Welcome to OneYear In, a feature in which Eater Vegas talks with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their first anniversary.
MB Steak, the restaurant from brothers David Morton and Michael Morton marks the first time the two teamed up on a project when it opened last May at the Hard Rock Hotel. Their father Arnie Morton opened Morton’s The Steakhouse while their grandfather Morton C. Morton and their great-grandfather Hymie were all in the restaurant business. The menu features steaks, seafood and shellfish as well as a leather bar, private valet entrance and two floors. Here, the Mortons look back on the first year of running the restaurant, plus what could happen when Virgin Hotels takes ownership.
What made you decide to open MB Steak?
This has been a dream of ours for many years. We’ve both enjoyed our own success launching hospitality concepts across the country, and now together have worked to develop a brand that honors our family. MB Steak was born from that vision.
Why open at the Hard Rock Hotel?
We have a unique connection to the hotel. Our brother, Peter, was the original owner of the property, so we have countless memories of enjoying family gatherings at the hotel. We were also thrilled by the space itself — it gave us the opportunity to start with a blank canvas to develop our vision to do something special — and most importantly — delicious, for virtually any size or occasion.
What have you learned in the first year of running MB Steak?
Our first year reaffirmed everything we believed. We knew that our greatest opportunity was to connect with the local Las Vegas community. As residents, Michael and his wife Jenna have enjoyed 20-plus years of friendships, professional relationships and entertaining, so it was really important for us to make that the primary mission.
What were you thinking about in terms of design of the restaurant?
We blended the best of what’s new and what’s true — as any steakhouse should. We have two incredible floors — both with the same menu, but each with a completely different aesthetic. The first floor has low ceilings, no windows and a dark color palette — more of a “club” feeling. The second floor feels more open, with soaring ceilings and natural light from motorized windows that open completely to reveal views of the Las Vegas Strip. Incorporating the skylight and a living wall into the design gave it a fresh, airy feeling – a juxtaposition of what we have downstairs.
Perhaps one of the “best kept secrets” about the space is our private bar room downstairs – perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail. While private dining rooms are the standard in most restaurants, we wanted to do something a bit different. It’s a small, intimate space hidden behind the bar with wooden louvres that can be opened for views of the casino floor or closed for complete privacy. There’s even a secret side entrance.
Did you change the menu at all? If so, what was the menu testing process like?
Prior to opening, we tasted, re-tasted, and tasted again, every single dish. We wanted every item to be its own star. Because of the extensive research we did prior to opening, the menu is very much the same as the day we opened. However, we’ve also rolled out some seasonal specials that have been very popular.
Has Las Vegas embraced the location?
Yes. The growth and repeat business have been exceptional. One of the great things about this location is the private valet, accessible from Harmon Avenue. It makes the restaurant easily accessible for locals, but also to those staying at nearby Strip hotels.
Six months in, what changed?
Six months in, and even today, we are constantly tweaking and modifying a strong foundation. If you’re passionate about doing something truly special, things should always be improved. Even though we really believe in what we’ve done, we’re always questioning it and trying to improve it.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened in the first year?
The fun of working together. It’s been really hard work, but there have been so many laughs. It’s been great working together as brothers.
How about the craziest thing?
The sale of the Hard Rock Hotel to Virgin Hotels was a very welcome surprise. David lives in Chicago and has been a huge fan of the Virgin property there. It has transformed a neighborhood; and we are very excited about their plans to do the same with the Hard Rock. The night before the acquisition was officially announced in March, we cooked a celebratory dinner for Richard Branson and more than 20 of his closest confidantes. That was a crazy — but welcome — surprise for us.
What’s the must-order dish of the moment?
Of course, our steaks are the staple of the menu, but it’s really our other entrées that we’re most proud of. It’s much more difficult to make a composed dish compared to the simplicity of steak. Two of our most popular entrées are the diver sea scallops, plated with celery root, trumpet mushrooms and herb butter; along with the pan-roasted Alaskan halibut, with tomato broth and olive relish. We’re also really proud of side dishes — like the maitake mushrooms, potatoes au gratin and the ever-popular lobster macaroni and cheese.
What’s on tap for the future?
We are dedicated to offering the very best experience to each and every guest on property. It’s part of the Morton family tradition. We are currently exploring our options for the next MB Steak location, and we eventually hope to see a location in several major markets around the country.
What happens when Virgin Hotels takes over?
We were really happy to make this deal with the Hard Rock Hotel, but we believe it will be even better now. They have a lot of exciting things planned, along with a complete transformation of the property. They have really exciting ideas, but everyone will just need to come visit after the grand opening to see for themselves!
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