Sorry, Mrs. President, but according to brothers Marc and Greg Sherry, the four food groups are, “Beef, beef, beef and beef.”
The restaurateurs will bring their family’s New York landmark restaurant Old Homestead to Caesars Palace in December. Neros will shut down Sept. 18, making way for Old Homestead’s iconic Meatpacking District look, feel and taste — the very stuff that has attracted celebrities, governors, mayors and numerous presidents to those leather banquette booths for more than 14 decades. Recently, Old Homestead proudly hosted the first same-sex wedding ceremony and reception in New York.
As its name implies, Old Homestead has a long history. Opened in 1868 in the very spot where it stands today on 9th Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, the restaurant is New York’s oldest steakhouse and among the oldest continuously operating establishments in America. It came into the Sherry family in 1951 when grandfather Harry Sherry put up the money that kept the doors open. The venerable building has seen its neighborhood evolve from a tidewater trading post to a meatpacking industry hub to the tony dining, entertainment and shopping destination it is today.
At Old Homestead bigger is better. “This is the restaurant that created the doggie bag,” Greg says, not even boasting. When it opens just off the Caesars casino floor, a stone’s throw from the Colosseum in mid-December, Old Homestead will import many of its signature oversized items such as the colossal crab cake, a 32-ounce Gotham USDA Prime rib eye steak, “whale-size” lobsters weighing in at four to six pounds and shrimp so large “They look like little lobsters,” Greg says. “We always believe in giving the best value for your money. We know that our customers appreciate what we do.”
The house’s remarkable New York cheesecake—Greg and Marc’s grandmother’s original recipe—will be shipped out from the East Coast to preserve the tradition.
But there’s a second venerable space involved in this project. Neros opened Nov. 22, 1979, as Spanish Steps in Caesars’ Fantasy Tower, which eventually became the Forum Tower. The restaurant has remained virtually unchanged since the 1980s.
San Francisco’s EDG Interior Architecture + Design (also responsible for Rao’s and Bradley Ogden at Caesars) will use bricks, manhole covers, a replica of the original neon sign and other familiar touches to bring to Vegas a 250-seat room imbued with the same elegant, old-world environment captured in several Woody Allen films and Sopranos episodes, giving Caesars the quintessential Vegas steakhouse.
“Old Homestead is definitely going to fill that role,” Caesars’ VP of food and beverage Christophe Jorcin says. “It’s one of the oldest steakhouses in the country. It’s solid, the reputation is unbelievable and it’s going to be [Caesars’] true steakhouse, the only one.”
“We want everyone to know that this Old Homestead will be treated as the original Old Homestead,” Marc says. And devotees know the Sherrys run a lively ship, one focused, Greg explains, on the holy trinity of “hospitality, steak and entertainment.”
Music is upbeat, service is crisp and as the hour grows late, things only pick up in intensity. Diners will eat from the same Old Homestead logoed steak knives and use the same beloved embroidered napkins. They’ll pluck the same Spanish olives from their massive martinis at the canopied 30-seat bar, which will also serve classics from the Manhattan-Old Fashioned-Cosmo playbook as well as a selection of bottled beers — possibly to include Old Homestead’s own brew. “You’re gonna drink well here,” Marc promises. “We hope at the end of the day to be one of the top steakhouses in Vegas, the very best at Caesars.”
Establishing itself on the West Coast will also allow Old Homestead to evolve beyond its roots in New York and its second location in Atlantic City. While the menu revolves around meat, proximity to the Pacific means fresh seafood flown in daily for the famous seafood towers. The glass-lined walls will show off the Sherrys’ 15,000-bottle wine selection as well as a miniature “Annabelle,” Old Homestead’s cow mascot, who has weathered the last 40 to 50 years outside the original location. Marc says celebrities and dignitaries will be invited to put a pen to her hide for posterity.
“I think we all knew that Neros had an incredible run,” Jorcin says. “But in the casino business, you always have to be on the edge, to know what is the latest and the greatest. We know when people are looking for the next great thing.” So hotel president Gary Selesner (whom Jorcin characterizes as “a real food connoisseur, a real expert”) looked east.
“’Bring the New York slabs of beef out to my customers in Vegas,’” Greg says Selesner said to the Sherrys. “It’s two icons coming together to bring customers the best of the best.”
Old Homestead joins Rao’s and Serendipity 3, completing the casinos’ trifecta of New York culinary institutions. And the timing couldn’t be better as Central, a café by Michel Richard, is poised to open in September, followed next summer by Nobu Hotel, Restaurant and Lounge. Completing the essential casino lineup of café, steakhouse and buffet, Jorcin says that Caesars will open a new buffet in the current Lago Buffet location in the summer of 2012, “A magnificent buffet, the best buffet Vegas has ever seen. The next 12 months are going to be incredible. It’s our time.”