Del Frisco’s Double Eagle is a high-end steakhouse with 10 locations throughout the country. Walking into the bi-level New York City location, situated on a prominent Midtown corner near Radio City Music Hall, is a nearly overwhelming experience, but once your eyes adjust and you’re taken to your table, you’d be hard-pressed to have a more opulent steakhouse experience anywhere in the five boroughs.
While it may look slightly pretentious, with its huge windows, curved staircases, dark woods, leather, loud, energetic crowd, and packed bar area, once your server arrives at your table you’ll realize that it’s decidedly not. While dining there at the invitation of the restaurant recently, it was nice to discover that the service was about as unstuffy as it gets, while remaining professional and nearly flawless. Interacting with sommelier Jessica Certo was also a joy, as she clearly knew just about everything there is to know about wine and made navigating the 1,200-bottle wine list fun and interesting.
As for the food, it’s what you would expect from a great steakhouse, but taken to another level. The baked crabcake appears to be about 95 percent crab. Onion rings are piled to a height of more than a foot. Steaks were perfectly cooked, and the three filet medallions, perfect for someone who’s not looking for a huge steak, each come topped with different sauces and showcase the skills of an expert saucier. And for dessert, you can’t go wrong with the lemon cake.
If you’re able to snag a table on the second floor, make sure you do. The view out onto Sixth Avenue is stunning. Del Frisco’s is a power broker’s steakhouse, for sure, but that doesn’t mean that it’s stuffy or elitist in any way. It’s just a place for a great steak, great service, and, most importantly, a great dining experience, no matter who you are.
3 “Break from the Norm” Burgers: Del Frisco’s, Ruby’s, Great Jones Cafe
In this “burger obssessed age“, where beef on a bun is the restaurant industry’s lone recession-proof dish, NYC Food Guy is here to shed some light on three burgers that are a break from the normal fare. One’s both beauty and beast, one’s from Down Under and the last is just a heart-stopper. Read on for three different takes on an American classic…
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House : Great Steak, Great Space, No Pretense - Recipes
An American culinary institution, Del Frisco’s in Orlando will serve up flawless cuisine that’s bold and delicious with an extensive award-winning wine list and a level of service that reminds guests that they’re the boss. Offering prime steak, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and genuine hospitality, Del Frisco’s Orlando is an exceptional steakhouse, unparalleled in Orlando.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House features a sizable, diverse wine list of more than 1,200 labels, to include a number of notable verticals from both old and new world producers. With two floors that include two bars, four private dining rooms and a picturesque patio, Del Frisco’s Orlando boasts over 400 seats.
If you are interested in trying out Del Frisco’s but maybe you think it's not in your budget, I have some great news for you. As a way to celebrate Orlando's amazing culinary scene Visit Orlando is kicking off their annual Magical Dining Month with a special preview week that begins August 24th , and continues throughout September. During Magical Dining Month, select Orlando restaurants will offer prix fixe dinners for just $33 and allows guests to indulge in imaginative appetizers, entrees and desserts for one low price and Del Frisco’s is participating in this wonderful event.
The Magical Dining menu at Del Frisco’s includes:
Choice of appetizers:
Classic Caesar Salad, Mixed Green Salad or Soup Creation Of The day
Choice of Entrees:
Filet Mignon 8 oz., Filet Medallions, Pan Roasted Chicken or Pan Seared Salmon all served with Chateau potatoes & thin green beans.
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"He called me a little asshole, a crybaby, and I backed up, and he picked up a table in front of me and moved it and pinned me against the wall and said I was a motherfucker, and I ran, and he hit me in the back of the head with a slab of beef."
-- Roy Wamstad in testimony during his mother's 1986 attempted murder trial, recounting an incident with his father, Dale Wamstad
Roy Wamstad insists he doesn't smoke, but here he sits on a brisk January afternoon on the back porch of his mother's house in Diamondhead, Mississippi, firing off Marlboro Ultra Lights as if he's nursing a five-pack-a-day habit.
Wamstad isn't supposed to smoke. The 37-year-old son of restaurant mogul Dale Wamstad, who built the massive, multimillion-dollar III Forks Steak House in North Dallas, just concluded a regime of chemotherapy after a bout of testicular cancer. "They said another two months and I would have been dead," Roy says, sighing through a puff of smoke. The side effects of the therapy include numbness in the hands and feet, which makes his job at Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he's on his feet for hours working blackjack, roulette, and crap games, a struggle.
Wamstad's hands tremble relentlessly. The Marlboro box shimmies as he lifts it to pluck another smoke. "I apologize I'm not better," he mumbles. "Thinking about him just makes me shake." Wamstad pauses. "It was rough. It's hard to talk about it, it really is. Last night, I couldn't sleep at all. I've been trying to put all this shit out of my mind for years. I still have nightmares about that son of a bitch."
Roy Wamstad looks like hell. His skin is ashen, his trousers rumpled, his hair disheveled. At one point while recounting his life with his now estranged father, he excuses himself and goes into the kitchen to get a paper towel to dry his eyes. He returns and mows through his memories. "I just remember a lot of screaming," he says. "He's a screamer and a hitter. He used to hit my mom all the time. I seen him throw plates of food in her face, just ridiculous stuff."
Yet with Wamstad, his father's tactics seemed more psychological than physical, excepting the occasional furious kick. Burned into Wamstad's mind are his father's little scenes, episodes that struck without warning. He recounts times as a boy when he was awakened at night by the shrieks his father spewed at his mother. The scene would conclude with his father bursting into Roy's room and tearing him from his bed. "He'd scream, 'Me and your mother's gonna get a divorce. You want us to get a divorce? It's going to be all your fault.'"
He jumps to another scene in a car barreling down the highway, his parents quarreling. With his mother in near hysterics, his father would suddenly punch the accelerator and swerve off the road. Then he'd scream, "I'm going to kill us all." Sometimes, in the heat of an argument with his wife, the elder Wamstad would pull out a gun and press the barrel to his head, bellowing, "I'm blowin' my brains out I'm blowin' my brains out." Afterward, as if creating some sort of sick joke, he'd cover himself in ketchup and yell, "See what you made me do?"
Dale Wamstad, who refused to be interviewed for this article, both in media interviews and under oath in court has steadfastly denied ever abusing any member of his family. Yet he later disowned his firstborn son, according to Roy and his mother. Maybe it shouldn't have surprised Roy. After all, Dale Wamstad, a.k.a. Del Frisco, left a trail of bitter business partners along his route to restaurant riches, partners who say he seduced them and convinced them of his expertise before swiftly walking away with thousands of dollars.
Those same associates and family members describe Dale Wamstad as a shrewd businessman and natural-born salesman, a survivor who rose from modest beginnings as a meat cutter to a position high atop Dallas' cutthroat restaurant market. In a city where a sizzling prime steak is the dining king, Dale Wamstad is a crown prince, the builder of an opulent, glitter-domed temple to red meat, a humble family man, and a flamboyant, volatile entrepreneur. Which characterization best describes Wamstad is likely to be a question facing a Louisiana court in the months ahead as his former wife attempts to lay claim to a share of Wamstad's fortune.
Roy has heard the stories of his father's past business dealings and laughs about them today. Still, he is stunned by the episode that led him to sever ties with his father. It happened shortly after his mother pumped three .25-caliber slugs into Dale Wamstad's imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound bulk in the dining room of Del Frisco's restaurant in Gretna, Louisiana. After Wamstad recovered from his wounds, he came back to the restaurant, which his wife had been running in his absence, and threw everybody out, including Roy. He was livid at his son for telling police he and his mother had been subjected to a history of physical and emotional abuse.
But Roy was desperate. He had a wife and a baby daughter at home. He pleaded with his father to give him back his job. "Stupid me, I wanted to see if he could help me out," Roy says. "I did it for my family, really, 'cause I knew better. He said, 'I don't know what I can do for you. You're not my son anymore. I don't want nothin' to do with you.'" Roy says his father pulled a $20 bill from his wallet, telling him this was all he could do for him, and let the bill fall to the floor.
"That was the last time I spoke to him," says Roy, now the father of two daughters. "And I'm having a good life now with him not in it."
"He came behind me. He pushed me, and I fell backwards on the bed. While I was down on the bed, he jumped up on the bed, and he kicked me in my face and hit my nose, and it was just like a sharp pain. I jumped up and the dresser was in front of the bed with the mirror, and I saw blood gushing out of my nose, and I said, 'Oh God,' and he said. 'You bitch. Look what you made me do.'"
