Meet Chef Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig
Sam Marvin expects to see plenty of Kings fans and concertgoers at his soon-to-open steakhouse Echo & Rig. On the arena-side ground floor of The Sawyer hotel, its patio is steps away from Golden 1 Center.
But the restaurant’s chef/owner knows the success of his business – a modern spin on a beloved dining staple – largely will depend on diners coming in on non-event days and nights.
He has plenty of reasons to be optimistic they will – 539 of them in fact. That’s how many people recently made Valentine’s Day reservations at the Echo & Rig in Las Vegas, which has been open for five years and has developed an enthusiastic following.
“Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse in Tivoli Village manages to combine the friendliness of your neighborhood butcher with the class of an elegant, yet casual eatery that is focused on – what else? – steak,” wrote the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2015.
USA Today put Echo & Rig on its “10 Best in Vegas” list: “Echo & Rig’s distinctive design features a butcher shop on the first floor, which is the first sign this isn’t your average steakhouse. The décor’s comfortable, slightly industrial style keeps the atmosphere casual and welcoming, and you’re likely to see people in everything from shorts to suits.”
When that farm-to-fork restaurant breaks down a whole cow, Marvin sends the leg bones to some regular customers – Siegfried’s famous white tigers.
This second Echo & Rig will be different, tailored to Sacramento and its location inside a luxury hotel. In addition to dinner and lunch, it will serve breakfast and weekend brunch. A coffee bar will offer Old Soul coffee. Marvin hopes to open by the end of February.
“Weekday breakfasts, it will be healthy with egg white omelets and farmers market fare,” he said. “Brunch, it will be very decadent with lemon ricotta pancakes and bottomless mimosas.”
Marvin said he plans to have 50 to 60 items on the dinner menu including several seafood and vegan options. The bar will feature 10 draft beers and many more in bottles (including some Northern California breweries) plus a moderately priced California-centric wine list.
Marvin, who lives in Santa Clarita in Southern California, commutes to Sacramento and Las Vegas to oversee his two restaurants. Classically trained in Europe, he’s best known for founding Bottega Louie in Los Angeles and beating Bobby Flay on the Food Network.
Due to the configuration next to The Sawyer’s lobby, the new restaurant’s butcher shop won’t be “brick and mortar,” Mavin said. A full-time butcher will be on staff to craft custom steaks, chops and an assortment of non-traditional cuts – bavettes, spencers, skirts, flanks, hangers, rib-eye caps and more.
Diners also can expect creative sausages, headcheese and five types of house-smoked bacon. Guests at The Sawyer and residents of its condos will be able to order from the butcher shop. Eventually, any restaurant guest will be able to take some fresh meat home, too.
“We use nose to tail, every part of the animal,” Marvin said. “We also care about that animal, how it lived, what it ate, how it was cared for. I’ve been to every ranch, every farm we work with. Those relationships are important to me.”
Inside, there will be leatherette booths in comfortable moss green and coach brown. Carrara marble tile and natural walnut cover the floors and the tabletops. Brass accents catch the light.
And that’s an immediate difference – this 7,000-square-foot steakhouse feels satisfyingly light. Unlike a darkened old school steak and potato place, Echo & Rig lets the sun shine in. Walls of windows look out over Downtown Commons, and the eatery features an indoor/outdoor bar.
“Look around,” Marvin said during a tour this week. “I wanted to echo the indoor/outdoor feel of the hotel and the arena, bring the outdoors inside and vice versa.”
Likewise, the entrees at Echo & Rig will be lighter – both in size and price point. Most cuts weigh in the 9- to 10-ounce range, a more reasonable size in terms of appetites and calories than a 2-pound hunk of beef. The restaurant’s most expensive steak will be $39; the bulk of the menu’s meat entrees in the $21-$29 range with a steak sandwich at $14.
Clearly, much thought has gone into the menu. The same can be said about the restaurant’s name. It’s a combination of mythological figures (Echo is a Greek nymph; Rig a Celtic king). Marvin said he thought the two sounded good when mashed together, especially when attached to a steakhouse.
This eatery has been a work in progress for 18 months. Marvin was recruited to open this Echo & Rig by the Kimpton company, owners of The Sawyer.
“I could have opened another restaurant on the (Vegas) Strip, but I came here,” he said. “I’m really excited about Sacramento. I love the coffee culture, the craft cocktails, the ice cream. So much is happening here.”
In the days before opening, a lot needed to be done. “All the finishing is happening fast,” Marvin said as he dodged construction equipment.
Venetian plaster in seven shades of gray coat the dining room walls. Inside the spacious 2,500-square-foot kitchen, white subway tile and gleaming stainless steel appliances keep the workspace bright. A giant wood-burning grill stands near the center, ready for its loads of California red oak.
“All our meat is cooked over wood,” Marvin said. “Most restaurants use mesquite or hickory, but that makes everything taste like mesquite or hickory. Red oak gives a good, clean, hot char.”
Echo & Rig hired its staff – 113 to start – at a January job fair. Some key positions Marvin brought with him from Las Vegas or Los Angeles. That includes corporate chef Chris Goossen, Marvin’s colleague of 26 years. He moved to Sacramento from Los Angeles to open the new restaurant.
“We have a fun kitchen,” said Goossen, sporting a Los Angeles Lakers cap that will be sure to attract attention around the arena. “We like to have a good time and it just happens to be our jobs. We love what we do.”
Goossen said he especially appreciates how the menu expands the notion of what can be served at a steakhouse – inventive salads and vegan options in addition to American kobe beef. “How can I have one favorite when I put a little piece of my heart into every dish?” he asked with a smile.