Five pillars of American beef
MoB | Dining at America’s Steakhouses
Every kind of meal has its own purpose, its particular ritual and significance. Burgers are meant for tailgating; road trips run on fast food; French restaurants seem fit for special occasions like anniversaries and third dates where you’re really trying to get some. Chief among dining rituals is the steakhouse dinner, when friends and colleagues gather around a generously-sized table to eat charred flesh and drink wine the color of blood. It’s not just a meal. It’s a beef séance.
So it’s only fitting that we bring the Month of Beef in for a delectable landing at five great American steakhouses. We specifically chose tier-1 and tier-2 national restaurant chains (sorry Applebee’s), where we ordered our favorite steakhouse cut: the bone-in rib-eye, cooked medium-rare.
Don’t see this cut on the menu? Pro tip: order it anyway. Most restaurants carry bone-in rib-eye in limited supply, leaving it off the menu because they’d run out so quickly if it were advertised.
See our steakhouse meals after the break.
“The Palm has been in business for 85 years and we have an extremely loyal fan base… We have this group of lawyers that comes in almost every day, and if they asked for Chinese food, we’re going to figure out how to make Chinese food for them”. — Alex Hasbany, General Manager
250 West 50th Street, New York thepalm.com
When The Palm opened in New York City in 1926, it was an Italian restaurant that served steaks on request. You can still get classic Italian-American dishes like veal marsala and chicken parmigiana there, but the restaurant is best known today for its decor — caricatures of celebrities, politicians and otherwise famous patrons — and its Prime grade steaks. The Palm’s signature cut is a New York strip, but the rib-eye we had at their Theater District location, one of four locations in the city (and where Liam Neeson is known to dine), was seasoned and cooked perfectly. You could even say that they have a very particular set of skills… skills they have acquired over a very long career.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
“I always say to our staff, ‘Never apologize for our prices’. When I read reviews on Open Table and Yelp, and people say that we’re expensive — I agree that we’re expensive. But I also know that you got the best that money pays for, the quality was there, the hospitality we provided was second to none. That’s what you’re paying for. I stop at nothing to make sure everybody who walks out of here wants to come back”. — Scott Gould, General Manager
1121 6th Avenue, New York | delfriscos.com
Unlike The Palm, which is intimate and borderline genteel as steakhouses go, Del Frisco’s in midtown is a big raucous cathedral of beef. It fills out 18,000 square feet and three floors, each with its own martini-slinging bar and a floor-to-ceiling view of 6th Avenue. The food goes pound for pound with the environs. What you get is an almost comically large rib-eye that’s been neatly trimmed and nuked under a 1,500º broiler, giving it a crust that looks like polished lava rock. It’s one of the best steaks we’ve ever tasted.
The presentation at Del Frisco’s is on the elegant side, which stands out among steakhouses that traditionally just put steak to plate to table. It’s a nice touch if you’re going to spend top dollar on a meal.
Ted’s Montana Grill
“I love food food and I love wine. Simple food is better. People love side dishes, they love potatoes, they love steak — and they want just that, not all this other stuff they can’t pronounce or that’s made to look pretty. That’s what we do here: it’s to the point, good wine, and the best service we can provide”. — Brianne Demmler, Proprietor
110 West 51st Street, New York tedsmontanagrill.com
Ted’s Montana is really more of an American restaurant and grill than what we might traditionally consider a steakhouse. The focus there is meat, though, and there’s a buffalo head mounted on the wall at the New York location in case there’s any question. Ted Turner, who owns the chain, supplies the bison from his 15 ranches in the western plain states. (Interesting fact: Turner is the second largest individual landowner in North America, with two million acres.) What you’re looking at steak-wise varies based on location; it’s a combination of beef and bison, with cuts ranging from bison strip steaks to beef prime rib — all of it butchered in-house.
We tried the bone-in cowboy bison rib-eye (a slight departure for the Month of Beef, but when in Rome…), which gets seasoned and seared on the griddle in olive oil rather than broiled. It’s noticeably leaner than beef, and the flavor is light and a little sweet compared to the round richness of a beef rib-eye. A damn fine steak.
The Capital Grille
The Capital Grille is owned by Darden Restaurants, the same company that owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster.
155 East 42nd Street, New York thecapitalgrille.com
The Capital Grille may not have a storied history like The Palm or a famous owner like Ted’s Montana, but what it lacks in lore it makes up for in damn good beef and perfect service. The steaks at Capital Grille are all dry-aged at the restaurants and cooked in infrared broilers. Even with a bad case of beeftigue, we crushed an entire bone-in rib-eye and a side of sauteed spinach for lunch. After the steak, the best part of the meal was our waiter, a Peter Sarsgaard ringer who was so gravely attentive it felt like he was repaying us some ancient debt with his service. Give this guy a promotion.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
The founders of Morton’s, Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch, met when they worked together at the Playboy Club in Montreal. Respect.
551 5th Avenue, New York
You couldn’t talk steakhouses without a nod to Chicago, America’s meatpacking capital from the Civil War through the 1920s. Morton’s was founded in Chicago in 1978, and today all of its 69+ locations still get their Prime-aged beef cut and shipped from the Windy City. We think of Morton’s as a businessman’s steakhouse: old timey decor, dim lighting and plenty of room to spread out in a comfortable booth. Our experience there was mixed. Our Americanos were weak (“like one espresso shot had been split between both cups”, according to one dining companion) and our waitress was a little glum (she shrugged and said “Eh, look at my life”, when we asked how she was doing).
Perhaps we caught them at a bad time (between lunch and dinner). But the rib-eye was good, and this wasn’t the Month of Coffee, so we’ll give them a pass.