Would You Eat This 3-Pound Chicken Nugget?
NYC is busting at the gut with traditional steakhouses, which makes Quality Eats a truly welcome addition. The newest place on this list (it opened in November 2015), QE comes from the team behind Quality Meats, who took the well-worn steakhouse formula and turned it upside down. Cuts here are non-standard, and as a result, extremely affordable -- there’s a $19 bavette, a $24 flatiron, $27 short rib and hanger, and skirt for $28. The most expensive cuts on the menu are the “Don Ameche” (it’s tenderloin) for $29, and a brisket for two, which still comes in at just $35. QE has also reinvented the traditional steakhouse side, transforming creamed spinach into creamed spinach hush puppies and baked potatoes into baked potato monkey bread. You also probably won’t find starters like roasted beet tabbouleh and grilled bacon with peanut butter and jalapeño jelly and at any other streak joint. The vibe here is also decidedly non-steakhousey, with whitewashed walls accompanied by doodle-like drawings that also appear on the plates.
If you want the most “New York” steakhouse experience, Peter Luger is it. Open since 1887, it’s topped countless best-of lists and was awarded the James Beard "America's Classics" status in 2002, and still, years later, it’s hard to get a reservation at a normal hour. That’s all because of the Luger speciality: a broiled USDA prime dry-aged porterhouse single steak, dry-aged in house and served crackling alongside sides like extra-thick bacon, shrimp cocktail, creamed spinach, onion rings, and more. If nailing steak wasn’t enough, there’s also the famed lunch-only burger -- a gorgeous 1/2lb of tender prime dry-aged beef with raw onion on a sesame bun -- that’s all it’s hyped to be.
Tribeca (& Other Locations)
American Cut is a bad-ass modern interpretation of the classic steakhouse from Chef Marc Forgione, who puts interesting twists on traditional dishes that you won’t see anywhere else. Alongside basics like a dry-aged NY strip you’ll find a 42oz tomahawk and Forgione’s signature chili lobster. A 20oz New York cut bone-in rib-eye is rubbed with pastrami spices, the salty potato latkes come in a huge stack topped with sour cream, and there’s a hilariously long carrot-glazed carrot for $12. Yep, $12. The Tribeca flagship location -- there are four, two in Manhattan, San Juan, and New Jersey -- is a large, swanky, softly-lit spot brought to life with an art deco interior, big brass chandeliers, and plush leather chairs. It will not disappoint.
Another recipient of the James Beard America’s Classics award (in 2013), and one of Thrillist’s Hall of Fame inductees, Keens is best known as a mutton chop mecca, offering colossal slabs served au jus. Open since 1885, Keens is an old-school steakhouse in every sense of the word -- a cavernous and atmospheric space with dark woods, fireplaces, and hundreds of centuries-old period photographs and political cartoons on the walls. A huge collection long-stemmed pipes decorate the ceilings and give it a quirky touch. The menu also sticks to the classics, with porterhouse steaks, T-bones, New York sirloin, and sides like creamed spinach, buttered carrots, and hand-cut fries. But the famed 26oz mutton chop (which is not actually mutton but lamb), cannot be missed -- especially since Keens is one of the last places in the city with it on the menu. It’s truly enormous (except leftovers for days), and perfectly tender and fatty.
BLT Prime is part of a huge, high-end, world-wide chain, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of best-of status. The most memorable part of dining here? The complimentary popovers that arrive at the beginning of the meal -- huge, buttery, and light, hollow rolls that. Which is not to say that the steak isn’t great (because it is), but that the popovers are just that damn good. The dinner menu is huge -- roughly double Peter Luger’s -- and unlike sister restaurant BLT Steak, Prime offers in-house dry-aged steaks. There are six cuts, including a NY strip, a porterhouse for two, and filet mignon, as well as three Kobe options on the menu. The sides are all playbook -- creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, french fries -- and there’s plenty of solid non-steak options as well. The space itself is very airy and modern, featuring a mezzanine level that overlooks the dining room’s dark floors, zebrawood tables, and large circular lights.
