I’ve practically been in mourning since Steak and Ale’s closure in Middletown back in 2008. It was one of my favorite restaurants, chain or not. I loved everything about it, from the food to the atmosphere. I remember Bennigan’s too, and while they still have a loyal fan base, I always preferred their sister-restaurant Steak and Ale. With an article in the Asbury Park Press a few days ago chiming in about a Long Branch restaurateur who owns both brands looking for people to open franchises in New Jersey, I wanted to give my thoughts.
For starters, I am wearily ecstatic (I already professed my love several years ago). There have been rumors over the years about a return for Steak and Ale, but none have ever come to fruition. While there certainly was decent buzz with the publishing of that article, will it be enough to generate interest in someone who actually has the money and the vision?
As a history guy, I would love to see both return as carbon copies, but I understand this will probably not be feasible. What would be kept and what would be discarded? The entire mantra behind Steak and Ale from the very beginning was “great food at great prices”. In New Jersey, specifically Monmouth County, will this still be so? Will this be a place for everyone to eat or will they return as upscale with $50 steaks and price out the same people who the restaurant was originally intended for? There currently is one Bennigan’s located in Vineland, New Jersey (and 15 other locations in the United States). For that chain, there is a model to follow. But Steak and Ale after more than a decade of absence? That is going to take some work.
If this does happen, I would expect the menu to be updated. I also want to see the salad bar back in action. You remember it, don’t you? It was one of the highest quality salad bars I have ever seen and made the entire Steak and Ale experience complete. This little item has gone the way of the dinosaur over the last 10-20 years. I can count on one hand the amount of restaurants I have eaten at in that time which offer one. Ruby Tuesday is the only major chain (I believe) to still have that old relic of the past in operation. The English Tudor-style design should also be kept, as that was one of the chain’s signatures—you could spot it from a mile away.
We will keep an eye on any developments and await with bated breath news of some kind. Please, someone with money, make this happen!