Mouthwatering goodness by Old Homestead. Photo from
A steakhouse dinner is an experience. It doesn't come cheap, unless work is covering it. So every moment has to be savored. It's not uncommon for a special occasion to be attached to a trip to the steakhouse. It's an event beyond just eating. That said, I think there are six main factors that determine how enjoyable your steakhouse experience is: 1) quality of the meat, 2) quality of the cooking, 3) the cut, 4) the aged process, 5) the sides, and 6) the ambiance. For the most part, the first two factors are relatively objective. The others are pretty subjective, which means my top five experiences may not agree with yours. But here goes.

5. Peter Luger
People are used to seeing Peter Luger on top five steakhouse lists. But they're not used to seeing it this low on those lists. This goes back to the subjectivity I just mentioned, particularly with Factor #4: the aged process. Luger's is a great steak, but the aged process is at a level beyond my palette preferences. There's an after-taste to the signature porterhouse cut that I could do without. I like it, but not as much as the steaks mentioned below that have less of that after-taste. One other buzz kill: no credit cards. The pluses: the rib eye cut which was added in recent years. And the Canadian bacon appetizer is exceptional. The ambiance is the stuff of old German beer halls, which certainly has its own charm.

4. Quality Meats
On the slightly newer side (although it's already six years old), Quality Meats lives up to its name. My partner in crime and I ordered the Rib Steak for two. The flavor was excellent and there was a nice amount of crispy char on the outside. The latter is key to a good steak. The sides are also very good here, and I recommend the inventive Corn Creme Brulee. Quality Meats has great restaurant ambiance: created almost to feel like a renovated butcher house. You'll also get much better service here than at many of the traditional steakhouses in the city.

3. Keens
Keens does better as a bachelor party stop-off than as an anniversary dinner. It's a man's steakhouse. There's a massive collection of pipes on the ceiling, several varieties of whisky behind the bar, and savory steaks on the broiler. That's about it. The mutton chop is supposedly the thing to get. But for those who can't stomach goat, I suggest hitting up the aged prime sirloin. Make sure you order the hash browns to go with it. Keens is a little under-the-radar, an underdog if you will. And the prices are actually slightly cheaper than most of the top tier steakhouses. But it's still one of the best.

2. Sparks
Legendary. Masterful. And a good Mafia story. Sparks is solid, despite having a menu that's oddly missing two steakhouse standards: a porterhouse cut and a rib eye. But it more than makes up for it with other steaks. The prime sirloin is phenomenal! And Sparks actually made me enjoy Filet Mignon, a huge accomplishment. The Filet was unusually flavorful for a relatively flavorless cut. I think Sparks' strong suit is the broiling process. One waiter told me they reach 1000 degrees. Further proof that cooking a steak at home just pales in comparison. The wine list is impressive too, with well over a hundred varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon to wash down the cow.

1. Old Homestead
My favorite steak experience of all time is at Old Homestead in the Meatpacking District. Old Homestead's decor is an elegant spin on the old-school steakhouse look. And the steaks can be described similarly. What did it for me was the porterhouse for two, which has become the standard by which I measure all other steakhouse experiences. And nothing has beat it yet. The outside char is crispy and perfect, and the flavor-packed insides melt in your mouth. With all the new steakhouses that have popped up throughout the city, this one has held up strong over the years.

Honorable mentions: New York Strip at Palm, Porterhouse at Del Frisco's, T-Bone at Knickerbocker.

Steak lovers, what are your favorites?


Cliff said…
Thanks for the post. This is a good reference list. A few years ago we had a good steak at the Knickerbocker near Washington Square Park. Not strictly a steak house but it was good.
Hi Cliff. I've had some great nights at the Knickerbocker. T-Bone is superb, chocolate souffle is the best I've had in NYC, and a friend of mine plays in a jazz trio there.

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