The livery may state Kelly English Steakhouse, and that's no misnomer.
But to walk into the new flagship restaurant at the Harrah's hotel and casino in Maryland Heights and expect that beef alone is "what's for dinner" is to look past chef English's Gulf Coast roots.
Seafood dominates the menu from the onset, from the Creole Midnight Snack - an open-faced sandwich of Gulf shrimp tossed in remoulade over brioche toast, topped with a perfectly poached egg - to a playful twist on the bar-fare favorite potato skins, here stuffed with crème fraiche, tuna tartare and caviar.
Upscale nachos featuring ancho-rubbed steak, and a lime-and-avocado-dressed carpaccio let beef sneak into the party.
Traditional steak cuts, from an 8-ounce filet up to a hefty 22-ounce porterhouse, reassert the steakhouse name, while a Newman Farm pork chop stuffed with dirty rice still gives English the chance to slip a bit Cajun flavor into the fare.
But it's the surf ‘n' turf plate that starts channeling the menu back toward Gulf waters. A thick New York strip is butterflied and stuffed with blue cheese and plump oysters fried in a peppery, eggshell-thin batter. The steak was great, but the oysters - crispy, tender and chewy - were superb. (They're available on their own on the starter menu.)
At the listing of seafood entrees, any hesitation regarding chef English's Louisiana influences is gone. Selections include a Creole-seared redfish served with crawfish and smashed potatoes; fried soft-shell crab with a sweet potato dressing; and a bona fide Southern classic, shrimp and grits, with stone-ground Anson Mills grits cooked to fluffy perfection and diced andouille adding some Cajun heat.
Desserts include a coffee crème brulee, served with fresh beignets, a sweet tribute to New Orleans' Café Du Monde, and a reasonable wine and drinks list picks up additional Creole credibility with the addition of beers from Louisiana's Abita Brewing.
English is the chef/owner of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, Tenn., and has been racking up accolades in recent years, including being named one of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs for 2009 as well as being named a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Southeast.
Kelly English Steakhouse, Harrah's St. Louis, 777 Casino Center Dr., Maryland Heights