Nips and tucks and tenderloins

A SOCIETY STEAKHOUSE HAS HAD SOME WORK DONE. RESTAURANT CRITIC LESLIE BRENNER CHECKS OUT THE CHANGES (ON AND OFF THE MENU)
photographs by MANNY RODRIGUEZ

If it’s been a while since you’ve been to Al Biernat’s, a favorite steakhouse of Dallas movers and shakers, you’ll probably notice as soon as you walk in that something is different: The maître d’ stand isn’t where it’s supposed to be. (Or in any case, it isn’t where it used to be.) Now you’ll check in on the left side of the bar. Brace yourself: The 16-year-old Oak Lawn steakhouse has been treated to a makeover.

Change isn’t always easy, especially for those who know and love a place. “I was scared to death to even do this,” says owner Al Biernat, who made the tweaks last summer. Creatures of habit needn’t be too alarmed: It still feels like Al’s — albeit a lighter, fresher, more modern Al’s. The domed ceiling still crowns the bar, but in the dining room, columns have been removed, opening up the space. Dramatic constellations created from globes of hand-blown glass dangle from the ceiling. Shimmering crystal chandeliers from Timothy Oulton illuminate new booths in handsome tufted leather. New sound boards have softened the acoustics.

The kitchen has a surprise or two, as well, such as a new off-menu starter — an extravagant, bilevel seafood plateau (North Atlantic oysters on the half-shell, poached shrimp, chilled lobster, sweet crab meat). The best steaks tend to be off-menu, too — those fabulous bone-in, dry-aged, locally raised cuts from Local Yocal. It’s all crazy expensive — you knew that, right? — but no denying it: Those steaks are spectacular.

And if there should one day be another Al Biernat’s? Hard to imagine such a thing, that’s for sure. But Biernat is making peeps about expanding. The new look, spearheaded by Biernat’s nephew, business partner and general manager, Brad Fuller, was designed to be exportable. To points north, perhaps? Al Biernat’s Frisco? Al Biernat’s Plano? Time will tell. In the meantime, should you be in the mood for a splurge, or a schmooze, or both, there is always Oak Lawn. The one and only — for now, anyway. The original Al’s.