178 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11211; map); 718-387-7400; peterluger.com
Service: Gruff, cantankerous. Would you want it any other way?
Setting: 19th-century beer hall
Compare to: Keen's, Old Homestead
The Deal: Small steak and fries, $31.95
While the steakhouse genre long ago descended in to self-parody, Peter Luger retains a level of authenticity—by virtue of the fact that it is their menu that almost everyone else is mimicking. That steak for two, sputtering and sizzling angrily as it is paraded through the dining room, was popularized, if not created, at Peter Luger. The number of steakhouses that claim former Luger employees as a selling point are legion; and while others may have been doing it as long or even longer—Keens and The Old Homestead, for example—Luger remains the steakhouse by which other are judged.
I have been going for years; usually at lunch, when tables are easier to come by and transport to Brooklyn more tolerable. Lunch is also an excellent place to get a good part of the Luger experience for a fraction of the cost.
As one might expect on a menu essentially dedicated to a single dish, there are not too many frills. The bread basket has been updated recently with selections beyond the traditional onion roll, and the handful of chocolate coins are still deposited on your table at meal's end—but beyond that it is all a la carte.
And the dry-aged USDA prime steaks at Peter Luger are not cheap. A porterhouse two sells for $84, a steak for one costs just under $40; throw in a side for another $7-10, and you are going to spend well over $50 per person. Unless you get the "small sirloin steak" with French fries served at lunch for $32.
I wasn't expecting the steak to be black and blue—Luger's cooking method isn't really geared towards achieving it even on big steak—but I was pleasantly surprised by the salty, crunch of the crust and rare inner state of the steak I was served. Languishing in the same butter and beef juice bath and sliced off the bone in the same way as the larger steaks are, it was a close to "cute" as a steak at a steakhouse can be.
It had all the hallmarks of its larger brethren in terms of flavor: the funky, steely tang of dry aging, developed for weeks spent basking in the confines of Lugers legendary dry aged box. But the flesh itself was not the most tender—never attaining the buttery-ness that the best steaks (from Luger and others) achieve. Still, overall, it was a pleasing steak experience.
Especially because of the crispy, golden French fries, which rank among my favorite in the city. My only complaint? The portion was a little stingy.
There is also a daily lunch prime rib of beef special attractively priced at $16.95. Unfortunately, the price and the quantity of food are about the most attractive thing about the dish. It comes bathed in a dark but rather bland jus along with some peas and a rather waxy potato. The beef itself was dull in flavor, although admirably tender. It would be considered excellent wedding food. Stick with the "small steak" which is a bargain at $32.