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Raising the Steaks

Las Vegas Steak Houses
Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

Call it Meat Street, Carnivore Corner, Cholesterol Crossings or, in my case, simply heaven. In Las Vegas lies an intersection where a man can stand and take his pick from three venerable providers of U.S. Grade A prime beef cooked to perfection.  

Sometime between the invention of the internal combustion engine and the free-glass-with-every-fill-up promotion, the oil industry determined that a group of filling stations clustered on a corner--far from diluting business--seemed to generate more of it. Las Vegas seems to be testing the gastronomic equivalent of that theory with the confluence of Ruth's Chris, Morton's and Del Frisco's within a block's radius of the corner of Flamingo and Paradise roads

Locals had already called Flamingo Road, with its lineup of eateries from the Strip to Paradise Road, Restaurant Row. When Morton's (in May) and Del Frisco's (in July) joined Ruth's Chris near Paradise (pun unavoidable), that distinction was locked in. 

Over the last couple of years, steak wars have been waged across the United States as Americans have returned to a taste for beef following a disastrous dalliance with rabbit food. Beef demand rose 5.2 percent in the first half of 2000 compared with the same period in 1999, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Steak houses, from upscale to down market, in cities from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon, have battled each other for their share of the meat market. It seems only fitting that Las Vegas, a town born of excess and testosterone, should be the next major battlefield.  

Not that steak is anything new to Vegas. Certainly, one assumes, the carousing of the Rat Pack was fueled, at least in part, by red meat. And steak of the $4.99-buffet-special variety has long been a staple of the city. Furthermore, virtually every casino now boasts a steak restaurant. But it's hard to imagine that chops houses face off so pointedly against each other in Las Vegas (or anywhere else in the country, for that matter).  

Established in 1989, long before the other two steak havens, Ruth's Chris seems little perturbed by the arrival of its competitors. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," vice president Roberta Thompson quips. And, besides, she predicts, the rivalry will only bring more diners out her way from the Strip. "The more traffic, the better for all concerned."  

Michelle O'Hala, marketing manager at Morton's, says that its move from the Fashion Show Mall to the corner of Flamingo and Paradise was prompted by the need to find a new location after the mall remodeled. The corner offered a free-standing venue on one of the busiest junctions in town, she says. The company knew Del Frisco's would be joining the party before the move, but "that didn't matter either way in the decision."  

For Del Frisco's part, cofounder Dee Lincoln says that in its long search for a Las Vegas location, the restaurant was looking for a free-standing venue with drive-up capability. That left out the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), she says. Paradise Road was a destination that Del Frisco's was already interested in because of the feeling that it would cater to the fast growing convention business. Although Morton's opened first, Del Frisco's planned its move to Vegas earlier. Lincoln doesn't seem to mind that the restaurant suddenly finds itself plopped into a center of competition: "Any time you have additional restaurants in an area, it drives appeal and it's a win-win situation."  

So, whether by design or serendipity, meat lovers now have one convenient nexus in Las Vegas from which they can choose three great steak meals.    

3925 Paradise Road 702/796-0063  

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