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The biggest change Berkshire Hathaway shareholders will find inside their beloved Gorat's Steak House when they're here isn't new floors or new artwork or new windows.
They'll find all those things. But they'll find something else, too.
“The newest thing about Gorat's is me,” said its new owner, Gene Dunn, laughing.
Dunn bought Gorat's from the Gorat family last fall and since then has renovated the restaurant. He's added to the menu, but Dunn said the portfolio of steaks is almost the same, and he's expanded hours.
Dunn said all of the 1970s decor is gone — he removed drop ceilings, wallpaper, wood paneling and carpeting, among other things.
“We sort of took it back to what it was in the 1940s and '50s,” he said. “As I say, we didn't redecorate. We de-decorated.”
There are lots of changes inside the restaurant. Dunn took all the ceilings back to their original height. He uncovered a floating, backlit ceiling in the bar and restored it, along with the bar itself. The floor in the dance floor and band area has been raised about two feet, and mirrors that once covered windows in the bar are gone.
There's a new window in the east dining room and a skylight in what's now called the fireplace room. Dunn said the fireplace, uncovered during renovations, is original to the house — Gorat's is inside an old house — and now operational.
He removed shutters in the two party rooms to let in more natural light. There are new light fixtures throughout the restaurant, and all the carpeting has been replaced with a synthetic wood floor.
“There's also no more carpeting on the walls,” he said.
Dunn hung some photographs of the original dining room in 1944 and the house in 1948, a nod to the past. He also installed a number of new pieces of artwork by a Canadian artist, Marion Rose, of animals painted in vibrant hues of red, orange, purple and blue.
After the Berkshire shareholders leave, he has plans to change the seating in the south dining room by adding booths all the way around its perimeter.
There are some details, though, that Dunn left alone. The entry hall to the restaurant is the same. The exterior neon sign is the same, though Dunn said it's been restored and now glows in its original color. The exterior of the building has been painted dark brown but is otherwise the same.
As for the menu, Gorat's is serving meat from Omaha Steaks, and though it isn't certified angus beef, it's part of Omaha Steaks' angus program. The Omaha T-bone is there, as are the filet, the prime rib, a 10-ounce flat iron, a peppercorn crusted New York strip and a new addition, a whiskey ribeye.
There are more sandwiches and salads on the menu, Dunn said. The restaurant also did away with its lunch menu and serves the same list all day long. And it's open all afternoon now, instead of closing from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“We've tried to make it more affordable in the evenings,” Dunn said. “And people can eat lighter fare at night now and be more comfortable versus what we had on the menu before.”
The full menu is at Gorat's new website, www.goratsomaha.com.
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Dunn said he held onto the chef who had been at the restaurant for 47 years, Bill Caveye, and brought on another chef, Archie Loehr, who worked at the Ironwood Golf and Country Club and with Dunn at one of his other restaurants, the now-closed YoYo Grille. Many of the same waitresses still work there.
Gorat's also still has live music every Saturday night in the bar, and Dunn said the live jazz and standards have been popular with both new customers and longtime regulars.
“When people say to me it's not the old Gorat's,” Dunn said, “I say it is the old Gorat's. It's the original Gorat's. We have many of our old customers back, and I think they have welcomed the facelift we gave the restaurant.”
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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