Eating nothing but Puerto Rican cuisine in Puerto Rico was a goal at which I failed miserably. There were two nights at the Caribe Hilton when I didn’t feel like taking a cab somewhere for dinner. On one of those nights, I had hoped to make new friends at either the Oasis bar or the happy hour bar at Morton’s Steakhouse. But Morton’s bar was packed (no seats) and everyone at the Oasis bar was with a cancer research conference and talking shop. Times like these try the solo traveler’s soul. Feeling a bit dejected, I decided to drown my sorrows in a very expensive steak, so back to Morton’s I went.
I have never been to a Morton’s Steakhouse before, though I’ve traveled to cities that have them (Vegas, New York, Chicago, Nashville, Miami, etc.). I’m pretty frugal and find it hard to justify paying $60+ for a steak when I can get a good one for $25 elsewhere. But after dining here, I can see it’s not just the quality of the steak that appeals, but the experience. I was treated like a VIP here for no apparent reason. I confess, I liked it.
At the Caribe Hilton, Morton’s is housed in a nice space just apart from the main tower of the hotel, with large windows overlooking palm trees and the ocean beyond. In the foyer, there are wine lockers on the wall with engraved name plates for select customers. There was also a wall of black-and-white photos of celebrities. In the dining room, curved booths with tan leather seats serve couples and small groups, and there are plenty of two-tops as well. They use food and wine as decor–bottles of Emilio Moro 2004 and Quinta do Vale Meão 2005 line the low walls, as do bowls of raw potatoes and broccoli (no kidding). Walls are hung with copper fry pans. Sinatra songs and other old standards play in the background, but can barely be heard above the din of fifty conversations going on at once.
I was seated at a two-top facing the window, but as it was dark out, there was no view. The open kitchen was behind me, out of sight, but I could hear dishes clanking and smell red meat sizzling. My table was cozy, with a wall to the left, lined with wine bottles and a vase of fresh flowers of mixed variety. Sitting atop the white table cloth was a candle that looked like a mini-table lamp, set in the back of a sleeping pig made of pewter. There was a real lamp just over my left shoulder, which allowed me to read and write without eyestrain. Bonus points for that, Morton’s.
The waiters dress to the nines here, in long-sleeved white shirts and black vests, black slacks and shoes, with a clean black apron around their waists. My waiter arrived at my table with a cart demonstrating various menu items under saran wrap.
The portion sizes were huge. Among the offerings was a giant Idaho potato that could have fed a family of four, several cuts of steak (including a monstrous 48 oz slab), salmon filet, crab legs, and whole lobster (dead, of course, although it might have been more interesting to see it cut its way out of the saran wrap). I ordered the cajun ribeye and sauteed green beans. My waiter brought me a round loaf of bread almost as big as my head and a pat of butter the size of a cheese slice.
The steak was terrific. Oh-so-tender, juicy, blackened and crusted with cajun seasonings. They could have gone a little easier on the salt, but it was an absolute joy to eat. I ordered it medium, and it was still pretty pink inside, which worked for me. The green beans, on the other hand, were slightly disappointing. They were sauteed in garlic, which I love, but they tasted fishy for some reason. Odd.
While my waiter distracted me with the dessert tray, another refilled my water glass without me even noticing. The desserts looked amazing, but I was so stuffed at that point, any more food would have sent me into the digestive equivalent of threat level orange. I also declined an after-dinner coffee–until the sommelier came to my table with a tray of bottles and offered me a complimentary after-dinner drink. How could I resist a free decaf coffee with Caramel Bailey’s? It was a classy ending to a classy meal. Interestingly, the Baileys and coffee on the receipt was subtracted with a line item called “VIP”. “Huh,” I thought. “I’m a VIP? When did that happen?”
My dinner tab came to $60 something. Like I said, not cheap. But if you want to treat yourself to an above-average dining experience, it’s worth the money. As for my experience as a solo diner, it could not have been better. This was a very comfortable restaurant to dine solo in. Who doesn’t want to be treated like a VIP?
The only misstep Morton’s made, in my opinion, is that every table had a placard on it suggesting that Morton’s cookbooks make a great gift idea for the steak lover in your life. To me, advertising merchandise at the table screams Dennys, not Morton’s. Just sayin’.