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Peter Luger Steak House - New York's Steakhouse

Peter Luger Steak House - New York's Steakhouse
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  • Peter Luger Steak House - New York's Steakhouse

    Post #1 - December 27th, 2005, 10:53 am
    Post #1 - December 27th, 2005, 10:53 am Post #1 - December 27th, 2005, 10:53 am
    One Fine Thing New York City Entry #47

    The great steakhouse chef has the touch of a masseur. In preparing a soup, sauce, pasta, or panna cotta a cook can - and should - taste and taste, modulating ingredients until they are just so. Even many main courses can be prepared as to permit tasting. However, the steakman lacks this luxury. He must have an internal clock for each of hundreds of steaks broiling. To assure the clock is not in error, he pushes and prods his meat until it feels just so. When I spent a month observing in a fine local steakhouse, I was impressed what these young men could calibrate doneness by the heuristic of the hand: rare steak had the give of the webbing by the thumb and forefinger, and so forth. (This was in Minnesota, where I was told rare means medium rare on the east coast).

    Steakmen also have the problem of truculent customers. Customers know how their steaks should be prepared, but medium can cover many colors and textures. If not cooked to their preferred level of doneness, diners, who take whatever fish or fowl they are served, demand that their steaks are recooked. Steakhouses often cook steaks slightly less than what they believe their customer really wants knowing that a hunk can always be cooked more, never less.

    At a steakhouse three things matter: the steak, the ambiance, and the service. Get those right and you have customers for life. Combined they create the “idea” of the steakhouse: one’s unique selling proposition in marketing-speak.

    Last night some friends and I traveled to Peter Luger in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Peter Luger has been rated in Zagat as the best steakhouse in New York for 22 years running (I couldn’t discover the previous winner, but I guess that it might be Gallagher’s - now fallen on hard times, more than 30 steakhouses are rated more highly in Zagat. Gallagher’s is the palace of meat I knew of as a child - that and Tad’s, the charmingly grisly chain where, if God is weighing, I ate more pounds of muscle - and gristle - than anywhere else).

    Peter Luger has been in business since 1887 (a year before Katz’s Deli). In 1950, after Luger’s death it was purchased by Sol Forman; his family stills runs the place, and the women in the family, famously, select the sides of meat from several competing purveyors whom, it is said, save the most glorious marbled prime cuts of porterhouse for Luger.

    The decor at Luger is hardly decor. The establishment has the charms of a rather spare (but clean) German workingman’s beer hall: simple decorations (perhaps slightly more elaborate at Christmas time) and wood tables and floors. Peter Luger does not cater to fantasies of an exclusive men’s club or the ultrahip designer strip.

    Waiters are known for their gruff New York charm (not Stage Deli faux-gruff, but the real New York deal). Our server, however, had been working for five months (at some point in their career every long-time waiter at Luger had worked there for five months!). He was charming with only the slightest touch of gruff, and he provided us with a menu without (much) complaint. Like the steaks, he will need some aging. Luger is terminally efficient. Had we not ordered dessert, we would have been out the door in well under two hours. We didn’t feel rushed, but there was no downtime between courses.

    Unlike most steakhouses, Luger serves porterhouse all the time (steak hamburger is available at lunch, surely a decadent burger). Aside from sides, the choice is doneness.

    Appetizers, sides, and desserts remind diners that one travels to Williamsburg for the steak. Nothing else was memorable. The tomato and onion appetizer combined a Vidalia-type onion slice with a beefy and flavorless tomato slice. Covering these slices with the sweetish steak sauce mostly added empty calories. The shrimp cocktail arrived with large meaty shrimp with a cocktail sauce that had a fine punch, but neither the shrimp or sauce justified our travel. The “Canadian bacon” was a thick slice of belly bacon, not true Canadian bacon, and was more dry than moist. Rolls were purchased from TriBeCa Bakery and were fine.

    Sides included German fried potatoes and creamed spinach. The fried potatoes had been broiled slightly too long, but were nicely buttery and crunchy. As for Luger’s creamed spinach, I would choose Stouffer’s spinach souffle. Desserts were a sweet cheesecake and chocolate sundae. Both were adequate, but the schlag (heavy whipped cream) was more memorable than the desserts themselves. Perhaps the appetizers, sides, and desserts are not afterthoughts, but it is hard to imagine the family squeezing the tomatoes or potatoes, the way they squeeze the beef. One senses that Luger finds anything other than porterhouse as faintly embarrassing (even if the waiter did recommend these extras, as surely they boost profits).