-- Lena Wamstad testifying during her 1986attempted murder trial
Lena Rumore, 56, bristles as she scans a full-page III Forks ad from the Dallas Business Journal. In the center of the ad, under the headline "A Great Steak & Seafood House," is a cozy family portrait of her ex-husband, Dale Wamstad his wife, Colleen Keating and their three children. "Do I believe he's changed his life around and he's a great family man?" scoffs the former Mrs. Wamstad, who now goes by her maiden name. "For his family's sake I hope so. But I find it hard to believe."
She tosses the III Forks ad atop one of the stacks of legal papers that litter the dining table in the home she shares with her third husband, Don. She moves to a scrapbook and flips through the pages filled with pictures and documents collected during her tempestuous 23-year marriage to Wamstad, a union that included a separation between 1979 and 1981, a divorce, and remarriage in time to launch the first Del Frisco's.
Her ex-husband sold Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse -- which included a Del Frisco's under construction in Fort Worth and the rights to the name elsewhere -- for $22.7 million in 1995 before building the gargantuan III Forks at the North Dallas Tollway and Keller Springs Road. The fact that he is relishing his riches under the guise of a family man is a sore point with Rumore.
Since her second divorce from the restaurateur in 1987, Rumore has sold cars, jewelry, and furniture to finance her legal skirmish with Wamstad, a fight waged to get an accurate picture of his assets, which Rumore says include her sweat and blood. Literally, if you believe the parade of witnesses who testified during her attempted murder trial. Rumore and her lawyers spent more than seven years trying to decode Wamstad's maze of corporations and partnerships. The brilliant puzzle, which Wamstad once admitted was set up solely for asset and tax protection, proved so confounding that in civil suit depositions he was able to deny having any ownership interest whatsoever in Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House. Rumore says that over the course of her legal struggles, Wamstad even pleaded impoverishment.
Exhausted, she reluctantly surrendered her fight in 1992, agreeing to a community-property settlement that put $45,000 into her pocket. That's why the millions he reaped when Wichita, Kansas-based Lone Star Steak & Saloon bought Del Frisco's just three years later hit her like an open-handed slap.
Less than two months after the deal closed with Lone Star in 1995, Rumore filed a lawsuit against Wamstad seeking to nullify their 1992 community-property settlement, alleging that Wamstad fraudulently concealed the true value and ownership of his assets. But Wamstad was able to derail her suit in February 1999, arguing that her consent to the 1992 agreement nullified any further claims. In April 1999, Rumore filed an appeal, and last month, a Louisiana appellate court reversed the lower court's ruling. The case is expected to go before a jury this summer.
Today, Rumore deals poker at The Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi. "I work for tips while he's got all the money that I worked for too," she says. She pulls out a 1982 newspaper clipping that ran after their Del Frisco's restaurant in Gretna, Louisiana, had been open just 10 weeks. "We're too new, too humble, and too grateful for all this publicity," Wamstad says in the article.
According to Rumore and others who entered business with him, Wamstad shrewdly cultivated this diffident, folksy posture over the years -- spinning stories and adopting various characters. There was the affable Del Frisco, who later evolved into the fiercely independent and elusive Capt. Bob Cooper at III Forks.
"He's very smooth," says Lou Saba, who claims he lost his $150,000 life savings in seven months in 1987 after partnering with Wamstad in a Del Frisco's restaurant in Houston. "He overwhelms you with 'I'm a nice guy, an honest guy.' He bombards you with this big teddy bear image."
But Rumore and others who worked with him say he's anything but a teddy bear.
Rumore says she met Wamstad when she was 16 in Chalmette, Louisiana, while grocery shopping with her aunt, with whom she was staying for the summer. Wamstad, then 19, was a meat cutter at Winn-Dixie. "I really didn't pay attention to him," she says. "I had a lot of boys, a lot of bag boys who used to chase me around the store." Her aunt seemed more smitten with Wamstad than Rumore did, and invited him to call Rumore.
They dated several times, until Wamstad slapped her face after she danced with another guy at a party. "That should have been a big warning there," she recalls. "He slapped me in my face and said, 'Now get your tough uncles to do something about that.'"
It was 18 months before Rumore agreed to see him again. He called her one day out of the blue. He seemed to have changed, and they got along well, Rumore says, so much so that they planned to marry. When she became pregnant, those plans were accelerated. They were married in August 1962. Rumore says they spent their wedding night in a house they had just bought for no money down. Rumore wanted to take a bath and was extremely bashful of anyone seeing her naked. Distressed that there was no lock on the bathroom door, she begged her new husband not to come in while she was bathing.
Several minutes later, Wamstad stormed into the bathroom with a rifle, aiming it at her. "'You can't keep me out of here, because if you try and keep me out of here I'll shoot you,'" she recalls him saying. "I thought he was kidding at first." Rumore says she wrapped a towel around her body and ran for the front door. Wamstad stopped her, telling her that if she left, he'd call her parents and tell them she was pregnant.
"I went in the bedroom and just cried and cried and cried," she says. "I wanted to go home. I wanted to go back." But she stayed. And stayed and stayed.
"Never abused her. I was scared to death of her. That's hard to believe, isn't it. I've never abused that woman. We can sit here for two days and I'll say the same thing, judge. I've never physically abused that woman.
-- Dale Wamstad in testimony during his wife's 1986 attempted murder trial.
From the start, Wamstad proved a skillful salesman. He began going door-to-door, plying monthly meat purchases. Later, he sold life insurance. "He was the No. 1 salesman all the time," Rumore says. "He could charm the birds out of the trees." Over the ensuing years, he assembled a successful insurance agency. He invested his earnings in real estate and other businesses.
Rumore says he loved to eat out, and each visit involved a lengthy critique, detailing what the operation was doing wrong and how he would do it if he had a restaurant. He gave himself the opportunity. Among his first restaurant ventures was a venue called Sir Steak. Later he sank $10,000 in a place called Lil' Ray's Seafood restaurant. In 1977, he became general partner of a company that operated six Popeye's fried-chicken franchises.
As his success grew, Rumore says, he became more unpredictable. "He'd get upset over silly, silly things, and I really never knew what," she says. "I always tried to keep my mouth shut." Rumore says Wamstad would grab her neck and squeeze it until it bruised, spit on her in front of restaurant employees, or shove her against the wall in the restaurant kitchen and put a knife to her throat.
In April 1979, they separated. Rumore filed for a divorce, which became final in August 1980. But Rumore says he still wouldn't leave her alone. Once, he stopped by her house boasting he had thousands of dollars in his car trunk. He told her he had "commandeered" one of the Popeye's restaurants and collected the receipts for the weekend. "He said Jesus told him to do it," Rumore says. "He talked to Jesus and Jesus said, 'Just go fuck everybody.' And I said, 'Honey, you weren't talking to Jesus, because Jesus doesn't use that kind of language.'"
In 1980, Wamstad's real estate holdings turned sour, and he filed for personal bankruptcy. Strangely, that same year, he commissioned the construction of an $85,000 steel-hulled shrimp boat he dubbed "Nuthin' Fancy." He then left with two friends for South America. He had hoped to strike it rich by shrimping and selling his catch to Las Vegas casinos. In June 1980, Rumore received a picture of "Nuthin' Fancy" with Wamstad at the helm. "To the greatest woman in the world," he wrote on the photo. "I'll always love you."
He later sent Rumore a letter telling her he wasn't coming back. To raise money, Rumore sold furniture, jewelry, and other assets, generating some $25,000. Wamstad also wrote her that his destiny lay in the food business.
In spring 1981, Wamstad returned from South America because, he said, the shrimp boat broke apart. He sold what was left of it, returning to the States with 51 $100 bills shoved into his boot. Shortly after he returned, he contacted Rumore, asking for some of the proceeds from the sale of her assets. He was going to Louisville, Kentucky, he said, to open a restaurant. She met him at a McDonald's restaurant and passed him $5,000 in an envelope. "I thought that's what it would take to get rid of him," she says.
Instead, he pursued her, calling her and telling her how much he loved her. He told her that everything was going to be OK and that he needed her to come to Louisville. She wasn't there a week before he convinced her they were destined to again be man and wife. They were remarried in April 1981. Why did Rumore go back to the man she claims abused her and her son for years? "That's the question I can't answer," she says. "Temporary insanity. He conned me, and I guess I believed him."
A short time later, they opened the first Del Frisco's.
"He shot up the bathroom door in the restaurant. He would take target practice on it. One night we were there alone and everybody else had left and he got mad about something, he had a big black gun. and he pointed it at me, and I got hysterical and started screaming, and then he started shooting the door and I ran out."
-- Lena Wamstad, during her March 1985 grand jury testimony.
