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May 13, 1999
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Smith & Wollensky

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Smith & Wollensky

Smith and Wollensky is probably the largest free-standing restaurant in Nevada—at 680 seats, it is enormous by any standards. It is designed to do one thing with the hordes of tourists who now pack our city, head ‘em up and move ‘em out. Yes, the cattle call mentality of up-scale eateries is given the fullest flourish here. All cannily disguised as an up-scale steakhouse that tries to mimic the idiom of the classic beef emporiums of New York City. On some levels it almost succeeds. Its bold and bright green and white building sticks out like a sore thumb as you go down the strip—just like its predecessor in mid-town Manhattan. Not to worry you say to yourself, at least they’ll have first class prime beef, great lobsters, and that brusquely efficient service that the genre is known for, well two out of three ain’t bad. What’s missing of course is the same thing mess halls everywhere lack, good service, for when you aspire to feed that many mouths, something’s gotta give. And while you hardly have the hair nets and surliness of most cafeterias, you do have interminable waits, meaningless reservations, and lots of waiters constantly apologizing for being out of lots of things.

So make no mistake, Smith and Wollensky is a corporate money machine pure and simple, right down to its over-priced liquor and gift shop. The hope of the big money boys is of course, that so many conventioneers and high rollers spending their expense accounts won’t mind. As for the rest of us dropping a buck fifty or two, there are plenty of alternatives in town that make you feel welcome, serve food just as good, if not better, and don’t make you feel like one of the herd in the process. For you I suggest Prime, Delmonico’s, Alan Albert’s, Palm, Ruth’s Chris, or even my old bugaboo Morton’s—where at least reservations are adhered to, specials really are, and the bar doesn’t double as a stockade.

This is John Curtas.

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