Big meat, big sides, big reds, big bills—despite a well-documented shortage of disposable dining dollars, Baltimoreans certainly haven’t lost their appetite for beef and fancy steakhouses.
“Steak is one of those staples that people want to have when they go out for a special occasion,” says Ted Bauer, owner of The Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley. “A lot of people don’t cook big steaks and chops at home. . . . When they go out, however, they want to eat steak.”
We can probably just blame mom and dad. “It’s what our parents were taught by their parents—‘You’ve got to have meat and potatoes,’” says Shang Skipper, regional manager for Del Frisco Restaurant Group, which owns Baltimore-based Sullivan’s Steakhouse. “It’s such an enduring part of our legacy and such a classic. It will never go away.”
Mike Gibbons, chairman of the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association, agrees.
“I was one of eight [children],” says Gibbons, who is also president and CEO of Mainstreet Ventures Inc., which owns The Chop House in Annapolis. “If we had steak, it would be this big round thing that you had to cut with a jackhammer, but on your birthday, you would get a strip steak while your siblings would still get the big round thing. Eating steak is considered a special treat.”
Fogo de Chão, the popular all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse, has seen this indulgence firsthand with about a seven percent boost in business this year. “You get a chance to sample the entire menu,” explains Fogo corporate manager Andrew Feldmann of the success of the restaurant, where between 700 and 1,200 pounds of meat are cooked per day on weekends.
Skipper also theorizes that consumers are willing to splurge on steak because—no pun intended—it rarely disappoints.
“There are a lot of great chefs out there,” Skipper says, “and they create these amazing dishes, but when you go out for steak, you know what you are going to get. There’s no risk.”