Review: Morton’s The Steakhouse

I hadn’t been to Morton’s in at least eight years when I pulled up to the valet a few weeks ago. The last time my experience had been pretty good. On this warm Thursday evening, I was expecting a meal that would be close to the quality of El Gaucho.

Morton’s was founded in 1978 by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch. According to Wikipedia, Morton’s is the world’s largest owner and operator of company-owned upscale restaurants, with locations in six countries. The Portland branch is located downtown in the Koin Tower.

Ambiance: Dark green carpet, white linens, light walls with dark wood accents, and a liberal sprinkling of the Morton’s logo give it a rather corporate feel. Personal wine lockers for high-rollers surround the entrance. The lighting is muted, yet brighter than some of the other steakhouses. Where we were sitting, the noise level was higher than I expected. At times the waiter had trouble hearing us, and we found we frequently had to repeat ourselves. Overall though, the interior is perfectly acceptable. Grade B.

Service was unforgettable. I’ll go through a timeline to illustrate what I mean.

  1. We were greeted at the door, ushered to our table, and given drink and wine menus.
  2. The waiter was there within three minutes, asking for our water order. A long list of bottled choices was given, with no mention of tap being an option. We asked for it anyway. He then asked for drink orders, though I hadn’t even opened the cocktail menu.
  3. A few short minutes later, the famous “meat cart” was rolled up to the table. If you’ve ever been to Morton’s, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There are several trays on the cart which hold plastic-wrapped cuts of meat. The server first holds out a large tomato and explains how it is sliced to make a salad. He then points out each cut of meat, running quickly through them. Finally, he holds up a potato, a single unpeeled potato, and tells us it’s used in all their potato dishes. The whole thing is so strange, by the time he got to the potato, I was having a difficult time not laughing. Someone in my party asked if they had a menu, because she couldn’t keep up with his automaton delivery. We did get paper menus when he finished the spiel – the quality of which didn’t match the other bound menus.
  4. Less than ten minutes later, he took our orders. About five minutes after that the salads arrived.
  5. The drinks didn’t arrive until we were half-way through the salads.
  6. We barely finished our salads, and certainly had no time to catch our breath, when the steaks arrived.
  7. As soon as we finished the steaks, the plates were whisked away. No mention was made of dessert options; we had to stop him and ask.
  8. The dessert tray came out immediately, but no prices were given as there was no menu. They arrived moments after we ordered. The moment we finished, the check came. Change took all of three minutes.

Here’s my problem. First of all, the cart is incredibly stupid. I couldn’t help but wonder if Morton was short-changed during childhood show and tell. A freaking tomato? A potato? How dumb is that? Second, at no time did any personality emerge from a well-rehearsed robotic cadence. Our server seemed bored with his job. Finally, we felt rushed to the point where it ruined the dinner. From the moment we sat down, I could barely catch my breath. Later that night, I dug out all my steakhouse receipts, and added up the times. Morton’s was 62 minutes, start to finish. The next closest was an hour-thirty-five from Ruth’s Chris. We hadn’t told them we were in any hurry. The restaurant was only half full, so they weren’t going to turn the table, and it wasn’t late. Unfathomable. If I pay $300 for dinner, I want it to last a while. As one of my friends said, “Morton’s has managed to destroy the magic of dining”. I quite agree. Grade D.

Salads: We ordered Caesar salads as we did everywhere else. They were ample with good fresh greens, though slightly overdressed. Little bursts of anchovy flavor peeked through now and then, and even the croutons were decent. Overall, the salads here were better than anywhere else, though none of the steakhouse Caesars were anywhere near as good as say, Café Castagna ($10). Grade B

Steaks: For comparison purposes, we stuck to the same cuts as everywhere else, a Porterhouse and a New York. The fillet side of the Porterhouse seemed a bit small, but flavor was pretty good. The strip side was not nearly as flavorful as the other steakhouses, and was a bit tougher than usual. This surprised me, because that cut’s lack of collagen means the meat is usually pretty tender. It was cooked medium-rare as ordered, and had nice sear and seasoning ($49).

The New York was cooked just right, but had a weird mealy texture, like it had been over tenderized. The sear was nice. Based on flavor and texture, I liked this steak the least of every steakhouse we went to, even Ruth’s Chris, where it was overcooked. An interesting side note, which maybe someone can explain; it bled a huge amount. I must have had quarter-inch of red blood in the dish. I thought maybe it was just me that was bothered, but someone at my table leaned over and said, “Your steak looks disgusting” ($49). Grade C-.

