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A Steak and A 5K
June 6, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
It was about a year and a half ago that a box arrived on our porch ... perishable, it said.
Upon opening it, my husband Bruce and I found two porterhouse steaks from Peter Luger Steak House in New York. Vacuum packed. On dry ice. It was an anniversary dinner from our son, Leland.
The steaks were huge (about 38 ounces, each!) In fact, we shared just one for dinner that night. Bruce, who is a very competent cook, was a bit afraid of the daunting task before him. He didn't want to ruin this (expensive) cut of beef. He did just fine.
I had heard of Peter Luger Steak House. Ever since seeing a story about it on the Food Network, it was a dream to go there for dinner — or maybe lunch, which is cheaper!
Peter Luger — established in 1887 — has been rated the New York No. 1 steak house for 26 years in a row, according to the website. I can attest to that and a number of other awards; gold plaques with various ratings lined the bar area when you walk into the Brooklyn restaurant. Zagat, Michelin, Gourmet magazine, the New York Post. They all rave. In 2007, it was listed in "1,000 Places to See Before You Die." In 2008, Esquire magazine listed it among the 20 best steaks in America.
And no wonder. Family members involved in the restaurant hand pick the USDA Prime sides of beef on a daily basis, and dry age it on the premises.
When Leland moved to Brooklyn last fall, I thought, now we can go to Peter Luger, which is located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a little more than two and a half miles from his apartment. When he lived in Manhattan, it seemed too much of a trek. (It would have been worth it.)
Reservations are not easy to come by. I called about a week prior, and it was either dinner at 5:45 p.m. or 9:45 p.m. I grabbed the early spot.
Then I started reading some reviews. Maybe I shouldn't have. Rude service ... not worth the hype ... snooty ... tourist trap ....
I was worried.
Are we going to go expecting something incredible, only to be disappointed? Would I be intimidated to the point that I'd not enjoy it? It's not cheap, and I didn't want to waste one night's dinner on a bad experience.
I walked in prepared — especially for a rude waiter. I was not going to let that ruin my dinner, I had decided beforehand.
The interior was typical steak house: lots of oak, leather and exposed brick; rustic, very manly. The maitre d’ was pleasant enough. I was starting to feel relaxed.
And hungry. We were led upstairs to a corner table.
Then came the waiter ... Turns out he was just fine. Not intimidating. A bit abrupt, but that was OK. By that time, I was focused on the food. He asked if we needed menus. Chances are, if you do, you’re a Peter Luger first-timer. It’s a short menu. Steaks, sides, appetizers, desserts. Just a few of each. Easy to memorize.
Along with the steaks, one of the most popular menu items is the bacon.
Bacon. That's all. Just a strip of bacon. Except that it wasn't JUST a strip of bacon. It was Luger's Sizzling Bacon. It was thick. I mean really thick. Extra thick. Sort of like eating a ham steak. Fork-and-knife bacon for sure. And tasty. We ordered three slices. I could only eat half. Besides I had pounds of meat coming to the table soon.
"Steak for three" is what we ordered. A huge platter of sliced porterhouse was delivered to the table, still sizzling. Our waiter served each of us a few slices — he made sure to get a slice of the strip side and a slice of the tenderloin side of the porterhouse.
German fried potatoes and a salad were our chosen sides. We opted not to get the creamed spinach, certainly a steak house staple. But a salad just seemed a wiser choice. (Better save a calorie or two where I could. And there would still be dessert.)
Every morsel was delicious. The steak was prepared perfectly — rare and juicy on the inside, charred and seasoned on the outside. The potatoes? Best I ever had. Crunchy, flavorful.
We probably would have passed on dessert had we not spied the apple strudel and bowl of "schlag" at the table next to us. Schlag is German for whipped cream. It may have well have been German for "huge, HUGE bowl of whipped, rich heaven." It must have been at least four cups of whipped cream.
We split the strudel in thirds and each dived into the schlag. I even put some in my decaf.
Ummmmmm. That's all I can say. It was by far the best steak ever. Best potatoes ever. Best bacon ever. Best strudel and schlag ever.
Rumor has it you won't eat meat for weeks after dinner at Peter Luger — not because you've had your fill, but because you know nothing will quite live up to the Peter Luger steak.
• Take cash. (Lots of cash.) The only credit card accepted is the Peter Luger Card, for which you can apply online. They do, however, accept debit cards and checks with ID.
• If there are three at your table, chances are Steak for Two will be enough. We took a good bit home with us. If (when?) I return to Peter Luger, I think I'll choose one more side and opt for Steak for One Less.
• You don't have to order Steak for Whatever. The menu also offers rib steak, single steak, small single steak, lamb chops and fresh fish. (I wonder how many order the fish.) Prime rib, chopped steak and the Luger Burger are some of the lunch offerings.
• Do not pass up the bacon or the schlag! And the Peter Luger Steak Sauce is great with the bacon. (The schlag is probably great with the bacon, too! )
• The porterhouse is served on a slanted plate so that the fat runs down the plate. The edges of the plate are heated to 400 degrees so that you can cook the meat further if desired.
• Make reservations well in advance.
• The restaurant was established in 1887, owned by Peter Luger. After Peter died in 1950, it was purchased by Sol Forman, whose granddaughter now selects the meat.
• There are two locations, one in Brooklyn, at 178 Broadway (718-387-7400) and a second one in Long Island, at 255 Northern Blvd., Great Neck, N.Y. (516-487-8800).
• The best part about waiting until Leland moved to Brooklyn was the 2.7-mile walk home — almost a 5K! After all that food, the walk certainly helped the digestive process.
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