Rumore says that the first few months of her remarriage to Wamstad were better than they were at any time during their previous marriage. Roy, who was 18 at the time, concurs. "He seemed like a changed person," Roy says. "It was good. But then it all started happening. Slowly but surely, he started showing his old colors."
His personality shift seemed to parallel the unraveling of his grip on the Del Frisco's restaurant in Louisville. Wamstad was partnered in the operation with Glenn and Audrey Lapp, who operated a steakhouse in Denver called Aurora Summit. They wanted to open a similar venture in Louisville. Wamstad hooked up with the Lapps through his late brother David, a meat salesman. In addition to his investment of $5,000 he received from his wife, plus $7,000 more after he remarried Rumore, Wamstad came up with a name. He hit upon Del Frisco's because, according to Rumore, he liked the sound of it.
The Lapps inked a management contract with Wamstad and put him in charge of the Louisville location. The whole Wamstad family was employed there, with Rumore working the floor and Roy busing tables and cooking steaks in the kitchen. It was a resounding success. "The place was a little gold mine," Rumore says.
Though phenomenally successful, Audrey Lapp says, the restaurant wasn't paying the Lapps any return, and Wamstad refused to let them examine the books. So they traveled to Louisville and proposed a deal to co-manage the restaurant, splitting management duties between the partners. Wamstad balked and tossed out a counteroffer, which essentially proposed the Lapps leave him alone to operate the restaurant as he saw fit, or buy him out. The Lapps found a backer and came up with the cash. As part of the deal, the Lapps agreed to give Wamstad rights to the Del Frisco's name and concept outside of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. "We allowed him to use the name just to get him out of here," says Audrey Lapp. "It cost us about $123,000 to get him out, and he was here just four months."
Wamstad seemed to have a knack for seducing people, getting them to partner with him, and then after a short while walking away with a windfall. No one knows this better than Jack Sands.
In early 1996, Sands, an ex-Marine and a Korean War veteran, decided to find an operator to transform the run-down New Orleans bar in a building he owned into a restaurant. Sands received a call from Wamstad. Wamstad offered to bring down some kitchen equipment from a restaurant he had just closed in Baton Rouge and install it in Sands' building. Sands says he was impressed with Wamstad and struck a deal with him whereby Sands would put up all of the capital to renovate and open the space and Wamstad would operate it. "His investment was his expertise," Sands says. "I had never been in the restaurant business, and I didn't know any better. I was trusting, and I made a mistake."
They signed an agreement giving Wamstad stock in the restaurant called Tavern on the Park.
Their relationship soon unraveled. Sands says Wamstad's equipment from Baton Rouge was junk, so Wamstad told Sands he would purchase and install equipment from a supplier in Mississippi. Six weeks after it opened, a truck pulled up to the restaurant and seized its kitchen equipment. Sands says he learned that Wamstad had purchased the gear on credit and never made payments. When confronted with the problem, Wamstad said he wanted to dissolve their agreement. "He says, 'I've had enough. You buy me out.' Next thing I know, he's in federal court with a suit."
Wamstad demanded that Sands pay him $250,000 for his stock in Tavern on the Park or risk a costly legal battle. In court records, Wamstad describes making a "substantial profit" from his short stint with Sands.
One of Wamstad's partners in a group that operated Popeye's franchises in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Indiana in the late 1970s shares similar stories. Wamstad was general partner, holding 50 percent interest in the company a small group of limited partners held the other 50 percent. Operating as many as six restaurants, the business quickly soured, and within a year the partners were $1 million in debt. The group placed the company into bankruptcy, and as conditions worsened, Wamstad agreed to step down and let one of the limited partners see whether he could pull it out. But before the partner could take control, Wamstad "commandeered" one of the best-performing restaurants in the group over one Labor Day weekend and pocketed the receipts. (He eventually returned some $1,500, or about a third of what was normally generated on a busy weekend at this particular store.)
"This guy's real shrewd," says his former Popeye's partner, who did not wish to be named. "The guy is bad news. He's a troubled man. I mean, why would a man just do people like he does?"
That's a question Lou Saba is still asking since losing $150,000 on a Del Frisco's restaurant in Houston over the course of seven months in 1987. A former self-employed petrochemical-industry professional, Saba says he hooked up with Wamstad after seeing an ad in The Wall Street Journal seeking Del Frisco's franchisees.
Saba says he was impressed when he first met Wamstad, and he agreed to a deal giving Wamstad 51 percent of the restaurant to Saba's 49 percent. "I really relied on him," Saba says. "I had confidence that I was dealing with an honest individual."
Saba was filled with doubts after they went to purchase equipment. Saba says he wrote a check for $35,000, or roughly half the cost of the restaurant equipment, with the understanding that Wamstad would make up the other half. Instead, Wamstad financed the purchase.
Saba was also under the impression that for his 51 percent stake, he was getting Wamstad's restaurant expertise. That's why he was dumbfounded when, on the restaurant's opening day, he says, Wamstad took off, leaving Saba to fend for himself. After going through his life savings, Saba finally reached the point where he could no longer put money into the place, and he turned in the keys and walked away. "It's like he takes you up in an airplane, jumps out with a parachute, and then leaves you in there to fly the plane on your own," Saba says.
Whatever his tactics, few deny that Wamstad is a bold, smart operator. His franchised Del Frisco's restaurants spread to New Orleans, Orlando, Austin, and Houston. In Dallas, Del Frisco's opened on Lemmon Avenue in 1985, spread to Addison in 1990, and after those venues were shuttered in 1993, to Spring Valley Road. A Fort Worth version was under construction when Lone Star stepped in with its fat offer.
"His food is very good. He's a very good restaurateur," says Ruth's Chris Steak House founder Ruth Fertel. Those are big words from Fertel. Wamstad sued Ruth's Chris for slander in 1994 after the restaurant's newsletter suggested that the Knife and Fork Club of America, which produced a Top 10 list of steakhouses, was really a front for Del Frisco's. Del Frisco's regularly appeared among the top three on the list. Wamstad admitted in a civil suit deposition that he paid the producer of the list, Thomas J. Horan, more than $60,000 between 1989 and 1994. The suit was later settled so that the sale to Lone Star could be consummated.
Fertel says Wamstad began pestering her as far back as 1981, when he opened Del Frisco's in Louisville, Kentucky. "I got an anonymous call and [the caller] said, 'Do you know where your son is?' He said my son was teaching him [Wamstad] how to cook the steaks and what to order and all the recipes." She says she later learned that Wamstad put one of his employees up to the stunt. "He's a very good operator," Fertel says. "I don't know why he has to run me down."
Wamstad refused to tell the Dallas Observer his side of his business dealings, but even those who have tangled with him marvel at his ability to slough off setbacks and come back bigger and more potent. Perhaps it's no coincidence that his greatest comeback followed a near-death experience.
"During an argument he had grabbed me by my throat, hit my head up against the wall. I was screaming and shaking and begging him to stop. He went and got the gun out of the bedroom drawer and he forced it into my hand and he said, 'Go ahead. If you've got the guts, go ahead and shoot me."
-- Lena Wamstad, in trial testimony, recounting an evening at home with her ex-husband
Shortly after severing ties with the Lapps, the Wamstads moved to Louisiana, where they opened a Del Frisco's in Gretna, just outside of New Orleans, in January 1982. It was an instant success. Wamstad boasted that they earned back their investment, which included a $10,000 infusion from Lena's mother, in as little as 10 weeks.
But in addition to being a place of high-rolling revenues, Del Frisco's was a stage for Wamstad's high drama: fights with Lena in the front of the house and spats with his son Roy in the kitchen. One of Wamstad's most notorious tricks was known as "four corners." If customers complained about food or service and were unimpressed with Wamstad's efforts to rectify the situation, he would grip the corners of the tablecloth and pull everything off the table, smashing dishes.
But the most dramatic event began on Valentine's Day 1985, when Wamstad fired his son Roy.
Around the same time, a part-time bartender, Colleen Keating, quit abruptly. Rumore says she believes this is the event that unglued Wamstad, and he blamed Rumore and her sister-in-law Theresa Rumore, who helped manage the restaurant, for running the young bartender off.
The following Saturday, Rumore visited her son, and after the meeting she feared he was slipping into a deep depression. So Rumore approached Wamstad, begging him to rehire Roy. "He seemed suicidal, he was so depressed," remembers Rumore. "When I told Dale this, he said, 'That son of a bitch ought to kill himself.' God, what a dog."
The following Monday, the day before Mardi Gras, Wamstad flew into a rage. He fired the whole day staff and said the restaurant would no longer be open for lunch.
