If you’ve spent any time eating at fancy steakhouses, you’ve probably encountered something known as a Delmonico steak. Unlike steaks like rib-eyes, New York strips, and filets mignons, however, the name doesn’t exactly indicate what part of the steer the steak is from. So what exactly is a Delmonico steak, and why is it called that?
To begin to answer that question, we need to go back to its birthplace: Delmonico’s. Widely considered to be America’s first restaurant, Delmonico’s is still one of New York’s most popular steakhouses, and there indeed is a Delmonico steak to be found on their menu. If you order the Delmonico steak at Delmonico’s today, you’ll receive a boneless rib-eye that hasn’t been dry-aged, brushed with melted butter and beef fat after it comes out of the broiler. Back in the 1800s, however, the first Delmonico steaks were whatever the best cut was on a particular night, Delmonico’s chef Billy Oliva recently told Eater’s Nick Solares. Animals were generally slaughtered on-premises, so as it was being butchered the chef would decide which particular steak was of the highest quality, and that would be the night’s Delmonico steak.
Nowadays, the variations on the Delmonico steak are as numerous as the restaurants that are serving it. Some serve a boneless rib-eye, some serve bone-in rib-eyes, some serve New York strips, either bone-in or boneless. Some will even tie together two chuck eye steaks and pass it off as a Delmonico. At the end of the day, a Delmonico steak can be any steak, as long as it’s thick-cut (most clock in at more than an inch and a half thick); it’s usually also of a high quality. But if you’re planning on ordering one, we suggest you ask exactly which cut you’ll be receiving. Click here to learn which 50 steakhouses are America’s best.