THE COOL KIDS
Celeb Hangout Catch Is Making the Steakhouse Insta-Worthy
The owners of the Catch restaurant group are trying to give the traditional steakhouse a glamorous makeover.
When opening a new restaurant, Mark Birnbaum knows that the devil is in the details—and that’s one of the things he enjoys most about the process.
He is one of the three owners of the Catch Hospitality Group, and is more involved in the details of each new opening than you might expect from someone running a food empire—and that includes the company’s sixth restaurant and first steakhouse, Catch Steak, which opened on September 18 in New York’s Meatpacking District. It comes less than a year after the opening of Catch Las Vegas in the Aria Hotel.
The bi-level, 15,000 square foot space in Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel, which was formerly home to Mario Batali’s La Sirena, is a mere three blocks from the original Catch location.
“It’s like the second I think that we’re too big or too busy or we’ve got enough employees to do that job, that’s the time where we suffer and become passé or go out of business,” says Birnbaum. “I’m afraid of everything falling apart at any time.”
For that reason, he approaches each restaurant opening like it’s his first. That’s why he’s always searching for and documenting ideas and inspiration on his frequent travels, whether it be at a famous restaurant in Italy or a Marriott business hotel—if he sees a good idea, he documents it.
“I try to travel to new places as much as I can to different parts of not just the country but also the world, and I’m always searching [for ideas],” he says. “Whether I’m traveling or my [business] partner’s traveling, we’re texting each other like, ‘Show me pictures, show me videos.’”
Birnbaum says that he and business partner Eugene Remm send photos or videos to each other and to their front of house staff, executive team, or kitchen almost daily, whether it’s a cocktail, a coffee, a dessert presentation or a table-side Caesar salad.
When it came to opening Catch Steak, Birnbaum once again channeled his love of travel to inspire everything from the interior design to the menu. Instead of looking primarily to Europe, as with each of the seafood-focused Catch locations—from tapas in Barcelona to the seafood in Mykonos—he (mostly) stayed closer to home.
“I ate at almost every traditional classic steakhouse in New York, Chicago, L.A. and Miami,” says Birnbaum. “We must have tasted 75 different cuts and styles of meat in Chicago, with our partners who actually own Morton’s and Mastro’s. These are places that have been doing steak a long time and we wanted to listen to them and understand the kind of things that we could change about the traditional steakhouse.”
Another huge influence on Catch Steak was a recent trip Remm took to Tokyo, during which he tasted everything from olive-fed Wagyu to Kobe beef to Hokkaido Snow Beef.
While the menu at Catch Steak includes an array of seafood dishes and sides, its steak selection is the showstopper: In addition to classic preparations of porterhouse and ribeye, it includes dry-aged options that are “cave-aged in a 200-year-old box,” alongside four American Wagyu options, and a selection of five by-the-ounce options of Japanese Wagyu, including a cut of “True” A5 Kobe beef for $45 an ounce. Catch Steak is now one of two restaurants in New York with an official Kobe license.
“We believe that the idea of just walking in and getting your porterhouse for two is just no longer going to move the meter,” says Birnbaum, adding that he wants to make the American steakhouse more approachable. “So, what is our alternative? It’s getting steaks that we sourced not just from Japan, but also the greatest available to us in America—small purveyors, small farms, super healthy organic types of steak.”
So far, his approach to infuse his restaurants with inspiration from his travels is paying off. Catch is one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in the country, which Birnbaum sees as a marker of success.
“It means that people are authentically taking photos of things that they want to be proud to show their friends and family and followers or whatever and tag us,” he says. “We didn’t give them a dollar to do it, we didn’t get them free food to do it—they just naturally want to do it and that is an organic success.”