First Look: STK
Steaks and stilettos at Midtown's new steakhouse for womenFriday January 6, 2012 09:00 am EST
A few months back, the Atlantic published this long, sprawling cover story about a disruption in the "romantic market." The short version: Career-minded, single women are quickly becoming more successful in the workplace than men — a single twenty-something woman living in a city now makes nearly 10 percent more than the men in her same bracket — and are also increasingly uninterested in marrying the less successful men available to them. What's this stiletto-wearing bachelorette of our time to do? The people who dreamed up STK in Manhattan a few years ago would like you to think that she's headed to a steakhouse designed with a woman in mind. The marketing gamble has apparently worked, rapidly expanding the chain into other cities. The latest landed on the corner of Peachtree and 12th streets in Atlanta.
When it opened last month, I naturally called the most successful unmarried woman I know and asked her to go. When we arrived late on a recent Friday night, the place was dialed tight into the "steakhouse for women" marketing message from the thin letters of the lipstick-red sign to the abstract sculpture flowing above the bar. The speakers were blaring "Material Girl." The booths are low, rounded white leather: all the better for people-watching. The space is airy and contemporary feeling, with none of that old, stuffy private steakhouse vibe. The whole ensemble feels a bit out of the box, but let me assure you that it was a very expensive box. I'm not sure how more over the top you could take the concept. Hand out blazers with shoulder pads at the door? Put up a flashing sign that telegraphs "Not Your Daddy's Steakhouse?" That's actually its slogan.
The menu takes some divergences from the typical bigger-is-better steakhouse menu, too. You can order absolutely tiny steaks — a 6-ounce filet or a 6-ounce skirt — that they describe as petite. Nothing is so gauche as to be labeled "light," but a number of seafood options (tuna tartare with roasted pineapple, lump crab and melon) clearly have a low-fat concept in mind. There's a California-heavy wine list that provides ample opportunity to blow plenty of cash, but the emphasis is clearly on the cocktail list, which looks like it was composed by watching reruns of "Sex and the City." There is literally a cocktail named "Not Your Daddy's Manhattan," which is, more or less, your daddy's Manhattan with sweet, vanilla-tinged liquor to change the profile.
We tried out the pear and endive salad. It was fine, though a tad overdressed. My date liked it more than I did. At our server's suggestion, we tried the mushroom pot pie, which was decadently creamy and packed with very fresh-tasting chanterelles. And the steaks, it must be said, deserve the spotlight treatment that they get on the menu. Both that we ordered — a rib-eye and filet — came exactly as we requested. The sear on the rib-eye was just the right thing for that fatty cut. The filet was as tender a cut of meat as one might ever hope for.
With the bar packed, the music loud, a perfect steak, and a low, white leather booth to take it all in from, STK feels like an alternate universe where the recession never happened. The pricey check will remind you that it did indeed happen, but before that moment, this feels like a place where all the female empowerment pop tunes of the '80s actually came true. Forgive me for going on and on about the marketing of this place, but there already are great places to get incredible steaks in Atlanta. STK is selling something else and that thing, whatever it is, goes especially well with a tall pair of heels. My successful friend? She loved the place.