Arnie Morton’s: Retro that Works
Arnie Morton’s Steakhouse goes against the grain of every trend; it represents everything a restaurant should not do to be successful. Located on a lonely stretch of La Cienega, this is the only Arnie Morton’s Steakhouse in the Morton’s chain (to differentiate it from son Peter’s place). The clubby men’s atmosphere is so dark you can barely see the menu and it has no patio. Servers can be so familiar that it can feel more like being chatted up at a wrap party than giving a meal order, . Morton’s has practically the same menu it had back on day one of 1978, including dishes passed on from Arnie Morton’s family restaurant in Chicago. There is no celebrity chef at the helm and the same exact menu is used for lunch and dinner.
Yet Morton’s steakhouse calls itself “legendary,” and the guest count now numbers over 3 million a year growing.
Why? New, younger customers are now attracted to Morton’s classic retro feel that has become trendy in this era of burgeoning steakhouses. The ratio of tables to well-informed attentive servers is low to ensure that every guest is given the utmost care.
And it always has been simply the top of the line. As Arnie Morton said when he and Kurt Fritsch opened in 1978, ” Morton’s is a neighborhood saloon for the rich and for people who like to splure now and then.” Fritsch put it this way: “I’m a little cocky. After all, we are ‘prime’ and they are ‘choice.’ If you start with the best, you always have the best, and we have been doing this for 28 years.”
And it is true. A top Beverly Hills wholesale meat dealer candidly filled me in a few years ago on which gourmet markets lacked the top meat to go with their top prices, then emphasized, “but you could never buy the aged prime beef (best there is) retail that Arnie Morton’s serves anywhere.” And, as always, these superb cuts are cared for well: Morton’s uses the same Midwest suppliers as it did on day one. They hand cut the meat and pack it in Cryovac for delivery and storage
The few new menu items include Morton’s signature cocktails inspired by regional locations, such as the Vodka Mortini and any coffee lover’s favorite, an Espressotini (espresso, Vanil vodka Kahlua, sugar and espresso), Chocolatini, Appletini, Key Lime Mortini and Palm Beach Infusion. When a drink with pineapple was requested at the table, the bartender had a staff member run to the store to replenish this fruit which was a hit the night before.
During drinks, our well-informed server presented the famous rolling cart filled with every cut of meat, a live lobster and a sample of all the side dishes – a novel idea that became a signature. Co-founder Kurt Fritsch revealed he and Arnie “stole” from a suburban Chicago restaurant!
Morton’s tempts diners with their famous starters right at the door: a platter of Smoked Salmon with All the Trimmings, as the menu reads, which includes lemon, onion slivers and capers. The smoked Pacific salmon is purchased from the same Washington State purveyor for about 20 years.
Another signature starter is Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with its own Mustard Mayonnaise Sauce. It is indeed “jumbo” in tasty fresh crab, with barely any filler. The regal, substantial little cake holds a pound of crab and feed six.
Even the most jaded palate will relish the Colossal Shrimp Cocktails, shimmering on the candlelit table. The best and the biggest shrimp – 21/25 or 16/20 count which means how many are in a single pound- is no secret. The secret is in the shrimp’s quick simmer in bay leave juice plus the thick cocktail sauce emboldened with horseradish, Worcestershire and freshly ground pepper.
Morton’s signature salad of fresh, crispy lettuce and tomatoes also has a special twist: its legendary blue cheese dressing recipe that Arnie’s mother originally created for the family restaurant almost half a century ago. The secret to achieving the right consistency: hand mixing the dressing “ever so gently” so that it remains chunky!
Then we presented a real challenge to the chef with the steak order – a rare and a well done preference in one order- the chef somehow rose to the occasion and served the entire piece at one time and it was PERFECT.
The Chicago Style Bone-Ribeye Steak that has always been the “insider’s favorite” and the naturally most flavorful cut is now being recognized as the “hot tip” these days. Because it is served on the bone, it holds much more flavor.
The sides of Creamed Spinach, Lyonnaise potatoes and wild mushrooms turned an extraordinary dinner into a sumptuous feast, unrivalled anywhere in time or place.
And for dessert- what else but a heavenly cloud of Morton’s Grand Marnier soufflé? But wait- according to statistics, the number one guest preference is Morton’s Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake, and our delightful server urged us to try it. The “miniature cake“ turned out to be a delightful little mountain of dense chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center and vanilla ice cream to complement it. A thoughtful after dinner drink served by the general manager of fine brandy, along with a bit of conversation ended the meal beautifully, AFTER dessert!
Morton’s, our number one choice for a “meat meal” for a decade, once proved itself to be unparalleled even among the new competition. And for those foodies or food historians interested in the legend and the lore of the Steakhouse or how to “cook like their pros,” the new Morton’s Steak Bible by Klaus Fritsch with Mary Goodbody is perfect. The comprehensive, beautifully illustrated book is almost as entertaining and tasty as the restaurant itself.
(310) 246-1501 Make a Reservation
435 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048