Sides: We had two sides. Asparagus, which was advertised as “Jumbo”, came grilled with a balsamic reduction, which was, in a word, horrible. The vinegar was incredibly sweet, which muted any asparagus taste. I managed to choke down a few spears, but that was the best I could do ($10.50). The potato was just fine, no complaints, except that they come dressed with nothing. The waiter stands at the table with a selection of butter, sour cream, and bacon, spooning on your choice until you say stop. It felt stupid to me; just give me a few little ramekins like everyone else does, and at least put butter on it! ($8.50)  Creamed spinach tasted like some sort of dessert dish. It was sweet, with a predominate taste of nutmeg. The ratio of cream to spinach was way off, leaving us with a gloppy bechamel with some sad chopped greens.Grade C-.

Desserts: The oh so chic dessert tray is also paraded to your table. Honestly, none of them looked particularly good. Among the choices was a piece of key lime pie that had so much whipped cream it wasn’t appetizing, a plate with about 24 raspberries laid out in rows with a small amount of whipped cream, and a crème brûlée, which is what I chose. The filling was slightly undercooked, and the sugar coating was a bit too thick, which left it chewy ($9.50). Strangely, we were never told the dessert prices, nor did we receive a menu for them. I should mention that the server warned us there were several desserts, soufflés as I recall, that we had to order at the beginning of the meal because of the cooking time. I wish I had, as they might have been better, but I forgot in the rush. Grade C

Miscellaneous factors:

Drinks from the bar were less than stellar. Several basic cocktails were way out of balance, and took forever to come to the table. Not only that, but they were expensive – $14.50. The wine list is decent, but nothing that really raised my eyebrows. The selection focuses very heavily on California wineries, though they have some European choices. I didn’t notice any Oregon wines on the list. Markup was the highest of any of the four restaurants in my comparison. One of the house wines we were served had been opened too long, and wasn’t any good. Though we didn’t drink more than a few sips, no one asked why. I was so disgusted with the whole experience, I didn’t try to send it back.

Even the bread annoyed me. A whole round loaf of onion bread is brought out when you order. It comes with a huge knife to both cut the loaf and butter the bread, an awkward proposition. On top of that, I didn’t like the flavor and texture.

I walked into Morton’s expecting it to be about equal to El Gaucho, but couldn’t have been more wrong. The entire meal experience was disappointing, from the service to the steaks, sides and desserts. All in all, the hype was much ado about nothing.

The total cost of an average meal for two, consisting of two cocktails, two Caesars, two steaks, two sides and two glasses of house wine, priced in the center of the wine list, was $196.00.

This is the summary of a group of four steakhouse reviews. You can see the:

  • Address:213 SW Clay St, Portland OR. 97201 (in the Koin Tower) (Map)
  • Phone: (503) 248-2100
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-11pm; Sun 5pm-10pm
  • Website: Mortons.com

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. pascal says

    Well, all those reviews reflect my expectations! I never went to any of those steakhouses and never will!!!
    Thanks for confirming my fears of those… I’ll keep going back to
    chef-owned spots!

  2. Jeff Shultz says

    After reading these reviews, Sizzler is looking better and better each day. At least the cheese toast there is good.

  3. Matt Smedley says

    Perhaps you should have just went ahead and ordered a soufflé at the end of the meal. You may have had a decent shot at it being served at a reasonable time.

  4. jonnyb says

    Wow. Sounds like another terrific steak dinner in Portland. It’s getting me excited about your pending spreadsheet.

        • Food Dude says

          I was thinking about it, but after looking at the menu online, I’m not sure I will. It seems like their steak offerings have changed, and there really isn’t an equivalent set of steaks on their current menu.That being said, I may eventually make it, as I just got a $25 gift card from them in the mail (as did everyone in my bldg)

          • says

            [consults menus]

            Hmmm. You’re right, the Stanford’s menu has morphed considerably over time (and the current version’s clearly been retuned in part for the present economy). Given your parameters for this series of reviews, it wouldn’t be possible to do the kind of direct comparison you’ve set up between the four rated so far.

