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Oct 12, 2005 01:59 AM

Morton's in Santa Ana ... I'm exhausted just thinking about it. - LONG

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We pull up under a shady spot in the parking lot all jazzed for a company paid orgy of beefy delight.

Walking into the reception area our eyes adjust to the twilight and we wait a short time that seems longer than it really is. At last a beautifully kempt nymph appears from the bar area to accept us into their club. "Oh yes, you called to make reservations". I appreciate her memory.

We are lead to their sparsely occupied dining area, it is 1:40 on a Tuesday, lunch hour, then are shown a lovely to the kitchen door? Politely I request the booth adjacent to it that isn't as accessible to the traffic pattern. They oblige easily.

We order our drinks. An iced tea, water, and a Diet Coke. A litany of water selections is offered. We've never heard of any of them. Tap water? No thank you. "What else do you have?". The litany of water selections is re-recited. My customers are confused. I ask, "Bubbly or not bubbly?". Clients: "Not bubbly". Mois: "Bring us not bubbly, not tap water".

We're hungry. The menu is enticing. Expansive yet concise. It gives us an opportunity to linger over the warm, yeasty, seductive onion bread. A round aromomatic loaf. Truly a lunch in, and of, itself.

But we can't stop; We are committed to a beefy orgazmathon.

One of my customers, a recovering vegetarian, orders the Filet Oscar well done. Blasphemy, but wise considering her status as a former beeforexic.

I order the Filet Oscar also, medium, as I find in higher-end steak restaurants this usually yields medium rare. The third in our party orders the Tuesday Special; Prime Rib. We are cautioned: "The kitchen slipped today. They overcooked the prime rib, it's all well done". We appreciate the head-up. Fortunately my customer likes her meat well done so this does not deter her. She requests that the horseradish sauce that the beef is plated with be removed. Remember these are customers. They get what they want regardless of their questionable foodie credentials. We order creamed spinach and steamed broccoli for the table.

Our drinks are served. Three wine glasses are placed in front of us for the water. My glass of iced tea is placed before me. A wine glass with diet coke is placed in front of my customer. Customer: "Can I have and iced tea-sized glass of diet coke?". Server: "We don't serve it that way as it will lose its carbonation before you finish your serving". Customer: "Can I have one anyway...and can I have a normal size straw instead of this 3" bar straw?". Server: "We only have bar straws, 3" or 6", but only bar straws". Client: "OK, how about a 6" bar straw?".

Finally after the drinks are served we settle into conversation, then our meals are served.

First to be placed is the Tuesday Prime Rib Special with extra horseradish... The server sees the look on my customer's face, "Oh you didn't want horseradish did you?" The plate is taken away. The 2 Filet Oscars are served as well as the 2 side dishes. My partner in Filet Oscar slices into her filet and WHOOSH, out flows blood. A perfectly delightful occurence if that is your preference but as a reminder, this is a former vegetarian that asked for her filet "well done". She is poised. The server is attentive. Client: "This is not well done; This is mooing". Server: "Let me take care of that for you.".

There is a busboy at an adjacent table resetting a table. We ask him for a bread plate and a new knife. He obliges. My customer waits for her properly prepared meal while eagerly sampling the sides.

The Tuesday Prime Rib Special is replaced.

I cut into my Filet Oscar, medium. It is mooing.

My customer receives her re-prepared meal and I adjust to the mooing and wait for a refill on my iced tea.

Well we had I nice meeting. I think I can officially write "Business Development" somewhere on my expense report. We ordered dessert to go, as it was 2 hours since we were seated and we all had other places we needed to be.

I'm curious. What is your impression of our experience?

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  1. My Impression - Not Good. I've always had great experiences at (Arnie) Morton's, but yours sounds truly bad.

    If you replace all instances of "mooing" with "criminally overdone", that would sum up an experience I had 10-12 years ago at Pacific Dining Car in SM, only imagine your companions steak coming back a second time wrong the SAME way it was wrong the first time. Most criminal because it resulted in wasted meat, which is true sin in my book. That animal died for a reason, and it wasn't to be overcooked! Gladly and purposefully, that was the last Pacific Dining Car experience I've had.

    1. Sounds to me like the typical Morton's experience.

      I went to the same location as you a few years ago and my server was so blasé in his attitude that I guessed it must have been his last day or something. We feigned more interest than he did in that whole presentation they do of the raw ingredients; he rattled on the spiel with a hurried indifference. Not once did he make eye contact with us.

      The steak my friend ordered was tough eventhough he had it medium, with a sauce that seemed to be put on to mask the quality of the meat. My steak was equally lackluster.

      I haven't been back since.

      What a waste of good money.


      1. I live very close to the Morton's in "Santa Ana"
        (your apparent dissatisfaction is evident right there in the subject...I bet they hate it when anyone identifies their true locality, and not the more luxe "South Coast Metro." It's like when a mother is mad at her kid, and instead of calling him "Billy," she utters, "Willllliammm!"),
        and it's sad that such a big-time brand with an attractive exterior is so disappointing.

        I was underwhelmed by my one visit to Morton's in DC in early 2001. Granted, being a NYC native, Peter Luger is my benchmark, but still, I'm not closed-minded to other rivals...I was very, very satisfied by a lunch at Ruth's Chris, for example.

        I can imagine that good help is hard to find these days in the restaurant biz, but an entity like Morton's should be screening, recruiting, and training the creme de la creme...and retaining them.

        Well, any desire I had to eat there is now erased.
        If we all spoke with our feet and wallets, it may hit them that sitting guests near the kitchen door in a sparsley populated dining room isn't a good thing........

        2 Replies
        1. re: Jay

          I hope to have the same benchmark as you, Peter Luger's, as of Wednesday, October 26th starting at 8:45pm. Made my reservations for the Brooklyn location over a month ago and that was the only seating for 2 available. Sent in for the Luger's credit card as well although I doubt we'll get it in time. Counting the days...

          1. re: Pate'

            I wish you a great experience!

            Don't be fazed by the's safer than it looks, even with two or three Franklins in your pocket.

        2. The Santa Ana Mortons is a bad restaurant. It is run very poorly. A real shame, too, given the wonderful location. Mortons corporate should start by firing the entire management staff, starting at the top. Then, after they bring in a *real* manager, see how long it takes for the consistently lackluster service staff to shape up or ship out. From the kitchen, to the wait staff, to the bus staff, to the maitre'd -- all levels of this dismal eatery are shamefully lacking in both grace and substance.

          In the meantime, if you want to go to a good Mortons, try the below location. By contrast, this Mortons does everything right, is a credit to the organization, and a real asset to the diners of this and surrounding cities!

          Arnie Mortons of Chicago
          435 S. La Cienega Avenue
          Los Angeles, CA 90048
          (310) 246-1501

          1. BH is the only location I would go to - going this sat @ 7 as a matter of fact.