The cold weather may have held off so far, but the holidays offer ideal opportunities for hunkering down with slabs of animal protein. Veggie burgers still tickle our fancy, but for the moment we have roasts and other meaty fare on the brain.
Here are five great steakhouses perfect for all kinds of celebrating:
Keens (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 has 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, Keens has a connection to New York’s past that doesn’t feel hackneyed. The true spectacle here, 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 sixteen dessert options 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.
M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060)
Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, perfect their knack for controlled excess at this Long Island City steakhouse built inside the industrial husk of a former auto-body shop. Known for erring on the side of extravagance, the M. Wells team doubles down on indulgence with plenty of foie gras, tanks of live trout, pickled-tongue cocktails, and colossal desserts. The renovated mechanics’ lair serves up wood-fired steaks bearing enviable char and buttery centers with that familiar, beguiling Montreal-style black pepperiness. Few cities could support a restaurant this idiosyncratic, where one of the best steaks is found hidden among the sides. Listed as “beef butter,” the $25 Kobe strip loin is so generously marbled that it weeps liquid fat. Brunch brings its own surprises: sanguette, a pig’s-blood pancake, joins gravlax tarts and braised tripe with eggs.
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 here 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 to 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 schlag, a/k/a thick whipped cream.
Bowery Meat Company (9 East 1st Street, 212-460-5255)
Caviar-topped deviled eggs? Forty-eight-dollar duck lasagna for two? At Bowery Meat Company, John McDonald and chef Josh Capon steer the brawny, staid steakhouse format toward a prosperous future. The team behind buzzy spots Lure Fishbar and Sessanta update chophouse traditions with contemporary concessions. The retro room feels clubby, without the usual suffocating fog of testosterone, even though there’s plenty of namesake animal protein: hefty lamb and veal chops and a truly spectacular slab of deckle — the fatty cap that surrounds the rib eye — rolled up into a salsa-verde-topped “Bowery Steak” served over buttery whipped potatoes. Share massive cuts of beef, including dry-aged T-bones, côte de bœuf, and châteaubriand with chasseur demi-glace sauce. Dessert channels inner children with a s’mores sundae, a peanut-butter-and-jelly number festooned with strawberry cereal crunch.
Quality Eats (19 Greenwich Avenue, 212-337-9988)
Michael Stillman (scion of TGI Fridays founder Alan Stillman) expands his Quality empire (Quality Meats, Quality Italian) with this millennial-minded steakhouse serving cheap cuts like bavette ($19), coulotte ($23), and bone-in short rib ($25). With the exception of the $29 filet mignon served over chicken-liver mousse toast points and arugula, each beefy platter comes with watercress and a tiny ramekin of sweet corn crème brûlée. Stillman and his team cultivate a party vibe — classic rock and hip-hop blares over the stereo system. Wine flows freely and affordably. Forty dollars gets you a “bottle” made of a trio of stackable carafes — a fun way to present what is essentially a shared wine flight. Appetizers and sides buck the usual steakhouse trends, too, with jalapeño-apple slab bacon and a savory bread pudding fortified with butternut squash.