Steakhouses are a New York City tradition so deep-rooted that they can be traced back to the early 19th century. One of the most enduring restaurant models in this city, the steakhouse is also one of the most evolving. The trappings in some spots may modernize, the crowds diversify, and the menus grow more sophisticated, but one thing stays the same at the best steakhouses: an obsessive focus on meat and its quality. Whether rich and fatty corn-fed; lean and minerally grass-nourished; salt-crusted; butter-topped; or dry-aged to earthy, juicy perfection, a great steak is always primally satisfying. Today, a diner can curb carnivorous cravings by taking a trip back in time at the classics, or get a protein fix at sceney spots, too. Here’s where to get your meat on in NYC, no matter what your mood.
For old souls
The Old Homestead (56 Ninth Ave., 212-242-9040, theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com) not only dates back to 1868, but it is also a firm reminder of when the surrounding Meatpacking District was full of meat wholesalers instead of trendy boutiques. Their obscenely thick “Empire Cut” of prime rib on the bone is a trademark. Keens Chophouse (72 W. 36th St., 212-947-3636, keens.com), opened in 1885, and is legendary for its mutton chop and a ceiling suspending a collection of antique clay pipes. In Williamsburg, Peter Luger (178 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-387-7400, peterluger.com), established in 1887, is probably the world’s best-known stop for porterhouse. Their aging process is a proprietary secret and likely the reason Luger is the only steakhouse in New York City that holds a Michelin star. Gallaghers (228 W 52nd St., 212-586-5000, gallaghersnysteakhouse.com) founded in 1927, recently re-opened after a multi-million dollar renovation. Its glass-paned, streetside meat locker has many passers-by stopping and asking “How much is that porterhouse in the window?” Their signature flavoring comes from grilling over hickory logs. Mob buffs pay homage to Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano at Sparks (210 E 46th St., 212-687-4855, sparksteakhouse.com), est. 1966, where he was gunned down in 1985. Sparks is one of the few spots to order a “steak fromage,” drowned in Roquefort. Every night feels like a bar mitzvah — in your parents’ wood-paneled basement circa 1975 — at Sammy’s Roumanian (157 Chrystie St., 212-673-0330), where the schmaltz flows from pitchers and the Casio gets a workout from a live “entertainer.” Here, the flanken (short rib) with mushroom barley gravy is a daily special.
For Luger lovers who don’t feel like going to Brooklyn
Sometimes you want a quality porterhouse, and all the familiar trimmings, but don’t feel like schlepping over a bridge. That’s what these three steakhouse brands are known for, opened by former employees of the Brooklyn meat temple, Peter Luger. Though there’s only one original, expect a darn good facsimile of Luger’s classic offerings: thick-slab bacon and tomato and jumbo shrimp cocktails to start; giant, butter-laced porterhouses, for two people or more, brought to the table on sizzling platters; creamed spinach; German potatoes; and lots of homemade schlag (whipped cream) on dessert. Wolfgang’s has four Manhattan branches: Midtown (4 Park Avenue, 212-889-3369 and 200 E. 54th St., 212-588-9653), TriBeCa (409 Greenwich St., 212-925-0350); and Times Square (250 W 41st St., 212-921-3720, wolfgangssteakhouse.net). Ben & Jack’s is the combined effort of two former waiters, in Flatiron (255 Fifth Ave., 212-532-7600, benandjackssteakhouse.com). And the Seaport’s MarkJoseph (261 Water St., 212-277-0020, markjosephsteakhouse.com) started the spin-off rage when it opened in 2000.
For trendy types
There’s no reason not to don your stylin’ best because you’re digging into a platter of meat. Tribeca’s Dylan Prime (62 Laight St., 212-334-4783, dylanprime.com) just unveiled its swank new renovation. A smart, sleek business-casual set fills the house, sipping martinis and enjoying bites such as mini beef Wellingtons. The butcher block becomes a design element complete with cleaver wedged into wood walls at Quality Meats (57 W. 58th St., 212-371-7777, qualitymeatsnyc.com), where the food, no matter how based in tradition, feels as modern as the AvroKO decor. The quality is in the kitchen, here, too: The fat filet mignon always comes out perfectly cooked, no matter how thick. Bordello chic marks the Strip House in the Village (13 E. 12th St., 212-328-0000) and Midtown (15 W. 44th St., 212-336-5454, striphouse.com). The pair’s signature sides, such as goose fat potatoes and black truffle creamed spinach, modernize old-school favorites. Who knew models hung out in steakhouses? Well, they do at the branches of STK in Meatpacking (26 Little W. 12th St., 646-624-2444) and Midtown (1114 Sixth Ave., 646-624-2455, togrp.com), which could be mistaken for dance clubs. Steaks come sized like clothing in small, medium or large cuts. And there’s always a selection of fashionable wagyu on offer.
