Best Steak in New York: The Steak House Stakeout

Best Steak in New York

As a steak-lover and New Yorker, I felt obliged to seek out the best steak in New York. Here are the results of this delectable and sumptuous journey.

 

The History and Steak at Delmonico’s

 

In 1837, the Delmonico brothers opened the first fine dining restaurant in America at the bottom of Manhattan, when most of the city was still contained to below 14th Street.

 

I entered Delmonico’s at 56 Beaver Street, passing between original Pompeian pillars, which Wall Street elite rub for luck.

 

“I don’t know how lucky they can be,” my waiter admitted. “They come from Pompei.”

 

Delmonico’s is a must for history-buff-gastronomes.

 

“These are the names of all the people that have eaten at Delmonico’s over the years,” my waiter told me, pointing to wooden circles nailed to the mahogany walls. I sat in front of the plaques for Charles Dickens and Abraham Lincoln. “Every president from Lincoln to Bush Sr. has eaten at Delmonico’s.”

 

Delmonico’s is also the place for revisionist-gastronomes. I asked the waiter about a painting that looked as though it had captured the original Delmonico’s dining room.

 

“It’s copied from a photograph of the dining room of 1899. It’s exactly as the photograph looks, except for one thing. That man,” our waiter said, pointing to the gentleman all the way to the left side of the wall-sized portrait, “is today’s owner.”

 

Best Steak in New York

 

But of course, history and conspiracy are second to the food. The seafood starters were exceptional. An island of tuna tartare was topped with slices of yellow tail and cilantro, and towered over little pyramids of oranges and a Nile of wasabi. Oysters “Diamond Jim Brady” Ranhofer Style, inspired by the restaurant’s most famous chef, had a crisp topping, but were soft and anchored in a soupy blend of spinach, cheese, and pancetta. (It was the first time my wife ever ate an oyster. She declared it delicious.)

 

Besides Marissa’s entry into the world of oyster eating, Delmonico’s is famous for many other firsts. They were the first restaurant to offer printed menus, tablecloths, and private dining. They were also the first restaurant to have a female cashier and to allow women to congregate as a group.

 

Best Steak in New York

 

They’re also famous for introducing the world to the Delmonico Steak, which is topped with fried onions, and best served with a side of creamed spinach.

 

At the end of our meal, the waiter brought us a delicious hazelnut and praline chocolate cake along with the Baked Alaska, a dessert that Delmonico’s introduced to the world to honor Seward’s purchase of Alaska from the Russians back in 1867. The walnut cake, topped with banana gelato, and a hood of white meringue looked like a frozen sea urchin, but tasted heaps better.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

(I should add that Delmonico’s is also responsible for hatching the recipe to my favorite breakfast–Eggs Benedict.)

 

The Steak and Seafood at Old Homestead

 

Coming to the steak scene three decades after Delmonico’s was Old Homestead, parking themselves in the most apropos of all places, the Meat Packing District. The restaurant has seen the area change from a district packed with purveyors to one that now services fashionistas, tourists, businessmen, and celebrities. But Old Homestead’s consistency, quality, and commitment to serving up colossal meals–which is why they claim to be the inventor of the doggy bag–hasn’t wavered with the times.

 

Old Homestead is one of the few restaurants in the city that can be found without an address. The directions could read, head to Meat Packing and look for the life-sized cow attached to the facade.

 

According to carnivore lore, in 1953, a Nebraskan farmer, who wanted to laud his favorite steak house, promised a cow to then owner, Harry Sherry–an Old Homestead dishwasher turned entrepreneur in 1951. The next year, the farmer dropped off the promised heifer–Annabelle–in front of the restaurant. The statue stood on the sidewalk in front of the steak house. (Think 1990’s Cow Parade in New York City.) Sherry needed to remove the obstacle standing before his entrance, so temporarily placed it on the marquee, where it has remained ever since.

 

And while Annabelle was the consequence of a Nebraskan farmers humorous promise, the promise Old Homestead makes to its customers are incredible servings of beef. My favorite cut was the buttery filet mignon served on the bone. It’s best accompanied by their creamed spinach and their mac and cheese with panko bread crumbs.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

The steak house is also famous for its $350 cuts of grade 10 Kobe. Old Homestead was heavily involved in working with the FDA and Japanese government to bring the Wagyu beef facilities in Japan up to par in order to bring this coveted meat to America. When Kobe arrived to Old Homestead, the waiting list for Wagyu was months. The meat was banned again earlier this decade, but Old Homestead put on its Steak Diplomat hat once more and helped bring back the marbleized steak in August 2012.