The next day, Fat Tuesday, Wamstad left on a business trip to Kentucky. Rumore spent the day at the racetrack with her sister-in-law. When she got home at 11 that evening, Wamstad was home. He demanded that his wife get her sister-in-law on the phone and get the staff back into the restaurant. They were reopening for lunch.
That evening and the next morning, Lena and her sister-in-law made phone calls in a futile attempt to staff the restaurant. Lena suggested that they get Roy to work the kitchen. Wamstad didn't protest.
When Wamstad came in Ash Wednesday morning and Theresa Rumore told him she was having trouble finding staff, he exploded in a rage, cursing and throwing dishes. Then he stormed out.
Lena Rumore arrived minutes later, tossing her purse on the sofa in the restaurant's lounge. She discovered that the only people who showed were Roy, Theresa, and a busboy. Lena decided not to open the restaurant. She scrawled a sign that said "closed for lunch" and posted it by the front door. Then she went into the restroom.
The purse on the sofa held the .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol her husband had given her two years earlier to protect herself when she closed the restaurant at night alone. As Rumore exited the restroom, she heard a loud slam. Wamstad had burst through the front door. He demanded that Theresa open the front door and he pushed a briefcase in her face. Lena told him to stop. "Then he screamed, 'You fucking bitch, what do you think you're doing closing and putting that sign out there?'" Lena says. "And he hurled the briefcase at me, and I mean with force."
She pleaded with Wamstad to let her explain what had happened, but he came at her again. She reached into her purse and pulled out the gun.
"He kinda laughed, 'You fucking bitch. You better use it on me, because if you don't use it, I'm going to kill you with it,'" Rumore recalls. "He started coming close, like he was going to take it from me. So I fired."
Rumore fired four shots before the gun jammed. One bullet missed. Another went into Wamstad's jaw, while a pair of slugs entered his back. He moaned. She screamed and dialed 911.
The police didn't arrest Rumore. Wamstad spent 10 days in intensive care. When he got out in early March 1985, he filed for a legal separation. Two weeks later, a grand jury was impaneled, and after hearing testimony, it declined to indict Rumore. But the following September, Wamstad complained to the district attorney that he was not allowed to tell his full story during his original grand jury appearance. Another grand jury was impaneled and indicted Rumore on a charge of attempted second-degree murder.
At the trial in the summer of 1986, Wamstad claimed that he was ambushed, that Lena and Theresa plotted the whole thing, prepping the scene by locking the restaurant and sending everybody home. "She knew she was going to provoke me, and she shot me like an animal," Wamstad said.
Shortly after the shooting, a letter was distributed to Del Frisco's customers titled "A Final Reading From the Book of Revelations to the Gretnations" by "Jebidiah The Elder." In it, the character Jebidiah, who claims to be an ex-Del Frisco's employee, denies Wamstad ever abused or threatened anyone in the restaurant. The letter then describes a conspiracy by Wamstad's accusers to loot and gain control of the restaurant. It was typed on the back of an April 1985 polygraph test purportedly given to Dale Wamstad, who was asked whether he had threatened or provoked his wife that Ash Wednesday and whether he had ever abused his wife. The document shows that Wamstad denied ever doing so. It suggests his answers were truthful.
On July 16, 1986, Lena Rumore was found innocent. The judge ruled that she had acted in self-defense. The following March, Lena and Dale Wamstad divorced.
In a March 1987 separation judgment, Jefferson Parish District Judge Hubert Vondenstein found Rumore at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The judge also found that, based on discrepancies in Rumore's testimony as well as "her overall lack of credibility," Rumore assaulted Wamstad without acting in self-defense.
"Even assuming Mr. Wamstad threatened to kill his wife immediately before she fired the shots, and accepting Mr. Wamstad's past history of bullying Mrs. Wamstad, which included mental and physical assaults, this Court cannot find, as a matter of law, that Mrs. Wamstad acted in self-defense," Vondenstein wrote. The judge went on to say that any past acts of cruelty committed by Wamstad were either condoned by Rumore or were not directly responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.
Seven months later, Dale Wamstad filed a $2.6 million damage suit against his ex-wife. Rumore countered with a $5 million suit. Both were eventually dropped.
Wamstad later moved to Dallas and married former bartender Colleen Keating. "It's just great to be alive," says Wamstad in the only comment he made for this article. "I have a wife and three lovely children."
"The truth is that Del was a perfectionist and a very demanding employer, but never did he lay a hand on anybody in the steakhouse at any time. As a floor person, I was more scared of his son and relatives than I was of him. The 'bull' is only brought to the point of rage after a witty and seductive matador has plunged several swords into the heart of the bull. "
-- excerpted from "A Final Reading From the Book of Revelations to the Gretnations"
Jonna Fitzgerald, onetime Texas beauty queen and former "proprietor" of III Forks, says Dale Wamstad insisted on meeting her family in Tyler before he hired her in early 1998. He liked meeting families of people before putting them on board, he told her, to help size them up. Wamstad had a special role in mind for Fitzgerald in his 21,000-square-foot, $5 million-plus restaurant in North Dallas.
"He wanted Western entertainment with a Barbara Stanwyck-type person walking through the dining room greeting her guests," Fitzgerald says. He promised Fitzgerald a generous salary plus a percentage of gross revenues as a "proprietor." She accepted.
Together with "proprietor" Matt Antonovich, who adopted the name Matt Chisolm for his III Forks appearance, Wamstad created a little family to inhabit his grand steakhouse crowned with a 24-carat gold-leaf dome that stretches 55 feet into the air. He invented for himself the character Capt. Bob Cooper, a 257-year-old cross between a North Texas trading-post pioneer and the skyjacker who slipped away with a $200,000 ransom payment by parachuting from an airliner over Washington state in 1971. Capt. Cooper maintains his youth because he drank from the Fountain of Youth 200 years ago in East Texas, or so went the spin.
"He's an outlaw, someone who has never been caught," says a former III Forks server who spoke on condition of anonymity. "That's part of what Dale likes to tout, the fact that he has never been caught at the things he does in the restaurant business."
Fitzgerald says the whole thing started as a game. Fitzgerald and Antonovich, former chef and partner of Sipango restaurant, were supposed to be the niece and nephew of Bob Cooper and the actual owners of the restaurant. Capt. Cooper was to be an elusive figure who floated in and out of the restaurant. "He's a marvelous storyteller," she says. "We believed in the dream. We thought we were going to have a home for the next 30 years."
But six weeks after the restaurant opened in August 1998, Antonovich was gone. "I wasn't upset that he fired me," Antonovich says. "What I was upset about was the way he treated me after a whole year. He romances you and gets you in this circle of promising you things no one else promises, financial rewards and everything else. It's like you're in an abusive, cult-like relationship. And you can't get out."
Antonovich describes Wamstad as an explosive, infuriating contradiction: intense, profoundly angry, and ruthless on the one hand, gracious, caring, and brilliant on the other.
"Everyone walked on eggshells," Fitzgerald says. "The least little things would trigger a cosmic reaction, and he would just freak. He was like a tornado."
Former staffers say he would throw things, anything at his disposal -- cellular telephones, dishes, fax machines. This, coupled with incessant verbal abuse, drove Fitzgerald from the fold a few weeks after Antonovich was let go.
"He didn't understand what people give up for him, what my family gave up for him, and the sacrifices that myself and many others that have gone to work for him have done," Antonovich says. "And he throws them out on the street like they're a cat."
But these descriptions and scenarios bear no resemblance to the Dale Wamstad whom Chester Keating knows. Keating, who befriended Wamstad shortly after he was shot, was thrilled in 1987 when his daughter Colleen told him that Wamstad wanted to marry her.
To Keating, Wamstad is the quintessential family man. Solid. Dependable. Gracious. He tells how Wamstad and his daughter built the Dallas Del Frisco's empire from scratch. How they went down to the Del Frisco's restaurant on Lemmon Avenue and sanded and painted and cleaned the place by themselves, the two of them. He thinks Rumore, whom he knew casually when she was married to Wamstad, is pointlessly churning up old ground by needling his son-in-law with her lawsuits and appeals. "Fifteen years? Fifteen years ago?" he asks. "My goodness. Why someone would be pursuing all sorts of things after 15 years is beyond me. How many years do we have in a lifetime to start enjoying life?"
