When The Top Steak House first opened its doors in 1955, it was to serve a clientele of well-dressed customers, the women in dresses, the men in neatly pressed suits.
They swept into an elegant dining room, paneled in wood. The dim lights turned everything a golden hue, while piano keys tinkled an enchanted melody of sophistication and taste.
Times have changed dramatically since Lee Henry and Bill Sapp first conceived of the supper-club fine-dining restaurant in the hub of Columbus, Ohio. And yet, after 60 years, and three owners, The Top shines on as a world-class steakhouse rooted in fine traditions and glamor.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, co-owner Regina Adkins, discusses how the mid-century restaurant jewel maintains its relevance in a far different world.
Q: The Top’s own description says it’s a ‘mid-century throwback’. How do you attract new customers and still remain competitive with modern trends?
Around the time my husband Denver and I took over the restaurant in November 2006 with our family—(Joyce and Craig Hoover and Emily and Matt Schoedinger)— the television show Mad Men, (which revolves around high-powered, glamorous Madison Avenue advertising executives), was really popular. And people of all ages were flocking to us. And still do. We have young hipsters dressed to the nines and young women in tea-length dresses. We also became very popular as a wedding venue.
Q: How have you broadened your appeal to younger restaurant-goers?
It was an older clientele when we first took over. One of the big things we did was to expand the bar scene. We’ve also made a real effort to welcome every patron with personal attention. My role as general manager is at the front of the house. And part of what I do is to market our restaurant and connect with our guests. If I don’t know you when you come in, I’ll know you by the time you leave. We’re tight knit. My staff has been with me for a long time—I have one person who’s been with me for 17 years—and we want our guests to feel at home and welcome. We now attract a mix. We still have people who dress up, but we also have people dressed casually. We may have businessmen who’ve come off the golf course, or others wearing jeans and polo’s.
Q: How did you manage expectations of the guests who knew The Top under previous owners?
Guests were wary at first when we first took over. Some thought we’d try to make it a Nuevo restaurant. The two things we did right away were to emphasize customer service, and the quality of the meats and ingredients. My husband Denver, who’s the chef, hand picks meats, makes the sausage and bread from scratch. He’s incredibly detailed about his work, always making sure we serve the very best there is.
Our biggest-seller is a 24-ounce, bone-in Ribeye. It’s a huge piece of meat, which is aged 40 days, and sells for $62. It has a cult following among our guests and if we run out of them we hear about it.
Q: What is The Top’s secret to longevity?
Just about everyone who walks in here total “gets it” when they see it. There’s a feel, a warmth. It’s a cool scene, the bar is awesome, the food phenomenal and the cocktails great. The longevity is the result of maintaining something cool and retro, but offering current food, and always adding new things. — The Top Steak House uses Boxerbrand’s Classic Menu Cover Line in its table presentation. Thank you!