Peter Luger Steak House

 March 6, 2013

178 Broadway Brooklyn, NY | www.peterluger.com

With over 2,100 restaurants in just the Zagat guide alone, visitors to the Big Apple have no shortage of places to dine. In a city as quintessentially American as NYC, you’re certain to find even stiffer competition and even stronger opinions around eateries focusing on American classics. As saturated as the dining scene is, when asking around town for recommendations on where to have the best steak, it seems many people are in agreement – You’ll find New York’s best steak in Brooklyn at Peter Luger Steak House.

Recently celebrating its 125 year anniversary, Peter Luger has become a landmark in Brooklyn located just off the Williamsburg Bridge. The fast paced and ever-changing city around it hasn’t changed Peter Luger much on the inside. Stepping through its front doors takes you back in time, into a nostalgic, somewhat “German beer hall” atmosphere. Up front stands a manager and one person answering the perpetually ringing phone. Reservations are scrawled into a worn ledger that looks like it could date back to the restaurant’s opening in 1887 – it’s almost a wonder how they keep track of it all in such a manner. Scores of hungry diners wait for a table, many of them walk-ins patiently waiting for over an hour.

When I decided to make a stop here for my trip to NYC I called ahead exactly one month prior (the maximum advance notice for a reservation) the moment the reservation line opened. I was met with a busy signal – recall the perpetually ringing phone up front – not once, but 67 times. When I finally got through the conversation was short and to the point. What day are you coming? Here’s the two times we have left available, which one do you want? Name? Phone number? Remember cash only, thank you see you then. Even with a coveted reservation we still waited for 30 minutes for our table to be ready after arriving.

After being seated we were presented with the very streamlined menu. I had read prior to visiting to order one less portion of steak than your party size. In our case, four diners meant an order of “steak for three”. We also ordered a few sides and a simple appetizer to kick things off.

Sizzling Bacon – Thick slab bacon by the slice

I had read once that this appetizer started off as a dish that the kitchen would serve to the staff prior to service each night. It eventually got out to customers and after many requests, ended up on the regular menu. The thick slab bacon is very fatty, with all the luxurious mouthfeel you want from really good – but really bad for you – bacon. This was a very simple but delicious start to dinner.

“Steak for 3″ – Two large porterhouse cuts of steak

When it comes to bragging rights Peter Luger certainly has them. Zagat has named Peter Luger the best steak house in New York for 27 years in a row. Peter Luger’s website indicates that only “members of the family” select the sides of beef that eventually become steaks at the restaurant. These choice cuts of beef are taken back and aged for a time to bring out the natural beefy flavor of the meat. After the aging is done the beef is taken into the kitchen and broiled to order. The edges of the plate are very hot, which servers will use to cook the steak pieces more for any patron a little squeamish about rare steak.

Here you see the level of cooking perfection in the steak. The outer layer is seared off with a slight char, leaving the inside a bright reddish pink. The steak is very simply treated with some salt and pepper, meant to allow the quality and dry-aged flavors to speak for themselves. The slight char adds a smack of bitter, with the bold and intensified flavor of the beef front-and-center on the palate. Peter Luger’s signature steak sauce is a bit tangy with a mild tomato flavor, which helps to curb some of the oiliness from the fatty steak as you eat. On this plate you’ll find a side of German fried potatoes. We sampled these along with the creamed spinach – both competently made but ultimately overshadowed by the steak.

“Holy Cow” Hot Fudge Sunday – Served with schlag (whipped cream)

To finish things off (as though the mountain of beef wasn’t enough) we tried this large sundae. Much like the side dishes, this dessert was competently done but ultimately not the star of the meal. I did enjoy the home made whipped cream which was light and not overly sweet.

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And so we reach the ultimate questions: Is Peter Luger the best steak house in NYC? Is eating here worth all the effort and wait? These are difficult questions to answer and I’m sorry to disappoint you with a very non-committal answer – Maybe. I can’t speak definitively on Peter Luger’s reputation as the best steak house in NYC, since my sampling of steak houses in the city is very limited. I also can see where, for some, the steak served here is not what they would imagine as great. It does boil down to your expectation and personal preference for steak and which camp you fall into. For those diners that enjoy more complex flavors with their steak, whether in the form of a unique rub or sauce, I think they’ll find Peter Luger’s steak a little underwhelming. However, for those that appreciate the strong, nurtured beef flavor of dry-aged steaks, Peter Luger serves an excellent version.

To this day my favorite individual cuts of steak have come from Japan, in the full luxury of true Japanese Wagyu beef. Nevertheless, Peter Luger Steak House does serve an excellent steak with focus on treating the meat simply and allowing its own natural flavors to shine. As an entire experience, from the bustling crowds of hungry diners to the food, Peter Luger does deliver. I would certainly recommend that one, given the opportunity, dine here at least once.

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718.387.7400

* 1 Michelin Star

Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

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