I love steak. I love it medium rare, I love steak tartare (where even a few minutes under halogen bulbs in the ceiling is overcooked), I even (God help me) love the thin, overcooked steaks my dad used to make. (I think his blend of German, Irish, and Scottish assumed "well-done" as a temperature.) And I love a good burger; hell, I even like mediocre ones.
But... (and you knew this was coming), when did every restaurant in town decide they needed to become some form of steakhouse? I don't mean that they simply added a wider choice of red meat to their menu, I mean all but abandoning the idea of standing out from the place down the street (or even across the street).
The first one that got on my nerves had to be Morton's. Any place that wraps sample cuts of meat in plastic and carts them over to your table to admire is already setting off alarm bells in my head and must surely be designed to tease that brain stem carnivore in you. The obligatory lobster is also occasionally paraded out, along with the rest of the carnage, to get you in the mood for the "cha-ching!" dish at any steakhouse - "Steak and lobster".
First of all, a 32-oz. Porterhouse steak, even if you subtract the "undesirable bits", is still more red meat than you should consume; unless of course you happen to be a grizzly bear. I'm content with about 4-6 ounces. Let's say half of that steak is bone and gratuitous fat - that's 4-TIMES the amount I can imagine eating.
The other number, aside from weight, listed in the menu is the jaw-dropping sticker price for such a slab of carcass. Prices for these Flinstonian-sized cuts of meat tend to be wallet-arresting On the menu in front of me, for example, 32 ounces of Porterhouse goes for $49.00. ALONE. You want a balanced meal? Gonna cost you extra. Want to add a vegetable and starch to the triad? $8.00 each for the non-animal substances.
I'm also seeing more and more that steamed spinach has been cast aside in favor of the pricier "creamed" variety. Never mind the fat and cholesterol in the main course, make sure you add butter to your leafy green.
I know that intelligent, talented, innovative chefs are forced (at financial gunpoint) to surrender to this mentality. Michael Mina's restaurant "Arcadia" in San Jose went from interesting (given the demographic of the convention center next door) to a steakhouse with Michael Mina side dishes. Likewise, A.P. Stumps (my first sign that living in San Jose might not be all that bad) went "Chophouse" upon reopening after a mysteriously-timed fire in their ventilation system. (I'm not about to suggest that the fire was intentionally set, merely well-timed given their transformation upon reopening.) A few items survived the "meat-amorphosis", but overall, the original soul seems to have gotten lost.
Picasso's? Another steakhouse with a touch of Spanish flare.
Obviously, there'd be no supply if there were no demand. I'm assuming a bulk of it is:
a. Convention traffic
b. Sharks fans (Ironic that fans of sharks would eat so much meat.)
This gets back to the age-old problem; taking care of the locals (with interesting food) while feeding (and profiting from) conventioneers in town from the midwest looking for exactly the same food they'd have at home. (I actually watched two guys leave Arcadia - a steakhouse - for Morton's, another steakhouse!)
Maybe it isn't even the adoption of the additional meat dishes that's bothering me. It might not even be the subtraction of some dishes on a menu to make room for these new beef-centric ones. It's that the entire restaurant, from name to steak-knife size, must be altered. A restaurant cannot simply change its menu to that of a steakhouse, it must become a steakhouse. If any of the other restaurants start that "meat on a cart" business, I'm staying clear of them too.