All The Details About The Return Of Steak And Ale

Steak and Ale's return is finally upon us in 2023, whether you knew they were planning a resurrection or not. You may not remember who took you out for that tasty prime rib at Steak and Ale back in the '90s, but you certainly remember the location and the food. Steak and Ale's Tudor-style architecture stood out among the cookie-cutter restaurants in any city. It was a cozy place that you went to for a special date or occasion, and the food was always excellent. Steak and Ale came to be in the late '60s and, within just a few years, had over 100 locations (via Los Angeles Times). For a while, they were everywhere. But, by 2008, the few remaining restaurants mysteriously closed, leaving behind only empty Tudor-style shells and fond memories of its amazing food (via AmericaJR).

The Steak and Ale comeback has actually been in the works since 2015. Since then, a few Steak and Ale classics — like Hawaiian Chicken and the Kensington Club — have remained on sister restaurant Bennigan's menu, keeping Steak and Ale on our tongues, as well as in our memories. Now, with a firm franchise investment from Endeavor Properties, 15 Steak and Ale locations will reopen in six states (via Restaurant Business). While there will be plenty of old favorites, like the famous salad bar, there will also be some exciting new menu items and changes to make the establishment more modern. Here's everything we know about the legendary restaurant's return.

Steak and Ale offered a signature dining experience

Once upon a time, there weren't any restaurant chains to bridge the gap between fine dining and fast food. Norman Brinker helped to change that by creating Steak and Ale in 1966. He would repeat his success with other casual, mid-range restaurants like Bennigan's and Chili's in the '70s, but Steak and Ale will always remain his original dining venture. (via Los Angeles Times).  

The Tudor-style interior and exterior wasn't the only thing that stood out when you visited a Steak and Ale. According to the Los Angeles Times, a cheerful waiter would immediately greet you and introduce themselves. In 1991, Brinker told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Your objective, once the customer is there, is to give them such a good experience, they'll want to come again." He also said you only had 45 minutes to do so. After ordering, you'd be invited to do something completely new while you waited for your food to arrive: Help yourself to the salad bar.

Some popular menu items included herb-roasted prime rib, grilled chicken pasta, and filet mignon. Several lunch menu items cost as low as $6.99, and it was also possible to get wine samples for $0.25. The honey wheat rolls were also a hit because they came with butter that tasted similar to ice cream (via AmericaJR). These are among the dishes that people who await the return of Steak and Ale crave.

Steak and Ale mysteriously disappeared in 2008

At the height of Steak and Ale's popularity, it had around 300 restaurants across the U.S. (via Restaurant Business). However, by 2008, that number had dwindled to only 58. The final closings came as a surprise to location owners across the country when S&A Restaurant Corporation (a subsidiary of Metromedia Restaurant Group) sent an e-mail on July 29, 2008 explaining that they'd filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. As a result, the company had to sell off all of its assets to pay its creditors (via The Dallas Morning News). Thousands of people were suddenly without jobs with no warning.

The Dallas Morning News said that, two months before the bankruptcy, the president of Metromedia quit because he couldn't agree with the owners on a "strategic direction for the company." However, even insiders who knew that the company was in financial trouble didn't expect the bankruptcy announcement, as top officials were saying they were working on a plan to straighten out finances. In relation to the closings, Metromedia said the economy just wasn't great for casual-dining restaurants, so even companies that had been around a long time were struggling to survive.

The company that owns Bennigan's owns Steak and Ale

Steak and Ale continues to be owned by the same company as the Irish-themed home of the Monte Cristo sandwich: Bennigan's. In February of 2015, nearly seven years after Steak and Ale and Bennigan's tanked in the same bankruptcy debacle, Paul Mangiamele decided to buy the establishments. While some of Bennigan's locations survived the 2008 bankruptcy, no Steak and Ales were left. When Mangiamele made the purchase through Legendary Restaurant Brands LLC, he had been the CEO of Bennigan's since 2011. Mangiamele told The Dallas Morning News that he had fallen in love with Bennigan's while helping the restaurant to make its "epic comeback." On the Bennigan's website Mangiamele is quoted as saying, "Many people told me, nobody's ever been able to come back from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. My answer us! Because when you have passionate people that care about the brands, that remember them fondly and a consumer that already knows and loves the brand...well...I mean there's just no stopping us."

Bennigan's rebirth is already underway. It has nine full-sized U.S. locations, along with four smaller-scale Bennigan's On The Fly and 15 international locations. According to The Dallas Morning News, it's been a slow go finding management buyouts and creating prototypes for everything to be just right. According to Bennigan's, the total number of Bennigan's either open or under development as of 2023 is 225, which is no small endeavor. And Steak and Ale restaurants are soon to follow.

