So why do this city’s steakhouses tend to cluster on the fault line of paradox? “America is contradictory about everything,” says Fussell, and as one of its oldest traditions, NYC’s steakhouses are witness to that. How many steakhouse customers, she ponders, even “know where their steak comes from, or care? That’s part of it. They don’t want to know, they just want the bragging rights: ‘I went to Peter Luger’s last night.’”
Mark Schatzker, a producer and author of Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef, agrees -- a steakhouse steak is often secondary. “The best steak you get in a city will not be at a steakhouse,” he says. “Most of the steakhouses in New York source what I would call ‘commodity beef,’ from the major packers,” which means it’s finished on corn, rather than grass. Commodity beef isn’t necessarily “bad”; in fact, it’s what allows you to walk into Smith & Wollensky, order a 2lb rib steak that Danny Kissane has lovingly dry-aged for 30 days, and get out for under $60. It’s all the convenience of American consumerism, in meat form.