STK, the scene-y “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse” geared toward females which opened in Dupont two weeks ago, just oozes gender stereotypes. The cocktails come with names like Rediscovered Cherry Cosmo and Dirty Pearls, and the menu is branded as “lighter” and “healthier” featuring “small” steak options, which seems to perpetuate the notion that women don’t want to eat a lot.
So what happens when the woman orders a huge chunk of meat, and the guy goes for the dainty salad? My boyfriend and I decided to find out.
When our female server arrived at our table, I was glad to see the waitstaff isn’t as scantily clad as the hostess. The servers wear more conservative light purple button-up, long-sleeved shirts and black pants, while the hostess wore a skin-tight, short black skirt and sequined shirt with a sheer back from which you could see her bra. I ordered a Budweiser, and my boyfriend ordered the Cucumber Stiletto martini. Our friendly server didn’t bat an eye and delivered the correct drinks to each of us.
Next up, dinner: I ordered the “large” 24-ounce porterhouse ($64)—medium rare—and truffle fries ($9). My boyfriend got a jumbo lump crab salad with grapefruit, melon, and hearts of palm ($17). Again, our server was completely unfazed.
While we waited, I scanned the scene. The place was mostly filled with dressed-up couples, except for the banquette near us, occupied by four men in suits drinking wine and martinis, and a group in the lounge area consisting of mostly older men and much younger, prettier blondes. A DJ was already pumping Michael Jackson and other loud pop songs as if we were in a club. It was just after 7 p.m.
And then the food arrived. The food runner—a woman—looked at the table for a moment and then placed the big steak in front of my boyfriend and gave me the salad. Noticing the mistake, our server swooped in and switched the plates to the “rightful owners,” as she said.
The truth is that this kind of thing happens at restaurants all over the city: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked questions about wine and ordered a bottle, only to have the server first pour a taste for my boyfriend to approve. And it’s not altogether uncommon for a server to place the check in front of my boyfriend, even though I’m usually the one paying. (I have the food budget, after all.) One time, at a Mexican restaurant in Texas, a server placed the check in front of me, then actually said, “That’s not right,” before sliding it over to the male half of the table. Most of the time, I don’t think these small acts are intentional, but good training can ensure staff are conscious of them.
“I took it as that was more of an accident than anything else,” says Stacey Perrone, Senior Director of Operations for The One Group (which operates STK), after I tell her about my experience. “I don’t think that’s something that was intentional. I think maybe someone didn’t read a ticket correctly.”
Perrone says the restaurant doesn’t have any staff training that specifically addresses not making assumptions based on gender stereotypes. “It’s more of read your guest, look to see that you’re working with them on whatever they choose to order,” she says. “I personally would never want to make any assumptions about anyone, because people’s appetites are people’s appetites.”
For what it’s worth, STK’s steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned. But because I believe in true gender equality, I cut off a chunk and let my boyfriend share it, too.
Photos by Jessica Sidman