By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jun 03, 2016 at 11:01 AM

Among the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year is Rare Steakhouse, which will  welcome its first guests at 833 E. Michigan Ave. on Saturday, June 4 at 5 p.m.

However, we were fortunate enough to get an early look at the space during a soft opening celebration last night. And, thanks to a private tour led by General Manager Jason Wedner, we’ve got plenty of photos (and a few stories) to share.

The dining room is classic and elegant with burgundy leather booths, white clothed tables, opulent chandeliers and mahogany accents. A nod to the upscale steakhouse’s location lies in historic photographs of Milwaukee’s beer barons, which grace the walls.

But don’t neglect looking upward, where you’ll find stamped metal ceiling tiles the color of onyx. And there’s a story behind them. Apparently, as plans for the restaurant’s decor progressed, Rare’s owners were unable to find ceiling tiles they loved. So, they modified the tiles they found by taking them to an auto detailer, who obligingly finished them in BMW black. Perfect.

Another fun fact: the restaurant contains so much mahogany that, if the boards were lined up end-to-end, they would cover at least three miles.

Speaking of mahogany, the restaurant boasts a large, well-stocked mahogany bar to the south of the dining area. Within that bar is a piano bar – literally a piano, surrounded by a bar – where there will be live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings. 

Rare Steakhouse takes pride in its wine selection. And, in the case of the Milwaukee location, that includes over 900 bottles of international selections, more than double the stock of its Madison location.

If you’re a wine lover, procuring a wine locker might be of interest to you. After all, for $1,800 a year, they’ll stock your locker with a private selection of fine wines with a value of $2,500 that you can enjoy when you visit.

There's a bit of expertise on the food side, too. The kitchen is headed by Chef Paul Morrison, whose resume includes posts as executive sous chef and and chef de cuisine at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse in the Mohegan Sun Casino. 

And, as any chef will vouch, great food begins with great ingredients. In Rare's case, that means using only 100 percent USDA Prime cuts, which are dry aged on premise in an aging cooler and hand cut.

Like most steakhouses, Rare also prides itself on the way the meat is cooked. Its technique is assisted by custom-made Montague broilers that heat up to a scorching 1,900 degrees, ensuring a crisp crust on your tender steak. 

But sometimes it’s all about the details. In addition to great wine and delicious steaks and seafood, there’s also an element of entertainment to look forward to on your visit. The restaurant offers tableside service for its scratch-made Caesar salad, which boasts ingredients like fresh garlic, house-made anchovy paste, Sarvecchio Parmesan and homemade croutons. The salad is also served complete with the tale of its origin (that has everything to do with Prohibition); but we'll let you hear that for yourselves.

It’s also worth your while to stick around and enjoy dessert – specifically the classic bananas foster. That's also served tableside, with an ample dose of flair.

If you're in a rush on weekdays, Rare has a high-end solution to your luncheon woes. It takes the form of a roving cart that serves up hand-carved prime rib on demand at lunch and on Saturday evenings. 

And, if you're loving the idea of carts and tableside service, here’s something more: rumor has it Rare is working on a cart to offer tableside Old Fashioneds in the future.

For all of these reasons, it’s a given that Rare will become a favorite spot for corporate engagements. Fortunately, it’s pulled together spaces that accommodate. The "board room" is a private conference room and event space that seats up to 16. It’s flawlessly soundproofed and decked out with a full A/V system, making it perfect for corporate meetings and events.

Along similar lines, the library – which is filled with thousands of used books – seats 50-55, functioning as overflow for the dining room or as a private event space. Here, too, you’ll find amenities like a 130-inch projector screen and A/V system.

Rare will begin regular hours on Monday, June 6 serving lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. The bar will open at 11 a.m. daily.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.