Morton’s Steakhouse - Showing Their Age

280 N. High St. #100 Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 464-4442

Most of the meters downtown are only enforced until six. Some will surprise you, so check them before you leave your car. Your best bet is on the east-west streets. Or, you could valet. That would impress your date/potential business partners more anyway. And, you give those kids something constructive to do with their weekend nights. Besides, you’re going to Morton’s. You don’t want to get all disheveled on the walk from the car. Just go ahead and valet.

Once inside the cozy basement (new word, it’s on the first floor, not the basement) that is Morton’s, you will not believe you are in the same building as a couple of Clear Channel stations and countless linear feet of cubicle walls. The bar has that cigar-smoke-filled feeling without having that cigar-smoke-filled smell. It is worth spending the first drink of the night there. If you are there on Mortini Night, you might even find them passing around trays of bite-sized steak sandwiches. Even though you are bound to have steak for dinner, take at least one of the sandwiches. They aren’t very big, and they are just salty-savory enough for you to appreciate your drink even more, while your physiology kicks into eating mode.

Kill the rest of your martini or Kir Royal or whatever and get to the table. If you get one of the booths, the maitre d’ (Morton’s actually has a maitre d’: Jeff Bueche. He’s the guy in the tux, and he will get you WHATEVER you need to make your meal exactly what you want it to be. Just ask him.) will pull the whole table out for you, so you can get to the banquette without all that scooting. Then, the waiter will come by, probably to offer you a glass of Champagne or another cocktail, but, since you’ve already had one at the bar, you’ll probably want to tell the server to skip to the spiel. They have a kick-assed spiel at Morton’s.

The server strolls up, pushing a wheelie cart laden with all the raw materials for what will become the night’s dinner. There’s a huge, live lobster on one end, and an absurdly enormous chunk of marbleized raw meat on a T-bone on the other. As the presentation progresses, you discover that in between the wiggling crustacean and the 64 ounces of grain-fed meat are some giant shrimp that will be cocktailed or baked in a light crust and served Alexander style. There’s examples of every cut of meat and humongous side vegetables and the server clearly and cleverly explains how steaks are al á carte and sides are huge enough to share. He or she will almost certainly forewarn you to consider early whether you will have a soufflé for dessert. Those take a half an hour. Keep it in mind throughout the meal, because, even if you decide against the soufflé, you’re going to want something sweet, and having dessert on your mind will keep you from filling up on Filet Oscar and Lyonaise Potatoes.

If you want to have a white with your Lump Crabmeat Cocktail or Tuna Tartare, get a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc or something by the glass, because you’re going to want an entire bottle of red when the steaks start arriving. Something big, inky and tannic will do the trick, like a fruit forward Australian Shiraz or Napa Cab. Morton’s even has a couple of perfect-drinking-age Bordeauxs, and there is nothing like those five grapes when they are released from ten years or so of bottle captivity. You can almost hear it scream “meat!” as the cork is released. Get the bottle with the salad course. That way, you can have a couple sips to help the vinegar in the salad dressing cleanse your palate for the main event.

Morton’s is the only steakhouse in town that has their own meat producers. They make sure that everything is done to create the finest meat available. They monitor the farms, the feed grains and the animals, and they have a hand in the butchering and aging of the meat as well. That is something you can definitely taste. Morton’s steaks are wet-aged a little longer than most places age theirs (usually around 3-4 weeks), and there is really nothing like a good, well-marbled piece of meat on which you can really taste the age. Atrophy is delicious, and when you sear all of it into a piece of meat with outlandishly high temperatures, it makes for some of the best eating that nature, science and history have ever come up with.

A good thing to do at Morton’s is to order one Porterhouse and one Ribeye per two people at the table, that way, everyone can have a bite or two of all of the finest cuts from the highly-marbled rib steak to the lean and soft tenderloin. Ask the maitre d’ to have them cut the steaks in the kitchen and serve them family style, so you can grab a little bit of each cut. Try each cut by itself. Then try it with some of the wine. Then try each with a bit of asparagus or baked potato or sautéed mushroom or whichever of the many generous sides you decided upon. If you got a lobster tail or a whole lobster, grab some of that meat and some asparagus and potato and meat and wash it all down with a sip of juice. If that isn’t heaven, there isn’t one. Repeat as necessary.

Don’t, however, repeat so many times that you don’t have any room for at least a bite of whichever soufflé (Morton’s has four kinds) you chose and some crème brulee. It might also behoove you to have a Sambucca, a tawny or an XO along with your dessert (they are offered complimentary after your meal). While you are sitting there in well-sated, post-gustatory bliss, remember to get some smaller bills, so you have something to tip the valet.