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Famed NYC steakhouse Peter Luger adds a new item to its menu

The new sandwich is one of the restaurant’s infrequent updates in its 136 years.

Peter Luger steak sandwich
Photograph: Courtesy of Delia Barth
Photograph: Courtesy of Delia Barth
Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako

Earlier this month, a new item began whispering its way into orders at one of New York City’s most famous steakhouses. Peter Luger, which opened in its original form as Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley in 1887, stirring discourse for almost as long, was suddenly serving a brand new dish—not a “secret” nor a well-known, off-menu item.

The restaurant, colloquially known as “Luger’s” to some, seldom makes such additions (its now beloved burger was added nearly 30 years ago; the wedge salad in the interim; a sundae here or there). But unbeknownst to those outside the kitchen, the restaurant had actually been crafting its first steak sandwich for quite some time.

“I’ve always been a foodie since I was a little kid growing up in New York,” says David Berson, Peter Luger’s general manager and fourth-generation operator. Berson joined the family business 10 years ago out of college. 

“I’ve grown up around Peter Luger, where the menu has always been very condensed. And I think a steak sandwich has always been a natural fit for us that had always kind of been percolating in the backs of our minds as either a special or a potential item, and played around with it for years, really, on and off. But to find the right components, and really find a sandwich that we were all, not just happy with, but think it’s just a great steak sandwich that really fits us, that took a lot of time and a lot of research and development,” Berson says. 

Part of the challenge of premiering a new plate was making it seem like it had been available all along. 

“It's something that had always been an appealing item where, if we could get it right, that it would be very synergistic with the rest of the menu,” he says. “It had to be kind of the seamless fit of it, feeling like it had been there for longer than it's been on the menu.”

Getting it right, in this case, after all of that informal, then formal ideating, had to amount to a steak sandwich that the team felt was inimitable from any other.

“It was really about going through a lot of different tests of many different cuts of meat and different breads and figuring out what was the right fit for us. And it really took many iterations.”

How many, exactly, Berson says, “I wouldn’t want to know.” And it eventually came down to just a few key elements. 

The ultimate trialed and errored steak sandwich’s pièce de résistance, its raison d’être, its meat, is about 8 ounces of USDA Prime New York strip, cooked to order and topped with caramelized onions and a horseradish spread. That’s all arranged on a toasted roll baked from a proprietary recipe reminiscent of the onion variety in Luger’s still-complimentary bread basket. 

“I think we have a unique way of doing things,” Berson says. “Our menu, for a long time, has been about simple deliciousness, as my great-grandfather used to like to say. It’s not about unique cooking methods or serving a steak au poivre, or something like that, it’s really about, ‘how do we make our guests have the best steak,’ or, in this case, steak sandwich, and we didn’t want to over-complicate it.” 

Employing only gentle, incremental changes helps keep Peter Luger’s consumer reputation consistent after 136 years, with expectations to manage from longtime regulars and newcomers who might already know just as much about the storied space. It’s a rare bit of reliability on a dining landscape where practically every opening boasts about seasonal updates. A few weeks ago, they also introduced sauteed mushrooms, crab cakes, and a ribeye for two to the lineup; all items that also seem like they could have been around all along.

At the moment, the $38 steak sandwich is only sold word-of-mouth at lunch, Monday through Thursday, at the Williamsburg location. It should join the formal menu sometime next month, expand to the Long Island outpost in the near future, and, ideally, bridge any gap between notions of Peter Lugers across time and place.  

“We want both longtime customers and new customers alike to be kind of captivated by the item,” Berson says. “It’s something that we really just want all customers to have as an option. Hopefully, they liked it as much as we do.”

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