Omaha, Nebraska, is known for its rich culinary culture, with a variety of restaurants offering an array of cuisines to satisfy any palate. Amidst this diverse gastronomic landscape, one establishment has stood the test of time, etching its name into the city’s history – Gorat’s Steakhouse. Founded in 1944 by Louis “Lou” Gorat, Gorat’s has become synonymous with quality steaks and unparalleled hospitality. In this feature, we explore the fascinating history of Gorat’s Steakhouse, a true Omaha institution that has evolved over the decades to remain a local favorite.
The story of Gorat’s Steakhouse began in the early 1940s when Lou Gorat, a local butcher, decided to turn his lifelong passion for food into a business. Gorat, who was born in Omaha in 1901, spent his early years working at his father’s grocery store. Over time, Lou honed his skills in butchery and became familiar with the finest cuts of meat.
In 1944, Lou Gorat decided to open his own restaurant, focusing on his love for steak. He believed that Omaha was the perfect place for a steakhouse, given the city’s status as a major meatpacking hub. After scouting several locations, Lou opened Gorat’s Steakhouse on the corner of 49th and Center streets. The original restaurant was a modest establishment, with just enough space to seat 30 customers.
The Rise to Fame
Gorat’s quickly gained a reputation for serving some of the best steaks in town. Lou’s expertise in selecting the highest-quality meats and his insistence on using only the freshest ingredients contributed to the restaurant’s growing popularity. As word spread, the modest steakhouse started attracting more and more customers, including some famous faces.
In the 1950s, Gorat’s caught the attention of an Omaha native who would go on to become one of the most iconic investors in the world – Warren Buffett. Buffett, who was still in the early stages of his investing career, became a regular at Gorat’s, where he often dined with his family and friends. Over the years, as Buffett’s fame grew, so did the reputation of Gorat’s Steakhouse. The restaurant became synonymous with Buffett, who famously held annual dinners at Gorat’s during Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meetings.
As the restaurant’s popularity grew, so did the need for more space. In the 1960s, Gorat’s underwent its first major expansion, increasing its seating capacity to 100. The renovations also included the addition of a bar, which quickly became a favorite spot for locals to unwind and enjoy a drink after work.
The 1970s saw further growth for Gorat’s, with the restaurant undergoing another expansion to accommodate its ever-growing clientele. This time, the seating capacity was increased to 250, making Gorat’s one of the largest steakhouses in Omaha. The decade also saw the introduction of new menu items, as the restaurant’s culinary team experimented with different cuts of meat and innovative cooking techniques.
Generational Changes and Challenges
In 1982, Lou Gorat passed away, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his son, Frank Gorat. Frank was committed to preserving his father’s legacy, maintaining the same high standards of quality and service that had made Gorat’s famous. Under Frank’s leadership, the restaurant continued to thrive, solidifying its place as an Omaha institution.
However, the new millennium brought new challenges for Gorat’s. The rise of national chain restaurants and increased competition from other steakhouses led to a decline in business. In 2012, Frank Gorat made the difficult decision to sell the restaurant, fearing that the legacy his father had built might be lost.
The Turning Point
In a twist of fate, the buyer of Gorat’s Steakhouse was none other than Gene Dunn, a successful Omaha restaurateur and a long-time admirer of the establishment. Dunn recognized the importance of Gorat’s to the city’s culinary scene and was determined to restore the restaurant to its former glory.
Upon taking ownership, Dunn embarked on a comprehensive renovation project, modernizing the restaurant’s interior while maintaining its classic charm. He also revamped the menu, introducing new dishes alongside the beloved Gorat’s classics, all while staying true to Lou Gorat’s original vision of serving the best steaks in town.
In 2013, Gorat’s Steakhouse reopened its doors, revealing its new look to a curious and excited public. The grand reopening was a resounding success, with both old and new customers flocking to the restaurant to experience the revitalized Gorat’s.
Today, Gorat’s Steakhouse stands as a testament to the perseverance and passion of the Gorat family and their successors. The restaurant has regained its status as one of Omaha’s premier dining destinations, attracting locals and tourists alike.
The menu at Gorat’s remains a celebration of Omaha’s culinary traditions, with a strong emphasis on premium steaks. The signature dish, the T-bone, is still served as Lou Gorat intended – expertly cooked and bursting with flavor. In addition, Gorat’s offers a variety of other dishes to cater to different tastes, from seafood to pasta.
Gorat’s commitment to quality extends beyond the food, with a focus on providing exceptional service to every guest. The staff, many of whom have worked at the restaurant for decades, are dedicated to ensuring that each customer’s experience is memorable and enjoyable.
Gorat’s Steakhouse has also renewed its ties to Warren Buffett, with the famous investor continuing to hold his annual Berkshire Hathaway dinners at the restaurant. The event draws thousands of visitors from around the world, eager to get a taste of Gorat’s famous steaks and to catch a glimpse of the legendary investor himself.
The story of Gorat’s Steakhouse is one of passion, perseverance, and a deep-rooted love for Omaha’s culinary traditions. From its humble beginnings in 1944 to its resurgence in the 21st century, Gorat’s has remained true to its founder’s vision, serving exceptional steaks and providing warm, welcoming hospitality to all who walk through its doors.
Today, Gorat’s Steakhouse stands as a proud reminder of Omaha’s rich culinary heritage and a symbol of the city’s ability to evolve and adapt to changing times. As the restaurant continues to thrive, the legacy of Lou Gorat lives on, ensuring that Gorat’s Steakhouse remains a beloved institution in the city of Omaha for generations to come.