 

For those who can’t afford the Kobe cut, the Kobe burger is an excellent option. While most steak eaters would castigate someone for ordering a burger at a place renowned for its steaks, there is no shame in selecting this 20-ounce patty stuffed between a bun branded with an O and H. (If you visit during lunch, for $25.00, you get 3 sliders, one of which is Kobe beef, a salad, and a beer.)

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

The best way to kick off a meal at Old Homestead is with the lighter fare from the sea. A must is their crab cake. While most establishments serve up crab cakes that leave you searching for meat. Old Homestead’s version leaves you wondering how many crabs were packed into this Japanese-style appetizer, which is served with a taste of seaweed salad and a drizzling of Japanese mayo and Unagi sauce. Another delectable starter is the raw seafood tower, which features colossal shrimps, fresh clams and a variety of oysters.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

If you happen to save room for dessert, you should close the meal out with a slice of cheese cake or Old Homestead’s Big Fat Chocolate Cake.

 

While Old Homestead’s copper ceilings, wood paneling, and tile floor help to create that olden-days steak house feel, a better way to be steeped in tradition is to dine in the small Schnabel Room, named for the photographer whose black and whites of Annabelle and the Sherry brothers–current Old Homestead owners and grandsons of Harry–adorn the room. When the restaurant was renovating, they knocked away a closet in the Schnabel Room and discovered a brick wall that bears the words “Prime Beef,” belonging to the days when the Meat Packing District actually packed meat.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

Next to the bar on the second level, take a peek at Old Homestead’s first menu, when sirloin steaks were 75 cents. (On their 100th anniversary, the prices were turned back. Maybe hold onto that change in case the family hosts a 2068 bicentennial celebration.) Other great dining experiences can be found in the book-lined library room, which can host 30-person parties or the main dining area on the first level that gives off that good-ol’-boy vibe.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

Recreating the Best Steak in New York at Benjamin’s Steakhouse

 

I grew up three blocks from Peter Luger’s Steak House, the touchstone for any steak house that I would ever eat in again. Benjamin’s Steak House, owned by an alumni of Luger’s, brings that same quality to Midtown Manhattan.

 

Unlike the old-world steak houses of Delmonico’s, Old Homestead, and Luger’s, dining in Benjamin’s, with its high ceilings, enormous fire place, and balcony seats that looks down upon the congregation of carnivores, gives the diners the feeling that they’re eating in a modern cathedral. And what is most holy at Benjamin’s is its dry-aged T-Bones.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

I’ve been to numerous restaurants started by chefs that broke away from the mother kitchen, attempting to recreate the cuisine of their previous place of employment. Most of the time the quality doesn’t stack up. But for the first time, I can say that Benjamin’s did it.

 

Everything from the steak juice that pools to the bottom of the piping hot plates to the sides of German home-fries and creamed spinach to the gargantuan shrimp cocktails to the hand-cut bacon can transport any diner to Williamsburg or Great Neck, Luger’s two locations. But there are a few things that Benjamin’s does better than its place of inspiration and education.

 

Best Steak House in New York

 

Benjamin’s pecan pie, with its heavier schlagg that nearly requires a knife to cut through and a la mode serving, trumps Luger’s. Plus their seafood–meaty crab cakes and lobster tails that look like great blooming flowers (though I didn’t try them, but looked impressive at the next table)–was incredible. While service at Luger’s is always top-notch, Benjamin’s seemed to takes it one step further, insuring that every diner received a hot plate and having the waiters dish everything up.

 

Note: This search to find the best steak in New York involved hosted meals, but the reviews are honest.

Posted on by Noah Lederman in I Ate What?

4 Responses to Best Steak in New York: The Steak House Stakeout

  1. Brian

    I’ve heard of Delmonicos and how incredible it is. After seeing it here I’ll have to try it for myself! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Heather

    All of these restaurants have such a colorful history and a great selection of menu items. I’ll have to judge the steaks for myself on my next visit to New York!

  3. Terrigal Accommodation

    Reading and looking at this pictures makes me feel hungry! it’s all mouth-watering, thank you for sharing.

  4. Sebastian Bach

    Really! Every dish looks incredible. It’s really making me hungry I think everyone can try this dish with wine.

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