    Now the steak. We ordered a pair of two-for-two steaks: one rare and one medium rare. The rare steak was by far the most charismatic. Most steakhouses use meat as charcoal-delivery systems. Diners are drawn to char-o. Our medium-rare steak had that crusty quality. Luger’s steaks are not as soft as many (these are not steaks to be cut by a butter-knife), further they are not served as a huge hunk of muscle, but are sliced into smaller hunks. The medium-rare steak was a high quality steak, but not uniquely delicious.

    The rare steak was another matter. It was less broiled than expected, permitting us to taste the naked beef. I was reminded of the recent “Cote de Boeuf” that I was served at Alain Ducasse. Of course, a Luger steak is topped with butter, and perhaps a little salt and pepper, but the desire to have customers experience an essence was similar. I was impressed. The heat had been perfectly calibrated to produce a cut of meat that was cooked but not past the point where taste gets muddled with the charring. Often charcoal and steak sauce, salt and pepper, leads diners to assume that steak is heavily pungent, but a great steak is like a fine Dover sole; it is a most subtle repast. Whether the flavor notes are those of grass or corn, I cannot say, but they demand a philosopher in the kitchen.

    The wine list at Luger is odd. It is heavy on young Cabs from California and Bordeaux. We couldn’t resist a 2002 Chateau Beychevelle - a baby at three years, too young, but at $75 worth tasting, at least if I can recall its taste when it is time to open a 2002 Beychevelle in a decade. Wines this young clearly will not show to their best effect, but the prices are modest.

    To eat through New York without visiting Peter Luger is a sin. I have had a few steaks this satisfying - in Fort Worth and in Sioux Falls and a great one before Morton’s went national - but Peter Luger is a temple of beef, even if it has but one altar.

    Peter Luger Steak House
    178 Broadway (at Driggs Avenue)
    Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
    718-387-7400

    Note: PL does not accept credit cards - only cash or personal checks.

    http://www.vealcheeks.blogspot.com
  • Post #2 - December 27th, 2005, 11:45 am
    Post #2 - December 27th, 2005, 11:45 am Post #2 - December 27th, 2005, 11:45 am
    Thanks. Great post.

    Anyone who reads this and doesn't appreciate the fraternity among Luger, Gene & Georgetti and a few others (were you at Murray's? What a great place), should simply take a pass, stop complaining, and walk their Nordstrom-bought-Uggs over to a fake London mens club (without cigar smoke) for for their Atkins fix.

    You put it eloquently and said it straight. Yet I am confident that many more will go, have the exact same experience you describe, and hate it because the creamed spinach is better (and cheaper) at J. Alexander's.
  • Post #3 - December 27th, 2005, 12:00 pm
    Post #3 - December 27th, 2005, 12:00 pm Post #3 - December 27th, 2005, 12:00 pm
    My visit to Lugar's was spectacular. The food was as described. Totally unmemorable...except for the steak. The interaction with the waiter is something I will never forget.

    Me: What kind of steak do you have?
    Waiter: We have steak for 2, steak for 3, steak for 4, steak for 6 and steak for 8. How much do you want?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - December 27th, 2005, 3:20 pm
    Post #4 - December 27th, 2005, 3:20 pm Post #4 - December 27th, 2005, 3:20 pm
    GAF wrote: Like the steaks, he will need some aging.


    Great line in a great post!
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #5 - December 28th, 2005, 11:39 am
    Post #5 - December 28th, 2005, 11:39 am Post #5 - December 28th, 2005, 11:39 am
    To eat through New York without visiting Peter Luger is a sin.

    forgive me father for i've sinned :oops:
    2 years of driving by Luger's billboard near the williamsburg(?) bridge for nothing.
  • Post #6 - November 14th, 2006, 11:01 pm
    Post #6 - November 14th, 2006, 11:01 pm Post #6 - November 14th, 2006, 11:01 pm
    My Trip to Peter Luger

    Peter Luger invites with an old must, a stable shrine to steak, been around longer than most of us.

    Image

    We kicked off with just tomatoes and onions. Peter Luger Sauce (my upcoming LTH Party raffle contribution, incidentally) was excellent on this vegetable first course, though I shied away from putting it on my meat.

    Image

    I asked the waiter where the tomatoes came from, and he said he said, “I don’t know.” Earlier that day, at a Brooklyn farmers' market, I spotted some delicious tomatoes from Jersey, watered by the Delaware, plucked before last week’s killer frost.

