (with Roquefort), tenderloin Oscar, twin filet medallions, and prime rib in two sizes. I’m getting hungry! There are also lamb, veal, chicken, and seafood choices, and many surf & turf combinations available. Steaks come with a choice of béarnaise or au poivre sauce if desired. Sides are extra but come in two sizes, most at $5 & $9. Don’t forget to order chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflé when you order your steak so it will be ready by the time you’re ready for dessert. Both their regular and reserve wine lists have won awards.

 

Plaza III Steakhouse

I didn’t get a good photo of my steak but it looked like this – photo via the Plaza III facebook page

 

The Plaza III has had serious steakhouse competition on Country Club Plaza over the years but it has stood the test of time. In 2014 the chain steakhouse Ruth’s Chris closed on the Plaza after 17 years. I call that progress.

 

Plaza III Steakhouse
4749 Pennsylvania Ave, Kansas City, MO 64112
(816) 753-0000
Open Mon-Thu 11:00am-10:00pm, Fri-Sat 11:00am-11:00pm, Sun 5:00pm-9:00pm

 

Hugo’s Cellar, Las Vegas, Nevada

If you’re looking for a true Continental restaurant in Las Vegas, there is only one: Hugo’s Cellar. It’s a great pick if you want gracious table-side service, flambé dishes, and an old-fashioned (i.e. old school) dining experience.

 

Hugo's Cellar Las Vegas

dining room

 

Hugo’s Cellar’s is located (you guessed it) beneath street level, under the main casino at the Four Queens in downtown. Enter the noisy casino from hectic Fremont Street, look for the restaurant’s staircase in the back of the casino, and descend into a more peaceful and genteel world. There is a small bar and cocktail lounge in the front, and the maître d’hôtel‘s stand, where you will be greeted and the ladies presented with a long-stemmed rose. The dining room is decorated with brick, thick wooden beams on the ceiling, green lanterns and Tiffany lamps. It has an elegant old-fashioned feel that seems older than its origin in 1973 as Hugo’s Rotisserie (when the hotel was owned by Hyatt Hotels). The Four Queens has changed hands a couple of times since then but Hugo’s has remained (it was renamed Hugo’s Cellar about 30 years ago). The most recent owner of the hotel vowed never to change Hugo’s – bravo!

 

Hugo's Cellar Las Vegas

the martini came with a refill!

 

The tuxedoed waiters are all highly professional, some with decades of service at Hugo’s. Waiter Victor Hutchings has been with the restaurant for 39 years and sommelier Jon Simmons for 32 years (when he started in 1984 he was one of only three sommeliers in Las Vegas restaurants). Service was very attentive and gracious, with multiple staff attending to our table of three.

 

Hugo's Cellar Las Vegas

waiter preparing table-side duckling anise flambé

 

The menu is truly Continental, featuring such classics as duckling anise flambé, veal Oscar, chicken champignon, and beef Wellington. But it’s also a fine steakhouse with char-broiled steaks aged 28 days, as well as prime rib and seafood entrees. All entrees include a salad prepared table-side how you like it from a rolling cart, vegetables, potatoes or rice, delicious homemade bread and cheese-toasted lavosh, dessert of chocolate dipped strawberries and fruit, and bottled water. Service was impeccable, with multiple waiters attending to our every need.

 

Hugo's Cellar Las Vegas

duckling anise flambé

 

After-dinner fruit is included with your meal but you should definitely try one the flaming table-side desserts like bananas Foster or cherries jubilee!

 

The next time you are in Las Vegas, you should check out downtown. There are lots of hotels (I like Main Street Station), the fascinating Mob Museum, a few good cocktail bars, a shopping/food/entertainment center called Container Park, and some great classic restaurants like Hugo’s Cellar and Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse (now called Top of Binion’s but I prefer the older name), which I didn’t visit this trip but I have dined at before. On my last three visits to Las Vegas I mostly avoided the Strip and I didn’t miss it at all.

 

Hugo’s Cellar
202 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101
702-385-4011
Open 5:00pm – 10:00pm daily