            That said, and particularly in light of your experiences as reported to date, I’ll add my voice to those suggesting that Sayler’s be added to the roundup. Even if their execution proves undistinguished, it’s likely to be much more inexpensively undistinguished than its fellows (which would be useful to know) — and if their execution proves equal or superior to any or all of their more expensive cousins, that’s something that would *really* be worth knowing.

          • pdxyogi says

            Translation: Sayler’s might stand out as a good value in spite of its possible shortcomings.

  5. says

    These reviews, with the exception of a few exceptional dishes and the steak at Morton’s, make me think that “our” idea of a great steakhouse has passed; that the folks who will create the next great places to eat steak are not in thrall to Rat Pack music, clubby booths, and cold martinis. A shame, in some ways, but exciting, too. Let’s see what they roll out.

    • Food Dude says

      You mean the steak at El Gaucho, I hope. I think it is a shame too. Wonder if it is our taste that has changed, or if, in general, they have gone downhill. I know Morton’s sure has changed.

      • mczlaw says

        Of course, “we”–meaning our local dining culture–have changed. Dress-up-go-out-to–steak-dinner as I remember it growing up here in town is mostly an anachronism or getting to be. And the clubby chic that characterized the Ringside, for example, has grown old and tired and become a parody of itself. The corporate joints–Morton’s and Ruth’s most prominent among them–are likewise tired and hopelessly outdated concepts, made worse by their rabbit-like proliferation around the country. With so many units, you just know quality control is apt to suffer.

        I think it may have been partly cut from my recent early look at Laurelhurst Market in the “O” a couple weeks ago, but the central thesis–beyond the great food–is that LM is the place that looks to define the Portland-style steakhouse for the current and coming generation–the way the Ringside defined the local steakhouse from the 1950′s through the 80′s (give or take). It’s come as you are with no bullshit pretensions; local as a Hood strawberry; and the menu-by-committee means rotating selections to avoid boredom–both theirs and ours.

        FD, I forgot whether you are including LM on your little carnivore’s sojourn. I will be curious to see if your assessment aligns more or less with mine.

        –mcz

      • says

        Yes, El Gaucho – sorry.
        I agree the places have changed — it’s not that 30 years ago, that Morton’s steak was acceptable — but what creates the change? Part of it is demand, part of it is enthusiasm, on both diners and owners parts. Diners are looking at a broader field and finding other high-end ways they like to eat and/or other ways they like to eat steak, and the people running the places have grown tired of the formula, and/or the formula was long ago co-opted by corporate, and you see what you get.

  6. Zin_Chick says

    I found their steaks to be very much on the rare side and if it bled that much, it went straight from the flame onto your plate without letting it sit for a bit, which holds the juices in so you don’t end up with steak soup.

    We ordered medium rare and the thing came to us almost still beating. We both had to send our back and it was still so red that it was almost purple and that raw look/feel when we cut into it. The waiter acted like we were schmucks who didn’t know medium rare, but we have been ordering medium rare for (dare I admit) 20 years.

  7. Humble Pie says

    I’m inclined to think our collective taste has changed for the better over the last few decades. But I’m also inclined to think these institutions have lost all inspiration.

  8. Lur Kerr says

    FD, your steak bled because, like your party, it had also been “rushed”– to the table. When we cook steaks professionally, we always let the steak “rest” which causes the blood to re-absorb into the proteins. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

    Further, I’m wondering if the “mealy” texture you describe refers to a steak that has been frozen and thawed? The process of the ice crystals forming keeps the muscle fibers from laying smooth, which smooth muscle fibers gives the meat that silky texture in the mouth. Hope that helps!

    • Food Dude says

      That’s what I was thinking – makes sense to me, thanks. It goes back to the rushed meal. I know mealy meat can be caused by tenderizing, but now that you mention it, I bet those steaks have been frozen.

  9. Steve says

    I wonder how they would respond if, when it was time for dessert, someone went ahead and ordered a soufflé anyway and said, “Oh, that’s ok, we can wait – we’ll just sit here and relax for a while,” etc.

      • mzwong says

        I don’t think that I could order dessert before deciding on what to eat and how I feel afterward.

  10. Jill-O says

    It’s sounding like Sayler’s would be a step up…which is weird. At least the expectations are not that high there. ;o)

    And yeah, Laurelhurst Market has got to be the best place for steak right now.