    Image

    Pardon my digression, but this is one great market – unlike local markets here, they have fish.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Any how, Peter Luger is an old room, not at all fancy, but friendly and very comfortable.

    Image

    This shot shows how the meat is cut into almost bite-sized portions, nice :

    Image

    I love GAF’s use of the word “charismatic” in relation to this meat. It is.

    Image

    Brooklynite buddies I went to dinner with thought the steak not quite up to par, not as "crusty" as they thought it should be, but I thought it just fine.

    Hammond
    Last edited by David Hammond on November 15th, 2006, 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - November 15th, 2006, 5:26 am
    Post #7 - November 15th, 2006, 5:26 am Post #7 - November 15th, 2006, 5:26 am
    David Hammond wrote:not as "crusty" as they thought it should be, but I thought it just fine.


    Were they talking about the steaks or the waiters? (Great post, BTW)
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - November 15th, 2006, 6:51 am
    Post #8 - November 15th, 2006, 6:51 am Post #8 - November 15th, 2006, 6:51 am
    David Hammond wrote:My Trip to Peter Lugar

    Hammond,

    First GAF's words, now your pictures. Almost more than a man can take.

    Steak for 2 please.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #9 - November 15th, 2006, 9:36 am
    Post #9 - November 15th, 2006, 9:36 am Post #9 - November 15th, 2006, 9:36 am
    Hammond, you know how to live. Interesting complaint re crust. Luger has a reputation, I thought, for not having particularly crusty steaks due in part to the thinner cut of the porterhouses there. That post and the weather screams out for a trip to G&G...
  • Post #10 - November 15th, 2006, 9:49 am
    Post #10 - November 15th, 2006, 9:49 am Post #10 - November 15th, 2006, 9:49 am
    That bottom steak shot is gastroporn at its finest.

    I may have to dig out a couple of Allen Bros. steaks from my freezer this weekend.

    Jeff, set up the G & G for just about any Friday and I'm there. I' need a garbage salad and steak.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #11 - November 16th, 2006, 2:52 pm
    Post #11 - November 16th, 2006, 2:52 pm Post #11 - November 16th, 2006, 2:52 pm
    GAF, I hadn't thought about Tad's in years. It's odd though to have thought about Tad's $1.99 steak in a wonderful post and thread on Peter Lugar's.

    Chicago magazine had a Chicago vs. NYC steak article several months back. They made a big deal about NY dry aged beef having less char (I liked the Ducasse cote de boeuf reference), better firmer texture, and meatier taste than Chicago wet aged, more char, softer texture, and milder taste.

    Your post seems basically supportive of the NY side of that point of view. Any comment on the other side?
  • Post #12 - November 16th, 2006, 7:07 pm
    Post #12 - November 16th, 2006, 7:07 pm Post #12 - November 16th, 2006, 7:07 pm
    I grew up in NYC, so I guess that is where my heart is, but the truth is that I eat at Moto more often than Morton's, so who am I to say.
  • Post #13 - October 29th, 2019, 10:19 am
    Post #13 - October 29th, 2019, 10:19 am Post #13 - October 29th, 2019, 10:19 am
    Pete Wells poops on Peter Luger with a zero stars review.
    Eater
    NYT (paywall)

    I've never been, always wanted to go, still want to try.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - October 29th, 2019, 10:51 am
    Post #14 - October 29th, 2019, 10:51 am Post #14 - October 29th, 2019, 10:51 am
    Just read the review an hour ago and all I can say is, sad. Very sad. I had been interested "for old times' sake" for many years. This kinda kills the desire.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #15 - October 29th, 2019, 11:19 am
    Post #15 - October 29th, 2019, 11:19 am Post #15 - October 29th, 2019, 11:19 am
    G Wiv wrote:Pete Wells poops on Peter Luger with a zero stars review.
    Eater
    NYT (paywall)

    Yeah, Pete, it sucks getting older. 8)

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #16 - October 30th, 2019, 3:37 pm
    Post #16 - October 30th, 2019, 3:37 pm Post #16 - October 30th, 2019, 3:37 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:Just read the review an hour ago and all I can say is, sad. Very sad. I had been interested "for old times' sake" for many years. This kinda kills the desire.
    This review could easily be for Mr. Beef on Orleans. Still living on their reputation and are simply existing as a fair to mediocre beef joint now. This is also killing my interest in going.

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