Last night, a group of us went to The Golden Steer.
Located west of The Strip on Sahara Blvd., The Golden Steer is Las Vegas’ quintessential old-world steakhouse. First opened in 1958, it was the regular hangout for members of the famed Rat Pack. Frank, Sammy, Dean, and their pals even had their own plush red-leather booth near the front entrance (which still remains the most requested table in the house).
As expected, the background music inside the dining room was exclusively from the mid-1950′s. The set list included popular tunes we’ve all heard countless times before on hundreds of occasions. Old-fashioned steakhouses, traditional Italian restaurants, and other upscale venues catering to older clientele (with money) usually pipe in a steady stream of these old standards as house background music, even though the legends who first performed the songs are long gone. A cynic might say these are songs by dead people for the dying.
This article is about tipping. When to tip. When not to tip. And how much.
It’s also about tipping protocol in what one might call “extenuating circumstances.”
The last few times I dined out at fancy restaurants, this very subject came up.
There’s actually some debate as to how much of a tip to leave when wine is served, particularly when the bottle ordered is very expensive.
Before going into considerable detail, let’s agree on a few facts. The customary tip for service in any restaurant is somewhere between 15 to 20 percent. Perhaps a little higher, if you’re dining alone and/or received exceptional service.
But what about when you order a $50 bottle of wine? Or, a $100 bottle? Or, a $500 bottle? How much should you tip on a $1,000 bottle? And finally, what about those elite wine drinkers who order $10,000 bottles of wine? Don’t tell me the expected tip is always 20 percent across-the-board. It can’t be. Can it?
One of our favorite restaurants has opened its second Las Vegas location. Tonight was the grand opening.
Fleming’s Steakhouse, of Summerlin fame, opened up location number two on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, in Town Square.
We were among the first diners to arrive this evening and were the first to pay, which I suppose officially makes us Customer Number 1.
Part 1 — A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Famous Penn Brewery
Part 2 — Dining With the Weinstocks (Grand Concourse Restaurant)
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh.
This city was pretty much a hellhole a century ago. Once cloistered with gritty steel mills and coal depots, giant smokestacks barreled out a toxic blanket of blackness, gradually turning day into night, transforming any human lung within breathing distance into something that resembled a charred Brillo pad.
Today, Pittsburgh is a very different city. A much cleaner city. A city completely transformed. Virtually unrecognizable in many ways from its early heyday as a buckle on the rust belt, what once was an industrial junction of steel, coal, and railroads is now a major center for banking, medicine, and higher education.
Yet even now Pittsburgh retains a core toughness about it, rooted in the rocky cliffs towering over the city’s three rivers and picturesque downtown, capped with fresh snow in early December. It’s a city of contrasts — of tradition and innovation, of rivers and bridges, of long drives and short walks.
Pittsburgh’s also home to countless local breweries. One of the oldest is the famous Penn Brewery, perched atop a hill in the historic working-class district of Deutschtown, once the home to thousands of struggling steel mill workers which ultimately helped spark the formation and eventual power of trade unions in America.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
That’s really an open-ended question, isn’t it?
Most of us would probably answer an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant with our family or friends, perhaps on a special occasion. That seems to be the most logical answer.
But ask Terry Anderson about his most memorable meal. For those who don’t remember that name, Anderson was held captive for nearly six years in Lebanon by Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group. While held prisoner inside a dark room most of the time, he was fed a horrible diet. Anderson lost a third of his body weight while being a hostage.
When Anderson was finally set free, he was flown to a U.S.A.F. base in Germany, while in transit back to the United States. At the time he landed, Anderson had not enjoyed what we would call a “normal meal” in six years.
Anderson was led into a cafeteria. A chef was summoned to cook whatever Anderson wanted. Imagine what that instant must have been like for him. Think of being denied what you enjoy most. What would you demand in that situation? What would you hungry for the most? Can anyone even contemplate making such a decision, unless you’ve lived through that kind of hell for six long years?
Even so — what do you think Anderson ordered? Go ahead, take a wild guess.
I’ll return to this question (and answer) at the end of today’s article.