The cattle are running…..running straight for Rochester, Minnesota…….

Because PITTSBURGH BLUE STEAKHOUSE is opening in Rochester on Monday, April 8th right in the heart of downtown, in the brand new and absolutely stunning HILTON ROCHESTER MAYO CLINIC AREA, the city’s first truly five-star property.

So Rochestonians, get ready for STEAK – aged steaks of all stripes, including rib eye tomahawks, porterhouses, New York Strips, and of course filet mignons. But first, why not begin with a platter of pristine briny fresh oysters……or Oysters Rockefeller. Not an oyster lover? Then have a jumbo Shrimp Cocktail or share a Cheese Board.

But it’s not just steaks. Depending on the day’s catch, seafood lovers can feast on fresh salmon, sea bass or halibut which were swimming yesterday. Roasted plump spring chicken and pasta choices round out the menu. I dare you to pass up the Prime Rib, available in three sizes: Queen’s Cut…King’s Cut…and the Flintstonian, bathmat-sized King’s Mother-In-Law’s Cut, ordered medium rare, of course.

Mammoth side dishes of crispy hash browns, loaded mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus are meant for sharing. And finish it all off with a wedge of coconut or red velvet cake.

Not up for a big night out? Then head straight for the cozy BLUE TAVERN in the front part of the restaurant, where you can get any dish that’s on the dining room menu along with fantastic tavern fare like juicy, hand-pattied burgers, sandwiches, snacks and dips. Lobster roll and fries? Fish & chips ? Shrimp Ceviche? Yes, yes and yes.

Mommie need a break? HAPPY HOUR is just the ticket. And what a VALUE-PACKED HAPPY HOUR it is! At our sister restaurants in the Twin Cities, the bar starts getting buzzy around four in the afternoon with sliders, calamari and tacos flying out of the kitchen.

Two private dining rooms, complete with state-of-the-art AV set-ups will be available for parties as well as serious corporate functions.

Don’t feel like cooking Sunday night after a busy weekend? Then bring the family and come to budget-friendly SUNDAY SUPPER. All suppers under $40 bucks, including shrimp cocktail to start, followed by your choice of filet mignon, roasted chicken or grilled Atlantic salmon. Finally, an old-fashioned soda fountain hot fudge sundae tops off your meal.

But you know…here’s the thing: We are so humble and pleased and proud to drive a steak (no pun intended) into the heart of Rochester. Joanne and I have been getting our medical care at the Mayo on a regular basis for over ten years now, and we marvel at just how nice and genuine folks are down there – and not just the Mayo people, but retail sales people, hotel employees and restaurant workers. It just comes naturally.

That wonderful quality carries over to our staff – 125 of ‘em, and 125 new jobs in Rochester. The leadership is made up of all proven professionals, including Bruce, the GM; Beth, our AGM; Nate, the head chef (who came from our other steakhouse, the world famous MANNY’S), and sous chef Zach, another Parasole veteran from SALUT.

How fortunate we are!


Viandes & Beyond at The Lord Essex

As one who heads to the Mayo Clinic for his yearly physicals, I’ve discovered something about dining in Rochester: You can treat yourself to a nice dinner, or you can treat your doc to a nice clean prep for your colonoscopy the next morning. You can’t do both (I’ve tried, but my efforts were poo-poo’d by the gastroenterology team).

My most recent, however, was of a less…invasive nature. So when Joanne and I stumbled upon the semi-hidden, dinner-only LORD ESSEX STEAKHOUSE in the Kahler Hotel, we made a beeline for the host stand and requested a table.

Talk about a step back in time. It was medieval décor on steroids – oozing Old World charm; warm, cozy, small and intimate. It reminded me of the splendid design work of Paul Albitz back in the day in Minneapolis. Anybody remember THE CAMELOT?

I thought that I was aware of every important steakhouse in Minnesota, yet I had never heard of the Lord Essex. WHY? It turns out that the restaurant was only recently converted into a steakhouse. For most of the Kahler’s nearly 100 years, it served as the hotel’s bar while THE ELIZABETHAN ROOM was the main restaurant.

By the way, you’ve got to love any restaurant with “Room” in its name. Remember THE ORION ROOM at the IDS Center? THE PUMP ROOM at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago? And of course THE OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM. So retro classy! I think if I do another fish restaurant, it’ll be PHIL ROBERTS’ NEPTUNE ROOM.

But I digress.

Today The Elizabethan Room serves as banquet space. And although I can’t be sure, I suspect that the menu at the Lord Essex’s predecessor was probably centered around meatloaf and walleye for many of those years before becoming a steakhouse.

Oh, and I also learned that rock star chef Stewart Woodman opened the restaurant. But he has departed, and now the culinary team is in the capable hands of Tommie Tran and Duc Le.

Seated in a cozy red leather booth (#311), our server brought us a basket of quite good bread, embedded with raisins and other dried fruit. Then she wheeled up the meat cart and showed us the steaks, which looked impeccable. Appetizers were a Crab Claw and Shrimp Cocktail (typical steakhouse fare) and an outstanding Goat Cheese Flatbread with apples and caramelized onions (not your typical steakhouse fare).

Salads were generous and crispy. Joanne had the Farmer Salad with goat cheese and golden beets. I enjoyed the Chophouse Salad with bleu cheese, cucumber and hard boiled egg.

So how were the steaks?

I couldn’t tell you. We got the Grilled Salmon and the Roasted Chicken.

I know, I know – pretty lame for a blog post about a steakhouse discovery. But just as I was about to order, Joanne reminded me that I was going to get weighed first thing in the morning. Suddenly I had a taste for chicken.

One thing I CAN tell you about their meats, however: They’re advertised as “the finest available hand-selected USDA Prime…served to your exact preferences, seasoned with sea salt and resh, cracked black pepper,” then “broiled at 1,8000 F and finished with herb butter.”

So without being able to tell you firsthand about the steak, what’s my take on the place overall?

We liked it and would definitely go back. Our dishes were tasty, and I can only assume the steaks would be just as good. Service was smart and attentive, too. Dinner at The Lord Essex won’t break the bank, either. Expect to pay about $40-75 per person depending on wine; not bad for a first-class steakhouse.

I’m not certain I understand the Rochester market. On a Thursday night, the restaurant wasn’t very busy. You’d think, with thousands of people coming to the Mayo every week, it would have drawn a larger crowd. Then again, I’m told that the clinic “front loads” patients on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week, leaving Thursday and Friday open for follow-up tests, so maybe that impacts the number of diners at the Kahler.

WTF – give ‘em a try. I think you’ll like The Lord Essex – especially if your dining companion doesn’t shame you into ordering the chicken.