Fine dining restaurants across Los Angeles faced particularly difficult challenges during the last year. Rather than attempt to adapt their menus and preparations to a takeout and delivery format, many quickly folded in the early months of the lockdown.
Others chose to close temporarily, attempting to wait out the odd wave of restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining as the virus surged locally in the last few months.
Downtown Los Angeles proved to be an unusually difficult locale, with offices empty through the week and theaters, museums and concert halls all dark on the weekends.
Chef Joachim Splichal and his Patina Group’s impressive portfolio of restaurants — many of them located in or near cultural institutions shuttered by the pandemic — struggled predictably with a number of tough choices, including the closure of its Patina location at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Happily, for Downtown steak lovers, Splichal’s Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse seems to have weathered the storm. The elegant shrine to luxurious bovine bounty had been closed entirely for on-site guests since the last cessation of outdoor dining in late November. On March 11, Nick + Stef’s reopened its expansive patio to outdoor diners, just a week before LA County managed to enter the Red Tier of state-mandated pandemic restrictions, which now allows restaurants to welcome guests indoors, though at only 25% of their legal capacity.
For Nick + Stef’s, the return to indoor seating will be gradual and mindfully careful.
“The safety of our guests and employees is the priority,” said executive chef Megan Logan.
“That said, given the time and attention the restaurant has given to the design and adaptation of their lovely patio seating area, who needs to go inside?”
The patio’s reopening coincided with a spate of colder weather and a bit of rain, but rest assured, the charming dining tent is entirely cozy, heated and weather-proof.
“It allows a guest the top-tier experience, an authentic Nick + Stef’s experience, rain or shine,” Logan said.
A native of Thousand Oaks, Logan attended the Cordon Bleu culinary program in Pasadena, following high school, after which she joined Splichal’s Patina Group. She’s been there since.
Logan has been running the show at Nick + Stef’s for the last 10 years.
“My entire culinary career has been with the Patina Group,” Logan said. “I was at the Patina restaurant at the (Walt Disney) Concert Hall for four or five years. I did a little bit of catering, the Hollywood Bowl and a couple of the other fine dining restaurants, but most of my career has been here at Nick + Stef’s.”
Logan reflected on her experience with the storied restaurant group.
“So many of the great chefs in LA started with Patina. That’s what I think is so great about the company as well: There’s so much opportunity throughout the company for growth and for learning aspects of the business because of all the different formats it has. For me, working under and being close enough to Joachim Splichal, I was given those opportunities and chances to prove myself.”
Ultimately the move to the steakhouse was natural.
“I always worked a lot with the meat. I’ve always worked more on the meat station and the butchering. I’ve always been more drawn to that aspect of the kitchen. Start to finish, butchering to cooking.”
The prime-cut steaks at Nick + Stef’s are dry-aged on premises for 28 days and no longer.
“We found it to be the ideal amount of days for our dry-aged flavor. If you go longer, there’s less yield,” Logan said.
One of the pandemic pivots at Nick + Stef’s was offering its prime cuts for sale on its website as an online butcher shop.
“Especially at the beginning (of the lockdown), it was very popular,” she said.
The butcher shop is “on pause,” but it may return. For now, Logan and her team are focused on the reboot of the patio for outdoor diners.
Of course the steaks form the core of the classic menu being offered on the patio. The dry-aged prime options include the 16-ounce New York ($68); a 16-ounce ribeye ($72); the 26-ounce bone-in rib chop ($96); and the indulgent 48-ounce tomahawk, which feeds two to three hungry carnivores ($175). There is a Japanese wagyu New York cut ($89) as well as an American wagyu ribeye from Snake River Farms in Idaho ($79).
Classic accompaniments include the jumbo lump Maryland crab cake with whole-grain mustard sauce and scallion puree ($25), the Caesar salad ($15) or the iceberg wedge with bacon and pickled onions ($14).
Signature custom cocktails include a pomegranate martini, a classic side car, and the ambrosia mule featuring ambrosia aperitivo with vodka and ginger beer and lime juice.
By the way, there’s also an Easter dinner package at Nick + Stef’s, available for preorder and pickup only. Order by March 30 for pickup on April 2. The Easter package serves a full dinner for four people, with a choice of herb-roasted prime rib or leg of lamb. Caesar salad, tri-color peewee potatoes, asparagus with lemon zest and spiced baby carrots round out the dinner, with a key lime tart for dessert. Here’s a scoop: Get your order in by March 24 and receive a complimentary bottle of cabernet sauvignon.
“We’re looking forward to having some life come back into this area, seeing people get back to work,” Logan said. “We’re excited for that. Overall, we’re excited to welcome the Bunker Hill community back.”
Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse
330 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles