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Too many steak houses in Boston

I propose that the City of Boston start limiting the number of licenses they give to chain steak houses. We went to the Capital Grille a few weeks ago realizing it was a chain. What I didn't know, until I got my credit card statement, is that they are owned by a company that also has Lone Star and Bugaboo Creek. Considering the service I wouldn't have been surprised if KFC was training their staff.

Maison Robert was a great restaurant in an awesome location. Who comes in to take over the premises? Ruth Chris. That's all the city needed after the opening of Smith and Wollensky a few months earlier. They all serve the same appetizers, the same steak, the same sides and a signature dessert. I can't remember the last time anyone recommended Mortons based on their steak, but I'd like a dollar for every time someone said, "Let's go to Morton's for the molten chocolate cake."

Given the chance, I'd like to outlaw most of them, Abe and Louies being my exception.

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  1. Yep, a favorite rant of mine. One of my peeves is that a place like Fleming's (same parent as The Outback, blech) touts itself as a wine bar, when they clearly don't give a damn about proper wine handling. I guess there's nothing wrong with a luxury steakhouse per se; I just object to the ridiculous pricing for middling to terrible steaks (Bonfire, for example), unattractive dining rooms (The Palm, Capital Back Bay, Morton's) and frequently incompetent service (Smith & Wollensky, Back Bay). The Oak Room merits its prices on the all-around experience; most of the rest can go to perdition.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      The Oak Room is the only place that we'll make a special trip for steaks. It's the best of a motley bunch in Boston. Someday we'll get a top notch steakhouse in Boston...I hope.

      1. re: Sal Monella

        The question is whether or not Boston would support a place like Peter Luger's, or BLT Steak, with its $80,000 inventory of prime beef in their showcase glass dry-aging room. Both places would be a 2-3x premium over the chains - would enough people in Boston know the difference and pay the premium to keep such a place in business?

        1. re: applehome

          I know that of course service is important at a steakhouse (any restaurant for that matter) but I always wondered, in Boston steakhouses...who has the best beef? NYC is not the only place who can source quality beef. Is there a "prime source" for lack of a better term? Corn-fed, grass-fed, all-natural, etc..etc..?

    2. i never order steak when i go out, and consequently never go to steakhouses. but the fact is, these are some of the busiest restaurants in the entire city. bostonians are not adventurous diners, and seem to find culinary comfort in meat and potatoes. if the demographics didn't support it, none of these places would open.

      it's not a chain, but i'll toss davio's, "a tuscan steakhouse", onto the pyre. it's a steakhouse that serves pasta, and i think the food is terribly mediocre.

      1. Abe and Louis is also a link in a food factory chain.

        1. Yeah and they are not even good. I just don’t get it either. For the prices they are charging I want great and it was not! Had lunch earlier this month at Ruth Chris and was disappointed. The place was busy, the noise level was unpleasant and the waiter annoying. My DC specifically asked if they were able to cook a steak Pittsburgh and the response was absolutely. (This means the steak is very charred on the outside and rare to med. rare on inside) The steak arrived with a few grill marks and was clearly not what he ordered. My steak was well under med., more on rare side. The sauce he asked for on the side was cold and congealed. The side of green beans was undercooked to the point of being raw and the potatoes were fine when the hit the table but morphed into bowl of glue as it sat. We had a bottle of wine and the waiter over served the wine.... Topping of the glass when we had a couple of sips each. It was very annoying and it was if he was trying to get us to finish the bottle so we would order another. On the plus side was the app. Of Crabtini... it was amazing but all components should have been for $239.00 for lunch )
          Another thing is how has it become acceptable and the norm for steak houses to charge stupid amounts of money for sides? Come on $38 bucks for a steak and $8.50 for spuds, another $8.50 for green beans? Could you imagine if you were at any other restaurant and they tried to pull that?

          1. The growth in the number of steak houses is not specific to Boston. Indeed you will find the same pattern in most major cities.