    • D-Bo says

      I really like Saylers and would encourage the Food Dde to visit there before Stanfords, I went there once and never went back (service and product were both terrible) whereas I’ve been patronizing Saylers for decades.

  11. ersatzcradle says

    These steakhouse reviews have been an utter waste of your time and ours. Presumably also your money. Like sending a Fleet Foxes fan to review a Motley Crue show; we knew what you would think. You knew what you would get. Your opinion was formed long before you crossed a single corporate threshold as was ours and you didn’t fail to deliver. Your comments were as predictable as the fare you received. What was the point of all this?

    • JandJ says

      “These steakhouse reviews have been an utter waste of your time and ours.”

      Speak for yourself, please. I found the reviews interesting and insightful. These places, to many folks, still represent the pinnacle of carnivorism (is that a word? :-)). With the exception of El Gaucho perhaps, I think it’s clear that their time is past. Not “everyone” reading this necessarily would see this the same way.

      Congratulations for being so far ahead of the pack, but it’s a bit arrogant to assume that everyone reading this automatically has the same mindset, opinion, or knowledge.

    • says

      Ersatz: It’s called hope: you hope something is going to be good. Even when I stop at a Burger King because I am starving, I hope the Whopper is going to be super-yummy, because somewhere back in my brain, I remember a Whopper being yummy. It usually isn’t, but I still think, maybe it will be.

      You know, millions and millions and millions of people frequent these steak chains, and they’re not all walking in thinking, “I know this is a waste of time.” They think, “I’m going to have a steak – I hope it’s great!” I think FD has performed a pretty good service by telling us what you apparently believe we all know, but really, we all don’t.

    • Dave J. says

      In defense of Fleet Foxes fans, they might at least find some trashy ironic fun in a Crüe show.

      And, for your main point, you could not be more wrong. I don’t go to the high-end steakhouses, it’s true: I have a 2 1/2 year old a 5 month old, and the time and money are both lacking. But I have plenty of friends who come through town, and colleagues at work, who ask my advice/opinion about restaurants, and it’s nice to have FD throwing himself on the medium-rare grenade to give me something to which I can refer these folks. “Oh, I haven’t gone to a steakhouse in a while–but check out the following links, etc.” I’d wager that plenty of readers of this site who do not patronize these places still have friends, family, colleagues who do, and this information will help them all.

    • Food Dude says

      Ersatz, you must be a lot more tuned in to the steakhouses than I am, because I had no idea what I would think. I hadn’t been to any of them for years, and actually expected them to be fairly good. I didn’t have any pre-conceived idea of which one would come up on top, and found the whole project interesting and enlightening. Obviously, others have too, as at least 50K people have read the reviews.

      I might add that no one is paying you to come to this site, and since I tend to cover all kinds of things which you may also feel wastes your time, you might want to pick a different source for your foodie needs.

      • ersatzcradle says

        The level of disingenuousness in these responses to my posting is amusing at best, deceitful at worst. This is a blog for foodies, for the champions of chef-owned, cuisine driven, small, sustainable operations that fit nicely with Portland’s self-image. Anti-corporatism is worn as a badge of pride herein. All very well and good. But to review the “Big 4″ with such a backdrop of prejudice was, and remains, self-aggrandizing. That each of the establishments concerned routinely display a level of professionalism FOH and consistency BOH that many of Portland’s charming little eateries would do well to emulate is entirely overlooked in favor of a perpetual reiteration of the cheesiness of it all. You are right in asserting that I do not need to visit this site, and withdraw my patronage forthwith upon your kind invitation, but seriously; have a go at glancing sideways. You may even surprise yourself.

        • Food Dude says

          Thanks for telling me how I should run my site. Sometimes I get confused, and it is always nice to have someone get me re-focused and back on track

          You might try Fleet enemas. They may give you better results than what you are using now.

          • ersatzcradle says

            My word. Touchy, aren’t we? I was clearly not telling you how to do anything, merely suggesting something potentially rewarding. Much like your enema tip. Thanks for the heads-up.

        • Adam says

          How exactly are the responses to your posting “disingenuous”? Do you even know what that word means? Clearly, you don’t.

          And as for your comment that the Food Dude had preconceived opinions on these four steakhouses and “knew what he would get,” he says right here in this review that considering his last visit there, he was expecting Morton’s to be on a level with El Gaucho, but was shocked to find that it wasn’t so. How was that predictable? I’m glad he’s taken the lesser steakhouses to task; for what they charge, you should be eating some of the best meals in your life, yet that clearly isn’t the case. They’re flat-out gouging you, and they deserve to be called out on their carelessness.

