I was out in Denver recently for the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival and while we didn't have much time for anything extravagant in terms of fine meals (we did eat burgers at Cherry Cricket twice - we had to do that. The Cricket still has the best burgers I've ever had) we did go out to a restaurant that I've wanted to go to for quite sometime - Del Frisco's steak house. Actually, I'd been to the Del Frisco's in Orlando before. I was there on business about 10 years ago and my old friend from Colfax, IA, Pat Clarke, a long time television and radio sportscaster in the Orlando market, took me there for a wonderful meal one evening. I knew there were other Del Frisco's around the country, but I hadn't encountered one since my trip to Orlando years ago.
Well, it turns out that the Del Frisco's in Orlando is NOT the same Del Frisco's as the one in Denver. The Del Frisco's in Orlando is a privately owned restaurant while the Del Frisco's in Denver is part of a chain of 9 restaurants located in 7 states. The Del Frisco's chain is part of the Del Frisco's restaurant group based out of Wichita with the Sullivan's Steak House chain as part of that corporation. Well, I've eaten at a Sullivan's Steak House before (Cindy and I had a great meal nearly five years ago at the Sullivan's in downtown Chicago. Click here to see that entry.) The Del Frisco's and Sullivan's Steak Houses were once owned by the Lone Star Steak House corporation, but they were sold off in 2006.
The official name of the Del Frisco Steak House restaurants is "Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House." But it's just known as "Del Frisco's" or "Del's" to their fans. The one in Denver is located very near the Denver Tech Center area on the southeast side of the city (see map). The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was being held at the Marriott in the heart of the Denver Tech Center. We had a reservation for four of us for around 7 p.m. Of course, we got there well in advance, but like any high dollar restaurant they want to get your money at the bar. We had about a 30 minute wait for our table to open up.
Once we did get seated, it was in the heart of the main dining room loaded with dark wood paneling, sturdy tables with white linen table cloths and subdued lighting that was bright enough to be able to read our menus and the wine list. One of my colleagues, Jon, had taken a dealer of his from Seattle to Del Frisco's the night before. But he was more than enthusiastic to go back with my boss Daniel and our colleague John for dinner that night. Except he wasn't going to get the same thing he had the night before.
Daniel, Jon and I all perused the wine list and I was struck at how proud they were of they were of their wine selection. Similar to the experience we had at the Brooks Steak House in Denver last year, the prices of a bottle of wine were outrageously high. I don't know what it is about wine prices in Denver, but it seems that restaurants have extremely high prices of their wine. I saw a couple bottles I was familiar with on the wine list, but I was far from comfortable in ordering a bottle of wine. I let Daniel do that and he picked out a nice French red that I wasn't familiar with.
Steak is definitely the prominent item on the menu at Del Frisco's, including their signature "Wagyu" beef longbone steak. Wagyu beef is similar to Kobe beef, but is primarily grown in America and Australia. It sounded interesting, but the price - $89.95 - scared me off.
In addition to beef filets, rib eyes and porterhouse steaks, Del Frisco's offers a dry-aged pork porterhouse chop, a duck breast steak, prime lamb chops and seafood dishes. Their sides are served family style in large bowls and feature such items as jalapeno bacon mac and cheese, potatoes au gratin and maque choux corn - a Southern/Cajun style dish with corn, tomatoes, celery, bell peppers, onions and garlic.
The special that evening was a dry-aged bone-in beef tenderloin filet, but I decided to go with Del Frisco's dry-aged bone-in rib eye - rare. I got a side of sauteed mushrooms with it and a bleu cheese wedge salad. John and Daniel got the same steak as I - John ordered his medium-rare and Daniel went the rare route with me. Jon had the bone-in filet the night before and he ended up getting a couple of the prime lamb chops. We also ordered some of the jalapeno bacon mac and cheese, and potatoes au gratin for everyone to share.
The wedge salad was very good - a large quarter cut wedge with a generous topping of their creamy homemade bleu cheese dressing with bleu cheese crumbles and bacon bits on top. The lettuce was crisp and fresh. I was overly happy with the salad.
Our steaks and chops showed up with four waiters bringing each dinner to the table and simultaneously placing each plate on the table. My 22 oz. bone-in rib eye, still sizzling on the hot plate was placed in front of me. Wow! It looked huge! And the side of sauteed mushrooms that I ordered was way too much for just me. It became part of the family style, pass-the-bowl-around sides that we'd ordered for the table.
The first knife cut into the end of the steak yielded a tough cut of meat. I thought, "Uh oh." I hadn't had good luck with steaks in restaurants over the past few months. I've run into a lot of steaks with hidden gristle that just made the experience a hassle. But the first cut into the Del Frisco's bone-in rib eye was the worst part of the steak. It was the fatty end of the steak. After I got that all cut away, I took another cut into the steak. This time, it yielded a perfect red center piece of the steak, cool and tender. And the taste - Oh! My! God! The dry-aged beef was just out of this world - so tender and flavorful. The seasoning Del Frisco's uses on their steaks had a slightly salty taste along with a hint of pepper, garlic and other spices. It was a nice compliment to the taste of the steak.
The other guys raved about their food. Daniel and John loved their bone-in rib eye steaks, as well. John said, "This is one of the best steaks I've ever had." Jon also said that his prime lamb chops were "excellent". I'm not big on lamb, but I will say they looked great.
The sides with the meals were also very good. I really liked the jalapeno bacon mac and cheese. I thought, "Wow! This could be easy to make at home!" The jalapenos gave the dish a little kick, the bacon offered some great flavor and the three cheese sauce was outstanding. While the potatoes au gratin and the sauteed mushrooms were very good, the jalapeno mac and cheese was just killer.
Along with the great food, the service was top notch. We had people constantly checking with us for any needs - not at the point that it was intrusive to our dinner or conversation. But I've been to many places where the waiter takes your order, someone else brings your food to the table and they just forget about checking on your after that. Even the night manager came over to make sure that everything was to our expectation. Del Frisco's had great service.
Since my trip to Del Frisco's in Denver, I was discussing my meal there with a dealer of mine in St. Louis. He said, "Oh, man! You went to Del Frisco's? That's the best steak I've ever had!"
He said he has gotten the bone-in tenderloin filet (obviously not a special, but a regular item that Del Frisco calls a special) on each of his visits to the Del Frisco's in Dallas, Charlotte and Denver. He said, "It's, by far, the best steak I've ever had. The meat literally pulls apart, it's so tender."
Someone asked me recently what's the best steak I've ever had. A lot of people will say something along the lines of, "Well, the ones I grill at home are the best." But it's obvious they've never truly had dry or wet aged beef. You just can't get that from most butcher's. While I've eaten in some world class steak houses, I will have to say the steak I had at Del Frisco's is one of the best - if not THE best - I've ever had. While it wasn't cheap, it was certainly a treat to have experienced the steaks at Del Frisco's.