The New York Times’ restaurant critic, Pete Wells, has a (very well-deserved) reputation as a discerning tastemaker who isn’t afraid to express his honest opinions, whether good or bad. As a result, he’s been responsible for a small but significant number of total takedowns of high-profile restaurants (his epic slaughter of Guy Fieri’s now-defunct Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar quite frankly deserved a Pulitzer). A few weeks ago, Wells added another famous spot to his less-than-illustrious list: Peter Luger, an iconic Brooklyn steakhouse with a 100-plus year history and notoriously lofty prices.
When Wells dropped Peter Luger’s “star” rating (a major prestige point for NYC restaurants) from 2 stars to 0 stars, he encountered plenty of differently minded New Yorkers who were appalled by his drastic devaluation of this legendary city eatery. But here’s the thing: Wells is right. Peter Luger is far from disastrous, but its steaks don’t qualify as exceptional, their side dishes prove even more lackluster, and the overall service standard simply doesn’t pass muster.
That said, NYC still contains plenty of destination-worthy steakhouses, where you can find a better-crafted red meat repast (and, in many cases, at a lower price point than Peter Luger). Here, we’re recommending 10 New York-based restaurants specializing in steak that really know what they’re doing.
Fogo de Chão
In the northwestern quadrant of Midtown Manhattan, you’ll find a surprisingly high volume of Brazilian restaurants, resulting in this area’s designation as “Little Brazil.” If you’re familiar with Brazilian cuisine, then you know that the denizens of that South American country take pride in “churrascaria,” a barbecue-style featuring cuts of meat — including steak — barbecued on skewers and served with seasonal sides and sauces.
One of NYC’s finest churrascaria experiences can be found at Fogo de Chão, a Little Brazil staple. Open since 2013, this steak sanctuary offers guests freshly-grilled cuts of picanha (top sirloin), filet mignon, beef ancho (ribeye), and more, paired with flavorful sides like garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, pão de queijo, and black bean stew.
Sometimes, the student truly does outpace the teacher. In the case of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse vs. Peter Luger, that maxim proves remarkably true. Founded in the early aughts by former Peter Luger head waiter Wolfgang Zwiener, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse now boasts almost 20 worldwide locations, but its flagship remains on Park Avenue in NYC. Wolfgang’s specializes in the same old-school steakhouse traditions that draw visitors to Peter Luger, but its hospitality quotient vastly overpowers that of Luger, and the meat quality proves consistently equivalent (if not superior).
Peter Luger devotees speak equally highly of the restaurant’s tender steaks and its classic, turn-of-the-century aesthetic. For a steakhouse that delivers on both fronts, head to Keens Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Established in 1885, Keens rocks a charmingly vintage aesthetic, with wood-paneled walls, framed portraits, and crisp white tablecloths. The steaks here are, like Peter Luger’s steaks, expensive, but Keens’ prime rib, porterhouse, and specialty mutton chop justify the high price tags. If you want a traditional NYC steak-dinner experience (i.e. if you want to feel like Don Draper or Roger Sterling while enjoying a great meal), Keens is the spot for you.
American-style steakhouses aren’t the only option for a hearty beef-based feast in NYC; at the wildly popular Cote in Chelsea, guests can order prime cuts of steak prepped in the Korean BBQ tradition. The carnivorous favorite at Cote is the Butcher’s Feast, a prix-fixe meal featuring four cuts of USDA Prime and American Wagyu beef, along with an assortment of banchan and other accompaniments.
Steak connoisseurs have a particular fondness for Wagyu cuts, which come from a Japanese cattle breed famous for producing juicy and butter-soft beef. In the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, fans of Wagyu get their fix at Bohemian, a “speakeasy” steakhouse hidden above a butcher shop. Bohemian claims that reservations can only be made via referrals from existing customers, but with a bit of strategic Googling and plenty of patience, you can find the restaurant phone number and book a table. The space looks and feels like a chic apartment living room, the cocktails are beautifully crafted, and the tender, freshly butchered steaks are well worth the reservation-related effort.
Every high-quality French bistro needs an excellent steak frites on its menu, and long-time Soho brasserie Raoul’s takes this rule quite seriously. Raoul’s offers guests a spice-laden and masterfully executed steak au poivre with a ramekin of freshly-made pommes frites, ideal for sopping up the leftover peppery sauce. Also, like Peter Luger, Raoul’s includes a massively acclaimed burger on its menu; the brunch-only Burger Au Poivre translates the flavors of Raoul’s signature steak into a juicy, gloriously messy patty blanketed with St. Andre cheese and placed on a plush brioche bun.
Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse
Some Peter Luger regulars point to the restaurant’s very specific energy and aesthetic as a reason for their loyalty … and, to be sure, an eatery’s vibe sometimes proves more memorable than its food. That’s definitely the case with Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse, a super-quirky spot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side specializing in Jewish comfort fare. This basement restaurant opened in 1975, and the decor hasn’t changed a bit since then: fluorescent lighting, low ceilings, and elaborate collages of business cards are what you’ll find here. As far as food and drink go, Sammy’s serves up skirt steaks loaded with minced garlic, which pair perfectly with ice-block-encased bottles of vodka.
Less than a mile away from Peter Luger, you’ll find St. Anselm, a laid-back New American restaurant that’s been challenging Luger’s claim to the Best Steakhouse In Williamsburg, Brooklyn title since opening in 2011. Meat enthusiasts can find a wide range of grilled offerings here, but St. Anselm’s real claim to fame comes in the form of its Butcher’s Steak, a savory hangar cut slathered with garlic butter that, at $28 each, may represent the best beef-based deal in NYC.
Colonia Verde’s quaint Fort Greene, Brooklyn locale (in the back building of a picturesque brownstone) and lively pan-Latin menu make it a true local hit, and steak lovers find this spot especially accommodating to their gustatory needs. The dinner menu includes an entire steak section, with dishes like a bone-in Chef’s Ribeye, Picanha served with toasted cassava, and Skirt Steak.
M. Wells Steakhouse
French-Canadian cuisine is tough to find in NYC, but the skilled kitchen team at M. Wells Steakhouse in Long Island City, Queens serves up such flavorful and inventive meat spreads that you’ll wonder why there aren’t more New York restaurants devoted to the culinary specialties of the Great White North. Chef Hugue Dufour likes to get creative with his steak dishes, offering a New York strip with a maple bulgogi rub, a dry-aged porterhouse for two with au poivre and bearnaise sauces, and a Wagyu flank steak with pommes sardalaise (potatoes cooked in duck fat).
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