Morton’s turns 40 this year. They’re celebrating this week with a $40 three-course meal. We’re writing about the anniversary to highlight how remarkable it is for any restaurant to stay open for four decades. We’re also writing about it because, according to their press release, “guests are invited to pair their meal with a bottle of Two Hands “Sexy Beast” Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale for $69.” They get it. Regardless of age, everyone likes the number 69.
The steak house chain is world’s above places like Outback but their reputation isn’t as posh as Bourbon Steak or the new RARE. They’re like a fancier Fogo de Chão. It’s perfectly acceptable to have long business lunches at both, but it’s not acceptable to smoke a cigar with your meal at Fogo de Chão. It’s fine at Morton’s. There are still ashtrays on the outdoor tables at the Morton’s on Connecticut Avenue.
Morton’s is old school, for better or worse. That means when we last visited, there was a business lunch seated near us which included four old men and one young woman. Near us another man read the paper between Sean Spicer statements. Remember Sean Spicer? He was the White House Communications Director for part of 2017. White House Communications Directors come and go. Morton’s stays.
The special three-course meal Morton’s is offering this week covers all the classics. The Caesar salad, the onion soup; the Filet Mignon, the mashed potatoes and a dessert and bread. So many carbs and so much butter. Diet fads come and go. Meat and heavy cream stays.
Morton’s is still around because they do very basic things well. The best thing on the menu is the steak. The second best options are the sides. The third best thing is the bread. Don’t go to Morton’s for the pasta. They rarely screw around with the menu and they shouldn’t. They cook meat well, they add a ton of butter to the sides and the bread is big and fluffy and does not fit in diet trends.
Dozens of steakhouses have open and closed since Morton’s set up shop in D.C. Some flame out dramatically (we still miss STK because whoever thought this was a good ad campaign needs to be celebrated and examined), some change concepts without sending a press release. The more the dining scene changes, the more it stays the same. Executing the basics will always be appealing.