Midtown East (& Other Locations)
Wolfgang Zwiener spent 40 years as a waiter at Peter Luger before opening his first steakhouse on Park Ave in 2004, so it’s not surprising that this high-end chain’s specialty is the USDA prime, dry-aged porterhouse for two or more, served Luger-style. The menu also includes a New York sirloin, rib eye, rib lamb chops, filet mignon, and classic sides served right, like crazy-good Canadian bacon and jumbo shrimp cocktail. There are 13 locations, including five in NYC, but the flagship on Park Ave offers a must-see blue, white, and gold vaulted-tile ceiling designed by famed architect Rafael Guastavino (also behind the Grand Central Oyster Bar ceiling) that’s a carry-over from the days when the building was the Vanderbilt Hotel.
Sometimes you just want to eat a steak next to Chrissy Teigen, and for those times, there’s this glitzy modern steakhouse that opened in late 2014 in the East Village from Chef Josh Capon’s and the rest of the group behind Lure, Burger & Barrel, and El Toro Blanco. The meat is dry-aged by butcher Pat LaFrieda and the menu offers a nice mix of the steakhouse usuals (like tender New York strip and grilled ribeye), alongside modern takes like a juicy “Bowery Steak” served with with salsa verde and whipped potato; duck lasagna; and Chinese pork belly lettuce wraps.
This offshoot of Joe Carroll’s Fette Sau feels more like a neighborhood bar than a steakhouse -- which is definitely not a bad thing. It’s a rustic, simple space with exposed brick, chalkboard menus, and some seriously delicious (and affordable) steaks. You can expect an epic wait, as they don’t take reservations (like, it could be two hours), but it’s well worth it. The New York strip is one of the most expensive things on the menu (at just $39), and there’s an equally great butcher’s steak for only $19.50, and a veal flank for $20, alongside more offbeat dishes. The pan-fried mashed potatoes and shishito peppers sides get consistent, and deserving, buzz, and the seafood section offers a whole trout and whole mackerel. A head-on, sweet tea-brined chicken is there, too, if that’s your thing.
Down a long, narrow hallway inside the Dylan Hotel you’ll find an enormous, classically designed space with high ceilings, fancy setting with dark-wood treatment, white tablecloths, and polite servers dressed to the nines. Peter Luger-alum Arturo McLeod opened the steakhouse in 2006 and fittingly the menu offers a Luger-style porterhouse, served for two, three, or four alongside other high-end, classic steakhouse eats. Here’s why you go: the portions are huge and the meat is dry-aged onsite.
First opened in 1966 as a pub, Sparks morphed into a serious, full-fledged steakhouse (and mobster hangout) when it moved to its current location in 1977. Inside it’s all very classic: burgundy, dark woods, photos on the walls, pristine white tablecloths. But the main draws here are the boneless prime sirloin that Sparks is known for -- there are no porterhouse steaks here -- and massive slabs of meat like the extra-thick veal chop and lamb chop. The menu also boasts an impressive amount of seafood (the lobster is consistently good), and there’s a massive wine list that’s worth spending some time with. It’s so by-the-classic-steakhouse-book that you’ll hear rumblings of it being stodgy these days, but the food still speaks for itself.
Union Square (& Other Locations)
Strip House is an under-appreciated spot on the crowded NYC steakhouse map and worthy of some more love. The interiors lean into the playful name, with dim lighting, red leather banquettes, a red carpet, and lots of old-school burlesque photos lining the walls. The steaks are all consistently great -- the strip steak and dry-aged rib eye are favorites -- and the sides, like the goose-fat potatoes and black truffle creamed spinach, are better than almost anywhere. There are also a few non-traditional dishes, like smoked short rib ravioli and pommes dauphine that are are worth ordering.
Delmonico’s was the first fine-dining restaurant to open in New York and an icon that’s been open in one form or another since 1837. It’s rich with history -- J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and a ton of others all dined here -- and it’s credited with being the inventor of dishes like baked Alaska, eggs Benedict, and lobster Newburg. Today, you’ll still receive a plush experience that evokes old-school grandeur with everything from a knowledgeable and attentive staff to the massive murals depicting early 20th-century NYC life. The signature Delmonico steak -- yes, named here -- is excellent, but the filet mignon and 40-day dry-aged bone-in ribeye should not be passed over. This spot needs to be a checked box on your NYC dining resume for its history alone.