My adventure started with a simple question: What’s the first restaurant that you think of when I say New York City Steakhouse? Based on Zagat’s ratings and people who I have spoken with in the foodie world, the answer should be Peter Luger’s. However, there is so much more which comprises a meal than simply the food. As a food critic who happens to be totally blind, my hope is to describe each dining experience so thoroughly to the extent that you feel you are actually there, but I am a perfectionist which can be helpful yet frustrating. In this case, I have been working on this review for over a month and a half attempting to properly reproduce what I experienced. I hope you enjoy the following:
Peter Luger’s steakhouse is one of the most famous New York City restaurants. It has been rated number one in the category of steakhouses by Zagat’s guide for the last 27 years and for good reason. Out of a possible 30, Zagat’s rates Peter Luger’s as 27 for food, 15 for decor, and 20 for service. (It should be noted that Peter Luger’s is a cash only restaurant, and Zagat’s says that the average cost of a meal is $78!!) However, let’s be honest, it’s all about the food! I did a great deal of research beforehand; for instance, here are a few quotes from
“The room isn’t handsome, street-slick, or even particularly welcoming… The staff goes about its nonstop business with cordial if mechanical efficiency… So why is it always more crowded than Toys ‘R’ Us on the weekend before Christmas? Because there are few gastronomic sensations that confirm the good life better than a hunk of a spectacular steak. And Peter Luger can broil and deliver one magnificently aged and marbleized two-finger-thick porterhouse after another”
Perhaps my review will not be as articulate as theirs, but I was extremely curious about this establishment based on what I had read. Even the transportation arrangements were tricky: I took two subways with a long transfer and a long walk in order to arrive at Peter Luger’s, but it was all worth it:
Peter Luger’s Steakhouse
4.75 stars out of 5 stars
SOUND- 4.5 stars out of 5 stars; I walked into this restaurant a few minutes before the time of my reservation and the volume level struck me first: I could tell from the noise that Peter Luger’s was definitely crowded but it seemed like everyone was having fun and enjoying their meals. There was no music to be heard of, if there was then its sounds were drowned by the excited customers’ conversations. (Note to future creative restauranteurs: I understand that most steakhouses do not play music, but wouldn’t it be interesting to listen to a custom made soundtrack while eating steak?) Don’t forget, it took me a month and a half just to acquire this reservation, so each diner has a built in reason to feel enthusiastic when they arrive.
TASTE: 5 stars out of 5 stars; I can humbly say that I have dined at several fine steakhouses in New York City, the greatest city on earth. However, the EXPERIENCE at Luger’s is phenomenal! (I capitalized every letter in experience because this is the key word: dining here is unlike eating at any other steakhouse) Every delicious bite of porterhouse steak resembled the ideal model of what steak should be: well seasoned, charred on the outside, cooked to your desired temperature, succulent, and extremely tender. The German potatoes, in particular, were uncharacteristically crunchy and were spiced in a way that was unique in comparison to other steakhouses. Continuing the “heart attack on a plate” theme, the onion rings were amazingly crisp but light and not greasy at all. Finally, a dessert of chocolate mousse cake was another prime example of simple excellence topped with Schlag, a German light and fluffy whip cream topping.
SCENT: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars; How do I describe the scent at Peter Lugers: steak and money? Oh, that is probably too simple, but in all seriousness, why did you come to this cash only steakhouse in the first place? You don’t come to Peter Luger’s for the salad or the fish, the dry aged beef is the focal point. The policy is cash only, so you can choose to pay for your bill in hundred dollar bills or by using all singles, as Ray Charles would have done. In summary: the scent was steak and money.
TOUCH: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars: The chairs and tables here were fairly average and forgettable, but there is something to be said regarding the ambiance of an establishment which has been in business for so many years. (Can’t you invest in some softer chairs with at least some resemblance of a cushion? I suppose not: it’s so difficult to secure a reservation that it doesn’t matter what the furniture is like.) The texture of the food, however, was a different story: my steak was very tender but also was charred on the outside in certain places. The side dishes were both crispy (as they should be); the German potatoes mixed textures of crisp potatoes with soft potatoes and sautéed onions, while the onion rings were crisp outside while being soft and sweet inside without a drop of grease.
VIBE: 4 stars out of 5 stars; I was warned that the service might be abrupt at times but I did not find that to be true. My waiter was friendly and offered helpful suggestions for each course. There is something to be said for the incredible ambiance at Peter Luger’s: its stature defies that of a “steakhouse” and the experience of dining there goes far and beyond that of any of its competitors.
I am doubtless going to be asked to compare Peter Luger’s with other steakhouses in New York City, so I have decided to publish my final answer: there is no comparison. I am not saying it is the best; I am only stating that everyone should try this restaurant out at least once and come to their own conclusion.