Steak and Ale's return has been in the works for eight years

Since all the Steak and Ale locations closed down suddenly during the 2008 bankruptcy, bringing them back from the dead has been a little more challenging than resurrecting Bennigan's. When Paul Mangiamele decided to buy the two companies in 2015, he planned to get both restaurants back and better than ever. According to Restaurant Business, the first new location to open its doors since 2008 will be in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville, Minnesota.

While Bennigan's has already been undergoing a modern transformation, it's taken more time to get a 57-year-old restaurant in shape for 2023. Mangiamele has kept a running update on the progress in the Steak and Ale's Comeback Facebook group. In 2014, he said, "The epic comeback of Steak and Ale has taken longer than anyone could imagine. No one is more frustrated about this than my team and me. But let me assure you of one thing: The new S&A will be a masterpiece! Everything about our new prototype, menu, and service is so spectacular."

Mangiamele feels like lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic has given more insight into creating a value-focused restaurant. In an interview, Mangiamele said, "We wanted to keep the same vibe, the same ambiance, the same energy." However, of the Steak and Ale return, he says that all of that is "hard to replicate and still keep the integrity of the brand sound" (via Restaurant Business).

Several Steak and Ale classics have been on Bennigan's menu since it reopened

If you're lucky enough to live in a city that already has a Bennigan's, you've likely noticed a whole subset of Steak and Ale items on the menu. They're listed as "The Original Steak and Ale Classics." These are Steak and Ale menu items that are unchanged from the favorites you enjoyed in the Tudor-style restaurant. 

Smothered Chicken is one of three Steak and Ale classic menu items you can order at Bennigan's. It's chicken covered with ale onions, merlot mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, and melty cheddar cheese. Sides include garlic mashed potatoes and maple roasted Brussels sprouts. The Kensington Club should not be missed. This menu item includes grilled sirloin steak marinated in the secret Kensington sauce containing wine, juice, and soy sauce (via Biz Journal). Like the Smothered Chicken, it comes with garlic mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Last but not least, the Hawaiian Chicken features chicken breasts marinaded in a Hawaiian-inspired sauce and topped with grilled pineapple. 

If you want to be at the first Steak and Ale reopening, you'll probably have to go to Mexico

While Steak and Ale plans to reopen in the U.S. in 2023, the first Steak and Ale return is supposed to be in Cancun, Mexico. So, if you're a big enough Steak and Ale fan, you'll want to plan your Mexican vacation to coincide with the opening. Since the location is going to be on the beach, it will be quite an experience (via Bennigan's).

In fact, in 2016, Steak and Ale owner Paul Mangiamele announced an exclusive Master Development Agreement to bring multiple Steak and Ale restaurants to Mexico. He was looking for the right partner for the first reopenings, and he found one in Mexico. Ultimately, the plan is to open around 75 locations around Mexico, focusing largely on the Mexico City area at first. Emilio Orozco de la Garza, the managing partner of ONBD Group, said, "There's a gap in Mexico City's explosive dining scene for a polished-casual steakhouse that showcases Old World charm in a new and innovative way" (via Restaurant News).

Steak and Ale will return to the U.S. in 2023 with 15 locations

Steak and Ale owner Paul Mangiamele has been working for eight years to prove that Steak and Ale would be a worthy investment for the right operators. The priority has been to find quality franchisees who can bring the restaurant back as strong as before. Mangiamele says, "It's going to be slow, it's going to be deliberate, and again, I've been very stingy with where we're going with it" (via Restaurant Business).

In January of 2023, Steak and Ale finally made a deal with Kansas-based Endeavor Properties to reopen the first 15 Steak and Ale locations in the U.S. Endeavor has decided to target six states in its initial Steak and Ale return, the majority of which are in the Midwest. According to Restaurant Business, you should expect to find the first reopenings in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The concern is how it will fare competitively with other steakhouses in these areas, such as Texas Roadhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Fogo de Chão. Despite the rising cost of beef, Restaurant Business says these steak restaurants have had excellent sales and have continued to expand.

To remain competitive, some Steak and Ale returns won't be traditional

Reopening Steak and Ale when beef prices are high and some restaurants are struggling to stay afloat certainly presents a challenge. So, the company that owns both Bennigan's and Steak and Ale is using the currently-open Bennigan's restaurants to help with projections for what to expect from Steak and Ale. However, the average check at Steak and Ale will be $40 to $50, which is twice the cost of the average check at Bennigan's, so the projections on how it will fare are speculative.

