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December 19, 2014

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Too much beef is good for business

The steakhouse is still the quintessential Vegas restaurant

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A big, juicy ribeye—this one can be had at Envy Steakhouse—may be Las Vegas’ signature meal.

Last month, a special dinner was held at Trump Las Vegas to showcase what was billed as “the latest and perhaps last steak to be found from the beef carcass,” according to the food processing specialists who “discovered” it. The developers did not disclose exactly what part of the cow yields the new cut of beef, but it’s tender, tasty and already on the menu at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago.

Of course, a new steak needs a cool name, something that will grab attention. So they’ve called it the Vegas Strip Steak. Catchy, huh?

The name makes sense. In its ongoing rise as a global dining destination, Vegas may have become the top spot for steakhouses in the country. “It’s definitely on par with any other city, if it’s not on top,” says David Walzog, executive chef at SW Steakhouse at Wynn and a kitchen veteran who has operated steakhouses and restaurants across the country. “The genre of the steakhouse these days really matches up well with the general tone of why people come to Vegas. It goes with living large, celebrating and having fun.”

While diners may be moving toward lighter, healthier, more Michelle Obama-friendly fare, all bets are off when they hit town. Diets vanish. Parties start. “People want that rich, luxurious, opulent feel, and big steaks do that, prime marbled beef does that, big bottles of red wine do that,” Walzog says.

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Though it's known for a hip, vibrant atmosphere, the Cosmopolitan's STK is just as beefy as its steakhouse brethren.

The steakhouse is now the signature dining experience in Vegas, but that’s the case in other major cities, too. That’s why the Strip boasts a bountiful balance of beefy one-off restaurants (SW, the Steak House at Circus Circus, Mario Batali’s Carnevino at Palazzo) and Vegas versions of established steakeries from other cities (Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at MGM, Old Homestead at Caesars Palace). Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris is the latest big opening, the celebrity chef’s first Vegas restaurant.

Stephen Hopcraft, executive chef at the Cosmopolitan’s ultra-busy STK, concurs that the blowout steakhouse experience isn’t going anywhere, and in fact, there’s room for new and different concepts. “On the Strip, you’ve got your foodie steakhouses, like Botero and Stripsteak, as well as the classic joints like Circus Circus,” he says. “But people want to see things done differently and imaginatively, too.”

STK is known for loud music and a party-ready atmosphere, perhaps overshadowing its high-quality cuisine. It also offers a flexible menu, focused on something you won’t see at most steakhouses—portion control. “That’s another reason for our popularity,” Hopcraft says. “There’s only one fried thing on our menu, and we have three different sizes of all cuts of meat. We’re not trying to tip the table over, Fred Flintstone-style, with huge portions. You can eat here and still be ready to dance.”

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