He says he has never seen anything in Wamstad's fiber that would cause him worry. Wamstad, he says, is a good family man. The man seated on the hearth in those III Forks ads, clasping hands with his wife, surrounded by their three children, this is the devoted husband and father Keating knows. "If I had thought for one moment that Dale was anything other than a fine man, I wouldn't have even allowed him into my home," Keating says. "He's treated my daughter like a queen. And as far as I'm concerned, there's not an abusive bone in that man's body."
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Interview with Del Frisco’s Executive Chef Greg Thompson
As executive chef for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Thompson is responsible to maintain complete control of the kitchen at all times and to maximize the productivity of the kitchen staff. He maintains impeccable safety and hygiene standards in the workplace.
TastyChomps: What are some of the greatest influences in your life in becoming a chef?
Chef Greg Thompson: Years spent at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY were the foundation that I have built my house upon.
TastyChomps: What are some of your favorite food memories growing up?
Chef Greg Thompson: Steak and potatoes and anything Italian!
TastyChomps: What are some of the most popular dishes right now at Del Frisco’s?
Chef Greg Thompson: I am a huge fan of the oz Dry aged ribeye” it’s literally in my top 10 best steaks in the world!
TastyChomps: What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu that people should try?
Chef Greg Thompson: We have a Wagyu Beef Carpaccio that is amazing one of my favorite items on the menu!
TastyChomps: What is the secret to a great steak?
Chef Greg Thompson: A very hot grill and perfect seasoning we use kosher salt and black pepper.
TastyChomps: What are some “kitchen” tools that you can’t live without?
Chef Greg Thompson: A really good set of tongs because they are like an extension of the arm!
TastyChomps: What are some ingredients that you love working with right now?
Chef Greg Thompson: We use a fantastic King Salmon flown in from New Zealand called Ora-King that is some of the best salmon I have ever had. It’s extremely succulent and rich.
TastyChomps: What is the best knife to get for cooking?
Chef Greg Thompson: I like the Wusthof Grand Prix Chefs Knife in the 10-inch length – perfection.
TastyChomps: What are some upcoming changes guests can expect at Del Frisco’s?
Chef Greg Thompson: We just rolled out a new bar menu and it is all winners not a dog in the bunch!
TastyChomps: Where do you go to eat when you aren’t working?
Chef Greg Thompson: I usually grill on a weber kettle with charcoal at home!
TastyChomps: What do you make when you have no time or when it is really late at night – something that just hits home?
Chef Thompson: Gourmet Hot dogs, uncured, top sliced roll, all the toppings, pickles, avocado, sauerkraut, mustard and mayo.
The Elite Meat to Eat
That phrase was introduced to me one balmy fall evening at a steakhouse in Fort Worth, when, waiting for our dinner to arrive, someone in our group remarked to a waiter, “This place is really busy for a Wednesday.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “and it isn’t even steak season yet.”
A restaurant-biz coinage, the phrase does not refer to an arcane period during which anyone with a steak permit can bag his legal limit of T-bones and sirloins. Rather it designates a time of year, sparked by cool weather, when people descend upon restaurants in famished hordes for the express purpose of consuming red meat. The phrase isn’t particularly new, but never has it seemed more timely.
Steakhouses are booming because all over the country, and especially in Texas, people are being seized by a lust for beef that has been in abeyance for nearly twenty years. The first glimmerings of this reemerging meat mania appeared three years ago, when American annual per capita beef consumption slowly began to rise it had hit a record low of 63.8 pounds in 1993. At latest count, in 1995, Americans were eating 68.8 pounds a year. At the same time, parallel phenomena were occurring in the restaurant industry. First, the number of moderately priced, so-called family steakhouses began to grow, following the lead of the incredibly successful Outback Steak House. Then, in the mid-nineties, sales at upscale beef palaces began to rocket. To be sure, chicken, fish, and lower-fat meats did not disappear, but beef was posing a challenge and, in the process, causing a major conceptual change in one of our most cherished institutions: the steakhouse.
Once upon a time, a Texas steakhouse was a whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking stronghold of meat and potatoes. If it was located in a city, it had a clubbish, masculine look—no froufrou, no servers with nose rings, no effete colors like aubergine or taupe. If it was out in the hinterlands, it might be a little more informal, with ranchy touches and some mounted deer heads on the walls. Whenever something worth celebrating occurred—a birthday, a promotion, or just an excellent day—someone was likely to say, “Let’s go get a steak.” Concerns about cost and health were not deterrents. True, a steak dinner was not cheap, but it was manageable, and red meat was genuinely considered nutritious. After all, protein was good for you because it built muscle, and everyone agreed that the best part of a steak was that crisp half-inch of fat around the edge.
Today a new steakhouse zeitgeist is upon us, as an emerging category of upper-crust meateries has cannily sized up the way we regard beef. This new sort of establishment does not have a name as yet, but it could be thought of as the Übersteakhouse. Represented in Texas mainly by Pappas Brothers (Houston), Del Frisco’s Double Eagle (Dallas and Fort Worth), Chamberlain’s (Addison), the Steakhouse at the San Luis Hotel (Galveston), and Sullivan’s (Austin), the Übersteakhouse doesn’t simply serve the finest meat. Rather, it creates the ultimate steakhouse experience. You go to an Übersteakhouse to make a declaration of taste (“I prefer to eat steak in the glow of a silk-shaded brass lamp rather than the glare of a neon beer sign”) and a subtle discretionary-income statement (“I’ve made it”). To this end, mood and expectation are choreographed to near-cinematic levels by everything from the sensuous curve of the lighting fixtures to the typeface on the menu. You expect credits to roll when your bill arrives.
The gleaming decor of the majority of Übersteakhouses recalls the sleek supper clubs of the thirties and forties or the exuberant saloons of the cattle-drive era, buffed for present-day tastes. The appointments are sumptuous—gleaming brass and lustrous dark woods accessorized by trendy props such as martinis and cigars. About the only thing that isn’t in a time warp is the check: a quite contemporary $30 to $60 a person. And despite the caveats about beef, people are going for it. After nearly two decades of trying to be good, they have rebelled. “I may not eat red meat every day,” they are saying, “but when I do, damn the cholesterol, full speed ahead.”
You are in for a mammoth piece of meat at an Übersteakhouse. Eight ounces is considered minuscule 16 ounces is average 24 ounces and up is large. You are also in for the best meat obtainable in the U.S., meat in such demand that it is not available in grocery stores except by special order, and maybe not even then. The most exalted category of beef is, of course, prime, followed by the upper reaches of choice. (The newly popular Certified Angus Beef comes mainly from selected top choice animals.) The quality (that is, tastiness) of your steak is determined essentially by one thing: fat. Marbling—defined as streaks of intramuscular fat—gives a good steak its scrumptiousness factor.
The other thing that most affects quality is aging. It used to be that most beef was dry aged, which means (are you sure you want to know this?) it was held in a low-humidity refrigerated room while its connective tissue slowly deteriorated. After two to three weeks, five at the most, the crusty exterior of
the carcass was trimmed away, leaving a core of velvety meat that was as tender as flan and had an intense, nutty, almost gamy flavor. But dry aging is an expensive pro-cess, and today more than 99 percent of restaurant beef is wet aged. It is cut up and vacuum-sealed in plastic, where it sits in its own juices at a low temperature for two or more weeks while natural enzymes tenderize it. The flavor that develops is less distinctive than that of dry-aged meat, but many customers have come to prefer it.
Struck by the beef boom in Texas, I decided to investigate the state of our steakhouses. What are the best and most interesting ones, and how do the old standbys compare with the newcomers? Over a period of several months, I ate at more than thirty steak emporia of all stripes and price ranges, in metropolises and burgs. I checked up on some famous local names, tried the national chains, discovered a couple of unsung classics way out west, and checked out the Über clan.
The Texas picture has undergone a profound change. Steakhouses here used to be run by rugged individualists, but today chains dominate the scene. Longtime locals like Kirby’s in Dallas, the Little Rhein in San Antonio, Riscky’s in Fort Worth, and Dan McKlusky’s in Austin are hanging in there, but they find it hard to compete against the national advertising and high-volume buying power of the big boys. To be completely objective, chains fill a need they’re readily available and come in all price ranges. For top quality, head for Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s of Chicago, and (slightly less expensive) the Palm. For moderate prices, hie yourself to Veladi Ranch Steak House or the Texas Land and Cattle Company. For cheap, there’s always the Golden Corral and its ilk. The problem with chains, of course, is that their predictability cuts both ways. When you walk into the Palm in Dallas and see that it’s exactly like the ones in Houston, Boston, and Miami, you know the meaning of cookie-cutter soul.
