RED the Steakhouse Pinecrest settles into success

By Carlo Wolff

RED the Steakhouse Pinecrest in Orange.
Photo courtesy of RED the Steakhouse.

The timing wasn’t the best, but who knew? RED the Steakhouse opened its location at Pinecrest in Orange the day after Thanksgiving 2019, and less than four months later, COVID-19 hit. Time to pivot to takeout. Time for a fresh focus on hiring, particularly considering that employees at Pinecrest, the Cleveland RED Downtown and RED South Beach in Miami Beach, Fla., took part in the Great Resignation, abandoning their jobs, even leaving the hospitality industry altogether.

But some things remain the same, like the Certified Angus Beef steaks all REDs offer in various permutations. And if you think tastes have slimmed down – and the workforce – think again. As Toni Lampros, RED the Steakhouse’s director of hospitality, says, people come to RED to indulge. That’s a tradition dating back to the original RED the Steakhouse, formerly in Beachwood.

Both Cleveland-area REDs offer an array of indoor and outdoor spaces for private dining that can accommodate small, intimate groups all the way up to large gatherings. Both locations have four private rooms, and rooftop spaces available for private, seated dinners or more casual happy hour or appetizer/cocktail events.

RED Pinecrest, like its menu, is sumptuous indeed. With more than 8,100 square feet on the first floor and a 2,300-square-foot rooftop deck overlooking Pinecrest’s Central Park with views all the way to downtown, the restaurant is theatrical in the best sense. Dramatically cloaked in black, white and a red well on its way to crimson, it’s a glossy, sparkling feast for the eyes. Which warms the heart of Gregg S. Levy, managing partner of YLT RED, LLC, RED’s owner and operator. Maintaining high standards matters to him.

Gregg S. Levy in front of the wine cellar at RED Pinecrest.
Photo / Carlo Wolff.

“We are best in class as far as our food and our service,” Levy says, “and we were best in class as far as our attention to detail regarding COVID, like putting up barriers between booths. We did everything by the book. We were very, very strict as far as the amount of people you can have, and the amount of people you can have at a bar. I would say it affected us greatly. It limited the general public’s desire to come out and eat. It had a very long-lasting effect, I think, on the entire hospitality industry.”

“People also were getting COVID,” says Stephanie Pack, RED’s director of operations and a certified sommelier. “As operators, it was very challenging because we were following all of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID guidelines. And every day, you never knew who could potentially be sick or exposed. So, it was a challenge, as Gregg said, from every direction.” 

Pack has worked for RED since 2010. Lampros, who joined the organization part time in 2005, says over 30% of its staff had been with the company “five-plus, 10-plus years.”

“We had a well-established management base which allowed us to bring people in who are newer to hospitality or to fine dining, and train them to be at the level our guests come to expect from RED,” Lampros says. 

And in regard to the COVID-19 days, Levy says, “The fortunate thing for us is we were on top of it,” noting he served on a task force Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine convened to manage the reopening of restaurants after the COVID-19 shutdown that started in March 2020 and ended mid-May that year.  


Make no mistake: RED the Steakhouse Pinecrest is an upscale steakhouse, where a ribeye of Certified Angus Beef costs $79 and a side dish of broccolini fetches $16. That broccolini is nuanced and complex, its ingredients including Parmesan cheese, almond, shallot and garlic. Work and sophistication infuse RED dishes. 

CAB porterhouse steak.
Photo / RED the Steakhouse

“We’re very chef-driven,” Levy says. “We have excellent executive chefs, and executive chefs are artists. You’re going to have your RED staples, whether you go to RED Pinecrest, to RED Downtown, or even to RED South Beach. We let the chefs have their own creativity.” 

Randy Rogers is executive chef at RED Pinecrest. Michael Tolosa has that honor at RED Downtown.

Levy’s RED favorites? 

“I don’t eat red meat and never had a RED steak, but RED is so much more than steak,” says Levy, who attends B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike. “… I am always looking to the chef specials, especially the fish selections.” 

“Sixty South” salmon with chive oil, leeks, snow peas, thumbelina carrots, verjus and puffed rice.
Photo / RED the Steakhouse

RED Pinecrest has won numerous awards, including the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award each year it has been open. In addition, Cleveland Magazine readers have honored it with a Best of Cle recognition for Best Steak, and Best of the East Best Steak. 

RED works closely with local vendors and uses local sources when possible, Lampros says. Throughout the nearly 20-year history of RED, the restaurants have offered staples like truffled whipped potatoes (you can hold the truffles), steaks, fish and a spirited pasta selection. Like the menu, the cocktail offerings selected by Pack, who also is the beverage director, change seasonally.


