The Beef(eater's) Room
Metairie: N. Causeway Blvd. at I-10.
The Sirloin Room
Broadmoor: 3317 S. Claiborne Ave.
The Beef Room was a time-warp restaurant--the kind whose food and environments seemed nostalgic even while they were still in business.
It seemed like a great location for a restaurant. It was in the northwest quadrant of the now-extinct perfect cloverleaf connecting I-10 and Causeway Boulevard. An immense amount of traffic passed there and saw the big Beef Room neon sign. Trouble was, the restaurant was on a service road, and by the time one decided to maybe take a look at the steakhouse, it was too late to make the exit.
The Beef Room was the successor to The Sirloin Room, a favorite on S. Claiborne Avenue at Louisiana Avenue Parkway for two decades. That stretch of Claiborne was a major restaurant row in the post-war years, hosting T. Pittari's and the Beacon, among other memorable eateries. It went into decline in the 1960s, during the shift in population to the Jefferson Parish suburbs. More than a year elapsed between the closing of The Sirloin Room and its relaunching in Metairie, but the equipment, menu, recipes, and much of the staff eventually turned up there.
The new restaurant was originally called The Beefeater's Room, but the famous gin of the same name objected. It became The Beef Room under the management of Tommy Mortillaro. (He later had a restaurant bearing his name where Ristorante Filippo is now, diagonally across the cloverleaf.)
The decor of suburban restaurants--particularly steakhouses--was distinctive in the 1960s. Red velvet walls, lots of dark woodwork, low lighting, a vague Ye Olde tavern look was the norm. (The Buck Forty-Nine Steak House and the Beef Baron were other examples.) However, the 1970s brought a brighter, more colorful style. The Beef Baron suddenly looked a lot older than it was, and its customer base aged with it.
The steaks were always well above average, if never at the top of the local list. (It was impossible to exceed the popularity of Ruth's Chris in those days.) The beef was USDA prime, served in the uniquely New Orleans style with sizzling butter. The Beef Room's prices were a shade lower than those at Chris, and you got sides for free.
Non-steak dishes were always a nice surprise. The crabmeat au gratin and stuffed mushrooms linger in my mind to this day. They baked a memorable version of Italian oysters with artichokes in addition to the usual garlicky bread crumbs. Befor the steak came out, you'd get a little ball of orange sherbet, "to refresh the palate." But this wasn't that fancy a place, and dishes involving classic sauces were almost always disappointing.
In the mid-1980s, the Beef Room moved across Causeway Boulevard to a building whose claim to fame was that it was once a large nightclub called The Crash Landing. It sported a DC-3 propeller-powered airliner on the roof. It was even more obvious than the original Beef Room had been, but no easier to get to. It still had the confusing service road issue.
That was gone by the time the Beef Room showed up. By then the restaurant was owned by the Saia family, which would keep up the standards but never really turn the place into a big success. Saia's Beef Room ultimately wound up in Bucktown as one of the dozen or so restaurants that have occupied the space on the corner of Lake Avenue and Hammond Highway, where Live Bait is now.