Oceanaire’s founding chef, Wade Wiestling, remains with Landry’s as vice president of culinary development (based in the Twin Cities), and is the lead culinarian on the team reinventing Morton’s. “Morton’s was the last bastion of civility, power fine dining. That’s where it was,” he explains. “But we’re trying to boost growth at our 67 stores. We’re tweaking the ambience, music, uniforms, to attract a younger customer. Service has been sped up; people were sitting a half-hour before they placed an order.”
That means out with the tuxedos, no more meat trolley, and the LeRoy Neiman watercolors may not be long for the world. Wiestling has added entrées under $30 and the chain is looking for “high-visibility” locations to grow into. “[CEO] Tilman Fertitta wants Morton’s to be the premier steakhouse in the U.S.A.,” Wiestling notes.
As for the Twin Cities, restaurant insiders are speculating that the well-worn McCormick & Schmick’s (another Landry’s brand) on Nicollet Mall could be converted into a Morton’s. Wiestling’s comment: “Anything’s possible.”