Kept alive by nearly two centuries of chewing carnivores, the New York City steakhouse defiantly broils on. Classic steakhouses, like Peter Luger and Keens, enjoy a certain amount of stability not common in the current dining climate, where even the most exciting chef-driven small plates tasting counters last about as long as the Edison bulbs that light their communal bathroom foyers. Many of these meat mongers have histories as well marbled as the aged cuts they serve, often extending back into the 19th and early 20th centuries. Taking their cues from the gregarious man-and-meat gatherings known as beefsteak socials, these old guard chophouses almost always feature dark wood and clubby atmospheres, but thanks to this current period of food culture awareness, a modern version of the steakhouse has emerged, where starters and sides are less of an afterthought. Traditional or contemporary, the restaurants on this list all excel in both char and charm. These are the 10 best steakhouses in NYC.
10. Christos Steakhouse, (4108 23rd Avenue, Queens; 718-777-8400) Formerly a Greek taverna, this Astoria steakhouse has an adjoining butcher shop and ages its steaks on premises, so you can take home the same quality cuts the kitchen serves in the restaurant. The lengthy menu incorporates Hellenic touches with dishes like smoked feta mashed potatoes and a lamb bacon Cobb salad. As for the beef, porterhouse is a good choice, but Christos also dry ages its filet mignon, lending a funk not often found in the usually wet aged cut. Hiding ice cream and red velvet cake, the ‘Baked Astoria’ makes for an appropriately decadent finish.
9. St. Anselm, (335 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-384-5054) Although it sits not far from what is arguably the most famous steakhouse in the country, Joe Carroll’s Williamsburg paean to all things grilled has never needed to worry about competing with the Luger leviathan. There’s not much dry aged hullaballoo in this dining room. Most carnivorous patrons go for the faultless $16 hanger steak, but New York strip, and tomahawk rib eye cuts are also available. Creamed spinach and thick-cut bacon are familiar sides, but chances are you won’t find shishito peppers and long beans on other steakhouse menus around town — so consider ordering them here.
8. Gallaghers Steakhouse, (228 West 52nd Street, 212-586-5000) Dean Poll took over this 86-year-old Theater District stalwart in February, and to say he’s breathed life back into the place is an understatement. The street-level aging locker still elicits sidewalk drooling, but the dining room and menu have been made over, giving them a more contemporary feel. The kitchen succeeds with nine options of hickory-grilled meat, from a standard porterhouse for two to a kingly prime rib, and even a humble chopped steak. Like filet mignon? Chef Alan Ashkinaze will season your beef eight different ways, including crusted with bourbon-soaked peppercorns.
7. The Strip House, (13 East 12th Street, 212-328-0000) Steven Hanson’s BR Guest Hospitality Group took over this venerable West Village steakhouse last year, long known for its hefty strip steaks. The splashy red David Rockwell interior also sets a convivial stage for chef Michael Vignola’s creative food, which occasionally tiptoes around the limits of the genre with things like surf and turf tartare and pancetta-spiked creamed corn. The signature side — a holdover from pre-Hanson days — is a mound of potatoes cooked in duck fat. Order it with either rib eye, 14-ounce dry aged or 20-ounce wet. You can order Baked Alaska to finish, but even more impressive than dancing flames is a towering slice of chocolate cake that nearly dwarfs the steaks. And although Hanson opened a midtown outpost, the 12th Street original gets our nod.
6. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, (4 Park Avenue, 212-889-3369) Wolfgang Zwiener, headwaiter at Peter Luger for over 40 years, opened the first branch of his eponymous steakhouse — a prismatic Manhattan version of the Brooklyn classic — on Park Avenue in 2005. Since then, the enterprising owner and his team have opened eight beefy branches, including four in New York City and four afield, in Miami, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Tokyo. Still, it’s the Park Avenue original, with its domed tile ceilings and sunken dining room, that feels as emblematic as its forebear. As you would across the river, order the porterhouse, and maybe some German potatoes. There’s thick cut bacon, too, but try asking for steamed spinach at Luger and they’ll likely pummel you with schlag. Here, the kitchen even sautés the leafy green with garlic and olive oil.