          Your arrogance is insulting, and, quite frankly, nauseating. Please take your omnipotent wisdom elsewhere.

        • mamabigdog says

          Erstaz- This is Food Dude’s blog, and if he wants to review steakhouses, fish houses, or coffee houses, it’s his choice to do so. It’s not unusual for restaurant reviewers to be accused of favoring certain places/cuisines over others, but the extent you go to also accuse the readers of this site as liars and lacking in sincerity is truly a step too far. I rarely comment here, if at all, but I could not stand by and allow your venom to go unchallenged.

          You clearly hold yourself out to be without prejudice or self-aggrandizement, but in the same breath insist that the only real food scene in Portland is anti-corporate? That in itself is a prejudice of your own, and a snobby one at that. You also insist on demonstrating your vast intelligence over all of us by writing with such unnecessarily flowery language (“withdraw my patronage forthwith”- as if you patronize anything but the people around you?), it’s clear that you’re a boor as well.

          Since you’ve granted yourself the keeper of all that is true and cool in Portland’s food and music scenes, please let us know when you start your own review site so we can come and complain in your comments about how predictable, time-wasting and cheesy your work and writing is. There’s simply not enough room here to catalogue it all.

          • ersatzcradle says

            Well said, yes. Catching my drift, no. A simple reading of this site, FDs postings and follow-up commentary reveal quickly what is likely to be approved of and what is not. I agree, this is fair enough – this is after all FDs site and his to do with as he pleases. However, what I take issue with is the point of the steakhouse reviews. They seem mean spirited; petty hatchet jobs – I mean, can you seriously find it that difficult to spread butter with a steak knife? – that bear the stamp of some kind of grudge. The predictability of the posts is borne out by both pascal and jimster commenting on this thread alone. They, however, seem to take no issue with the MO. I, on the other hand, feel like it warrants looking at.
            As to my musical or food preferences, those went unmentioned. As did my feelings about corporate restaurants. Any assumptions you’ve made there can only be the result of a misreading. All that said, apologies for any offense caused. This is after all a food blog, and no place for invective.

        • pdxyogi says

          Ersatz (appropos handle by the way!): After deciphering your pretentious and presumptuous ramblings, I have a question. What is the nature of your “patronage” of this site? Are you a donor? Or is said patronage simply the fact that you deign to read it?

          • foodsnob says

            Oooh, snap. That”ll teach him/her. Bye bye dissenter. Now we can all get back to agreeing how bad steakhouses are.

          • Food Dude says

            It should probably be mentioned that foodsnob and ersatzcradle seem to be the same person, or at least they both trace back to the same Facebook page.

  12. jimster says

    The surprise is zero here. No one anywhere thinks of Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris as the best steakhouses in their towns (unless it’s the only one). I can understand this as a general review of steakhouses in the downtown area but there was simply no way that these two (with the addition of Ringside) were going to compete for a “Best Of” title. The genre has changed (or at least for the audience here), Portland has way too many other restaurants that are so much better, your palate is way beyond what these places are doing (for the $ you had to lay out) and, perhaps, they don’t get called to the carpet enough like this series does. Maybe you should forward this to the two corporate head quarters. While carrying this on ad infinitum to include Laurelhurst Market, Sayler’s, Stanfords, Urban Farmer, Portland Steak & Chop, etc. (thank god Shula’s isn’t around, huh?) would be folly and expensive it would be interesting over time to see your reviews on a couple of those (I’m sure we will at least see LM sometime) and offer them up in the context of this series. Hell, I’d take you to LM and pay just as another excuse to go there.

    • Food Dude says

      Their corporate offices are well aware of these reviews. Morton’s seems to have suffered a slew of them (negative) lately, as has Ringside.

      I will review Laurelhurst Market eventually, but am waiting a bit to let my system recover. I’ve had enough steaks to last me a while.

  13. Good Food For Me says

    One of your contributors wrote some time ago a review of Morton’s singing its’ praises – I can not find that review now for some reason. Do you still have a copy? It was in November I believe. In any case I could not agree with FD more, but it is interesting none the less to see such a wide variation of experience from someone else that is lauded as an “expert.” As I recall however; she was attacked quite vigorously for her “nice” experience at Morton’s and the comments were less than agreeable with her kind words based on her experience there. This always seems to be the case though the ying and yang of restaurant staff or what?

