Over at Smith & Wollensky (NASDAQ:SWRG), there's more than "meats" the eye. Yes, the upscale chain of steakhouses posted a March-quarter loss. After barely breaking even last year, the restaurateur reported a meager deficit of $70,000 -- or $0.01 a share -- for the first quarter.

While there's always an excuse for coming up short, Smith & Wollensky has some good ones. Beef prices, like so many other food prices lately, have spiked. The company also had to expense the pre-opening costs associated with its newest location in Houston earlier this year.

For a chain just 17 units strong, every new addition will pack a fiscal punch. That's also a positive since Smith & Wollensky has so much real estate left to conquer, and why the most material nugget from the report was an 8.8% spike in same-unit sales. Even more encouraging was the fact that April's comps climbed 9.9%. In a ceremoniously fickle industry, it's important to keep patrons coming back, and Smith & Wollensky is clearly succeeding on that front.

As a group, upscale chop houses are faring well. An improving economy and a renewed interest in business dining have helped. Tack on a wave of low-carb dieters who simply have to choose their sides wisely to stay compliant, and you have a combination that plays right into the high-end meat havens' back pockets.

Unfortunately, investors looking to ride the pure play are often saddled with a much larger casual concept. Want to buy in on The Capital Grille's growth? You'll have to do it through RARE Hospitality (NASDAQ:RARE), which relies mostly on the operations of its flagship Longhorn Steakhouse chain. Fleming's Prime Steakhouse? You'll have to go through Aussie-flavored parent Outback Steakhouse (NYSE:OSI) which tosses the carb-intensive Carrabba's into the mix. Del Frisco's? Sorry. That's part of the Lone Star Steakhouse (NASDAQ:STAR) family.

With leader Morton's having been taken private two years ago, Smith & Wollensky is that medium rare investing opportunity to buy into a promising sector. However, it bears noting that in three years of publicly traded living, the stock has never broken out of the single digits.

Maybe it's because the company has produced losses over the past two years. Maybe it's because the balance sheet assets are dominated more by existing properties than by the greenbacks needed to ramp up expansion.

That said, operating profits did improve this past quarter despite the loss. And on a valuation basis, with nearly $100 million in trailing revenues, the stock is trading at just two-thirds of its restaurant sales over the past 12 months. Yes, the bottom line needs to improve to justify a higher share price, but with the trend as Smith & Wollensky's friend, it may be simply a matter of time before the company's share price is served well done.

Folks scaling back on their carbohydrates intake has helped some eateries while punishing others, but has it had an impact on you? Has an Atkins-approved diet helped you or someone you know? Want to know how to get started? All this and more -- in the Low Carb Way of Life discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys hitting a good steakhouse from time to time. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.