5. Costata, (206 Spring Street, 212-334-3320) Michael White’s return to the former Fiamma space, where he cooked for Steven Hanson almost a decade ago, has been a resounding success. The namesake costata is a massive portion of aged rib eye for two, and duos can also order porterhouse and bone-in strip cuts. And since this is a Michael White restaurant, filet fans should consider the menu’s butcher block option, which trades in five ounces of beef (leaving you five ounces) for a pasta-inspired cacio e pepe Caesar salad, or an actual pasta, like triangular pansotti stuffed with ricotta, anointed with peas and pea tendrils, and finished with red wine sugo. For dessert, Altamarea corporate pastry chef Robert Truitt amps up the standard affogato with a shot of Ramazotti amaro and fiore di latte gelato.
4. Minetta Tavern, (113 Macdougal Street, 212-475-3850) Keith McNally’s five-year-old revamp of the storied Minetta Tavern has been a success ever since the words “black label burger” were uttered in some 2009 press release. But although the luxurious dry aged burger lives up to the hype, it’s the tavern’s marrow bone-crowned côte du boeuf for two that brings the beefiest pleasures. McNally veterans Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson left to follow their dreams last year, but chef Bill Brasile has effortlessly taken the reins. He cooks an excellent lamb saddle, as well as New York strip and Roquefort-smothered filets, which you can pair with four different kinds of potatoes or a dish of stuffed cabbage. And unlike many of its peers (but like its McNally-owned siblings), Minetta’s bartenders mix up an excellent cocktail. Even more likely to make you weak in the knees are the chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflés for two. [
3. M. Wells Steakhouse, (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060) Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have been bringing hordes of the food-obsessed to Long Island City since opening their gloriously challenging (and sadly now defunct) diner/restaurant in 2010. Last year, the duo followed up a quirky café inside MoMA PS1 with this modern, Montreal-inspired steakhouse built inside the husk of an auto garage. Underneath an industrial chic skylight and the glow of a screen playing black and white films, Dufour and chef de cuisine Jeff Teller serve up plenty of offbeat dishes unavailable anywhere else in town — look for foie gras-covered pancakes and chawanmushi made with bacon and sea urchin. Even the list of side dishes hides incredible treasures, like beets spiced with elderflower, and more foie gras, this time stuffed into pan-fried gnocchi. Meat-minded diners can choose among solo portions of T-bone or bone-in rib eye steaks, or split platters of chateaubriand or côte du boeuf. Most steakhouse desserts are phoned-in, but Bethany Costello’s dessert trolley yields a bevvy of saccharine delights like hubcap-sized Paris-Brests and bronze-crusted maple pie.
2. Peter Luger, (178 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-387-7400) Perhaps the most recognizable name in the steak game, Peter Luger has been in operation since 1887. Perfumed with the fleshy dew of its basement aging chambers, the dining room hums with a syncopation between excited chatter from diners and the terse-yet-amiable mutterings of the waiters, many of whom have been working there for decades. The lunchtime burger (available until 3:45 p.m. sharp) is justly legendary, composed of steak trimmings. At $11.50, it’s easily the cheapest dry aged burger in the five boroughs. On the steaks — porterhouse was the only cut available for years, but not long ago Luger added a bone-in rib steak that’s every bit as good for a few dollars less. Desserts are as straightforward as the rest of the menu; there’s cheesecake and strudel, but most tables have at least one tulip fountain glass overflowing with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and a heap of thick whipped cream, or schlag.
1. Keens Steakhouse, (72 West 36th Street, 212-947-3636) Keens is a benchmark for classic steakhouses, probably because when it opened in 1885, it was simply a midtown chophouse. Along with Peter Luger, it’s outlasted countless imitations, but Keens bears a particular pedigree. With its many dimly lighted rooms, walls cluttered with antique collectibles and ceilings strung with 90,000 long-stemmed tobacco pipes, there’s a connection to New York’s past that doesn’t feel hackneyed. The true spectacle, however, comes in the form of the heavily charred steaks and chops, including a gargantuan bone-in prime rib, and the sheer glory that is the Keens mutton chop (actually a saddle of lamb). With 16 choices for dessert, including cutesy items like the coffee cantata and red berry bibble, it’s easy to end things on a sweet note. If you’re up for the challenge, however, consider the pub room’s massive prime rib hash, fried golden brown and topped with a griddle-cooked egg.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 14, 2014