Regulars don’t need a menu at Peter Luger, the Michelin-starred chophouse in Brooklyn, where not much has changed since 1887—except the newly hip neighborhood.
While the constancy of that dry-aged porterhouse and old-school vibe is comforting, the past decade has ushered in an equally worthy breed of steakhouses that are more stylish in the dining room and more inventive in the kitchen.
In Los Angeles, for instance, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut displays artwork by John Baldessari in a sleek room with gallery-white walls. And Urban Farmer, in Portland, OR, is about as hipster as a steakhouse can get, with a communal table and a tasting platter of grass-fed, corn-fed, and grain-finished beef that pairs nicely with local Ransom Spirits whiskey.
Sure, towering seafood platters, wedge salads, and creamed spinach still make an appearance on the menus of these newcomers, but you’ll also find roasted kabocha squash, pimento cheese–stuffed bacon puffs, and lobster corn dogs. The most-ordered appetizer at Marc Forgione’s Atlantic City steakhouse is the chili lobster, a riff on a Singapore standard—though serious meatheads will want to skip ahead to the 40-ounce tomahawk rib eye chop.
The clientele is changing more slowly. Martini-swilling power brokers in suits are still the norm in many steakhouses, and men still far outnumber women. You’re more likely to find the stiletto crowd in next-generation steakhouses like Mooo, Boston’s tongue-in-cheek beefery, with its black-and-white cow art and thronelike chairs.
Of course, ultimately, a steakhouse is all about the beef. If you want to get geeky, the breadth of information on cuts, aging techniques, and grading is staggering (we suggest checking out The Sirloin Report). If you ask a pro—say, Suzanne Strassburger, CEO of Strassburger Meats—it all boils down to taste.
Strassburger says she personally prefers a sirloin, bone-in, seasoned with salt and pepper, however the Riserva rib eye, dry-aged for eight months, at Vegas restaurant Carnevino has won critics over with its distinctive blue-cheese flavor. And San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib has been serving prime rib, and only prime rib, to loyal diners since 1949.
Take your pick among these favorite steakhouses, from old-school institutions like St. Elmo Steak House of Indianapolis to Kevin Rathbun Steak, which has a speakeasy-like ambience and playful southern-influenced fare.
They’re all well done—or rather, medium rare.