Jack Sinanaj & The Sinanaj Brothers – The Forces Behind Empire Steak House

Image commercially licensed from: https://unsplash.com/photos/grilled-meat-on-white-ceramic-plate-pe9dvM1rQkM
Image commercially licensed from: https://unsplash.com/photos/grilled-meat-on-white-ceramic-plate-pe9dvM1rQkM

Written By: Carlos Lacayo

Honesty, hard work, and quality are words and values that Jack Sinanaj and his brothers Russ and Jeff have embodied their entire lives. Immigrating from Montenegro to New York City almost 33 years ago, Jack and his brothers were ready to do whatever it took to be successful. They ended up working their way up in the restaurant industry, starting as busboys and then moving to become waiters. In 1995, the brothers got jobs at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn—and while customers enjoyed their hospitality, Jack had bigger dreams. “I really enjoyed working at restaurants, but I always had the desire to open my own,” says Sinanaj.

In 2005, Jack and his brothers took out an equity loan on their homes and, along with some of their savings, opened a restaurant called Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse on E. 44th Street. Sinanaj explains, “We risked everything to open our own restaurant. We thought that there would be many people, but that didn’t happen.” This didn’t last very long, however. After positive reviews from publications like Time Out New York and the New York Times, business picked up. “We went from having about 100 people a night to about 300-400 people a night,” Sinanaj states. 

ESH Restaurant Group

Ben and Jack’s success led to the Sinanaj brothers opening more restaurants. These restaurants included a second Ben and Jack’s location, the first Empire Steak House, and Chazz Palminteri Italian Restaurant, which they opened with the Academy Award-nominated actor of A Bronx Tale fame. In 2017, Jack and his brothers even opened an Empire Steak House in Tokyo. Currently, the brothers are working on establishments in Singapore and Hawaii. 

With all this ambition and expansion, Jack wanted to keep his business within the family—but slowly realized that might be improbable. This led to the creation of the ESH Restaurant Group. “I wanted to keep business within the family, but I had to think about the expansion and my goals. It was better for me to start working with investors,” Sinanaj says. “If you go further away from the tri-state area, you need people who understand the restaurant business in different parts of the world to partner up with.”

Empire Steak House

Of all of ESH’s endeavors, they are prioritizing their three Midtown locations: the original Empire Steak House located on E. 50th Street, their W. 54th Street location, and W. 49th Street—their newest location, having just opened with a celebration that brought out Mayor Eric Adams. “Midtown is the perfect spot. There’s a lot of foot traffic, and it’s close to the theaters.” Jack continues by saying, “Everyone wants to come to Midtown and Times Square. Back home, it was my dream to come to Times Square, and now, I have a restaurant there.”

Jack Sinanaj & The Sinanaj Brothers - The Forces Behind Empire Steak House
Photo Credited to Empire Steak House

Living the American Dream

Jack and his brother’s success in the restaurant industry is a testament to the American Dream. Immigrating to America, starting from the bottom, and working your way to the top of any industry are things some people will never accomplish. “I really love what I’m doing, and that shows because it’s how I feel on the inside. I think that’s why people have come back for so many years and why I’m successful,” Sinanaj says. When speaking on factors that contributed to the Sinanaj brothers’ successes, he says, “First of all, you have to believe in yourself. Never give up, work hard, and be good to people. If you’re not good to people, they won’t come back.” eshrestaurantgroup.com


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