Sleepy North Palm Beach is about to get a shot in the arm with the coming of a name-brand steak house to a new village-owned clubhouse.
Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood , a restaurant in the style of the renowned Peter Luger Steak House of New York, has inked a deal with the village of North Palm Beach to open two restaurants in the North Palm Beach Country Club, set to be torn down and rebuilt into a $15 million resort-style club, according to village manager Andrew Lukasik.
Although part of the club, the restaurants will be open to the public.
The deal comes as the city is poised to launch a master plan to encourage new development, including retail, restaurants and housing, along its old timey-U.S. 1 business corridor. The changes could lead to major investment in the area, much the same way South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach has experienced growth and investment during the past three years.
Both the Carl Von Luger transaction and the U.S. 1 redo reflect the ongoing economic growth of coastal cities in northern Palm Beach County, Lukasik said.
The Luger name might not be familiar to Florida natives, but it is well known to residents and visitors hailing from New York. There, Peter Luger Steak House has locations in Brooklyn and Long Island. Peter Luger is to steak houses what the New York Yankees are to baseball: Consistent winners in a field loaded with competition. (Sorry, Mets fans.)
The steaks are prime, the meat is dry-aged, the bacon is thick and the porterhouse is not to be missed. The restaurant even concocts its own steak sauce. Zagat calls the place “a monument to meat” and has ranked it #1 in New York steakhouses for 28 years in a row.
The eatery’s attention to quality was ingrained in Luger’s grand-nephew, Robert Dickert, who grew up in the restaurant and began his career there. Family lore has it that staff had to find a milk crate for Dickert to stand on, “so he was tall enough to wash the dishes,” said Stuart broker Hank Gonzalez, who handled the clubhouse deal. “He’s been doing this his whole life.”
Indeed, after the restaurant was sold by the family in the 1950s, Dickert’s father and uncle stayed running it for another 20 years or so. Dickert went on to open Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood in Scranton, Pa.; he also owns a farm-to-table restaurant there called Terra Preta , which is run by his daughter and her husband.
Gonzalez said Dickert owns a home in Port St. Lucie but wanted to open a restaurant in Palm Beach County, where he also has family.
Sites were scouted in nearby areas, including the crowded PGA Boulevard restaurant corridor in Palm Beach Gardens, but both Gonzalez and Dickert were entranced by the village of North Palm Beach’s ambitious country club plan.
The village will tear down its aged clubhouse at 951 U.S. Highway 1 after July 4. Then, the village will spend up to 18 months building a new, 42,000-square-foot structure, featuring both a formal restaurant and more casual eatery; a community room; and other upgrades. The country club has a signature Jack Nicklaus golf course, so that amenity already is in place, Lukasik said.
The restaurant is planning a Dec. 1, 2018, opening, Gonzalez said.
The country club redo comes as the city is working to implement a new master plan that will allow for redevelopment of U.S.1. The most significant change will be the allowance for mixed-use properties, with various building sizes. The goal is to lure more restaurants, retail and housing projects to the area.
North Palm Beach is getting a big boost from the Kolter Group’s Water Club, a three-tower complex at 1280 U.S. Highway 1. The 192 luxury condos ranged in price from $900,000 to more than $3 million. Residents are moving into some units. “We smile a lot when we drive by there,” Gonzalez said.
Of course, nearby housing communities such as Seminole, Lost Tree Village and Old Port Cove contain plenty of residents who would patronize a new eatery.
But both Gonzalez and Lukasik said the presence of Carl Von Luger will help revitalize the community and attract the attention of new residents, businesses and investors.
Real estate experts were mixed about on the restaurant’s secondary location but said it also could be a smart play.
“It’s a ‘B’ location in an ‘A’ market, and there are spots with greater exposure,” said Richard Lackey, a Palm Beach Gardens restaurant broker. “However, by virtue of the fact they have an incredible reputation, anywhere they go in Palm Beach County, they will do well.”
Neil Merin, chairman of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman in West Palm Beach, said the Ruth’s Chris Steak House a half-mile away already shows the area’s upscale residential communities support fine dining: “If the steak place is half as good as the real Peter Luger’s, I would frequent it,” added Merin, who lives in the area.
Gonzalez said the restaurant will have a street sign so passers-by will know it is there. It also will cater events, such as weddings, that will take place in the community room. The restaurant has a five-year lease, with three, five-year extensions.
Gonzalez, a former real estate developer, said he’s so confident the restaurant will be a success, he’s pouring his commissions into the deal. “With this location and Bob’s experience and talents and me watching over the cash flow, this ought to be a winner,” Gonzalez said.
Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.