  14. Hunter says

    Interesting. As I am a huge believer that all reviews are extremely subjective, I’ve followed these reviews carefully and eaten at each. It may be my personal expectations or tastes but I despised Gaucho. Food was not worth the price and the service was overbearing. I was turned off quickly by Ruth Chris’ physical plant. Was truly disappointed at Ringside on all counts but enjoyed Mortons. Maybe it was the day, maybe it was the server. I certainly did not fault the sides (didn’t have the asparagus)and had no issue with the bread (really, the breat annoyed you?). I also like rare steaks so that may make the difference. Booze was expensive though. As far as the service I did request to skip the meat cart but had no issue beyond that.

    • Food Dude says

      Yup, the bread annoyed me, because it was nearly impossible to butter when the only damn knife on the table is a steak knife, and the onion flavor was so strong, it overwhelmed everything else.

      Even if the food had been better, I would still have been turned off by the huge rush to push us out the door.

  15. abefroman says

    It seems that Portland as a Steakhouse town has passed it’s prime. I think steakhouses succeed in larger cities and where people are more interested in meat and potatoes. Not to say that those cities don’t have other great restaurants as they always do. It is highly unlikely that Laurent Tourendel will be opening a branch of his BLT Steak here in Portland but if anyone has an opportunity they should try one. Modern steakhouse atmosphere, good service, cocktails, wine list and above all, great steaks. Cannot speak for all of them, but had a great dinner in Washington D.C. Great sides, starters are relatively simple but very well done. Also other good menu options for people who don’t want steak. Dinner for two will run $200+ if you go the whole route, but it is very nice.

    • jimster says

      In general I am not a steakhouse sort of eater but I have had terrific meals in true blue steakhouses in Chicago, Cinci, NYC and Tampa that I can think of right off the top of my head. I’m not the hugest Gaucho fan due to the environment, pricing and (my perception) that they do only a couple of steaks extremely well. I think in this day and age and in this city it is hard to do steakhouse dining really well. There are already a ton of them here so odds are another is not going to open up soon and the ones that are here are mostly old school, corporate entities. I like a great steak as much as the next person but there are terrific restaurants in this town that aren’t steakhouses that can cook the hell out of a steak and you don’t get all the weirdness that seems to abound in a regular (Portland) steakhouse environment. It would be interesting to see people here post positive, non-Portland steakhouse references here just for some context.

      • Nikos says

        What jimster said, there are many places in town to get grilled meat of all sorts that are not “steakhouses” and I had excellent steaks and service in other cities (I already mentioned Prime in Las Vegas at the Bellagio when FD announced this endeavor) Besides, I achieve better results in my Weber charcoal grill in my balcony with a carefully chosen New York strip from Whole Foods than I had in any Portland restaurant…(steakhouse or otherwise)
        I think it is time someone in pdx opened a really good steakhouse (with martinis, leather, butter with many knives to spread it with, good bread (I mean come on, pdx is bread heaven with all the local bakeries) etc)
        Anyone?
        BTW, LM is great!

  16. Flattail says

    I remember really liking the Metropolitan Grill up in Seattle back in the day (1990). Of course, I was much younger and anything that didn’t have a drive-thru or a registered trademark symbol after their name was considered by me to be pretty good.

  17. Lur Kerr says

    FD, I’m not convinced you are not ersatzcradle…the writing is that rythmic! Do you have voices in your head? :-’

    • Food Dude says

      Ha! Nope, I don’t argue with myself, though in the past, I’ve seen very strange back and forth conversations here between the same person.

  18. SaskiaW says

    Hello. I’m new to this blog. It seems like a lot of fun. I must ask though, are there always so many insults or is it just this thread?

  19. Joe says

    While I won’t be throwing down $200 for a full-on steakhouse meal anytime soon, or ever. They have always had that ‘if it costs that much there must be something better about it’ allure. Good to know that this isn’t the case, I’m not missing out on anything and I can be perfectly happy making good steaks at home and having one at Toro Bravo or LM every once in a while.

