If you ever complain about being busy, talk to Frank Dougherty and Maureen Shay. The entrepreneurial couple takes the idea of continuing a family tradition very seriously.
The husband-wife team is best known for not only expanding on the success of Dock’s Oyster House, an Atlantic City seafood institution since 1897 started by Frank’s great grandfather Harry “Call Me Dock” Dougherty, but teaming with Frank’s brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Bernadette Dougherty, to completely renovate and expand the culinary powerhouse in 2016.
Frank and Maureen Dougherty also operate another Atlantic City institution, The Knife and Fork Inn, established in 1912 and totally overhauled when the Doughertys purchased it in 2005.
Not enough? They also run the immensely popular Harry’s Oyster Bar & Seafood at Bally’s Atlantic City and bought the historic Linwood Country Club — one of the finest country clubs in the South Jersey for about 100 years — in 2017 with Joe and Bernadette Dougherty.
Showing their true entrepreneurship — and seemingly endless energy — Frank Dougherty and Maureen Shay recently debuted their fifth creation: Dougherty’s Steakhouse & Raw Bar, their second entry into the casino world that features the couple threading that needle between classic and contemporary dining.
“It was just something that was too good to pass up,” Dougherty says. “We were excited that Resorts came to us, and the space is just beautiful. We thought there was a lot of opportunity there. Resorts is a great partner, and it all worked out timing wise in terms of when this nightmare (the pandemic) ended. Thankfully, we are all opening up … it was just the right offer at the right time.”
Dougherty’s Steakhouse is located in the former Gallagher’s Steak House location, while the Raw Bar part of the operation is in the former Gallagher’s Burger Bar, but more on that later.
Resorts’ only real ultimatum was that the new restaurant had to be a steakhouse, which was just fine by the Doughertys.
“Obviously, this is not a stretch for us at all,” says Shay, noting how all of their other restaurants offer a variety of steaks. “The original concept of the Knife & Fork when we bought it was more of a classic steakhouse. When we were looking for spaces, at that time there were not a lot of steakhouses in Atlantic City. Then all of a sudden there was a steakhouse boom! And then all of these steakhouses opened up all at once, so we transitioned The Knife & Fork to be a seafood and steak restaurant instead of that classic steakhouse. So this actually has been something we have been contemplating for a long, long time.”
When you walk into Dougherty’s, you might be surprised at how similar it is in aesthetics to Gallagher’s. Although the new space received a renovation including paint, floors, ceilings, artwork and light fixtures, the banquettes are the same, as is the layout of the whole room, including the great bar near the entrance.
“Everything was in such great shape, we didn’t have to do a whole lot in terms of a massive renovation,” Shay says. “We didn’t have to move any walls and just updated it with a big facelift. The bar is so warm and cozy and gives you a great cocktail lounge feel there. People love that space. We had to do a lot more construction when it came to the raw bar. (see sidebar)”
The main attraction
All of the steaks at Dougherty’s are prime — the 16—ounce Delmonico ($52), the 38—ounce bone—in ribeye ($78), the 14—ounce New York strip ($52) and the 28—ounce porterhouse ($86) — with the exception of the 8—ounce filet ($48) and the stellar bone—in filet ($70), which most steakhouses only offer as a special but is arguably the most tender, flavorful piece of meat you will devour.
Unlike Gallagher’s, none of the steaks are dry-aged.
“I didn’t want to get involved in having the aging room like they used to,” Dougherty says. “I am not really a big fan of dry—aged beef, so that was one of the reasons. And Gallagher’s was also using cooking on coal, which we tried to do opening Knife & Fork but proved extremely difficult and not worth the effort.”
Instead, Dougherty’s is using a high-end Montague Company broiler that cooks at an extremely high heat.
“The top of it can get to 900 degrees, so you get a great sear on the steak, and if you want Pittsburgh rare, it’s the best thing you can do.”
