Ralph Lewis tapped on the heavy wooden table and smiled.
“This is old Dade Pine my dad (Curtis) put in the (Okeechobee) Steakhouse in the 1940s,’’ he said. “We saved the wood when we renovated the Steakhouse a couple of years ago. My son built the tables. You can say we kind of brought part of the Steakhouse over here.’’
“Over here,’’ is the 1947 Gourmet Meat Market, which holds its official grand opening tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The 1,400 square-foot meat market, an event hall that can accommodate up to 125 people, and 1947 Catering each are the newest additions to the Lewis family’s steakhouse legacy.
Those three buildings surround the Okeechobee Steakhouse, which on Oct. 21 will begin its 72nd year of operation in West Palm Beach.
“A lot of people call it the Okeechobee Steakhouse ‘compound’ or ‘campus,’’’ said Lewis, whose grandparents, Ralph and Norma Lewis, started the steakhouse as a drive-in on what was then the western edge of West Palm Beach.
What it really is, is a testament to Curtis and Ralph Lewis’ visions and patience. For the past 30 years, they knew they wanted to expand and grow the family business, but the land was not available. When the land and buildings on Wabash Street behind the Steakhouse came on the market, the Lewises began buying them and planning the future.
“It wasn’t an overnight thing,’’ Ralph Lewis said. “We acquired the properties and had a vision of what we wanted to do, but at the same we had to wait until we got all the systems in place and could implement everything.’’
The final building – an old TV repair shop across the street from the Steakhouse – was acquired 18 months ago. That building now is home to the 1947 Gourmet Meat Market, which features each of the meats available at the Steakhouse, along with more than 25 additional dry-aged meats, sides, wines and desserts.
“Everything is cut on property,’’ Lewis said. “We have a dry-aged, Mashima wagyu beef, which is an American wagyu. Not many people dry-age wagyu. And we have a 55-day dry-aged, bone-in, filet mignon. We also do our own in-house corned beef out of brisket and a pastrami that we smoke for six hours and cure for 10 days.
“All of our meats are kind of in a league of their own.’’
The same can be said of the Okeechobee Steakhouse empire.