One of Western New York's most acclaimed restaurants has reopened - and added a bistro, to boot.
Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino officials formally unveiled the reinvented Western Door Steakhouse on Thursday. The award-winning restaurant had been closed since February, undergoing a complete $5 million renovation.
"This has been worth the wait," said Seneca Gaming Corp. Chief Operating Officer Audrey Oswell. "Quite simply, the Western Door stands with the best steakhouses in the country. Guests are going to be amazed by how we have elevated the entire dining experience, from the atmosphere and décor to the food and service."
A soft opening was held at the end of June.
Most notable among the physical changes, the Western Door's two-story staircase has been removed. In its place, patrons will find an elegant new bistro area, complete with side wall booths, center tables and chairs, a string of televisions and a full bar.
The bistro greets customers as they enter the Western Door. It boasts a custom menu with signature appetizers such as fried garbanzo, calamari and Buffalo cauliflower, as well as a steak sandwich and a Certified Angus Beef burger.
This eating area has expanded hours, allowing guests to gather and enjoy cocktails and lighter fare from Western Door's culinary team.
"If you're not in the mood for a true sit-down, gourmet dining experience, you're going to get the same quality in a little bit more relaxed atmosphere," said Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino publicist Phil Pantano, of Pantano & Associates.
The dining room is more open and contemporary, but still with its peak-in kitchen windows, where both chefs and seafood selections are on display. The dress code is classy-casual.
Along with its new look, the Western Door also introduced new menu items, such as smoked salmon and blackened scallops from its seafood counter, new steak selections, including a 12-ounce New York strip of wagyu beef, a 16-ounce bone-in strip of prime beef, a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye of prime beef and a cavatelli entrée.
Western Door room chef Joseph Belardi said the steaks are topped with Maldon sea salt from England and fresh brushed butter. His team pairs entrées with locally grown micro greens.
"It makes a whole difference - those little things that we do," Belardi said. "It's those little things that we like to do to set ourselves apart."
Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Executive Chef Oliver Wolf said, "It is the quality of the product," that makes the Western Door Steakhouse unique. "You have to have a good, quality product to start out with. If your meat is not the right brand, or if you do a shortcut there, no matter what you do as a chef or a cook, you will not be (successful)."
He added, "If I had to sum it up, it's the quality of the product, the technique and knowledge of the culinary staff, and the dedication to the details. And the service, as well, of course." Combined, these elements make dining at the steakhouse special.
Wolf said all of the Western Door chefs remained on board while the steakhouse was under construction.
"They're very excited to be in a brand-new kitchen," he said.
In addition to steaks, the Western Door offers free-range chicken and veal, and freshly flown-in salmon.
With a slew of awards, including a community-voted "Best Steakhouse" nod and a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor, the Western Door Steakhouse was hardly in need of an upgrade. The remodel is part of the Seneca Gaming Corp.'s progressive philosophy of staying modern.
Tonia Ineson, executive director of Seneca Resorts & Casinos, said, "Times change, and we need to keep things fresh and just make things relevant and current, and just keeping up with other offerings that are in the area. Another thing that is always top of our mind is just keeping one step ahead of our competitors. We want to be the innovators, as we've always been in the Western New York area, because we've been the first Las Vegas-style casino in the area. We just want to continue to keep our (AAA) Four Diamond status, and just to keep ahead of everyone else."
Pantano said, "The whole idea behind it was taking what was already an established, popular brand regionally - not just within the confines of the resort - and really elevating it to the proverbial next level. The philosophy at Seneca Gaming Corp. has always been to stay ahead of the curve. You saw it when we did the hotel renovations a few years ago."
Though the 26-story hotel was less than 10 years old, Seneca Gaming Corp. spent upward of $10 million to renovate the rooms.
"It's really just keeping things fresh; keeping things at a very high level of not only service, but also a high level of presentation for our guests," Pantano said. "There's a certain standard and pride that comes along with being part of this organization - not only here at Seneca Niagara, but also at Seneca Allegany and Seneca Buffalo Creek, as well. So, to continually invest in the guest experience is what drives us each and every day."
Belardi said, "We're pushing the envelope every day of, 'OK, what haven't (guests) seen?' Or 'What can we do to blow them away with something?' "
The Western Door Steakhouse is open seven days a week, from 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bistro hours are 5-10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5-11:30 p.m. Friday, 3-11:30 p.m. Saturday and 3-9:30 p.m. Sunday. The menu can be found online at www.senecacasinos.com.
Joshua Maloni contributed to this report.