By CHARLES FERRUZZA
The party's over. The big spending party, that is.
The burgundy awning that covered the front door to one of the costliest beef emporiums in Kansas City has been unceremoniously removed, leaving a forlorn looking entrance where Morton's The Steakhouse used to be.
Early last summer, well before the national economy started stinking like an old tuna sandwich, rumor around town was that Chicago-based Morton'swas planning to shutter its Crown Center location. Morton's had a solid reputation for thick, tender and juicy beef dinners, which were particularly wonderful if some big spender was taking you to dinner on his or her tab. This restaurant was serving a $60 steak dinner eight years ago.
The rumors proved to be early but true: Morton's closed on Sunday. Less than 24 hours later, the Kansas City location had been expunged from the Morton's Web site. Roger Drake, the chain's Executive Communications Officer, issued this statement:
Based on a strategic assessment of trends, Morton's The Steakhouse has
closed its Kansas City location on November 9, 2008. The Morton's restaurant team in Kansas City has been working diligently to improve operating results but has not been able to reach the base financial targets needed to support continued operation.
Additionally, Morton's has a signed lease to open a new restaurant in Leawood/Overland Park, KS and we have not yet determined an opening date
for that new location but we do believe it will open sometime during 2009.
No opening date yet? That sounds promising. But maybe Leawood will be a better fit for the high-priced restaurant, although knowing how tight-fisted that "upscale" suburban community can be, I wouldn't put money on that bet.
Still, the Crown Center location was probably a gamble from the first.
The windowless space, decorated in the spirit of an early 20th century gentlemen's club, was physically removed from the other Crown Center restaurants across Grand Boulevard. Its closest neighbor was The American, which was also a serious rival for the deep-pocket clientele.
Morton's was also surrounded by less costly but very good steak joints: Benton's Steak & Chop House at the top of the Westin hotel, City Tavern in the Crossroads -- even the original Hereford House, prior to that unfortunate little explosion last month. There are also steaks to be found in the Power & Light District, at Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge or Ted's Montana Grill. A lot of beef vendors were staking their claim, as it were, in the heart of old cowtown and Morton's, in my opinion, had priced itself right out of the marketplace.
A friend who once treated me to a lavish meal there was crazy about the place -- which did have exquisite service and extraordinary dinners -- for a long time.
"But when I lost my expense account," he sighed, "that was that."