In this first installment of we dig into the origins of the steakhouse and talk with Alec Bruggentheis about the things specific to the steakhouse that butters his bread; Smith & Wollensky.
The “chophouse” started in London in the 1690’s when restaurants served individual portions of meat, known as “chops.” In the 19th century, they finally found their way across the pond. In 1837 America’s first steakhouse, Delmonico’s opened and was the first of its kind “restaurant” taken from the French word, which meant a food establishment that served something a little fancier than the gritty taverns common in Europe and its colonies.
The oldest continuously operating steakhouse in the United States is the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City, established in 1868. As time went on, these establishments developed into social affairs and that trend continues to this day with the American steakhouse being a staple for business meetings and celebratory meals. And even in the face of lower meat consumption in recent years due to price increases and health concerns, steak is still a very big deal in America.
The first Smith & Wollensky steakhouse occupies a stand-alone building in New York City and showcases the trademark Smith & Wollensky green and white colors; colors they inherited from Manny Wolf’s, the previous steakhouse that had been serving steak at this location since 1897. Smith & Wollensky was founded in 1977 when Alan Stillman and Ben Benson purchased the steakhouse. The only thing they changed at the time was the sign so it would read “founded in 1977” and the name using the exact same letters.
Alec Bruggentheis, National Beverage Director for Smith & Wollensky explains a little bit about how Smith & Wollensky separates itself from the pack.