Now that business travel has largely returned, RED Pinecrest is beginning to see more of it. The downtown RED, which opened in 2014, has always gotten that kind of business, along with travelers from all over flocking to the city to watch its sports teams, especially when they are doing well, Levy says. The theatrical delights of Playhouse Square are another business resource.

“When the restaurants were reopened during COVID, we did a lot of to-go orders for opposing basketball teams,” Levy recalls. “They knew about RED, and we would have to box up tons of orders because players weren’t allowed to leave hotels. So they would order from RED, and we’d bring the orders, even on team planes.”

Like other businesses, RED the Steakhouse acquired new skills during the pandemic, and its workforce changed. Foodies can count on getting their favorites at both Cleveland-area REDs, but they can also experiment.

“Our menus are smaller now than they would’ve been pre-COVID,” says Lampros, “but we feature more of those chef-driven, chef-inspired dishes.” 

“When we had a limited menu, and different food items for our rooftops with outside dining in warmer weather, we ended up reverting back to those original core items because that’s what people want when they come to RED,” Pack adds. “But as Toni also said, we give other options. So if you’re a vegetarian or pescatarian, as some of Gregg’s family is, we have all of the options. But for sure, what people are coming to RED for are our steaks, our core menu.” 

No RED customer leaves leftovers on the table, says Levy.

“We really worked well together as a team,” says Pack, and made adjustments on a daily basis. “We got through it and we’re on the other side, and we’re better for it. We’ve learned some COVID lessons and had some COVID gifts, even though that may sound contradictory, and I think that we are still maintaining all of our integrity and quality after going through something that big.”


Now that RED Pinecrest and RED Downtown have weathered the pandemic storm and then some, what’s the status of RED the Steakhouse’s takeover of Nighttown, the legendary jazz spot/restaurant in Cleveland Heights former owner Brendan Ring closed during the pandemic?

“We are nearing the end zone,” Levy says. “We were very, very conscious of maintaining the spirit and the brand of Nighttown, and the look and feel, while being able to deliver the RED service that is so important to us. We’ve preserved every room in there.”

RED has installed a new HVAC system, built a new kitchen and created a new entryway to the patio. 

“There was a lot of infrastructure work that needed to be done,” says Levy, “but when you walk in there, you are going to feel like you’re at Nighttown.”

Will there be music? “Yes, though not at first. Eventually there’ll be music … But that is absolutely on our primary agenda,” he says.

Got an opening date? Levy chuckles. “We are very near the end zone,” he reasserts. “The last thing we want to do is announce an opening that we can’t meet. Nighttown is too important to us and to the Heights community to tease them and not deliver what we say we will. That’s about as direct as I can be.”   

Creamed corn with cornbread crumbs

This has become a signature summer dish at RED the Steakhouse. Serves 4.

• 8 pieces sweet corn (Ohio is best when in season)

• 1 quart heavy cream

• 1 tablespoon sliced garlic

• 1 tablespoon sliced shallots

• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and chives

• 2 tablespoons whole sweet butter

• Kosher salt

• Fresh ground black pepper

• 1 cup cornbread crumbs

Slice corn kernels off of the corncobs. Save the cobs for the corn cream. 

Heat a medium-sized sauce pan, add a tablespoon of butter and saute the shallots and garlic until soft. Add the reserved corncobs and pour the heavy cream into the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. When the cream is reduced by half, remove the corncobs and discard them.

Heat a saute pan and add the last tablespoon of butter, add the corn and saute for 3 to 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Add 4 ounces of the corn cream and stir it into the corn until it is evenly combined. Season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. 

Place the mixture into an oven safe dish, top with the cornbread crumbs and bake until the crumbs are golden brown. Serve piping hot.

Cucumber cocktail

• 2 oz. Ketel One cucumber & mint vodka

• 1 oz. Cucumber mix (see recipe below)

1. Build ingredients in shaker over ice

2. Shake well

3. Strain over small chinois into coupe or martini glass

4. Garnish with cucumber peel 

Cucumber mix

• 2 whole cucumbers

• 4 oz. simple syrup

• 4 oz. fresh lemon juice

1. Peel cucumbers

2. Cut into 2-inch sections

3. Blend all ingredients in Vitamix blender (start on medium, run at medium)

5. As they break down, slowly bring blender to high (do not run at high as it cooks the cucumbers)

6. Check consistency

7. Strain through chinois

8. Freeze any unneeded mixture for next time

Recipes courtesy of RED the Steakhouse

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