The low-carb frenzy may have mellowed, but steak is staying on the menu.

A new crop of contemporary steakhouses is popping up in Los Angeles, including the Lodge in Beverly Hills, the Sterling in Hollywood and a yet-to-be named Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group offering at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.

"Everybody likes old food, (but) usually when you want to eat something old, it comes with an old restaurant," said Adolfo Suaya, a partner in the Lodge. "I want to make the food that we all know, but a little newer design."

For Suaya, that meant bringing on hot designer Dodd Mitchell to give the Lodge a hip feel with ebony and suede touches, but he said the restaurant won't stray from classic steakhouse fare. Other new steakhouses, including the Dakota in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, are spicing up the menu with uncharacteristic plates such as duck leg confit and Korubuta pork chops.

The thirst for meat is fueled by two simultaneous trends: Low-carb diets reintroduced people to protein-filled meals, and restaurant goers tired of elaborate fusion concoctions.

"There was a long period where everybody was told steak wasn't good for you. They are coming back and getting their quota, catching up for lost time," said Tom Kaplan, a senior managing partner at Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining.

Some established steakhouses could take a few hits as red meat aficionados explore the new territory, but Suzanne Tracht, chef and co-owner of Jar, which opened four years ago, welcomes the competition, betting that her eatery will do just fine. "They (diners) are looking for fresh, simple foods," she said.

Update Department
Shoppers wondering what changes are ahead for Robinsons-May department stores with the merger of Federated Department Stores Inc. and May Department Stores Co. shouldn't hold their breath.

While the boards of both companies have approved Federated's $17 billion bid for St. Louis-based May, stockholders must still sign off on the deal in scheduled votes later this month.

Along with Federal Trade Commission review, it will likely be late in the year before the merger is given final approval and not until after the holiday season before it's apparent in stores.

"It is going to take time," said Walter Loeb, a retail analyst with Loeb Associates.

Federated, based in Cincinnati, is expected to make over much of May's portfolio, which includes 49 Robinsons-May stores in California, as well as Marshall Field's, Hecht's and Lord & Taylor, largely on the East Coast.

Federated is still expected to convert many Robinsons-May stores to Macy's, likely closing some, especially in Southern California, where both stores often anchor regional malls and shopping centers together.

Irish Are Coming
Grab a pint of Guinness. Ye Olde King's Head, the venerable Santa Monica British pub, is getting a touch of Irish.

Irishmen Donal Tavey and Paul Boettcher, owners of the Santa Monica sports bar Busby's, have bought the King's Head from Phil and Ruth Elwell for an undisclosed price. The Elwells opened the King's Head over 30 years ago.

Tavey and Boettcher seem like a strange fit, and it's not only the Irish thing. Busby's teems with scantily clad college students who order drinks from models and actors at their part-time bartending gigs and watch games on wide plasma television screens. At the King's Head, British ex-pats sip their native brews and fling darts at a pre-digital cork board.

But Lisa Powers, the King's Head office manager, said the Elwells have been assured that the new owners won't change the King's Head and that includes the shepherd's pie and the bangers and mash.

"They wanted somebody who was to keep the King's Head name and keep everything that has been running successfully," she said.

*Staff reporter Rachel Brown can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 224, or by e-mail at .

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