  20. zumpie says

    Okay, late to the ballgame, but here goes:

    Back 10 years ago when I waitressed, I turned down a job at Morton’s largely because they were so painfully drink-the-kool-aid-corporate (part of one’s final interview was to watch a horrifying promotional film of theirs) AND the prospect of wheeling a big, goofy cart of plastic wrapped meat to all my tables (and watch all their eyes glaze over) was something I just couldn’t get past.

    Last year I interviewed for their private dining/sales manager/whatever pretentious goofy title they assigned it position and discovered the film and the cart are merely the tip of their uber corporate, automatron (I have no doubt your server was encouraged to act like that, BTW) “culture”. The initial screening process involved two, hour long telephone interviews with their HR recruiting person. And she was THE most corporate zombie HR person I have truly ever spoken with.

    During this process, I was sent an extensive application packet (I didn’t fill it out, since my interest in the position was already waning) consisting a full (not just criminal) background, refence, drug and credit check. I was also informed that my training would be in a different city and last for 4 months! All to sell their 1 or 2 rather small private dining rooms.

    Judging from your review, FD, it appears that perhaps Morton’s would do well to focus less on assimilating people into their collectives and more on serving a quality product, correctly.

    P.S. Yes, of course, the HR zombie droned on about how Morton’s hires ONLY the greatest people and this is why her job is so wonderful.

  21. Antony says

    Geez,

    I expected nothing more, and maybe a bit less. The GM at the Portland Morton’s is a corporate tight-ass pinhead. It’s no wonder everything there is so seemingly robotic. The wine list is strictly focused upon “cookie-cutter” and “safety net” recognizable brands. The monkeys who work at Morton’s are so embedded into the corporate structure and mentality that they are afraid to deviate from any sense of “personalized” service. This place sucks.

  22. Bigfoot says

    I would have hated the rushed service as well, unless I was trying to make a show next door at the Keller. Was it possible you were dining on a night there was an event next door? We usually eat at Carafe before shows, but if they are full, we make a reservation at Mortons. They are very good about getting you to the show on time. Of course, they should ask if you are in a hurry and not assume you are!

    I agree with the others, try LM. We loved it. It is also quite reasonable. Had coctails, bottle of wine, appetizer and two dinners for just over a c note! It will be our new local choice for a carnivore night. However, every now and then you just need a flashback to the 50s, the rat pack and a cold martini! Ringside will still fit that need, but they have gone downhill.

    • Food Dude says

      Not sure if there was an event next door, but as you said, it shouldn’t make a difference unless we tell them we are in a hurry.

      • mczlaw says

        Have to disagree here. Certain restaurants tend to default to high-speed service because a large proportion of their clientele tend to be in a hurry. It is understandable that servers don’t want to be half way into service only to learn that the group has tix to the playhouse next door and the play starts in 15 minutes. (There is also that big category I call “fuelers” for whom a meal, even at a nicer place, isn’t an event, but merely the designated time to fill up the tank. For these folks, a 62-minute dinner would be cause for celebration.)

        On those rare occasions when the service seems out of synch with my state of relaxation, I do not hesitate to tell the server that I’m in no hurry and to slow down the pace a bit. Not a big burden–unless one is out to achieve culinary martyrdom.

        –mcz

        Mind you, I can’t stand Morton’s and have found plenty to criticize–just not the pace of service.

        • pdxyogi says

          Any place that is right across the street from a major venue such as Keller should always ask diners if they need to make the show.

  23. grapedog says

    An interesting side note, which maybe someone can explain; it bled a huge amount. I must have had quarter-inch of red blood in the dish.

    McGee points out that “bloody” is inaccurate, this is not blood, just “droplets of red juice” coming from the meat fibers. Yes, it’s probably still disgusting on the plate, but when I read this part of the review, my learnings kicked in and I had to say something. :-)

      • kolibri says

        Not blood. Of course not! That red color comes from the Red #40 that we use in our steaks!

        Um, do you know what the “red juice” is called that is in muscles? It’s called BLOOD! It is what carries oxygen so that we can move our limbs using the muscles. I hate to have to give you or McGee or anyone else an anatomy lesson, but the only “red juice” in Steaks… is blood!

        • Hunter says

          Wrongo. Check your anatomy. Any juice or liquid coming from a muscle will run red from the tissue kolibri. Cattle are fully bled before processing. The muscle retains water (as all tissue does) which has a red tinge. It ain’t blood.