On my travels, I developed my own set of highly subjective criteria. I started out wanting my steaks unseasoned and pure, because the better the meat, the less help it needs. But I eventually concluded that seasoning (either a salty rub or a natural jus) is part of a steakhouse’s signature. The four cooking methods commonly used—upright gas broiler, flat-top grill, gas grill, and mesquite grill—all turned out good to excellent steaks. But the best steaks are consistently produced by the fancy upright broiler. The heat source is located above the meat and the temperature is very high (between 1,000 and 1,800 degrees), so the steak chars beautifully and cooks quickly, with juices sealed in.
I evaluated the steakhouses as I would any restaurant, not just on the meat but on the service, the atmosphere, and a certain feeling of energy and flair. For that reason, some steakhouses that serve exceptional meat—like Paul’s Porterhouse in Dallas—aren’t on the final list, whereas some that serve mediocre food but have abundant chutzpah—like the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo—are. Personally, I like my steakhouses either funky or fancy, not middlebrow bland. I’d prefer to pay top dollar at Pappas Brothers in Houston for a superlative cut of meat or to scrimp at the legendary Joe Allen’s in Abilene or the Hoffbrau in Austin for a minimal-quality but tasty steak, a relentlessly scruffy setting, and plenty of local color.
To my surprise, I wasn’t impressed with most of the famous old-time steakhouses I visited. A lot of people are going to be steamed when they read this, but many of the beloved names of Texas steakdom—Zentner’s and Zentner’s Daughter in San Angelo (and other cities), Brenner’s in Houston, the Grey Moss Inn in San Antonio, Cattleman’s of Fort Worth, and Cattleman’s of El Paso—aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, or perhaps what they used to be. At some of these the meat is excellent, at some it’s not, but the overriding problem is that they haven’t changed the rest of their menu in decades.
When I began this story I had not eaten beef at all for six months. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed making its acquaintance again. Great beef is seductive, it is naughty, and it is delicious. A superb steak—lightly charred on the outside, deep pink within, lush and running with juices—is deeply, primally satisfying, psychologically as well as physically. As a friend of mine said, “When I eat a steak, it makes me so happy.”
Best Big-City Steakhouse
Pappas Brothers, Houston
5839 Westheimer, 713-780-7352. Opened 1995. Serves prime beef that is dry aged for 28 days on the premises, seasoned with kosher salt and pepper, and cooked at 1,500 degrees in an upright broiler. A twelve-ounce filet is $23.95 à la carte.
• Posh and pricey, this triumphant venture of Houston’s Pappas family restaurant dynasty epitomizes the nineties steakhouse revolution. Does it have prime beef? Yes. A trophy wine list? Yep. A $3.7 million edifice with a dark, men’s-clubby atmosphere? Absolutely. A phone in every booth? But of course. Nothing has been left to chance, from the cleverly crowded entry (where all of the 550 or so customers the restaurant serves nightly seem to be standing when you arrive) to the postprandial pitch for vintage port or rare cognac. Under the direction of chef Michael Velardi, the menu focuses on stylish classics such as shrimp remoulade, Maine lobster, and a three-peppercorn steak—the last a fine, firm, assertively sauced New York strip. At the same time, it reassures with homey staples like skillet potatoes and the signature Moonpie, a staggeringly rich, architectural sweet with homemade marshmallow cream and Heath Bar crumbles. A final tip: Singles and duos without reservations should try for a seat at the bar—the service is excellent, and the energetic open kitchen is an engaging ad-lib show.
Best Small-Town Steakhouse
Fort Griffin General Merchandise, Albany
U.S. 180, 915-762-3034. Opened 1981. Serves choice Black Angus beef that is wet aged for fourteen days, rubbed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, oregano, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and grilled over mesquite. A fourteen-ounce filet is $18.95, including potato and soup or salad.
• Here we are in the land of chicken-fried steaks, presweetened iced tea, and George Jones on the jukebox, but something is going on. Inside this small, unpretentious 1907 storefront, the Gipsy Kings are on the sound system, excellent steaks and oysters on the half shell are on the menu, and bud vases with fresh roses are on the tables. This restaurant in the windswept West Texas town of Albany is the best country steakhouse in the state. Locals sustain it during the week, and ranchers drive in from miles around on weekends. Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood ate here while shooting movies in the area Robert Duvall liked the restaurant’s handsome bar so much he had it copied for his house. Plain folks and stars come for expertly cooked Angus steaks and Friday and Saturday specials such as veal chops, rack of lamb, or shrimp Diane, cajun-spiced and sautéed to a turn. Side dishes run to pan-fried battered mushrooms, fresh asparagus, the aforementioned pristine oysters, and fat stuffed grape leaves drenched in lemon sauce. Like the exiled chef in the movie Babette’s Feast, brothers Ali and Nairman Esfandiary have been feeding the souls of their fellow men for sixteen years. There is life beyond the chicken-fried steak.
Best Chain Steakhouse
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Dallas, Fort Worth, Denver
Dallas, 5251 Spring Valley Road, 972-490-9000 opened 1993.
Fort Worth, 812 Main Street, 817-877-3999 opened 1995. Serves prime beef that is first wet aged and then dry aged (21 days total), seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked in an upright broiler at 1,800 degrees. A fourteen-ounce filet is $24.95 à la carte.
• Want to know what a cash cow looks like? Drop by Del Frisco’s Dallas location practically any night of the week: The bar is stacked five deep, the air is foggy with cigar and cigarette smoke, and megadecibels are bouncing off the walls. Almost as mobbed, the dining rooms are filled with the muffled sound of knives slicing through prime steaks. This is the top-grossing restaurant in Texas, with sales of $12 million in 1995. Its parent company, Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon of Wichita, Kansas, is taking Del Frisco’s nationwide, opening three restaurants this year and up to fifty eventually. The winning formula combines fearless pricing (the average check is $50 to $60 a person) with hawk-eyed and down-home-friendly service. Our waitress gave a long and cogent explanation of the menu without missing a beat, all in a perfect Texas drawl. Decor matters too: Forest-green carpeting and dark wood paneling with a carved Longhorn motif conjure a classy Texas saloon. The textbook-perfect steaks are cooked exactly to order. The side dishes are fine, if not quite in the same league—the chain’s hallmark ranch-avocado dressing could have been spunkier and chunkier, for example, and the sherry-laced turtle soup proved rather salty and oily. But the pile of crisp, paper-thin homemade potato chips made an addictive alternative to the usual spuds. Maybe it’s just my Texas roots, but I felt more satisfied and at home here than at any of the other big chains. In the coming steak wars, Del Frisco’s will be a contender.
Best Steakhouse for Epicures Chamberlain’s
Prime Chop House, Addison
5330 Belt Line, Addison, 972-934-2467. Opened 1993. Serves prime beef that is wet aged for 21 days, seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked in an upright broiler at 1,000 degrees, and served with a stock-based jus. A twelve-ounce filet is $23.95 à la carte.
• Most steakhouses have cooks Chamberlain’s has a chef—Richard Chamberlain, who made a name for himself at Dallas’ cutting-edge San Simeon and Crescent Club in the early nineties. Other steak purveyors spend millions on decor Chamberlain’s creates a welcoming atmosphere with warm, wood-paneled walls accented with shaded sconces and oversized European art posters from the thirties. Many steakhouses make a fetish of simplicity, serving the likes of baked potatoes and wedges of iceberg lettuce Chamberlain’s enjoys the occasional fling with complexity. Take, for instance, two condiments that normally would come out of jars: Homemade Worcestershire sauce makes a full-bodied but subtle accompaniment that enhances grilled portobellos like nothing else and mango chutney, also homemade, is a sparkling foil for satiny baked sea scallops. Other dishes are less involved: al dente corn kernels in cream and spinach Parmesan gratin, which was too salty when I was there. The simplest offerings of all—and Chamberlain’s raison d’être—shine. The mixed grill of elk, duck, and venison swabbed with a salty, buttery sauce offers a short course in meat appreciation. And the 24-ounce porterhouse—a magnificent, sprawling slab of meat—reminded me why human beings have canine teeth.
Best Place to Do a Deal
300 Colorado, 512-495-6504. Opened 1996. Serves Certified Angus Beef that is wet aged for 17 to 21 days, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked in an upright broiler at 1,500 degrees. A twelve-ounce filet is $22.95, including a salad.
