Las Vegas burgers trump Charlie Palmer: Holstein’s Shakes & Buns replacing South Coast Plaza restaurant


lvCharlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s a marquee fine dining venue at South Coast Plaza is closing in May after a seven-year run.

The premiere mall space will be converted into Holstein’s Shakes & Buns a gourmet burger bar from Las Vegas. Restaurant employees were told Tuesday that Charlie Palmer’s last day would be May 2. Chef Charlie Palmer, a James Beard award winner, said a change of direction was needed for the South Coast Plaza venue.

“It was time for us to do something. Nothing lasts forever. We had a good run,” he said in a phone interview.

Palmer said he is not exiting the Bloomingdale’s space. Instead the chef and investors have enlisted Las Vegas-based Block 16 Hospitality to manage and operate the 3,000-square-foot location as Holstein’s. The flagship burger location at The Cosmopolitan casino and hotel is known for its festive vibe, playful specialty burgers and alcohol-infused milkshakes.

“It’s a very vibrant and exciting concept,” Palmer said.

Restaurant industry consultant Randy Hiatt said Charlie Palmer faced tough competition as fresher fine dining establishments entered the region, including Capital Grille and Fig & Olive.

“It’s not surprising,” said Hiatt, president of Fessel International in Arcadia. “They had a good strong opening, and good years, but there’s a lot more dining options right now.”

Palmer, whose restaurant was popular at happy hour, said the venue was not struggling.

“It was working, but I think this will work better,” he said of Holstein’s.

Hiatt, whose company advises restaurants around the world, said power lunches and happy hour crowds can’t sustain most high profile restaurants.

“You can’t make your business off of lunch or happy hour,” he said. “You’ve got to have a good dinner business.”

Though a reboot was needed, Hiatt said Holstein’s represents a significant about-face for the elegant South Coast Plaza location. He questioned how Charlie Palmer fans might react to the downscale approach.

“It’s a grand space. It will be interesting to see what they do with it,” he said.

Block 16 operates seven restaurants in Las Vegas including Holstein’s. Its menu includes hormone free burgers with funky names that describe flavor profiles. The Rising Sun burger, for example, is a Kobe beef burger with a teriyaki glaze, while the Billionaire Burger is topped with truffle mayo and foie gras.

The restaurant’s adult only milkshakes cost $13 each and include the Moscow Moo, a twist on the classic cocktail made with vanilla ice cream and lime vodka. Burger prices range from $13 to $32.

A representative for Block 16 said the Costa Mesa menu will be similar, but it is unclear if the “Las Vegas prices” will come to Orange County.

Block 16 founder Billy Richardson, who has known Palmer for years through his family, said he is excited to bring Holstein’s to Costa Mesa.

“We at Block 16 Hospitality are all big fans of Charlie Palmer he has built a reputation for bringing rambunctious flavors and unexpected combinations to the table, that surprise and delight guests,” Richardson said. “We hope to be able to continue this great tradition with Holstein’s.”

Palmer opened his first Southern California restaurant in 2007, tapping his young protege Amar Santana, 26, as executive chef. Under Santana, the restaurant earned critical praise. He helped create the on-premise DG Burger, a fast-casual burger eatery, which was developed for shoppers looking for takeout.

In 2011, Santana left to launch his first chef-owned restaurant in Laguna Beach. Seakyeong Kim, the restaurant’s sous chef, replaced Santana as executive chef. Palmer said Kim, who has worked for him in New York, will likely “do something else with us” once the restaurant closes.

“As many employees as possible will be absorbed into the new concept,” the Charlie Palmer Group said Tuesday.

After refurbishing, Holstein’s is expected to open in late summer.

posted 3/17/15 by Andrea Gonzalez

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