          • Food Dude says

            I know all of this happens, and it is normal to some extent, but this was blood red. So red it looked like someone had slit their wrists over the plate. Mmmm.

          • kolibri says

            Oh I am being challenged in the anatomy arena! Big mistake buddy- I took it in nursing school…

            The red color of raw meat is caused my myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin. It holds oxygen in the muscle and turns red in contact with oxygen. You are correct in stating that this is not blood.

            Yes most beef is bled, but only kosher beef is bled to the fullest degree. Even with kosher meat, however, there is no way to remove all of the blood from the tissue. Bleeding does not allow the blood to drain from the tiniest capillaries so there will *ALWAYS* still be some blood in the meat when you cut it.

            The liquid that FD saw on his plate was a mixture of water (yes there is water in there I know that), BLOOD, and other interstitial and extrastitial liquids such as myoglobin.

            Whatchyu got for me now????

          • Artist Foodie says

            Wow! This is really interesting, but it may be a long time before I can eat a steak again! :)

          • Hunter says

            Never said there wasn’t blood in it. I said that the liquid was not blood. And you’re only partly right. Myoglobin is only one element that colors muscle tissue. I’m guessing you know that. But I can ask my nursing students that as well on their next exam.

            Now before dude says it….let’s get back to the food.

  24. Vaugirard says

    I can understand how places like Morton’s and Ruth’s turn into crappy restaurants since their only aim is to keep on expanding into becoming mega corporations. The really disappointing thing I’ve learned through this series is how a place like the Ringside could let itself become so bedraggled. They are locally owned and only have to concern themselves with one restaurant to run. Too bad the current owners don’t sell the place to someone who cares about the legacy or the history of the restaurant. Too bad it can’t be condemned by the City as a culturally important institution and forced to sell to someone who would nurture the place.

  25. homer's son says

    For the record (and as mentioned in the series) there are two Ringsides. However, your point is taken. I’m not sure that I want the city running restaurants, they seem to have thier hands full with hotels and soccer balls.

    • qv says

      “Too bad the current owners don’t sell the place to someone who cares about the legacy or the history of the restaurant. Too bad it can’t be condemned by the City as a culturally important institution and forced to sell to someone who would nurture the place.”

      You cannot be seriously proposing the communist takeover of a steakhouse?
      :P

  26. Clark says

    Frankly speaking, i think you are full of crap! I eat at Morton’s several times per year and have always had a very good steak with very good service to match.
    Mortons is also a very good place to go for coctails, they are made correctly, served properly, and arrive without waiting too long.
    We have never felt rushed or felt like the servers did not want to be there. In fact we have usually had a terrific time interacting with all the employees.
    I think you should check your notes again, maybe you were somewhere else and thought you were in Mortons.
    One more thing, the last time I was at Mortons was last night (08/25/09) and the evening was perfect in every way. I an looking forward to the next time.

  27. Fenwickguy says

    Having worked in the restaurant business for 20 or so years, I can understand that being rushed through your meal was the real issue you had with Morton’s. It is amazing how many people will slam the food of an establishment because of a servers actions. Having eaten at Morton’s and Ruths, I prefer Morton’s steaks because they are not drowning in butter. Enjoy!!

  28. Chris says

    I realize this is almost 2 months later, but . . . just went with friends to the Morton’s here in Cleveland – the same experience. Fortunately for us, our friends had gift-carded us the first $100 of a total $230 bill for the two of us. My spouse still thinks it one of the worst values she has ever had. Went looking for confirmation and your review, and most of the posters supplied it. Thanks for the cold comfort.

  29. Ross says

    This review page appears to still be alive, so will add my two bits worth. My wife and I went to Mortons in Palm Desert for our anniversary and we were somewhat disappointed. We were exposed to the dreaded food display cart but quickly told the waitress that we had made our decision and not to continue with the spiel.

    We ordered oysters rockefeller which were rather bland. My wife ordered the light meal filet mignong which she enjoyed. I ordered the filet oscar which I would rate as 7/10 as there was quite a lot of sinew and one of the medallions was rarer than the other. We passed on the dessert as neither of us are into desserts.

    Overall, not value for the money. $10.50 for a baked potato is a bit overboard. The complimentary liquor for our anniversary was appreciated.

    Will we go back? most unlikely. Melvyn’s in Palm Springs is almost on par and a lot less cost.

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