Before I became a restaurateur with properties across the country, I was a young chef with only one thing on my mind: opening a Manhattan showcase for my Progressive American cuisine.
Although very much a part of the contemporary cooking scene, I was also still under the influence of my classical training and wanted a restaurant that mirrored the grand style of New York’s legendary French institutions like Lutece, where the great, internationally-recognized Chef Andre Soultner reigned. When I opened the first Aureole just a few steps off Madison Avenue in a turn-of-the-century brownstone (once home to Orson Welles, director and star of the legendary film, Citizen Kane), the intimacy of that townhouse, with its golden glow lighting and lush floral arrangements, became as much a part of the restaurant’s appeal as my signature cooking style.
When the time was right for me to expand into other locations, my experience at Aureole led me to seek out other architecturally notable buildings and historic properties that would add an extra dimension to my restaurants: Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C. is housed in the rebuilt United Brotherhood of Carpenters headquarters on the National Mall and offers a spectacular view of the majestic Capitol; Hotel Healdsburg is situated on the picturesque town plaza, named by Travel + Leisure magazine one of “America’s Most Beautiful Town Squares” for the stately charm of its redwood trees, fountains and copper roof gazebo; The Mystic Hotel in San Francisco is a rare Victorian-era property in the heart of the city’s busiest neighborhoods—Union Square, China Town, and the Financial District—and just one block off the fabled cable car line. And when I decided to relocate the original Aureole from my landmark townhouse on the Upper East Side, I moved into Mid-Town’s spectacular Bank of America tower at One Bryant Park, the world’s most environmentally-advanced skyscraper.
But perhaps the most interesting property surrounds Charlie Palmer Steak in Vegas. Once just a green valley stopover in the desert for Spanish traders heading West, Las Vegas (Spanish for “The Meadows”) became the largest city founded in the 20th Century with a storied past that encompasses late 19th Century precious metal mining, early 1930’s construction of Hoover Dam and the resultant population boom, and the debut of the country’s first topless showgirls in the 1957 show, Minsky’s Follies.
Today, Vegas retains its frontier town feeling, where the unexpected is still a daily occurrence, and this trailblazing sense of progress is what drew me to make an early investment by opening Charlie Palmer Steak in 1999. At that time, the city was closing out an exciting decade of mega-resort development, along with the completion of the $13 million Las Vegas Strip beautification project (76,000 palms, shrubs, flowering foliage and ground covers were planted), and it was obvious that the dining scene would be an increasingly important part of the revitalization.
With such a rich regional heritage, there was no shortage of historical locations. However, I was drawn to The Four Seasons Hotel for several significant reasons. First, it has a private entrance just a few steps off the city’s real heartbeat (the section of the Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip). Once called the Arrow Highway, the Boulevard was the first all-weather road connecting Los Angeles and Salt Lake City and is designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a National Scenic Byways “All-American Road,” a special category for routes that show a unique, intrinsic combination of natural, cultural, historical, recreational, scenic and archaeological qualities. The Four Seasons was also the first AAA Five Diamond hotel in the city—a rating so prestigious that it was central to the plot of the 2007 comedy heist film, Oceans 13. Most importantly, it was the first non- gaming hotel in the city, a perfect oasis for what I planned: a modern rendition of a Vegas classic—the American steakhouse for the next generation. I decided to lighten the dark wood décor and masculine vibe of the earlier steakhouses by constructing a much more open, warm-toned refuge just off the lobby of The Four Seasons Hotel. Its oak accents and subtle dining room welcome diners, along with cozy banquette seating and a discreet bar area. And the traditional steakhouse menu also underwent an upgrade by augmenting the typical slab-meat style and à la carte side ordering with composed dishes, fresh caught seafood dishes, and lighter fare to round out the offerings.
Our unique location is what balances the old and new, giving you the chance to relax in an intimate atmosphere, only steps away from the blaze of the iconic Vegas Strip. — Charlie
Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel 3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com