Steak 48 in Beverly Hills opened earlier this year and is the group’s eighth restaurant. | Photo by Wonho Frank Lee.
Jeff and Mike Mastro know a thing or two about steakhouses.
The brothers—then with their father, Dennis—created the Mastro’s brand, what was then a very high-end steakhouse concept born in 1999 in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the family earned headlines like “The Sultans of Steak.” The family opened their second location of Mastro’s in the heart of Beverly Hills, and it quickly became the luxury hotspot for the well-heeled and those on expense accounts.
From there, the Mastro’s brand took off. The family grew that group, including a fine-dining seafood variation called Mastro’s Ocean Club, to seven units before selling the group to private equity firms in 2007 for $150 million. Later in 2013, the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Mastro’s Restaurants was acquired by Landry’s Inc., which has grown the group to about 20 units across the country.
But the Mastro brothers were not done thinking about steakhouses.
Now they are partners in a new eight-unit group called Prime Steak Concepts, based in Scottsdale, which is growing Steak 48. The fifth location of Steak 48 recently opened in Beverly Hills, just blocks away from the Mastro’s location that once put the family name on the fine-dining steakhouse map.
It was an opportunity to do it all over again, only a bit differently, said Jeff Mastro.
“Me and my brother Mike, after we sold Mastro’s, we always thought the world needed more of a warm, contemporary type of steakhouse, rather than the old scotch and dark wood and cigar steakhouse,” he said. “A little more female friendly too.”
After the Mastro’s sale, the Mastro brothers first opened a restaurant called Dominick’s Steakhouse, named for their grandfather, in Scottsdale.
And, at the time, the new owners of Mastro’s Restaurants weren’t too happy about it. They filed a lawsuit in 2011 arguing that the Mastro family was blatantly trying to “have their cake (or steak) and eat it too” by opening a “copycat restaurant,” referring to Dominick’s, just four years after selling their restaurants and associated intellectual property rights, according to court documents.
But that lawsuit appeared to be heading for settlement when Landry’s acquired Mastro’s Restaurants in 2013, and the case was dismissed that year.
The Mastro brothers, meanwhile, carried on. They debuted a second restaurant in Phoenix called Steak 44, named for 44th Street there. When the brothers decided to take the brand outside the state, they used the name Steak 48, since Arizona is the 48th state, though the concepts are essentially the same.
Now Steak 48 operates in several other markets near a Mastro’s Restaurant, including Chicago, Houston and, of course, Beverly Hills. Soon, Prime Steak Concepts plans to open their seafood variation Ocean 48 in Newport Beach, Calif., where Mastro’s operates an Ocean Club.
Jeff Mastro said they’re also exploring potential locations in Miami. A Mastro’s is scheduled to open there this winter.
But there is no deliberate effort to compete against their former brand, Jeff Mastro insists.
“We’re not trying to go directly at anybody,” he said. “If we can find a great location and a great building, then we take it, if it’s in a great city. And we know these cities, too, because we’ve been in them before, so we think the demographics just fit us perfectly.”
Beverly Hills was a “very special market” for the Steak 48 brand to make a splash because of the family’s history there, Jeff Mastro said.
Indeed, Beverly Hills has become Steakhouse Central, encapsulating what appears to be a booming steakhouse segment.
Within a short walk, diners have plenty of options for wet- or dry-aged beef, tender wagyu or massive tomahawks.
Across the street from Mastro’s in Beverly Hills is The Palm, also owned by Landry’s. Around a corner is Nusr-Et of Salt Bae fame, which is a stone’s toss from Wolfgang Puck’s elegant Cut. The Japanese concept Matu specializes in wagyu nearby. Down the road is a Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse (also Landry’s) in one direction and a Fogo de Chao in the other. And coming soon is a steakhouse by the Etta Collective, from the former partner of Maple & Ash.
Jeff Mastro said he’s not worried about the competition.
“We’re in the steakhouse business, so if we didn’t want to go out and compete, we wouldn’t open any steakhouses,” he said. “We do what we do, and we go in these markets, and we hope we separate ourselves by providing the greatest facility and tremendous service and incredible food. That formula’s been working pretty good for us.”
In Beverly Hills, Steak 48 shakes off some of the stereotypes of the typical steakhouse experience. Like most, the menu is built around prime steaks and chops, but there are also wagyu options and a kosher rib eye (doused with duck fat rather than butter), as well as a broader selection of appetizers, salads and sides—from heirloom tomatoes generously heaped with fresh crabmeat to corn crème brulee.
Portions are extravagantly generous—and prices are high. A 12-ounce New York strip starts at $56, and 3 ounces of Miyazaki A5 wagyu is $110. Enhancements include options like topping a steak with a crab cake ($21) or a black truffle-sauteed Maine lobster ($48). There’s a 3,000-bottle wine vault, and caviar service.
The kitchen is wide open—with some on staff wearing tall toques—behind a raw bar piled with fresh seafood on ice. The dining room is segmented to create different experiences, a larger dining room with more energy here, and a smaller, more intimate bar in a corner over there. Booths are separated with glass walls, giving celebrities privacy while still being seen. The vibe is young and diverse.
Oliver Badgio, chief brand officer for Prime Steak Concepts, said Steak 48 is designed to give diners more options.
“For so many years, steakhouses were more pre-prescribed experiences,” he said. “With Steak 48, we wanted to change that and have lots of options. The restaurants are a collection of intimate spaces, smaller dining rooms, so it’s not these big, gargantuan, noisy dining rooms with broccoli the size of your head. No one wants to eat like that anymore.”
During the pandemic, some predicted steakhouses would be hit particularly hard because the food does not necessarily travel well for delivery, and the segment has long depended on business dining.
Jeff Mastro, however, contends business travel is back.
“It might be back even more [than pre-pandemic], depending on how you define business dining,” he said. “Because there are so many people that are not back in the office, and I think that a lot of people might now be using our steakhouses for their meetings.”
Prime Steak Concepts plans to open two to three restaurants a year going forward.
Another Steak 48 is coming to Del Mar, near San Diego, in October, which will be followed by the planned Ocean 48 in Newport Beach.
The group is also working on a new concept tentatively called Italian 44 in Scottsdale that will dive more deeply into the family’s Italian roots, Jeff Mastro said. And, yes, there will be steak.
What the Mastro brothers are sure they will not do is open a casual-dining concept.
“Casual scares us,” said Jeff Mastro, adding that he will leave that segment to his friend Sam Fox, founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts in Phoenix and a prolific creator of casual-dining concepts.
“We’re high-end steak guys,” Jeff Mastro said. “So we really know the high-end space and we’d really like to stick with that.”
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