These Are the Five Best Steakhouses in America
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 establishments where everyone seems to be wearing a Stetson and a pair of Lucchese boots; 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 upside down. All types of steakhouses were included in our ranking of America’s 50 best, which you can find here. Here are the top five steakhouses on our list.
#5 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 the rib-eye, from New York's Gachot & Gachot (which supplies the legendary Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn — keep reading for their ranking), is arguably the best steak in the city — and there's world-class service to boot. Don’t forget to order the shrimp cocktail; these monsters weigh in at a quarter-pound each.
#4 Bern’s, Tampa
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. The menu also includes 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? There are seven different cuts in a total of 51 different sizes (from six 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.
#3 Keens, New York City
Since 1885, this New York institution has done one thing, and done it really, really well: steak. Perfectly charred steaks and chops are served in this labyrinthine shrine to old New York, which is spread over two floors and three townhouses.
Before you’re served your expertly cooked, gigantic, dry-aged sirloin, filet mignon, prime rib, porterhouse for two, or porterhouse for three, have a look around. There’s memorabilia from more than 100 years of New York history, including playbills political cartoons, and photographs, as well as a collection of more than 50,000 pipes, from back when regulars, including Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt, would store theirs there. If you go once, try the steak. If you go twice, try the famous mutton chop, a 26-ounce lamb saddle that’s nearly two inches thick and dates back to the restaurant’s earliest days.
#2 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, Bahrain, Singapore, and New York).
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.
#1 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 wait staff 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 simply the best you’ll find anywhere in America (along with the porterhouse, an equally impressive rib steak is also available). It’s dry-aged and butchered on the 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.