• Watch this spot. Open only ten months, it’s already becoming one of the Capital City’s preferred places for celebrity-spotting (Sam Shepard, Jerry Jones) and wheeling and dealing. Indeed, cigar smoke is already wafting into the dining room from the cacophonous piano bar up front. Developed by Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon of Wichita, Kansas (also the owner of Del Frisco’s), and the first outpost in a projected national chain with one hundred units, Sullivan’s easily has aced the city’s other red-meat competitors. With its dark mahogany-toned paneling, plush carpet, and wall of books, the ample, discreetly divided room evokes a forties supper club. The food is basic and excellent. Sullivan’s Caesar salad was fresh and well anchovied, but the sharper spinach salad—a fine pile of tender leaves with red onion and nibbles of mushroom in a terrific sweet-sour bacon dressing—was an almost better complement to a steak. The filet, a two-inch-thick knob of meat, was gorgeously tender and superbly cooked. What else? Crisp-tender green beans and horseradish mashed potatoes made excellent accompaniments (even if the latter was oddly deficient in horseradish), and the cheesecake was simply state of the art.
Best Steakhouse for Real Texas Food
Perini Ranch Steakhouse, Buffalo Gap
FM 89 at Buffalo Gap city limits sign, 915-572-3339. Opened 1983. Serves choice Angus or Angus-cross beef that is wet aged for 21 days, seasoned with garlic salt, pepper, beef bouillon base, and oregano, and grilled over mesquite. A twelve-ounce ribeye is $13.95, including salad and vegetable.
• There’s a fire in the redbrick hearth all winter long, chile ristras hang from ancient shutters, and mesquite smoke drifts from the flagstone terrace out back. Tom Perini’s place comes by its weathered wood honestly, having been a hay barn before its reincarnation as a steakhouse. Regulars make the fourteen-mile drive from Abilene, bringing visiting VIPs and location-bound movie stars (when Duvall and Eastwood aren’t at the Fort Griffin General Merchandise, they’re likely to be here). The menu’s mainstays are its flavorful, reasonably tender steaks, but an equal if not greater draw is the spread of grandmother-quality Southern vegetables and desserts. At any given time, you’ll find some of the following: ranch-style beans black-eyed peas chunky, garlicky “cowboy potatoes” cheese-topped zucchini Perini flat green beans with bacon and mesquite-roasted, cayenne-butter-drenched corn on the cob with the shucks pulled back to make a handle. Perini’s whiskey-spiked bread pudding must not be missed, and his great peppered filets are available by mail.
Best High-Volume Steakhouse
Taste of Texas, Houston
10505 I-10, just inside Beltway 8, 713-932-6901. Opened 1977. Serves Certified Angus Beef that is wet aged for 30 to 35 days, optionally seasoned with garlic butter or lemon pepper, and cooked on a gas grill at 500 degrees. A ten-ounce filet is $23.95, including salad and a side dish.
• Who can eat steak at four on a Saturday afternoon? A lot of people can. A couple dozen of them were milling about on the porch when the restaurant opened, and in a short while the place was full. At first glance, Taste of Texas seems to be just another middle-of-the-road steakhouse, but the appearance deceives. The Certified Angus steaks are excellent the branding irons, plows, and carpetbags on the walls are real and the youthful servers provide the most intelligent, punctilious service of any steakhouse I visited. This well-schooled crew can declaim about cuts of beef and pace a meal with equal aplomb. If you explain (as I did) that you have a plane to catch, they move at warp speed. My filet (ordered without either of the two house seasonings, but accompanied by a pretty decent béarnaise sauce) was superb. The four grilled spears of fresh asparagus came with a dollop of hollandaise that was also surprisingly good. True, the polenta was soggy from the steak’s natural juices and the galumphing jalapeño-and-cheese-stuffed shrimp were way overbreaded, but considering what you get for your money, I was more than pleased.
Best Steakhouse on the Coast
The Steakhouse at the San Luis Hotel, Galveston
5222 Seawall Boulevard, 409-744-1500. Opened 1996. Serves prime beef that is dry aged for three weeks, sprinkled with Lawry’s seasoned salt, cooked in an upright broiler at 1,400 degrees, and served in a demiglace-based jus. A ten-ounce filet is $18.95 à la carte.
• Galveston has never been a culinary mecca. Oh, sure, there’s Gaido’s, but generally speaking, urbanity and finesse have been in short supply. No more. The San Luis’ Steakhouse more than passes muster in the menu and decor departments and with time will surely bring its earnest but occasionally muddled service up to par. The burnished, mahogany-toned paneling and tufted-leatherette booths recall luxe supper clubs of decades past, while the prime beef and the pricey wine list whisper “expense account.” For the most part, chef Alan Blumenfeld’s kitchen delivers. Here the clichéd iceberg lettuce wedge of yore is half a head of the stuff in irresistible Roquefort dressing jauntily strewn with carrot and cabbage confetti the huge grilled mushroom caps are stuffed with crabmeat and smothered in melted Gruyère the lemon soufflé positively defies gravity and the voluptuous, finely marbled steaks are a carnivore’s dream.
Best Steakhouse for Wine Lovers
Billy Crews, outside El Paso
1200 Country Club Road, in the El Paso suburb of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, 505-589-2071. Opened 1956. Serves choice beef that is wet aged for thirty days, seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled over charcoal at 400 degrees. A twelve-ounce filet is $15 à la carte.
• Listen up, oenophiles. You want to order only two things here: a big endive salad (off the menu) and a well-marbled ribeye. Do not accept a roll, do not order vegetables, do not have dessert (well, some people swear by the butterscotch pie). Custom cut and well grilled, the red meat is fine, but the side dishes are strictly 1957 country club bordering on covered-dish supper. The main reason to order judiciously here, however, is to save room to savor one of the country’s great wine lists—a loose-leaf notebook eighty pages long with 1,500 choices at prices a mere 25 percent above retail. So amazing is this list that for ten years running Wine Spectator magazine has given Billy Crews one of its coveted Grand Awards, bestowed annually on only 96 restaurants worldwide. Consider, for example, a 1990 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) for $30, or a 1989 Grgich Hills Zinfandel for $25. And a near-mythic 1945 Château Margaux (Margaux vineyard) is a steal at $1,200. So adjust your priorities. At most places you order wine to accompany your meal. At Billy Crews you have a steak to accompany your wine.
Most Outrageous Steakhouse
Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo
7701 I-40 East, 806-372-6000. Opened 1960. Serves prime beef that is wet aged for 45 to 60 days, sprinkled with Lawry’s seasoned salt, cooked on a gas grill at 400 degrees, and served with a soy-and-bouillon-based jus. A ten-ounce filet is $22.99, including cornbread, soup, salad, and potato.
• Like Las Vegas, Elvis, and Roseanne, the Big Texan is notably lacking in style and decorum, but its 300,000 customers a year don’t care. The freewheeling home of the infamous 72-ounce steak (eat one in an hour and get it free) is big, tacky, fun, and frequently packed with folks who look like they just pulled up in a Greyhound from a bingo parlor. In short, the Big Texan is a trip. Check out the gift shop and applaud the plucky local opry singers who perform on Tuesday nights. Brave the frontal system of cigarette smoke in the waiting area to play the mock slots at 25 cents a pop. After you polish off your steak (72 ounces or not) in the dining room with its Western-saloon motif, stagger to your room in the Big Texan’s handy motel next door. The point here is not the terminally average side dishes and thinnish, coarse-textured (but tender) steaks that seem more like low-level choice than the declared prime—but tradition. Let other steakhouses rush to embrace the sophistication of the nineties. The Big Texan celebrates the Lone Star State’s rough and rowdy alter ego.
Del Frisco’s New York Appoints Migliorelli as Director of Sales and Events
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House New York welcomed Christina Migliorelli as director of sales and events at the steak house collection’s flagship restaurant. Migliorelli will lead private dining operations and guide the Steak House team in continued excellence as one of New York City’s best venues to host special events.
With more than 20 years of sales experience and a passion for event planning, Migliorelli led the marketing and sales objectives for private dining in upscale restaurant concepts across the country. She will use this knowledge to oversee group reservations and continue Del Frisco’s Steak House New York’s tradition of executing first class events with superior hospitality and impeccable guest service.
“Christina is dedicated to integrity and excellence. She knows that all great events start with ensuring total guest satisfaction,” comments Scott Gould, regional manager for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. “With that focus, we are confident Christina will lead our private dining division to new heights while increasing sales and surpassing marketing goals.”
Before joining the Del Frisco’s Steak House New York team, Migliorelli honed her skills at high-end hospitality environments across the country, including positions at Hillstone Restaurants and the Intrepid Sea & Air Space Museum. Most recently, she served as the sales and marketing manager for The Capital Grille on W 51 st Street in New York City. Migliorelli studied hospitality management at Johnson & Wales University where she cultivated her passion for sales and private dining within the restaurant industry.
