Sunday, March 28, 2010

Peter Luger Steakhouse: A Lunch Worthy of Celebration

Peter Luger Steakhouse is more than just a steakhouse, it's a meat institution. Its name graces any list of the best steaks in America and for over 100 years has encompassed what a New York Steakhouse should be. In fact, it has been voted "America's Best Steakhouse" by Zagat Survey for 26 years and counting. Since arriving to the tri-state area I've eaten my fair share of steaks but have yet to try the steakhouse by which every other is compared to. I'm talking of course about Peter Luger and it wasn't until last Friday that I finally had that opportunity. I'm not sure why it had taken me so long before dining here; maybe it's the reservation fiasco, which, unless you are a regular or someone famous are usually limited to 5:30 or 10:30 options. Ok, so I have no legitimate excuse, but that all changed about two weeks ago when I received a letter informing me that I'd finally be admitted to the New York State Bar. A co-worker of mine suggested that I try Luger's for lunch since I'd already be in Brooklyn and would have no reservation problems since it was lunch and not dinner. Since my family could not make the ceremony MW and her sister YW agreed to document my historic achievement by taking lots of pictures in exchange for a meat coma-inducing lunch.

As I scanned the long wooden bar I noticed a sign warning customers that the restaurant only honors Peter Luger credit cards; otherwise you best head to the HSBC across the street and use the ATM. It looked as if the interior at Peter Luger hadn't changed at all since when it initially opened and evokes images of a restaurant straight from a German fairytale. The tables are all wooden and the walls are lined with old beer steins. All of the waiters wore freshly pressed whites with black bow ties and were extremely professional as our server led us to our table.

Since none of us had work to return to we each ordered a Brooklyn Lager from Brooklyn Brewery. The famous Peter Luger Steak Sauce was put before us in a gravy boat along with a breadbasket comprising of three different rolls: a dark multigrain topped with oats, one topped with caraway seeds and course salt and an onion and poppy seed. Each roll tasted extremely fresh and had a nice chewy texture; but of the three my favorite was the Onion Poppy Seed which also contained onion pieces and poppy seeds within the roll. 

For starters we ordered three pieces Luger's Sizzling Bacon. Thick-cut and grilled, the bacon was a great combination of salty-meaty perfection. The grilling process rendered just enough bacon fat that prevented you from feeling too gluttonous and gave the meat several caramelized spots.

I ordered the Luger-Burger cooked medium-rare. After carrying on and on about Peter Luger's legendary steaks, how could I then order a burger instead of a steak? It'd be as fundamentally wrong as coming here only to order Salmon. But before crucifying me I should inform you that MW and YW ordered the Porterhouse for Two, so there would be plenty of steak to share. It's also worth mentioning that the hamburger at Peter Luger isn't any ordinary burger. In fact, Alan Richman (though I think he's a putz) listed it as one of the twenty hamburgers to eat before you die. Only served at lunch, this half pound burger is made from the scraps of their dry-aged Porterhouse and is roughly ground. I ordered the hamburger sans cheese or bacon. Instead, the only accoutrement was sliced onion. Unlike Frank Bruni, my burger was cooked properly, however, it was not without its problems. Unlike the steaks served here, the burger lacked any crust or char. Instead, the flavor of the dry-aged beef comprised the bulk of the flavor. As documented by The Girl Who Ate Everything, I also felt the bun to be a bit top heavy and skewed the meat-to-bun ratio. Overall, I found the burger at Peter Luger to be neither bliss nor blunder; instead it was somewhere in between with superior meat unable to overcome fundamental flaws.

Though I had never eaten at here before I had some idea of what to expect based on my experiences at Wolfgang's Steakhouse, a spin-off started by a former waiter at Peter Luger. Rather than ordering individual steaks, any typical order at Luger must include their famous Porterhouse served for any number of guests. The Porterhouse itself is two steaks in the form of one: a New York Strip Steak and a Filet Mingon. All steaks at Peter Luger are bathed in butter and are then broiled at an incredibly high temperature forming a nice char or crust on the exterior giving way to a juicy soft interior when eaten. At Peter Luger only USDA Prime Beef is selected and is then dry-aged in their own aging box,  intensifying the beefy flavor, a similar process to the reduction of sauces. Our waiter brought the pre-sliced steak to our table and ladled some of the sizzling butter on each piece before serving us. Perhaps it was because I don't eat steak often but the dry-aged flavor of the beef felt heavenly in my mouth. I'll spare you from additional descriptions and leave it at this: as no surprise, Peter Luger does steak well and all the accolades they receive are well deserved.

Since the steaks at Peter Luger come alone we ordered a side of Creamed Spinach. Our waiter informed us that the German-style Potatoes were not available until dinner service but the spinach, combined with everything else proved to be too much food for the three of us. The spinach was creamy and had a silky texture without being too salty; an unfortunate quality found too often at other steakhouses.

Stuffed to our gills we politely declined dessert but were given customary chocolate golden coins inscribed with the Peter Luger insignia. The back of the coin stated, "Famous for Over 100 Years," an incredible feat by any restaurant and with meals as good as the one I enjoyed I'm confident Peter Luger will stay "famous for over 200 years."

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-7400

To see all our pics, please click the flickr link.

Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

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