Just Real Food
With my brother Al’s experience having worked in restaurants such as Maxwell’s Plum and The Tavern on The Green in Manhattan; as well as the original Chef at Embers Steakhouse, we decided to open our own, ‘Al Hubbard’s Steakhouse’. After having great success with Al Hubbard’s Steak House in Brooklyn, NY in 1988, I (Tom G) moved back to Las Vegas, to pursue a music career. My brother, Chef Al followed a year later. We were working in the hospitality industry for several years when we realized that the older we got – the chance of being replaced by a younger generation seemed an obvious reality.
By 2006, the economy was looking promising for business growth and the thought of trying our style of restaurant seemed like a great opportunity. Hence Off the Strip was born. Things didn’t go smoothly at first. For seven months we struggled without a liquor license and were serving our entrees on black plastic disposable plates, which became kind of a goofy trend. Yeah, our customers actually found it charming as the Beef Wellington, Chicken Parmesan and Rigatoni Bolognese were sliding around the plates, the looks from customers we would get have always been priceless. After seven months of expecting a liquor license, we were making noticeable impressions in the community with the surprising quality and value of Chef Al ‘s food. Although we had some friends who believed in our potential, we were quickly losing money.
TENDEREST MEAT AND FRESHEST VEGETABLES.
By August 2008, we were burnt out and the hope of the wine and beer license arriving in time to stimulate the needed revenue to support business seemed bleak. We decided to make a pause for a couple of weeks in order to save enough to pay rent. On the other side, Chef desperately needed time to recharge his batteries and get inspired again. We put a sign on the door that said “Gone Fishing! See you soon” and took off to Miami to visit family. We rang the doorbell surprising the whole family, having only told them we had sent Al’s famous cheesecake to be delivered and to expect it that afternoon.
As we were with our family, enjoying life as it is before returning to our daily grind, my phone rang, it was a gentleman saying he was from Liquor and Gaming Department in Las Vegas. He told me he was holding our temporary license in his hand and asked if I needed him to deliver it to the restaurant that morning to be able to sell the wine that same night. I thought it was a prank and dismissed it. But he repeated himself, as did I in disbelief. We went back and forth three times before I realized he was legit. Following the good news, we started yelling and shouting in the backyard to the rest of the family. Just then a lightning bolt shot down and sent a jolt thru my nephew and me. Both white faced and out of breath as no one even realized what had happened. In complete disbelief and coincidence of the events we all started to laugh from excitement. I swear I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
DRINK WITH FRIENDS
From our finest Wine Selection
The name “2nd Floor” came about as a result of working behind the bar at Smith & Wollensky’s for ten years and customers always asking me, “Where do you go off the strip to dine?” Once the name was established, we needed to describe our particular concept. I called my friend Chef Sean O’Connell and told him about our dilemma, “Not Italian, not steak, not continental, what should we call it?” Sean was busy and called me some minutes after and he shouted a phrase “Just Real Food, dude!” And that was that.
We were gaining momentum like a high-speed train, getting great feedback and reviews on Trip Advisor and staying in the #1 spot for more than 2 years. We even ran a promotion to get tourists from the Strip to visit our Southern Highlands location. Promising that if they were not satisfied with their meal and experience not only would we buy their dinner we would pay for their cab ride too! I maybe only had to shell out the cab ride fare a handful of times in the entire two years. We then expanded the restaurant to the left and right spaces due to closures of both stores. Word about us grew to the point that the Caesar’s executive in charge of the LINQ project thought that we should consider moving “2nd Floor Steak & Chophouse.”
This was a bigger project than I could man alone but I knew exactly who to ask, Andy Belmonti. He was a great customer of ours already and had been the President of the Palms Hotel Nine Group for ten years. He along with Jim and Diana Cameron, early Five Guys franchise owners, were the perfect partners. I could go on about the challenges we faced from there and the laundry list of people that helped us seal the deal, but there really are too many! Today, the dream my late brother Chef Al and I had is a reality. Our team believes in the concept we began in 2008 and we want to share our “Just Real Food” with you.