America’s Top 5 Steakhouses

steakmag October 30, 2014 Comments Off on America’s Top 5 Steakhouses
America’s Top 5 Steakhouses

From grand Las Vegas shrines helmed by world-famous chefs to old-school Midwestern chophouses where a rib-eye is preceded by a visit to the salad bar, from clubby Chicago dining rooms loaded with mahogany and brass to New York institutions with now-household names, America has no shortage of great steakhouses. These are the 5 best.

We’re lucky enough to live in a country that has more varieties of steakhouses (and restaurants in general) than previous generations could have ever imagined. There are the cavernous Wild West temples to beef where everyone’s wearing a Stetson; the power-broker-with-an-expense-account clubhouses; the joints that serve steak at the bar but don’t quite fall into the bar-and-grill category; and the modernist steakhouses that turn all these conventions on their head. All types of steakhouses are included in our ranking of America’s best.

The best steakhouses in America are places of worship built to honor the deceptively complex art of a perfectly cooked steak. Whether they’re clad in red leather or plywood, décor is only one aspect of the overall steakhouse experience. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the steak. And from ripping-hot broilers to mesquite grills, these restaurants do it right.

To assemble our ranking of the best steakhouses in America, we started by compiling a list of nearly 200 of America’s leading steakhouses, culled from pre-existing rankings from leading authorities both in print and online. For the sake of fairness, we excluded chains with more than a few locations, like Capital Grille, Fleming’s, and Smith & Wollensky. We also barred restaurants that don’t focus exclusively on steaks, such as San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib (prime rib is technically a roast, not a steak). Ethnic steakhouses, like Brazilian churrascarias, were also left out since they form a category of their own.

We then judged them according to strict criteria: Is the meat sourced reputably and USDA Choice or Prime? Is it dry-aged, and if not, is it as high-quality as can be? Is it served at the proper doneness without fail and with a touch of ceremony? And is it revered by locals and out-of-towners alike? We also considered the overall steakhouse experience. No matter the setting, the service must be top-notch, the attention to detail should be spot-on, and diners should feel compelled to sit back in their chair after their meal, pleasantly stuffed and content in the knowledge that they just ate one heck of a steak.

So journey with us to a fabled dining room on a ranch in a small Texas town (Perini Ranch), a Tampa legend with seven different cuts in 51 sizes and a 7,000-bottle wine list (Bern’s), Las Vegas palaces run by the likes of Batali and Jean-Georges, a New York spot that’s famous for its steaks and infamous for a mob hit (Sparks), and everywhere in between on our quest to find the 5 best steakhouses in America.

No. 5 – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Dallas and Houston

If you’re in Dallas or Houston and you find yourself in need of a perfect steak, a red leather booth, wood-paneled walls, and a wine list that boasts about 2,300 options, head over to Pappas Bros. At this temple to beef, which has repeatedly been lauded as one of the state’s best restaurants since it opened in 1976, the meat is dry-aged in-house, and served bone-in or bone-out. There’s something for everyone, from a 40-ounce Porterhouse carved tableside down to an eight-ounce filet mignon, with stops along the way including an 18-ounce bone-in New York strip and a rib-eye of Texas Akaushi Kobe beef. They’re seasoned with just salt and pepper and finished with some butter, and the entire experience is about as classic steakhouse as you’re likely to find.

No. 4 – Barclay Prime, Philadelphia

Sure, this Stephen Starr steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square might boast a selection of as many as seven different steak knives and a $100 Wagyu rib-eye and foie gras cheesesteak that comes with a half-bottle of Perrier-Jouët, but that doesn’t mean it’s gimmicky. Described as a “luxury boutique steakhouse” on its website, the restaurant replaces red leather with green and yellow suede, a clubby soundtrack, and slightly incongruous crystal chandeliers. While the setting is undoubtedly twenty-first-century, the menu is as classic as can be: steaks are dry-aged for 28 days, and their rib-eye, from Gachot & Gachot, is arguably the best steak in the city, with world-class service to boot. Don’t forget to order the shrimp cocktail; these monsters come four to a pound.

No. 3 – Bern’s, Tampa, Fla.

Don’t come to Bern’s if you’re on a diet; Bern’s is about wonderful excess. There are 20 kinds of caviar on the menu of this big, old-style, legendary establishment; also two preparations of foie gras, two kinds of steak tartare (one with truffles), oysters three ways, endless varieties of fish and shellfish, 16 different cheeses both domestic and imported, nearly 50 desserts (including gluten- and sugar-free varieties) — served upstairs in a special dessert room — and a list of about 7,000 wines (5,500 of them red). Oh, and did we mention steaks? Seven different cuts, in a total of 51 different sizes (from 6 ounces of filet mignon to 60 ounces of strip sirloin), broiled to eight different temperatures, from very rare (“no crust, cold and raw”) to, gulp, well-done (“sturdy little crust, no color, no juice, dried out”). Come hungry.

No. 2 – Peter Luger, New York City

When you sit down at your table at the perpetually packed Peter Luger, located in an off-the-beaten-path corner of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, don’t ask for a menu. Just order the tomato and onion salad, some thick-cut bacon, creamed spinach, hash browns, and the steak for three, a massive porterhouse, broiled under extreme heat before being sliced and presented on a platter. Sure, the waitstaff might be a bit gruff in this surprisingly casual German-styled old steakhouse that’s been here since 1887, but that’s all a part of the show. The star attraction, the steak, is the best you’ll find in New York City. It’s dry-aged and butchered on-premises, and when it’s presented, in all its crusty, well-marbled, beefy glory, your jaw will drop. Use the house steak sauce to douse the onions and tomatoes (don’t let it anywhere near the steak), and be prepared to drop a wad of cash on the table before leaving — no credit cards accepted here, big spender.

No. 1 – CUT, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Wolfgang Puck helped invent California cuisine (and gave us California-style pizza) at Spago, pioneered Asian fusion food at Chinois on Main, and even figured out a way to produce decent airport food at his many Wolfgang Puck Express outlets, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he has also reinvented the steakhouse, with CUT in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (there are now spin-offs in Las Vegas, London, and Singapore). The traditional red leather booths and bucolic paintings have given way to a cool white interior by rationalist architect Richard Meier and a series of pieces by conceptual artist John Baldessari. In place of iceberg wedges and grilled swordfish, look for warm veal tongue with baby artichokes and roast Maine lobster with black truffle sabayon. Oh, and the steaks? Not the usual four or five choices, but a total of 17 cuts and places of origin, from Australian filet mignon to Illinois bone-in New York sirloin to genuine Japanese Wagyu rib-eye from Miyazaki Prefecture. Puck has reinvented the steakhouse experience at CUT, and what he’s done is nothing short of mind-blowing.

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