The Food Network star’s Thrive City fine dining restaurant exudes throwback glamour that guests find irresistible.
It’s early Friday evening prior to a Golden State Warriors playoff game and Thrive City’s Miller & Lux is hopping. Proprietor Tyler Florence, author of 16 cookbooks and longtime star of the Food Network, greets his Warrior logo-donned guests as if they are entering his home. Warm and charming, Florence’s hospitality is genuine – as are his culinary skills, which he demonstrates tableside while making an incredibly delicious and entirely curated Caesar Salad, for which the restaurant is well known. Each ingredient has a backstory, which Florence describes in detail as he mixes the dressing and scissor cuts purple Romaine lettuce leaves from a single stalk, grown specifically for the restaurant and for this salad at Sonoma Hills Farm in Petaluma by the former garden manager for The French Laundry.
“We are striving to make the best Caesar Salad in the world,” said Florence as he topped the offering with a Spanish anchovy. The theatrical aspect of the preparation (which includes a twist of pepper from a cartoon-like 4 ft. pepper mill) adds to the Caesar’s allure, as does the bespoke cart from which it is made. Florence commissioned a Hollywood prop builder to create a series of these carts for Miller & Lux. In addition to the salad cart, the restaurant features a Champagne/Sparkling Wine cart, a dessert cart, and a Dover Sole cart. This ‘there for the taking’ impression, where items are enticingly wheeled past patrons, is very much a part of the restaurant’s appeal. It creates a party like vibe, where Florence serves as congenial host as often as his hectic travel and production schedule allow. Whenever he is in town, the Corte Madera resident can be found helming the Miller & Lux kitchen.
This, his second San Francisco eatery (his other is Wayfare Tavern), is the successful result of a deliberate vision. A lifelong fan of the steakhouse genre, Florence seeks to recreate for guests the sense of ‘special occasion’ wonder he felt as a youth when visiting his local steakhouse in South Carolina. “I loved the ceremony of it all,” said Florence. “The restaurant would display a tray of different cuts, and you’d make your choice. It always felt super impressive.”
Located on Terry A. Francois Blvd., Florence’s brick and mortar ode to his youth finds itself closely associated with the City’s glittering entertainment complex. Also open for lunch, its tables are booked weeks prior to scheduled basketball games and concerts, where diners are delighted with the reasonably priced valet parking, the secret, back entrance to Chase Center, and the ability to store leftovers with the restaurant for post-event pick-up. But, Miller & Lux is also developing a singular reputation as a stand-alone hot spot, beyond its Chase Center magnetism. The bespoke cocktails, luxurious Ken Fulk-designed interiors, Sinatra-esque playlist, and large, Bay front windows make this sumptuous steakhouse (and its intimate lower level bar) a destination at which to see and be seen, Warrior game or not. And bonus: the food is spectacularly delicious.
Named for two butchers known as the ‘Cattle Kings of California’ who at the turn of the 20th century owned a butcher shop in this same Chase Center site, Miller & Lux exudes throwback, midcentury glamour, inspired by legendary Hollywood hangout Chasen’s. Leather banquettes and circular booths line the perfectly illuminated, honey and caramel-hued dining room. Tables are custom cut and padded, with high thread count table cloths, each ironed before every seating. The silverware is bespoke, the haute quotient is high, and the menu of decadent offerings more than meets any expectations that this posh environment might arouse. The dishes are recognizable, but their carefully curated and sourced ingredients and creative preparation make them best in class. Starters, in addition to the classic Caesar, include Caviar Doughnuts, crème fraiche-filled bits of goodness topped with Kaluga Caviar. Humble Deviled Eggs are elevated with a touch or truffle. The artful Spinach & Artichoke Dip bears no resemblance to what one might consider the standard, and that’s a wonderful thing.
A Raw Bar highlight is the Plateau De Mer, offering a generous sampling of Blue Fin tuna tartare imported from Hawaii, perfectly blanched and succulent shrimp from Louisiana, a light and fresh scallop crudo, and a dozen Humboldt Bay oysters. And though the French Dover Sole, finished tableside on its bespoke cart, is enticing, as is the Chicken Milanese and the Seared Ora King Salmon, this is, after all, a beef house, and to deny oneself would be a shame. Florence sources the best; he is perpetually seeking the most outstanding grass fed, grain finished beef, for which he then adds 45-day dry aging to develop what he calls the salami aroma. The restaurant’s selections include a 10 oz Filet Mignon, a 20 oz New York Strip, a 46 oz Tomahawk Ribeye, a 40 oz Holstein bone-in Porterhouse, a 6 oz Wagyu Filet Mignon, and an impressive 52 oz, Instagram-worthy Wagyu Tomahawk – each served with a choice of sauces: Green Peppercorn, Bordelaise, Fresh Tarragon, Bearnaise, or Creamed Horseradish. Finish off any of the dishes with a shave of Burgundy Summer Truffles.
Karla Marro, formerly of two Michelin-starred Acquarello, is Miller & Lux’s pastry chef. Save room for her incredibly unique dessert creations, each presented tableside in a delectable display of culinary decadence. Marro’s offerings are not always a ‘what you see is what you get’ proposition. The perfect, chocolate dipped strawberry and the brightly hued mango are beautiful illusions, each containing tasty surprises.
Just as Miller & Lux’s ambiance is classic, so too are its curated cocktails, each made with seasonal ingredients and artisanal spirits from around the world. An extensive wine list featuring some of the best local and European labels provides innumerable choices; and if a favorite is not spotted, ask the sommelier what he/she secretly might have stashed away. Miller & Lux always aims to please.
“For me, when you walk into a great restaurant, it needs to check three boxes,” said Florence. “The ambiance needs to be spectacular, the service needs to be top notch, and the food needs to be amazing.”
By his own standards, or by any standard for that matter, Miller & Lux undoubtedly qualifies.