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Asked to describe the classic American steakhouse, many would envision a dark, wood-paneled interior populated with stern waiters, cigar smoke and a mostly male clientele — the regulars among them entering and exiting through a private, mysterious chamber.

At Washington Prime in South Norwalk and Georgetown, the only word above that might apply is steakhouse, and even that is misleading.

“We don't consider ourselves a steakhouse, but instead a new American restaurant with a few prime cuts of meat,” said Rob Moss, one of Washington Prime’s three owners. “Our concept is really about designing a menu for everyone, whether you are gluten-free, just want soup or salad, small plates or a wide variety of Great American entrées. To top it off we add our prime steaks into the mix, because it is so hard to find a true prime cut of beef unless you go to a typical steakhouse.”

Moss and his partners, Marco Siguenza and Dave Studwell, opened the first Washington Prime on Washington Street in South Norwalk in 2014. Accolades and gushing reviews quickly followed: The restaurant was named best steakhouse by Connecticut Magazine’s 2016 readers’ poll, named as one of the state’s best by the magazine’s experts, and has a lofty 4.3 rating on Open Table.

Moss said there’s more than one reason Washington Prime is a success. He says it’s not just the menu but also the vibe of a cool American restaurant that offers menu variety for all diners. “We also have a great team,” Moss said. “Our staff takes great care in making sure service is at its best while making the relationship comfortable and casual for all guests.”

Encouraged by the response, the owners — each of whom has 20 years of restaurant experience — just opened another Washington Prime in Georgetown (19 Main St., Redding, at the former Olive Market site).

“Towns like Stamford and Fairfield are saturated with restaurants and bars right now. In addition, we are always looking for up-and-coming areas with growth potential,” said Moss when asked about the reasons for choosing Georgetown. “Second, a number of our customers who live up in Ridgefield, Redding, Wilton, Weston, etc., really enjoyed the restaurant but could only make it down to South Norwalk once a month or even less frequent. We got several requests to open a spot up their way.”

Although Washington Prime is not a traditional steakhouse, its steaks are still the stars. The beef comes from the Great Plains, primarily Nebraska, and is considered the top 1% in the U.S.

“A lot of steak houses will sell customers on prime steak, but they really don't order prime steak. We pride ourselves in getting the best of the best and offering it to our guests at the best possible value we can,” said Moss.

Those guests have expectations and standards that guard against complacency.

“Fairfield County is a world-class audience,” said Moss. “You see celebrity chefs who have made it all over the country try to come to Fairfield County and fail. Customers are very knowledgeable, not only with ingredients but presentation, cooking techniques, food trends, service, and more. We feel we do a good job switching up the menu every season to reflect these things and deliver quality and consistency with maybe a new twist on it for our guests.”

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