No matter the day of the week, or the weather, there’s a line waiting outside the door of CC’s City Broiler ahead of 5 o’clock. You don’t need a reservation (in fact, they don’t take them) or a special occasion to celebrate at this beloved Columbia institution, you just need an appetite for fine steak and seafood.
For 25 years, Scott Cleeton, owner of CC’s, has made it his priority to offer his customers more than just a pretty plate. “From day one, we’ve had this idea that we’re not in a position to just sell food to people; it’s more of an experience,” he says. We talked to Scott about why this experience has kept that 5 o’clock line forming since 1995.
What’s the role of a traditional steakhouse/fine dining restaurant in today’s food scene — one that’s peppered with fads and trends? It’s hard for me to classify CC’s as fine dining, because we’re steak and potatoes, we just do it in a more upscale way. But steakhouses in general can be a bit upscale, because years ago, when steakhouses were created, just the idea of having steak on the table meant celebration for most people, because it was expensive.
I liken it, maybe, to perhaps a band. You can create new songs all the time, but once you establish your greatest hits album, people come to hear the hits. But we do create “new” all the time, we try to, maybe we put a twist on things to make them a little more contemporary and we’re always on the lookout for better ingredients and better quality stuff. But we’re not that kind of place that follows fads, at least as much as other places.
How has CC’s evolved over the years? We’ve grown a lot. Speaking to the creative part of it, as people’s tastes became more sophisticated, we’ve been creating higher end sauces, and now it’s all truffled butters and compound butters and deep truffle salts and different types of seasonings that are a little more maybe exotic. More specifically, I think we’ve been able to evolve and grow because we’ve maintained a level of care for our guests, that for other people comes and goes. They get a little taste of success and then that owner and operator isn’t nearly as hands-on or available, and then that place sort of just arrives in some mediocre land, and forever hovers there. For us it’s always been about, how can we blow the minds of these people tonight? We focus on that.
Tell us about the butcher shop. We originally opened that to sell some of our premium steaks, especially in the summertime, to folks who have their grills going and aren’t going to pay a visit to the restaurant because they’re going to cook at home. We still wanted to be a part of that celebration. So we expanded into that extra spot and started aging beef over there, and as a result, we just barely keep up with the demand for some of these aged steaks that we’ve got. It’s become a great space for parties and events, and we use it for overflow seating, which works out great. We don’t have any plans, at least in the immediate future, to open to the public because frankly—and it’s a good thing—we can’t keep up with our own demand. My art teacher used to call that a happy mistake, a happy accident, when you stand back and look at something and think, wow, that actually turned out really well.
CC’s City Broiler, 1401 Forum Blvd., Columbia, Missouri, 573.445.7772, ccscitybroiler.com