The concepts for the reopening of Steak and Ale have been developed alongside Bennigan's and its scaled-down version Bennigan's On The Fly. Learning from what has and hasn't worked there, the company has decided not to open all Steak and Ale locations as full-sized restaurants. While some of the reopened Steak and Ales will inhabit second-generation sites and still look much like the Tudor-style restaurants from the past, others will have less traditional formats. We'll be seeing some open as ghost kitchens and host kitchens, only available through delivery apps (via Restaurant Business). Meanwhile, other Steak and Ales will likely open up as hotel restaurants.

Nostalgia runs high among Steak and Ale fans

When Paul Mangiamele first created the Steak and Ale's Comeback Facebook group in August of 2013, people immediately started nominating their cities for a Steak and Ale location. When asked about their favorite memories at the restaurant, it was often about the great food or the occasions they celebrated there. Former customers are salivating over memories of menu items ranging from burgundy mushrooms and lobster, to chateaubriand and French onion soup.

The ambiance of the restaurant also made it a great spot for special occasions. It was the type of restaurant where people would go for special dates, to propose, or as a pre-prom meal. One customer said that it was the first place they ate as a married couple, still dressed in their wedding attire. Thus, they carried on the tradition every anniversary thereafter. It was also the perfect place for other special occasions, like birthdays, Mother's Day, or Christmas Eve. One person even said she has happy memories of meeting her biological father there for the first time (via Facebook).

The new Steak and Ale will offer old favorites

Some parts of Steak and Ale have to remain for its comeback, or it wouldn't be the same. The chain will keep its logo, rustic colors, and intimate atmosphere. It will also keep the vast majority of the signature menu items and trademark menu items people remember fondly (via Restaurant Business). The plan is for Steak and Ale to continue to be the standard-setting restaurant for affordable steak. However, the new version will likely be more casual than the previous version (via Bennigan's).

In order to determine which menu items should return to Steak and Ale, Paul Mangiamele took to Facebook to ask people their favorite dishes. Nearly 400 comments later, there were some clear standouts. Among the former menu items that people remember most fondly are the herb-roasted prime rib, the Kensington Club, and the Hawaiian Chicken. So, you'll definitely see them on the menu again. Others that will definitely stay include the lobster bisque and the warm brown bread (via Bennigan's).

There will also be new and exciting changes

Steak and Ale 2.0 won't be stuck in the past. To move forward into the 21st century, there will have to be changes. While the chain will keep some iconic elements, the look will ultimately be contemporary (via Bennigan's). The restaurants will also be smaller at 6,000 square feet instead of 10,000 square feet (via Restaurant Business). Some changes will happen with the presentation of your favorites, while other changes will be related to new menu offerings as a whole.

Of all the items Steak and Ale had to offer, former customers on Facebook are most nostalgic for the wonders of the salad bar. Practically every other person recalling what they liked the most about the previous incarnation of Steak and Ale mentions the salad bar, which was a novel innovation when the restaurant first opened in the '60s. The salad bar will be showing up in your restaurant in its original form (via Bennigan's). However, franchisees will be allowed to individualize the salad bar to add "local flavors" (via Bennigan's).

Restaurant Business says that another new feature will be a prime-rib carving station. There will also be some fusion foods and craft beers on the menu, as well as local wine selections (via Bennigan's). And, just like Bennigan's has Steak and Ale items on its menu, Steak and Ale will likely borrow a few of Bennigan's too.

Steak and Ale has been very selective of who it will allow to operate one of its new restaurants

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for the Steak and Ale return has been finding the right investors to own a franchise. Paul Managiamele says he's been "bombarded" with people contacting him about owning a location. Everyone wants a piece of the nostalgia. Unfortunately, not everyone has enough money to make it work, or don't have a location that will align with Mangiamele's vision. With Mangiamele putting his own money into the endeavor, he wants to ensure that the foundations for the restaurant are solid. He says, "You've gotta be very disciplined, especially as a franchisor." Thus, his search for the right franchisees has "been very slow but very deliberate and hopefully very intelligent" (via Restaurant Business). 

Mangiamele said, "Right now we are looking from North Carolina to Oklahoma believe it or not...Oklahoma City. I would love to find really solid franchisees or investors in Oklahoma, so we can continue to grow our brand north of Dallas." So, if you live in one of their targeted areas and have been missing the restaurant — or wanting to try it for the first time — get ready, because soon you may actually get your chance to visit a Steak and Ale.