When I heard last year that Desi Vega’s Steakhouse was taking over the space at 628 St. Charles Ave. formerly occupied by Mike’s on the Avenue, I was puzzled. Steakhouses aren’t usually housed in bright, airy spaces, but it turns out that if the food is good, the physical space seems to conform to whatever’s being served. The dining room in the Lafayette Hotel that’s now home to Desi Vega’s isn’t the dark, wood-paneled affair I associate with steaks, but it no longer feels incongruous, at least to me. It is a beautiful space with huge windows looking onto St. Charles Avenue on one side and Lafayette Square on the other.
Desi Vega’s is owned by Kenny Lobell and Desi Vega, who with Paul Varisco and Rodney Salvaggio are also involved in another of the city’s best places for steak, Mr. John’s Steakhouse. The two restaurants aren’t just close in the quality of their food; Mr. John’s is located nearby at 2111 St. Charles Ave. Given the connection between the two restaurants, it’s no surprise that the beef, in particular, is consistently outstanding.
This is a New Orleans-style steakhouse, and that’s a good thing. Steaks are served on extremely hot plates sizzling in butter, and typically they’re cooked just a shade under what you order. That is by design; they’re going to continue to cook on the plate. All of the beef on the menu at Desi Vega’s is prime, even the filet mignon. That is unusual, as most places don’t bother to source prime filet on the theory the most tender of beef cut doesn’t need the additional marbling. It is a nice touch, though, and speaks of the detail that the restaurant pays to quality in all aspects.
There is more than beef on the menu, of course. While Desi Vega’s doesn’t have quite the same Italian focus as Mr. John’s, there are Creole classics such as barbecued shrimp and shrimp remoulade on the appetizer portion of the menu. It wouldn’t be a high-end steakhouse without lobster, and you can choose between twin 6-ounce tails or the surf and turf, which pairs one tail with a 6-ounce filet. There is also a grilled Gulf fish that changes depending on availability.
The typical side-dishes are on offer, and done expertly, but the andouille-crawfish macaroni and cheese is something different, as is the “sweet mash potato soufflé,” which is, as it sounds, about as light a preparation as you can find where sweet potatoes are concerned.
Service is excellent, and the wine list is diverse with multiple choices by the glass and a few bottles that are clearly designed for connoisseurs or folks with expense accounts.
If all of the above doesn’t convince you why we’ve chosen Desi Vega’s Steakhouse as one of our best new restaurants this year, you should visit to see for yourself.