“My philosophy guides my work: surpass expectations on a daily basis,” Migliorelli says. “I am dedicated to executing events with precision no matter the size or occasion. Whether it’s a holiday business dinner or intimate wedding reception, I look forward to leading the Steak House team with these elements in mind.”
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House New York has five unique private dining rooms each catering to a specific group size and experience. Offering both private and semi-private spaces with an array of seating options from an intimate wine cellar that can house up to 150 people standing to a cigar lounge seating 60, Del Frisco’s can accommodate business or personal happenings with spaces boasting spectacular city views, balcony seating, and meeting amenities.
News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by FSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.
6. Morton’s The Steakhouse
Overall Score: 92.53
Steak: Both steaks were about 2 inches thick, which made for a hearty rib-eye but a paltry filet. The latter comes with creamed spinach and salad. Scores: filet (12 oz., $48) 92, bone-in rib-eye (22 oz., $52) 97
Wine sell: Our server was clueless, but he immediately ran for the sommelier. He calculated our scenario rather quickly into a Parallele 45 Côtes du Rhône 2007. “It’s a third-run grape and is less expensive than other wines produced in that area,” he said. He took our $75 budget and turned it into a $50 bottle of grocery-store wine. 85
Shrimp: Three “colossal Thai shrimp” are normally served, but we, and the other tables we could see, received four. “Kitchen’s feeling generous,” said the server. (U-6-8, $20.50) 95
Salads: Choices are basic steakhouse standards, but their idea of a wedge is a “center-sliced” cut of iceberg topped with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, diced tomatoes, and hard-boiled egg. Pretty, but not as crunchy as I like. Beefsteak tomatoes in February were not the right choice. 80
Vegetables: Hurray for the creamed spinach. You could actually detect the earthy mineral taste of the greens under the thin cream sauce. We also enjoyed the sautéed small button mushrooms served in a beefy broth. 93
Potatoes: The Lyonnaise potatoes should come with a defibrillator. They are baked and sautéed in bacon grease with thinly sliced onions. 92
Dessert: The souffles might be Morton’s signature dessert, but we found the Grand Marnier version bland. We pushed it aside for “Morton’s legendary” hot chocolate cake with the hot fudge center and vanilla bean ice cream. 92
Ambiance: Morton’s has moved into some fancy digs in Uptown. The new interior is a throwback to the original Morton’s in Chicago but slightly more contemporary. Warm woods, exposed brick walls, and an open kitchen create a much sexier place for the power brokers in suits to hang. 93
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Tasting and Pairing with Winemaker André Mack in Orlando
As I walked through the doors of Del Frisco’s, I was immediately captivated by a vibrant atmosphere. Their upstairs bar, where the event was hosted, offered a great venue. It was the perfect setting for wine tasting and mingling with guests.
The winemaker himself, André Hueston Mack, greeted guests and conversed with them about his Maison Noir wines. According to Mack he has been working with Del Frisco’s for the past three years and they have been a huge aid in getting his business off the ground. “They were really one of the big anchor accounts in New York that really put me on,” says Mack. This is the second meet and greet of its kind, the first one was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mack likes the “hang out” vibe that meet and greets have to offer which is why Del Frisco’s decided to hold the event in such manner. There is less pressure and overall it is a relaxing stage for people to sample wines and foods. At this tasting, there were six wines in total. They read directly off of his menu as follows:
2017 Love Drunk Rose (left)
% single vineyard fruit (77% Chardonnay with 23% Pinot Noir) from McMinnville AVA Vineyards, some of the oldest and best plantings, produce fruit of consistently outstanding quality. An intoxicating rosé. Much like new love, it clouds the brain, causes the eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise, and lips to pucker.”
2015 Knock on Wood Chardonnay (right)
% Chardonnay, all stainless-steel and no malolactic fermentation. Procured from hillside vineyards in Yamhill-Carlton AVA, reminiscent of the grand crus of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. It benefited from a very long and cold fermentation – almost two months – resulting in a lean and mean wine with perfume of honeydew melon and pear surfing huge waves of minerals, bringing a nice tide of racy starfruit to the finish.”
2015 O.P.P. Pinot Gris (Other People’s Pinot Gris) (left)
“The 2015 vintage was Oregon’s hottest and largest harvest on record, producing lush round fruit with balance acidity! We would like to introduce our take on Pinot Noirs favorite mutation: The 2015 Other People’s Pinot Gris is like Juggling Apples, Pears and Peaches while dancing to Pharell’s ‘Happy’ – enthralling, upbeat, fresh and deluxe”
2015 O.P.P. Pinot Noir (Other People’s Pinot Noir) (right)
“The 2015 Other People’s Pinot is classic Oregon Pinot- earmark Willamette Valley. It is accessible, a great value, and stays true to the character of vineyards from which it was born. Earthy, spicy, floral, herb-framed flavors of cherry with gingery wood spice tones.”
“Nuff Said…A special bottling inspired by Andre ‘Mouton Noir’ Mack’s 40th Birthday”
Horseshoes & Handgrenades Red Blend (Oregon Syrah, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Red Mountain Washington) (right)
“Fruit-driven, full-bodied complex red blend sourced from Southern Oregon and Red Mountain Washington. The rich, ripe, voluptuous fruit comes from Oregon Syrah with just enough Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to give it complexity and structure.”
There were also h ors d’oeuvres prepared by Executive Chef Greg Thompson in order to compliment the taste of the wines.
HEIRLOOM BRUSCHETTA Fresh Mozzarella, Sweet Red Onion, Basil & Balsamic Glaze on Ciabatta Toast
JUMBO LUMP CRAB STUFFED OYST Lemon hollandaise and Hackleback Caviar
LAMB CHOPS AND BACON Tender Lamb Served with Light Sauce & Seared Bacon with Garnish
Each dish was very unique and offered their own personality when tasted with each wine. And likewise, each wine portrayed a different character depending on which appetizer it was paired with. My favorite pairing was the HEIRLOOM BRUSCHETTA with the Knock on Wood Chardonnay. It was a match made in heaven. The smoothness and deep taste to the chardonnay soaked into the thick mozzarella and it was a soothing sensation upon my tongue, very rich. I also enjoyed the pieces of seared bacon. Since they were fatty bits, it melted in your mouth and unleashed a savory classic bacon flavor. I also enjoyed the slight crisp shell in which the piece of meat was enclosed in due to being seared.
The upstairs bar and veranda room is a suitable place for holding parties and functions according to Del Frisco’s Sales & Event Planner, Jo Truett. It satisfies both an indoor and outdoor experience. The outside patio overlooks International Drive and provides a warm welcome to friends and family. Del Frisco’s hopes to host events similar to this one in the future more frequently. Overall, it was a great experience and something to look forward to if you want to unwind and meet new people while indulging in scrupulous food and wine.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Opens in Plano
Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, Inc. announced the opening of its award-winning Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House at the Legacy West development in Plano, Texas. The new restaurant, located on the northwest corner of Dallas North Tollway and Legacy Drive, marks the 13th Del Frisco’s Double Eagle and the third in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The restaurant opened on Wednesday, May 3 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The two-story steakhouse at Legacy West designed by Aria Group Architects is a modern, bold and dramatic space perfect for dining, drinks and socializing. Focal points of the restaurant include the circular first-floor bar, wine walls that hold nearly 9,000, a grand staircase with custom metal screen railings and a two-story chandelier. The restaurant has seating for 446 guests across two bars, five dining areas and four private dining rooms, and a robust second-story bar with impressive views of Legacy West. The uniquely designed restaurant provides a luxurious and warm atmosphere that is great for lunch, dinner and special occasions.
“Legacy West is a thriving urban destination to shop, dine, work and live and it has become the epicenter of North Dallas. It’s a perfect fit for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle and we’re thrilled to offer residents and visitors the best steaks and fish as well as a remarkable wine list all served with an unparalleled level of hospitality,” says Norman Abdallah, CEO of Del Frisco's Restaurant Group. “We’re pleased to bring our Double Eagle concept to guests in the Plano area and look forward to continuing to expand our presence.”
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House at Legacy West serves bold, chef-driven cuisine, under the direction of Executive Chef Craig Walter. The menu includes a selection of new 45-day dry-aged steaks, signature 28-day wet-aged filets, and bone-in steaks the concept is known for as well as market fresh and seasonal seafood favorites. To accompany the impeccable menu, the location also offers a diverse wine list of more than 1,000 labels including a mix of California and global wines from a variety of new and old world producers.
The Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House at Legacy West will serve lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The bar will remain open all day Monday through Friday, and will open at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by FSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.