New York is a carne-loving town—just look at the best BBQ, best butcher shops and best burgers in NYC for proof. But one area we truly excel in is steak restaurants, those temples of dry age and mineral funk, those celebratory confabs that demand to be marked with a napkin tucked beneath your chin, a steak knife clutched in your fist and a juicy slab of beef in a pool of its own juices on your plate. From old classics that peddle in porterhouse to new-wave meateries where you can get your sirloin with a side of gnocchi, these are the best steakhouses in NYC.
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Although a slew of Luger copycats have prospered in NYC, none have captured the elusive charm of this stucco-walled, beer-hall-style eatery, with its well-worn wooden floors and tables, and waiters in waistcoats and bowties. The famous porterhouse for two—36 ounces of sliced prime beef—is a singular New York experience that’s worth having.
Sirloin and porterhouse (for two and three) hold their own against any steak in the city at this 130-year-old slice of history. The ceiling and walls are hung with smoking pipes, some from such long-ago Keens regulars as Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt.
Opened in 1868 as a dockworkers’ chophouse, this clubby establishment draws a laid-back New York crowd (MePa’s glamazons need not apply). But even those finicky eaters would be impressed by starters such as a tender-as-sashimi seared yellowfin tuna, and by ever-fresh raw-bar selections. Still, folks come here for the beef. Spring for the flavorful strip steak or a well-seasoned prime rib. Any way you carve it, this place stands the test of time.
Michael Stillman, the son of Smith & Wollensky founder Alan Stillman, shuttered Manhattan Ocean Club, a seafood palace in midtown, and replaced it with this highly stylized industrial theme park complete with meat-hook light fixtures, wooden butcher blocks, white tiles and exposed brick. Lespinasse-trained chef Craig Koketsu nails the steaks and breathes new life into traditional side dishes. Pudding-like corn crème brûlée and the airy “gnocchi & cheese,” a clever take on mac and cheese, are terrific. High-concept desserts are best exemplified by the outstanding coffee-and-doughnuts ice cream crammed with chunks of the fritters and crowned with a miniature doughnut.
Walk into this LES rathskeller on a crowded evening, and you may think you’ve stumbled into a bar mitzvah—Yiddish sing-alongs and folk dancing are ignited by the live synthesizer and further fueled by icy shots of vodka. The very Eastern European menu includes saline chicken liver, garlicky karnatzlach sausage and enormous beef tenderloins, all of which are hearty enough to slow down the hora. The sparse decor may be dated, but the prices aren’t: Order carefully, or you’ll lose your dowry paying for your meal.
This restaurant from chef Michael Lomonaco (Windows on the World) is part of the all-star lineup at the Time Warner Center. Inside the sexy brown-and-tan interior, portions are large, and prices are fair. The steaks get a glorious char, and the wine list offers 500 labels to choose from, including a selection of half bottles.
Grilling may be the ultimate American art form, but New York restaurants rarely explore its greaseless, flame-licked potential. With St. Anselm, Joe Carroll delivers one of the city’s most impressive exceptions. The well-rounded menu, heavy on veggies, combines Mediterranean, Asian and all-American flavors, but head chef Katrina Zito uses the simple cooking method to tie it all together—from smoky slabs of halloumi to miniature fire-roasted eggplants with fried goat cheese and honey. Main-event proteins include a charred hanger packed with an earthy flavor—as fine a slab of beef as is available at any hoary steakhouse in town.
Founded by former Ziegfield girl Helen Gallagher and the colorful gambler and sports enthusiast Jack Solomon, Gallaghers opened as a speakeasy and steakhouse in 1927. At that time, the height of Prohibition, a good stiff drink and a great steak were hard to find in New York – except, of course, at Gallaghers.New Yorkers come for the world-class cocktails and incredible steak – prime beef dry-aged for 21 days in Gallaghers’ legendary windowed meat locker. The combination of all-natural dry aging and cooking it to perfection over hickory coals makes for a steak unlike any other found in New York.
Housed in a former auto-body shop, the spot splices class with irreverence; black-tie waiters and a besuited sommelier dart around a room where trout swim in a concrete tank and Canadian-lumberjack movies project onto the wall. Sporadic bursts of flame from the wood grill illuminate sizzling slabs of flesh, seducing both downtown rockers and Queens families. Dry-aged Nebraska côte de boeuf for two ($130) smacks lustily of the barnyard, enough to pardon its fat-glistened meat for being one shade shy of medium-rare. Contrary to the going wisdom of savvy chophouse diners elsewhere, you should not skip the seafood and salad—the preserved jarred clams ($8) are firm and briny; the charred iceberg ($12), with creamy blue-cheese dressing and sweet dehydrated ketchup meringue chips, is a striking, whimsical wedge.
Strip House cultivates a retro-sexy vibe with its suggestive name, red furnishings and vintage pinups. But it’s still a modern meat shrine flaunting French influences. Executive chef Michael Vignola makes sure his New York strips arrive at your table still sizzling, seasoned with sea salt and peppercorns, and showing no sign of extraneous fat. Order the New York strip, and you’ll experience the sublime combination of a perfectly charred outside with a luscious rare-red inside. Everyone will enjoy the black-truffle creamed spinach, one of several gourmet takes on classic steak sides.
Sparks used to be a mob hangout. Now it’s just mobbed. Even with a reservation, you may have to wait for an hour at the cramped bar. It’s worth it: The signature sirloin is a lean 16-ounce prime hunk with a salty, lightly charred exterior. Savory beef scaloppine and steak fromage (filet mignon topped with Roquefort) are also outstanding. When your fork slides through a velvety wedge of chocolate mousse cake, you’ll feel sorry for Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano, who was famously whacked as he approached the entrance in 1985. He died before enjoying his last good meal.
It was a gamble for Wolfgang Zwiener, a former Peter Luger waiter, to open his own steakhouse in midtown in 2004 and riskier still for him to attempt an offshoot of his offshoot. But this is one of the best (albeit priciest) restaurants of its ilk. The steaks kick ass: They’re thick, juicy and charred enough to be flavorful without tasting like carbon. Big groups can order porterhouses for two, and solo diners can dig into a filet mignon, rib eye or sirloin and not feel like they’re getting the second-best item on the menu.
Looking for more great restaurants?
Ted’s Montana Grill
Billionaire Ted Turner has opened an outpost of his bison-heavy restaurant chain in midtown. In addition to burgers and steaks, the menu lists cedar-plank salmon and beer-can chicken.
"Enjoy your holiday meal at Ted’s Montana Grill. Ted’s features made-from-scratch Authentic American Dining –just one block from Rockefeller!"