            On the topic of Ruth's Chris, Maison Robert was definitely a great restaurant in an awesome location. Ruth's Chris is now the among the best steakhouses in the city in an awesome location. It is superior to Flemings or Smith & Wollensky, and thus a welcome addition for many.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gabatta

              Interesting. I thought Smith and Wollensky and Ruth Chris were at an equal level, along with Mortons, Capital Grille and Plaza III. All of them cook beef as ordered and charge about twice what it's worth. They are more like factories than restaurants. You really don't think per capita that Boston has more steak houses than other cities?

            2. Just a little reminder folks, Morton's, Ruth's Chris, Smith & Wollenski and Capital Grille are all national chains, please discuss and compare chains on the Chains board. Please help keep the focus of the Boston board on restaurant experiences that are unique to the Boston area.


              1 Reply
              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                Just to clarify, my comments about Ruth's Chris, Smith & Wollensky and Felmings were all in reference to the Boston specific outposts of these establishments.


              2. I couldn't disagree more with "hoytoynoodle's" posting on Davio's. Their Boston & Philly "Italian" steakhouses are outstanding in any discussion of that genre. Order their Kobe-style rib eye and believe. They are not one-trick pony's either. The rest of their menu is uniformly fine, as well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harp00n

                  davio's has wonderful gnocchi. that's it as far as i'm concerned. this includes having attended numerous wine luncheons and dinners there over the years. always astonishes me when i'm at a vip table and the food is still lousy. what are the other people eating?

                2. I noticed that there haven't been any discussions about steak places that are in the "Burbs". I am in general agreement with most of the other posters about the chain places so when I have business guests in town and they ask for a steak house I usually take them to Gavin's on Rte 114 in Middleton. Nice restaurant with very good steaks and other entrees and you don't have to pay valet parking.

                  1. All the big ones in Boston are chains.......

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LovesFoieGras

                      There are some that aren't chains, but it does seem that way.

                      If you add together all the big chain steakhouses with the fact that Boston is one of the larger tourist destinations in the U.S., it's possible to see how all of the chains stay alive.

                      I don't know many locals who would choose a steakhouse for dinner. But when I speak with people here on business, they gravitate towards them after trying some of the local specialties. Same goes for family visiting from elsewhere.

                    2. The Oak Room isn't a chain outlet.

                      I've had that Davio's Kobe-style ribeye, and it didn't justify the $49 price tag, in my opinion; in general, I find their prices, for both the Italian and the chophouse halves of the menu, a little shocking.

                      I tend to think La Brace is doing something comparable to Davio's for a lot less money, though it clearly is a big step down in pomp and service quality.

                      I am curious about Copia, having gotten a peek at its attractive redo on the TV Diner show this past weekend, and a sense that they're aiming slightly lower price-wise than sibling Prezza (which I also prefer to Davio's, especially for its wine list).

                      1. Alright "Chaumiere", if you're going throw the gauntlet, then bring it! Which steakhouse *would* you recommend?! No cheating by listing some far off places in Texas or NYC.....which Boston area steakhouse (chain or independant) would you actually recommend for a great steak dinner? If you can't bring yourself to recommend one, list the top 5 in rank order.

                        Sorry, but you've hit my pet peeve....everyone always complains about the bad steakhouses in Boston, but never agrees on which ones are worthwile. Thus I never go for fear of having picked one of the bad ones and wasting $50 on a steak I could have gotten for $20+ anywhere.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                          Hence I said I would make Abe and Louies my exception. I love it there.

                        2. Can we keep the Oak Room as well as Abe and Louies? It's such a beautiful restaurant. If someone could get rid of the Capital Grill and Metropolitan Cafe in Chestnut Hill (both steak houses) where we are dying from lack of variety, I would be eternally grateful. I heard a rumor that they were going to replace Charley's with Abe and Louies (same ownership), but I have a feeling that was wishful thinking.

                          As an aside, the Outback chain has just taken itself private - it was publically traded. The original founders and a few investors felt the stock was under valued and they could make some money - I believe it is part of a group where Warren Buffet is a large shareholder. I only mention this because it gives an idea about the profitability of these places and why there are so many.

                          I don't like most of them either.