Delmonico’s has had several twists and turns in its 196 years as a hospitality enterprise. Expansion and retraction. Ownership changes and licensing agreements. Fires. Financial battles. And status grabs as the nation’s first fine dining destination, its largest, and as the originator of such august entrées as eggs Benedict.
It has occupied the distinguished tip of a triangle block downtown in one form or another for most of the time since 1837. Its last gap was during the pandemic. Then, another zag last winter, when news of its impending return was announced, then retracted, then proclaimed once more, with new owners and some cosmetic alterations attached. Delmonico’s reopened, replete with a ribbon cutting and a visit from the mayor, in September.
Like centuries, I suppose, 20 minutes can seem subjective, depending on how you spend them. I recently spent what ended up being 20 minutes waiting for my Delmonico’s reservation acquiring knowledge.
First, I learned that the delay had no estimated end because “a couple of tables” were “finishing up.” Second, I learned that I could beat it to the separate bar to wait for an undetermined period, but there might not be space because it was “pretty crowded.” Third, I learned that if you while away on the pretty blue settee near the entrance, instead, you will be walled off by a dense line of vacation-wear or business casual-clad people clamoring to retrieve their items from coat check. And finally, I eventually learned that 20 minutes was exactly one-fifth of the total time I’d spend at the considerably more comfortable table in the much more hospitable dining room, where, unlike up front, nobody changed their shoes—though perhaps that act is just a unique way of expressing ease. Bare feet aside, as I’ve wished for this level of confidence and stiletto relief plenty of times, those other (minor, for someone at a place with $250 steaks) irks are a shame, because the main event is very pleasant.
The sweeping space is still uncommonly handsome, with soaring ceilings, crisp linens and pretty light fixtures. It’s also been brightened up a bit, what little wall space isn’t covered by stately wood paneling has been redone in white. You could easily spend more money in a place that feels less important, and Delmonico’s prices aren’t any more punishing than its 2023 peers.
Its wine selection is vast and varied; the cocktails, proper. The house (with orange bitters) and classic martinis are nicely icy ($21 and $18+, depending on spirit); the signature and standard Manhattans ($19, $21 respectively) are exact.
To start, three chilled jumbo prawns ($27) are an odd number, but large enough to configure for, say, a party of four, if necessary. They’re served with the right chill (too warm and they’re unsettling; too cold and I think you’re up to something) and an above-average cocktail sauce, even if it’s stated gochujang seems to appear in name only. The king crab garlic spaetzle ($27) is equally valid as an appetizer, side or even somewhat more petite, red meat-avoidant main. It’s a comfort summit cloaked in rich mornay, reminiscent of that perennial vintage favorite, mac and cheese. And the creamed spinach ($15) is the wonderful accompaniment of hopes and dreams.
Delmonico’s broiled steaks are peak form. They’re a master class in medium rare. They are absent room for improvement. The tender dry-aged bone-in rib-eye’s 22 ounces of South Dakota beef ($85) are suffused with punchy bovine flavor and funkiness as spot-on as its Central Casting appearance. Even more silken, slicing into the 10-ounce filet mignon ($65) is like opening a ring box to reveal its alluring ruby interior. Butter is eye-rollingly extra ($6), but the cut’s Wagyu tallow baste (rendered fat) imparts enough savory, salty juiciness and platonic ideal steak clarity that it needs no accouterment.
The Vibe: Pleasant, convivial and highly hospitable in the dining room. The chaotic coat check/waiting area needs work, but, with any luck, you won’t languish there for long.
The Food: Peak-form steakhouse classics.
The Drinks: Great cocktails, plus wine and beer.
Time Out Tip: Among your other wishes, just tell the sommelier how much you want to spend; it’s fine.
Delmonico’s is located at 56 Beaver Street. It is open for lunch Monday-Friday from noon-3pm, brunch Saturday and Sunday from noon-3pm and dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5pm-10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 5pm-11pm.