Two nights out for dinner at MB Steak at The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas since it opened in May have been exemplary experiences, from the fresh seafood platters, perfectly prepared tomahawk and porterhouse steaks and decadent appetizers and side dishes — including the lobster macaroni and cheese and seared foie gras — to the expertly crafted cocktails, such as the Chicago Way Manhattan, and divine desserts, the carrot cake a standout.
It makes sense that MB Steak is a hot and stellar newcomer to the off-the-Strip dining scene when one realizes that the duo behind the establishment are siblings David and Michael Morton of the esteemed culinary dynasty. Michael has found success in Las Vegas with N9NE Steakhouse at The Palms, La Cave at Wynn Las Vegas, Crush at MGM Grand and more, while David has made his indelible mark in Chicago.
In fact, the brothers have more than two dozen restaurants and bars to their credit. MB Steak (MB stands for “My Brothers”) is the first time that the two has collaborated on a restaurant, and David Morton answered questions in the bar at MB Steak shortly upon arrival at McCarran Airport on Nov. 1:
Tell me about the inspiration behind MB Steak.
It’s something we’ve thought about for a long time. We grew up and around the industry — our dad was in the business, our grandfather was in the business, our great-grandfather was in the business. Michael and I had been enjoying success in our own nooks. My company is primarily based in Chicago, and I have a restaurant in Kansas City, as well.
The inspiration is we’re super-close as a family. To me, it’s a way to honor our history. It’s the first time the Mortons have ever worked together, which has been amazing. We’ve wondered about doing this for a long time. After Michael sold N9NE Steakhouse … it was during that time that we started to think what would a collaboration look like and be like. That was the very early genesis of it.
Why The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas as the location?
We came with some pretty specific desires and parameters. Among the many things that The Hard Rock has to offer along with the family history here itself, as our brother was the developer of the property back in the day, this space that we sit on right now was an unused, cavernous, two-story space. We liked the idea that we could build a building inside of a building inside of a building, and we did that.
We love the access to Harmon Avenue. What was the former service entrance to the hotel is now our valet entrance. Michael had a lot of respect and appreciation for how important it is to have certain amenities for locals, who are really our target. We really want to be a place for locals, where it feels a little bit like “Cheers” and everybody knows each other. We ultimately love to do business with people. The Hard Rock, under its current leadership, is really an amazing place.
You said that this is the first project together for any of the Morton siblings?
We’re super-close, Michael and I always have been, all of our siblings are. We have our own experiences, but we’ve always been each other’s biggest supporters and loudest cheerleaders. Michael has been excited to see my work in the Midwest, and I’ve been here for his businesses. … We dove at the opportunity of MB Steak when it presented itself.
What are your favorite menu items at MB Steak?
(Laughs) well that’s a tricky question because we spent a ton of time on menu development. Every single item was something that we thought would be awesome to have on a steakhouse menu. I hate to sound boring, but these are our favorites just by definition. We’re very active with our menus. This is a respectful homage to steakhouses, as well as having a strong culinary component.
After observing your father, Arnie Morton, throughout his career, what lessons did you and Michael take away from that experience?
Holy cow, where do I start? He’s the closest person I’ve ever had in my life. I think Michael would say the same thing. He was a man of very few words, but, when he spoke, it was substantive. He instilled in us, first of all, an eye for detail. This is show business, and there is so much planning from a design standpoint, a human standpoint, a choreography standpoint, a culinary standpoint. The show should feel emotionally resonating to our guests.
He used to say that the restaurant business is 90 percent common sense and 10 percent a good eye. He made it accessible to us. In the end, it’s about people. We share in each other’s success. He loved design, and we love design.
What would Arnie think about MB Steak?
(Laughs) well, he was our dad; he might be slightly biased. It feels a lot like a Morton family property. My dad was a showman. We really thought about how we want to curate this experience. How do we take someone off a casino floor, off Harmon Avenue, and bring them into an environment that is memorable, fun and comfortable? We love things that are special. I think he would love it.
I would say that Las Vegas also is The Steakhouse Capital of the World.
(Laughs) take it easy — we’re from Chicago!
Fair enough! There are so many fantastic steakhouses in Las Vegas. What separates MB Steak from other steakhouses in Las Vegas?
I think of the business as what I call The Four P’s: People, place, product, and profit. If you take care of the first three, the last one seems to follow. We wanted to have these complementary environments starting with a seductive tunnel or passageway entrance. We wanted it to feel connected, but separate. We love our private bar room.
We recognize the importance of private dining rooms. If you’re a guest in a PDR, it can feel like a penalty box, so we made certain that it was continuous and flowing and had the same level of attention to detail and design. Upstairs is much airier. My basic belief in restaurants is that lighting makes you look good, and music makes you feel good; both are very important.
In terms of food, it’s all about the finest ingredients simply prepared. At the end of the day in any retail business, the people are the brand, and I’m really proud of the team and roster that we have put together. That’s the thing that gets me out of bed every morning. It’s really special to me to work with people who are passionate and excited.
What has been your biggest challenge since MB Steak opened in May?
We’ve done this before (laughs)! I’m really open to challenges. If you’re not actively seeking out challenges, you’re not paying attention. It’s a desire to keep getting better. We were really happy about how we opened early in May, but it’s incumbent upon us to always make it better. Overall, it has been a very smooth experience.
What’s your customer base? Has it been more residents or visitors?
Of course, we’re thrilled to have visitors, but our target, we want to be a place where locals hang. That would be the biggest thrill for us — to earn the love and trust of the community. I’m here every two weeks for a few nights, and, in that time, I’ve gotten to know the people who come in often. … I’ve completely fallen in love with Las Vegas. The community is much stronger and more prominent than I thought it was and had imagined.
What do you see as the future of steakhouses?
Good question (pauses). I could take you to my house in Chicago and show you a menu from my grandfather’s Morton’s that sits in our breakfast room. The thing you would find most striking: You could get a filet mignon for $1.95 back in the 1920s. You could get a martini for a quarter. Steakhouses have had a continuum. Not everything has to evolve radically in order to get better.
More: (702) 483-4888; MBSteakLV.com