Last night I got into a taxi in New York, announced my destination and was about to provide the address when the cabbie emphatically said, "Oh, I know where that is!" "That" was Peter Luger's, the famous steakhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.
We (my sidekick son and I) journeyed across the Williamsburg Bridge in our cab and during the ride I had to let my driver know that we wanted to arrive alive in order to enjoy the well-publicized Luger's meat. We were dropped off in front of the rather nondescript restaurant's entrance, only to be greeted inside with row upon row of Zagat's #1 certificates along one wall of the bar. Yep, we were in the right place, given all of the "best steak in America" endorsements adorning the premises.
Luger's isn't a fancy place--it's rough wood floors and paneling soaking in the aroma of cooking meat. The crowd within ranged from a family of four to business types to the two of us--meat junkies on a quest for the best steak in New York. When we checked in with the host, we were asked "where's 913 area code?" (I had provided my cell number when making the reservations weeks ago.) When I replied "Kansas City," our host grinned and said, "You guys know something about steaks, huh?" I bantered back, "Yeah, that's why we thought we'd come check you out."
The seating is family style--no fancy booths here--amid an eclectic mix of gee gaws. (What's a German beer stein doing in a Brooklyn steakhouse?) As it filled up, the room got loud with the happy chatter of those anticipating a terrific meal. Don't come here for an important business discussion or a romantic dinner--this place is all about eating meat and relishing the experience.
There are menus at Luger's although once you've dined here you won't need it as reference again, given the simplicity of the offering. You can get Porterhouse steak for four, for three, for two, a single steak or a smaller version of the single, served with fries. Sure, the place offers up daily specials like prime rib and there is a salmon option but, c'mon--fish in this mecca of meat!?
My son went for the single and I opted for the smaller version. We started with an appetizer of--ready for this--bacon. Luger's has fantastic bacon which is a succulent piece of fried ham sliced about 1/4" thick. It was a luscious preview to the main event.
Our steaks arrived--bone-in and sliced. The waiter--a restaurant veteran--served up three of the sliced pieces on each of our plates, then deftly scooped up some of the steak juice and neatly poured it over our meat. My first reaction was just to look at it--what a wonderful presentation and beautiful piece of meat which was unlike any other steak offering I'd encountered.
As expected, the steak was cooked to perfection. The meat was tender and flavorful and reminded me again why I've chosen a path which does not include vegan living. The Peter Luger's steak sauce made for a terrific accompaniment and was undoubtedly the best meat sauce I've ever sampled.
Dessert you ask? Why, of course! Unlike our dining companions close by, we didn't opt for the famous hot fudge sundae but instead went for a single piece of cheesecake with a healthy dose of "schlag" on the side. ("Shlag" is homemade whipped cream.) The cheesecake was great but the "schlag" was other-worldly.
Luger's isn't what most of us think of when we imagine a traditional New York steakhouse. There are no filet mignons or strip sirloins on the menu, nor are there a variety of types of potatoes and assorted sides. The wine list is small. Overall, the menu is spartan but with good reason--the meat is the star here.
If you make it to Brooklyn, be sure and bring cash, a healthy appetite, and be sure and leave room for the "schlag." This truly was one of the most unique, and best, dining experiences ever.