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At a catered dinner at private Boston-area prep school Milton Academy, Aramark Chef Mark Driscoll served carved-to-order boneless dry-aged ribeye with whipped horseradish mashed potato, roasted king oyster mushrooms and cippolini onions with a port wine reduction.

Steakhouse chic: It’s not just the steak, it’s the sizzle

Ideas and tips to bring that iconic steakhouse experience to your steak night with dazzling side dishes, upscale extras, common “mis-steaks” to avoid and global flavors to sink your teeth into. Plus, chefs’ favorite cuts and steak stories.

Steak night just feels special. The word “steakhouse” evokes images of fancy dining rooms bathed in candlelight and juicy, sizzling steaks bathed in herby butter. T-bones, filets, ribeyes…Why not add some shrimp, make it surf and turf…Sip a sparkly cocktail or mocktail and order that chocolate dessert ahead of time. And a lot of times, the steakhouse sides really steal the show. We’re talking potatoes many ways, old school appetizers, spicy surprises (read on for pineapple cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers), creamed spinach and more. Extra touches (compound butter is just the beginning) and global styles and flavors (Brazilian chimichurri that’s so bold it’s ridiculous). When you tie it all together with a little dim lighting and carving station, you’re giving your guests the ultimate gift: that special steakhouse feeling. 


This steak-tastic plate is part of Table 29’s steakhouse-themed pop-up concept at Sam’s Club Home Office in Arkansas

Steak night for everybody

HHS Vice President of Culinary Operations Marta Hernandez points out that not everyone is lucky enough to be well-versed in that special steakhouse feeling. HHS’ recurring pop-up steak concept, Chophouse, priced at $12.99 for a steak and two sides is a not a major money maker (though it sells out every time), and there’s a reason.

“We don’t do it to ‘make a killing,’” Hernandez says. “We’re doing it to offer the opportunity to the customer who might not have the opportunity to go to a steakhouse and have that $100 dinner. Even at steakhouse chains, it can get expensive. What I like about Chophouse is that doctors eat it, but my orderlies and caregivers can have it, too. The auxiliary team can afford to have it.”

Everyone looks forward to it, and customers following a paleo or keto diet really love Chophouse, Hernandez has found. And those who value local, humanely raised, quality pasture-raised beef also give the thumbs up. HHS partners with ranches where regenerative farming is in action, slaughter is humane and HHS can get deals on things like trim cuts that aren’t uniform in size.

Hernandez’s favorite cut of steak is influenced by memory, and she can’t choose just one.

“My family were immigrants, and we didn’t have a whole lot, but my dad was a big steak guy,” she recalls. “My favorite cut is ribeye. But also, I’m Hispanic, and from the Caribbean, so I love a skirt steak on the grill with chimichurri.”


Don’t let the satisfied, stuffed-with-steak smiles of this group fool you; they’re just gathering their energy for the brownie sundae building competition at the end of every monthly Steak Night by Sodexo at the University of Findlay.

Iconic and emerging steakhouse sides

Iceberg lettuce wedge salad, baked potato, creamed spinach, green beans, shrimp cocktail…these sides will always find a home in the steakhouse. But according to Methodist Hospital Atascosa’s HHS Culinary Director Kayla Martinez, “if you haven’t had pineapple cream cheese stuffed poppers, you ain’t living.” We need to get on that! Martinez serves the poppers as part of an epic dish she called T-Bone Dream, which also goes well with potatoes, which are smothered in butter and herbs.


Twice a semester, Baylor Dining by Aramark hosts Chef’s Table, available to any student with a meal plan, first come, first serve to 20 lucky students. The event fills up in about two minutes!

Extras and appetizers

BYO Steak Tips at Bridgewater State University makes steakhouse chic customizable. “This concept drives our guests to create a meal from start to finish, as fun as they want it to be,” says Sodexo Executive Chef Joseph Pina. “It’s all the feelings of being in a chic steakhouse, right here on Bridgewater campus.”

The “build” in “BYO” starts with choosing some sides: Mini creamer (aka peewee) potatoes with chive butter, Boursin cheese creamed spinach and white cheddar mac ‘n cheese with caramelized onion and bacon. Next, steak toppings: Caramelized onions, seared baby portabella mushrooms, sauteed bell peppers and roasted garlic. Next, the BYO process continues with the choice of a special sauce (bourbon-brown sugar barbecue sauce, roasted garlic herb butter or smokey chipotle-honey glaze).

Baylor Dining by Aramark hosts Chef’s Table, an event that fills up fast. Before the salad and entrée courses get underway, 20 lucky students are treated to a cool appetizer bread boards, including a honey-sweet butter board, a savory garlic-herb butter board and chocolate rye bread. 

At the University of Southern Indiana, steakhouse-style appetizers really pop when the main course is filet mignon, thanks to Sodexo Executive Chef II Michael Natoli. From left to right: Lemongrass beef tenderloin tips on baby romaine; citrus swordfish skewers with pomegranate dipping sauce; fried artichoke hearts with saffron aioli; sweet potato brochettes with chimichurri sauce; Serrano ham-wrapped shrimp.


At the University of Alabama Birmingham, “Steak Night Plus” means one meal swipe plus $10, and students are digging into ribeyes, baked potatoes and asparagus.

Cutting-edge global flavors and styles

Flavors can come to steak in many ways: Rubs, marinades, even style of cooking (taste that char grill!), then comes sauces (hello, chimichurri) and butter…chef’s kiss. And when chefs think beyond the usual borders, interesting things can happen.

At Tulane University, a Brazilian Steak Night by Simplified transformed the Sodexo Simplified (allergy safe) concept into a Brazilian steakhouse with Tulane Chef Gio Madrid and team firing up the menu with pernil, arroz branco, smashed red potatoes, aquafaba mojo mayo, garlic greens, hearts of palm salad and chimichurri. The live fire brought the drama but it was definitely the chef who brought the flavor.

At Regis College for an upcoming student appreciation night, Aramark Chef Michael McCutcheon and team created a clever frame-by-frame remake of classic steakhouse Americana seen through an Asian lens: The steak is cooked Korean BBQ style; bearnaise sauce becomes gochujang bearnaise; the creamed spinach is creamed with coconut milk; veggies are kimchi-style fried cabbage, pickled carrots, scallions and ginger sauce replaces A1. Genius!

Cacao was the not-so-secret ingredient for HHS Culinary Director Rob Wilson of Palestine Regional Medical Center in Texas. His cacao-encrusted beef tenderloin also gets a deep, complex flavor from ancho chiles, making a physician recruitment lunch one to remember.

Wagyu steak frites by HHS Executive Chef Karle Johnson stand out with housemade ginger steak sauce and housemade curry ketchup. The normally French fave becomes something else entirely with these little shifts. 

5 “Mis-steaks” to Avoid with Chef Danny Concepcion of Sam’s Club Home Office

-Don’t grill a steak that’s too cold or (gasp!) frozen. 

-Don’t forget to bring your steak up to room temperature (about an hour) before cooking.

-Don’t add room temp or warm butter to a resting, cooked steak. Adding cold butter ensures the solids won’t separate and you’ll get the optimum buttery flavor.

-Don’t marinate a really good steak (prime and above, like wagyu, dry-aged, etc.)

-Don’t add too much to a steak, but don’t be afraid to break this rule with caramelized onions or Oscar style (asparagus, crab meat and hollandaise).

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