One of the things that will keep Dougherty’s unique from others is offering prime rib ($42 20-ounce Queen’s Cut, $64 30-ounce King’s Cut), carrying on the tradition set by Gallagher’s but something very few other steakhouses offer regularly.
“It was very popular for them and proving to be very popular for us,” Dougherty says. “Most don’t do it every day because you really need consistency and to have a customer base that appreciates it or else there is a lot of waste. So that’s been working out really well for us.”
Start the night right
The appetizer menu at a steakhouse is the difference maker. Everyone can offer a great steak, but it’s the apps that get you started properly. And Dougherty’s starters are a perfect blend of classic like calamari ($16), clams casino ($14) and Oysters Rockefeller ($18) — dishes you will find at their other properties — with more modern fare like Wagyu beef carpaccio ($18) with truffle pecorino, baby arugula and charred piquillo pepper; candied slab bacon ($18) with smoked cherry BBQ sauce; and scallops ceviche ($18) with aji amarillo, tomatillo, jalapeno, cilantro and lime.
Shay is particularly fond of the hamachi crudo ($18) with blonde soy and whole grain mustard, sesame, pickled daikon and chives; and the tuna poke bowl ($18) with black rice, edamame, radish and sesame aioli.
“Those have proven to be very popular, well — received dishes,” she says. “And I think the appetizers demonstrate what we are looking to do in taking a classic steakhouse menu and then going back to our expertise in the seafood area and merging the two.”
Items from the raw bar can also be ordered in the dining room, including an array of East and West Coast oysters ($3 to $4) from Cape May to Newfoundland, Canada, clams on the half shell ($2), shrimp and crab cocktail ($21, $28), chilled lobsters ($32) and seafood towers ($84 to $154) with oysters, clams, shrimp, whole Maine lobster, tuna tartare, king crab and colossal crab meat.
“One of the things that surprised us was people weren’t ordering the seafood towers as much as we expected,” Shay says. “Then all of a sudden a couple went out, and now we are running out of them by the end of the night. It’s a visual thing. Once they saw them that ‘wow factor’ kicked in and they said, ‘We need to have that!’”
More than steak
If steak doesn’t entice you, Dougherty’s has something for everyone. Other meat dishes include veal Milanese ($45) pounded thin, breaded, fried and topped with arugula, Kalamata olives, tomato and a squeeze of lemon; roasted chicken ($30) with baba ghanoush, charred broccoli and pan jus; Elysian Fields lamb chops ($36) with barbacoa jus.
Seafood entrees will remind you of Dock’s, particulary the crab cakes ($42) with roasted pineapple and vanilla bean puree with kiwi and herb salad; salmon ($30) with zucchini and corn salad, toasted orzo and lemon butter; halibut ($44) with a beautifully contrasting chorizo and clam ragout with garbanzo beans; and spicy lobster pappardelle ($44) with Calabrian chilies, cherry tomato and roasted garlic.
Sides ($12) are standard steakhouse fare such as whipped garlic mashed and creamed spinach, but fans of the Knife & Fork’s pommes soufflé will be thrilled to find them here.
“It’s a classic preparation for the basic potato,” Dougherty explains. “It’s a hollow french fry that is tricky to make, but once you perfect them, they are pretty simple. People love them.”
Dougherty’s will soon offer another crossover item: Softshell crabs.
“They are super popular at Dock’s and Knife & Fork, and we know when we start doing them at Dougherty’s, they will be popular there, as well. We like to constantly add things and lose things as we evolve to keep it interesting for diners. So that means specials like the softshell crabs and so much more.”
So far, the Doughertys are thrilled with the opening of their fifth place.
“People enjoy going to a classic steakhouse with a classic cocktail bar that focuses on quality and service, and you will find that warm, welcoming atmosphere that you find at our other properties here at Resorts,” Shay says. “Resorts is a unique property, and their history of the hotel ... we try to mirror that in the restaurant with historic photos we have at our other properties from our history. So it’s a great marriage.”
So when will there be a sixth restaurant?