For the sporty
Whether you like baseball, basketball or football, there’s a spot to cheer on the home team and enjoy the primal pleasures of sports and meat. These spots not only serve quality steaks, but act as halls-of-fame, too, with a feast of fun memorabilia throughout the dining rooms. NYY celebrates the Yankees, by stepping up to the plate near Rockefeller Center (7 W. 51st St., 646-307-7910, nyysteak.com) and in Yankee Stadium during baseball season. Check out the autographs of legendary Bronx Bombers on the “Signature Wall.” In Times Square, the pigskin hero meets cow heaven at Shula’s (270 W. 43rd St., 212-201-2776, donshula.com). Dolphin fans appreciate the items from the coach’s perfect 17-0 season. At Michael Jordan’s (23 Vanderbilt Ave., 212-655-2300, michaeljordansnyc.com), it’s as much about its location in the world-famous Grand Central Terminal as it is about the meat.
For the chef-centric
American Cut (363 Greenwich St., 212-226-4736, americancutsteakhouse.com) has an Iron Chef at the helm, Marc Forgione. The name pays homage to Forgione’s famous father, Larry, often called “the godfather of American cuisine,” while signatures like the giant marrow bone with escargot and short rib shows off son’s serious skills. Arlington Club combines chef Laurent Tourondel’s steak savvy (he founded the BLT Steak chain) with Tao Group’s “vibe dining.” Live music adds a supper-club feel. Chef Hugue Dufour at Queens hotspot M Wells (43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, 718-786-9060, magasinwells.com) serves even his burger bone-in, while one of New York’s most enduring chefs, Michael Lomonaco, mans the stoves at Porter House (10 Columbus Circle, 212-823- 9500, porterhousenewyork.com) in the Time Warner Center, where you can enjoy a chili-rubbed rib eye with a view of Central Park, too. Costata (206 Spring St., 212-334-3320, costatanyc.com) translates to rib eye a la James Beard Award-winner Michael White (Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini) in Italian.
For global tastes
For a little flavor from South America, check out the true Argentine parrilla, along with the soccer memorabilia, at Boca Juniors in Queens (81-08 Queens Blvd., Flushing, 718-429-2077, bocajuniorsrestaurant.com); or the Brazilian beef at Churrascaria Plataforma (316 W. 49th St., 212-245-0505, churrascariaplataforma.com) with its endless parade of skewered cuts, carved tableside. Bistecca Fiorentina (317 W. 46th St., 212-258-3232, bisteccafiorentinanyc.com) focuses on the goods, Tuscan-style, which means brushed with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then grilled over wood, while Takashi (456 Hudson St., 212-414-2929, takashinyc.com) is a Korean-Japanese hybrid that serves every part of the cow. The Upper East Side’s Bistro Le Steak (1309 Third Ave., 212-517-3800, bistrolesteak.com) is known for its pitchers of Provencal steak sauce, laced with mustard and white wine.
For those who keep kosher
Feel blessed at two branches of Wolf & Lamb, Midtown (10 E. 48th St., 212-317-1950) and Brooklyn (1635 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn, 718-627-4676, wolfandlambsteakhouse.com), where the meat is butchered in-house. The Glatt kosher Prime Grill (25 W. 56th St., 212-692-9292, theprimegrill.primehospitalityny.com), recently relocated within Midtown, has a house-made beef jerky that is nearly as popular an order of filet. From the famed Parisian district to the Theater District: French-style Le Marais (150 W. 46th St., 212-869-0900, lemarais.net) is home to “La Surprise,” a different butcher’s cut depending on market availability daily. Set inside the stylish Setai Hotel, Reserve Cut (40 Broad St., 212-747-0300, reservecut.com) is the newest kosher kid on the block, having opened in the Financial District in 2013. Its signature RC hanger steak comes with bordelaise, béarnaise and green peppercorn sauces.