Steve Hartnett, R.I.P

Early Sunday morning Steve Hartnett lost his battle with prostate cancer. He was 61. Hartnett is best known as a restaurateur. He was a dynamic force behind Fox and Hound, Bailey’s Pub and Grille, Cool River Cafe, Flip’s Patio Grille, Winewood, and Mi Dia. Hartnett also owns the Bob’s Steak and Chop House in Grapevine. At one point, Hartnett owned over 200 restaurants. However, Hartnett considered designing and operating restaurants as a hobby. His “real day jobs” were futures trader and real estate developer.

I met Steve in 2002 when he was part of a group of restaurateurs I joined to travel to Uzbekistan where we prepared a steak dinner for 2,000 soldiers at an airbase outside of Karshi. The mission, headed by Harvey Gough, also included Gene Street, Rhett Stein, Tony Booth, Rob Holmes, and Robert Ozarow. The complete wacky story is here.

After a 6-hour layover at Bagram Airbase, 27 miles north of Kabul, Afghanistan, we took off for for Karshi. Fifteen minutes later, Bagram was attacked. Once we arrived at “K-2,” we lived in cargo containers and hung out with the first troops and Special Forces units sent to battle. On the evening of our dinner, Steve stood up and gave a patriotic toast to the officers in a private dining area. After he finished, he went over to the next tent and worked and visited every table to thank the soldiers for their service.

Hartnett was a consummate professional. He was generous with his restaurant employees, investors, and business staff. He was one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He was a perfectionist, a philosopher, and a true entrepreneur. Our condolences to his wife Sandy, son Taylor, and daughter Dionne. Services pending.