WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The widespread rumor (started some ten years ago in this newsletter) that Mr. John’s is the city’s best steakhouse made tables there irritatingly difficult to find. The solution to this problem was to open a second steakhouse with equally alluring food, close enough to get the overflow from the original but far enough away to have its own clientele, too. The concept is simple: the entire steak repertoire is USDA Prime grade (more of a rarity than is widely believed), and the steaks come out with New Orleans-style sizzling butter.
The menu at Desi Vega’s is a copy of Mr. John’s in its meaty core, but the rest of it is a bit different. Absent here is the array of Italian dishes at Mr. John’s. Desi Vega’s chef has developed a few appetizers and entrees that are unique to this location. On the other side of the hotel’s mini-lobby is Desi Vega’s bar, with a special menu of its own. It’s a busy place on Saint’s home game days.
Desi Vega is a partner in both this and Mr. John’s. Aside from a cool-sounding (and real) name, his qualifications include stints at Commander’s Palace, Emeril’s, and Ruth’s Chris. The restaurant is co-owned with longtime restaurateur Rodney Salvaggio and Paul Varisco (who many remember for his great rock band of the 1960s). The trio took over management of the former Mike’s on the Avenue on the first day of 2013. It’s the dining room of the Lafayette Hotel, where at least ten previous restaurants have come and gone over the decades. The chef’s name tops the owner’s: Muggsy Beals.
This has always been a handsome space, with large windows giving onto Lafayette Square and Gallier Hall, tall ceilings and a light-colored, suave look. Thick white tablecloths and wide spaces between tables lend not only comfort but a tolerable sound level. Former Mike’s co-owner Vicky Bayley runs the front door with her usual gleaming style and personality. Saints players can often be seen dining here.
Steak brochette, fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese
Blackened tuna napoleon
»Fried green tomatoes, jumbo lump crabmeat, remoulade
»Shrimp remoulade or cocktail
Fried marinated calamari, Creole olive salad, marinara sauce
»»Who Dat shrimp (bacon, crabmeat, sweet Thai chili sauce)
Sizzling crab cake
Braised pork belly
French onion soup
»Wedge of lettuce
»Tomato and mozzarella
Boston bibb salad
»Bone-in filet mignon
»»New York strip
»»Porterhouse for two
Twin lobster tails
Surf and turf (filet and lobster tail)
»Colorado lamb chops, flaming mojito glaze
Mixed grill (chicken breast, filet medallions, italian sausage)
»Gulf fish of the day, jumbo lump crabmeat, lemon butter)
Marinated and roasted double chicken breast
Chocolate panna cotta with strawberries
FOR BEST RESULTS
Although the new restaurant doesn’t yet have the oversupply of regulars that Mr. John’s does, it is very busy, and reservations are a very good idea–even for lunch.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Dump the New Age music, bring in Sinatra. The logo in the back of the main room is garish.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +2
- Consistency +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch
- Pay valet parking
- Reservations recommended
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Just when it seems clear that we have enough steakhouses to meet the demand, another two or three–always at the top end of the price spectrum–move in. This one is particular note, however. After over a decade of success fourteen blocks uptown, the owners of Mr. John’s Steakhouse reached capacity. With no room to expand where it is, they opened a branch in a great location: in a commanding location on a growing restaurant row, in a neighborhood clearly on the way up.