BC Steak, set to open March 17, is replacing Gaithersburg, Maryland's Bugaboo Creek Steak House, which closed its doors in February. Restaurant group Capitol BC owns the two concepts.

Three years ago Capitol BC purchased the 12-unit Bugaboo Creek Steak House chain, which was in bankruptcy, intending to revamp the mid-Atlantic based restaurants. Instead, the company is closing the family steakhouses one unit at a time, overhauling the locations, and unveiling the new restaurants as BC Steak, featuring a new menu offered in a more upscale, polished environment.

BC Steak in Gaithersburg–the new concept's first location–is not simply a renovation of the Bugaboo Creek Steak House it replaced—it’s a completely different restaurant. Gone are the animatronics—the talking taxidermy—that helped define the kid-friendly, Canadian Rockies-themed restaurant. First opened in the 1980s, the concept has gotten old, says Bill Burnett, Capitol BC's new president. Bugaboo Creek was born of a generation where kids didn’t play games on their smartphone while dining out with the family.

Since the Gaithersburg location closed its door, it’s been under non-stop construction, says Burnett. “In effect, it’s a brand new restaurant, with all brand new décor,” he says. “It will be unrecognizable to former Bugaboo guests.”

While Bugaboo Creek spots are masculine friendly—think a rustic hunting lodge in Maine, hence the taxidermy—BC Steak will have more of a female-friendly, Vermont ski lodge feel. It’s designed to appeal to young professionals and business travelers, as well as families. (The kid menu stays.)

Along with a more sophisticated menu and wine list, the level of service is also being upgraded. “We are re-interviewing all staff members, and hiring new staff to meet the needs of the new concept,” says Burnett.

One of the issues faced by Capitol BC is that its competition in the mid-range steakhouse sector—most notably LongHorn Steak, Texas Roadhouse, and Outback—have multi-million advertising budgets and larger buying power. BC Steak is looking to carve a niche by providing a higher level of service and product—and slightly higher price points. “We are not going from casual dining to Capital Grille or Morton’s, but whereas before our average check was $19 blended for lunch and dinner, now we will push it up to $27,” says Burnett. “It’s still an affordable night out.”

Calling itself a steakhouse with a twist, BC Steak differs from classic, high-end steakhouses that offer menu items solely á la carte. At BC Steak, side items will be served with the steak entrée, ensuring diners don’t have to cross that $30 per meal threshold. There are also a lot of items that sell for less than $20, such as the Sam Adams Beer Battered Fish and Chips for $15. The most expensive item on the menu is a steak fillet served Oscar style, priced at $29.

Adds Burnett, “We are still value priced, but we are shifting our focus to more of an adult crowd.”

New menu items include Sautéed Whiskey Shrimp, featuring housemade bourbon based and mustard cream sauce; Maryland Style Crab Cake, prepared fresh daily with lump crab meat; Cedar Plank Salmon, marinated in soy and glazed with sweet mustard; and Braised Short Ribs, served with a red wine demi-glace.

Another major difference is the addition of the Silver Birch Bar, housed in a separate space within the restaurant and open for extended hours. It features a comfortable lounge area, shuffleboard tables, and darts—designed to attract an after work crowd. In addition to the full food menu, patrons can enjoy an expanded selection of wines by the glass or bottle, local craft beers, and signature cocktails.

“We hired a consultant who has done phenomenal work in Nashville, and he is developing a line of specialty cocktails and upgrading our wine selection,” notes Burnett. New cocktails include the BC Signature Martini, made with house-infused cranberry and orange vodka, and The Silver Birch (formerly known as Moose Juice), made with fresh, sweet pineapples.

Bugaboo Creek currently runs a 90 percent to 10 percent food to liquor mix. Burnett is looking to move the bar tab to 20-25 percent of the mix.

Following the launch of BC Steak in Gaithersburg, Burnett and his team will spend a couple of months assessing what worked and what should be done differently.

“We want to retain as many of our Bugaboo Creek guests as we can,” says Burnett. “But this is a brand new restaurant, and it will be a different dining experience,” he says.

One menu item that didn’t make it to the new restaurant is Bugaboo Creek’s popular Bunyan Onion. “It just wasn’t appropriate for the new concept,” says Burnett.

By Joann Whitcher

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, NextGen Casual, BC Steak, Bugaboo Creek Steak House