Last December, a new breed of steakhouse opened in Atlanta. STK, branded as a steakhouse for women, serves small “female-friendly” portions, lighter options and fruity cocktails in a trendy atmosphere complete with cream leather banquettes. The restaurant markets itself with the slogan: “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse.”
If STK isn’t your daddy’s steakhouse, then Alpharetta’s Cabernet Steakhouse might be. Modeled after what chef Richard Holley calls the “grand steakhouses of New York,” Cabernet’s dining room, overpolished and swathed in warm wood tones, exudes an unmistakable masculine sensibility. The restaurant even boasts an enclosed cigar bar off the main dining room, its popularity proven by the waitlist for cigar lockers. (Not a smoker? A separate ventilation system prevents any trace of smoke in the main dining room.)
Cabernet, which opened in 2000, sits near the Windward Parkway/Ga. 400 intersection. It caters to area businesses, one of the few upscale options in the area. It serves classic American favorites such as burgers, wraps and sandwiches by day and classic steakhouse fare by night.
Groups of businessmen congregate at Cabernet on weeknights, some taking advantage of the Wednesday evening $10 scotch and cigar specials. And while the restaurant offers more than a dozen types of scotch, my eye (but not my wallet) is on the $65 23-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon (10-, 15- and 20-year vintages also available).
If the food, atmosphere or level of service here reminds you of Buckhead Life’s family of restaurants, that’s no coincidence. Holley, who apprenticed at New York’s Le Bernardin, kicked off his Atlanta career at Lobster Bar and Chops, both owned by Buckhead Life. He says he loved the “power dining” at Chops and wanted to create the same experience at Cabernet. Holley also continues to source his bread from the Buckhead Life-owned Buckhead Bread Co.
In the front of the house, general manager Jason Zaleski, who previously worked for Buckhead Life’s Atlanta Fish Market, executes the level of service you would expect of a “grand steakhouse.” Steaming towels are proffered after the mussels course, steaks for two are presented before carving and the staff slides half-moon banquette tables to the side as you shimmy into the booth. The only gaffe here was the need to flag the waiter on each of my visits to request the wine book containing dozens of big, bold California cabernets (among others) to pair with big, juicy steaks.
Most of Cabernet’s steaks come from Buckhead Beef and Prime Meats, and all are aged a minimum of 40 days. This is where you should spend your money at Cabernet, satisfying carnivorous cravings with no-frills, well-executed slabs of beef. Try a prime New York strip cooked to temperature with a nice sear (12 ounces, $34.95; 16 ounces, $39.95). Or, for those who like a well-seasoned filet (8 ounces, $24.95; 12 ounces, $34.95), make it an Oscar with a super lump crabcake and a thick, eggy bearnaise ($13.95 upcharge).
If you’re game for total steakhouse gluttony, persuade a companion (or three) to join you in ordering Cabernet’s signature 54-ounce rock-salt-herb-roasted ribeye for two ($42.95 per person). This whopping hunk of meat arrives in all its sizzling glory for approval before being sliced and portioned. Marinated in a mixture of rock salt, oyster sauce, pineapple juice, garlic, thyme and rosemary, the double-bone-in ribeye develops a dark crust permeated with salt and notes of caramel. Total delicious gluttony.
Go from glutton to mutton with the herb-crusted rack of lamb ($29.95). Coated in a crunchy Dijon and panko mixture, the frenched rack of New Zealand lamb glistens with its juices but packs a heavy measure of gaminess.
Cabernet offers traditional shareable steakhouse sides such as the layered potato gratin ($6.95) made with a thyme-garlic-shallot-infused cream, a watery creamed spinach ($5.95), cabbagey steamed Brussels sprouts ($6.95), and paprika-topped hash browns ($5.95) with a greasy tang (cooked at lunch?) sautéed with garlic and onions.
And for those who don’t have the beef lust, Cabernet offers seafood selections such as a deep dish of PEI mussels in a classic garlic-and-white-wine broth with a flourish of parsley ($8.95), an appetizer but a generous portion. Or try another appetizer, the yellow fin tuna sashimi ($12.95). Though the tuna flavor is milder than you desire, it showcases the sweet Asian-inspired sauce made with lemon grass, Coca-Cola, pineapple juice, garlic and ginger.
Here’s my advice: When in a classic American steakhouse, order steak. That’s Cabernet’s sweet spot. If you live in the area, this need not be just your daddy’s steakhouse.Cabernet Steakhouse 5575 Windward Parkway, Alpharetta. 770-777-5955 Food: Classic American steakhouse with seafood selections Service: High level Best dishes: Rock-salt-herb-roasted ribeye, other steaks, mussels Vegetarian selections: Salads and assorted sides Credit cards: All major credit cards Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Fridays, 5-11 p.m. Saturdays Children: Yes, if well-behaved Parking: A few self-park spots, mostly valet Reservations: Yes Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: Only in enclosed cigar bar Noise level: Moderate Patio: Yes with entry from exterior or through cigar bar Takeout: Yes