Status: Opens today
Right on time, The Capital Grille opens its doors to the steak-loving public today. This upscale chain's mahogany wood, oil paintings, burgundy leather, plush carpeting and waiters in beige button down jackets (with name tags!) are a hard pitch for Los Angeles. But these old fashioned accents are right at home in old-money Beverly Hills. And, they're so well executed that, after a drink or two, the atmosphere is convincing and even transporting. In another time or another town, gentlemen diners would have to wear jackets, but this is LA and all dress codes are made to feel at home. The Capital Grille has been training this week with friends and family, and it's safe to say that they're already a well-oiled machine. The shiny kitchen is home to a large, experienced staff. Managers walk the floor, overseeing everything like museum guards. Servers have business cards to hand to their clients. It's a simple, personal touch that encourages salesmanship and practically guarantees repeat business.
The Grille is taking customer surveys and doing all they can to ensure customer satisfaction. Here, there is no doubt that the customer is always right. The Darden Group owns and operates more than 30 Capital Grilles across the country (along with hundreds of Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens and other full service concepts) with the vast majority on the East Coast. It is popular with the business crowd and offers an impressive selection of wine -- more than 350 old and new world varieties. The menu is comfortable with its cliches. There's a Wedge Salad, a Cold Shellfish Platter, a Chopped Salad, the usual cuts of steak (Delmonico, Porterhouse, Filet) and the usual family-style sides. These are Fred Flintstone proportions, cartoonish and cave-manly. It's just the kind of value perception the public loves. There's cheesecake and ice cream and coconut cream pie. Cocktails are shaken and poured at the table; wines are decanted and served with a deft touch. It's probably better than one might expect and worth dodging doubts (should you have any) to have a taste.
Additional Reading: First Look, 6/10
— Daniela Galarza