FELL IN LOVE WITH FOOD & WINE

Peter Luger Steak House: Lunch at a New York legend

October 14, 2015
The incredible Porterhouse
Entrance to Peter Luger

Entrance to Peter Luger

As born and bred New Yorkers, we had heard glowing praise of Peter Luger Steak House for many years. But a generous “big-birthday” gift certificate from family members lit the spark and we finally made the long trek to Brooklyn from Westchester (through the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens) to experience an institution that has been in business since 1887.

Despite it’s more than 125-year longevity, it’s still tough to snag dinner reservations at what has been called the “quintessential NYC steakhouse” so we reserved a table on a weekday during the also-bustling lunch hour.

The Peter Luger porterhouse is the quintessential NYC steakhouse steak. It has spawned a legion of imitators but has yet to be equaled. In fact it probably can’t be equaled, Luger essentially defined the genre.

Other steakhouses may have been around longer (Old Homestead, Keens) but none have been more influential or widely acclaimed.

– Eater NY Senior Editor – Nick Solares

Setting and service

Peter Luger is located in the heart of iconic Williamsburg, a neighborhood just across the Williamsburg Bridge from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Once predominantly German, the area is now culturally diverse and still remains architecturally interesting with many landmark buildings. It has served as the backdrop for books, movies and TV shows—from the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (written in 1943) to the recent sitcom Two Broke Girls.

Our waiter, Hire, told us that the informal décor of the restaurant hasn’t changed much over the years. It looks like a Bavarian beer hall with simple wooden tables (with no tablecloths), bistro chairs, dark wood paneled walls and tin ceilings.

One of the three dining rooms

One of the three dining rooms

The bar, already lined three deep at lunch hour, serves as the foyer for the restaurant opening up to three dining rooms on the ground level and one upstairs, often used for larger parties. The wall opposite the bar is filled with plaques showcasing the restaurant’s consistently high and impressive Zagat ratings (It currently has a 28 for food).

The uber-busy bar

The uber-busy bar

Zagat wall-of-honor

Small portion of the Zagat wall-of-honor

Service was friendly and professional rather than formal, our engaging waiter served many of the dishes tableside, family-style.

The menu

One key to the success of Peter Luger is that it has stayed the course, serving traditional steakhouse favorites and resisting the temptation to hop onto fleeting culinary trends. Admittedly, the menu and recipes must have been created in the pre-cholesterol readings era.

The menu is also not burdened with over-choice: The number of offerings is limited to what have become perennial favorites.

The appetizers

The appetizers

The entrees

The entrees and sides

After we gorged on the yummy onion rolls and salt sticks, we couldn’t resist sampling the sizzling bacon appetizer, ordered by the slice. Any pork lover would love the thick, juicy slabs. One slice would suffice for a party of four.

Fresh rolls and butter and the Peter Luger goes-on-anything sauce

Fresh rolls and butter and the Peter Luger goes-on-anything sauce

Sizzling bacon

Sizzling bacon

We also tried the fresh tasting iceberg salad, served with a melange of chopped tomatoes, bacon and crumbled blue cheese dressing on top.

Iceberg lettuce salad

Iceberg lettuce salad

We immediately realized by then that the only portion size at Peter Luger is humongous—but we had already ordered our steak and sides.

Of course, we were there to taste the famed, dry-aged USDA Prime Porterhouse steak we had read about, heard about and seen on various television shows.

The incredible Porterhouse

The incredible Porterhouse

Aged for 28 days, the steak is served sliced off the bone. It was perfectly marbled, cooked to perfection and extremely tender topped with a spoonful of clarified butter. I’m reluctant to speak in superlatives but this steak set a new standard in our culinary repertoire. It was accompanied by a gravy boat of Peter Luger’s tangy branded “old-fashioned) steak sauce (which is sold at Costco and many local groceries).

Portioned for two, the massive sides are also spectacular: We tried the creamed spinach (blissfully pureed without obvious cream), the crispy (but not greasy) fried onion rings, and an oversized baked potato with a generous portion of sour cream.

Creamed spinach

Creamed spinach

Crispy onion rings

Crispy onion rings

Hire explained that lunch and dinner menus are virtually identical except for a couple of daily specials and hamburgers served during lunch.

I’m sure you can hardly imagine that we would have had any room or appetite for dessert—and you would be absolutely correct—but we couldn’t resist the “Holy Cow Hot Fudge Sundae” served with a bowl of homemade schlag (German for whipped cream).

Bottomless bowl of schlag

Bottomless bowl of schlag

We had recently met a restaurant owner elsewhere whose career started as the Schlag Man at Peter Luger. He explained that it still is a full-time job held by one individual, because of the volume of business done here each day.

Before we got up from the table, we were rewarded with several gold chocolate commemorative coins—for our Herculean eating accomplishments I guess. One of the perks of the meal was being able to enjoy the still-huge uneaten portion of steak the next day that was packaged up for us to take home.

Peter Luger Coins

Peter Luger Coins

Bottom Line

Our indulgence was expensive (about $125 per person, including cocktails and a tip) but if you can save up for this special meal or can wrangle a gift from a generous friend or relative, Porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House is a not-to-be-missed culinary experience.


*On Eater:

The Porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House in New York City

On YouTube

Butcher to Plate: Peter Luger’s Iconic Porterhouse for Two


IF YOU GO

Peter Luger, 178 Broadway, Brooklyn New York

  • No credit cards are accepted; bring wads of bills, a personal check or debit card.
  • Reservations a must, by phone only.
  • There is also an outpost of the steakhouse giant in Great Neck, New York (Long Island) (which we have yet to try.)

  • Reply
    Judy Kirkwood
    October 14, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Awww, I would LOVE to go there with my favorite live-in steak lover. Bucket list.

  • Reply
    Laura
    October 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

    It looks like a carnivore’s dream! However, I’m put off that they don’t list prices on the menu. I realize “market price” can vary, particularly on seafood, but this is a steak house. Did they give an explanation for why there are no prices on the menu?

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 14, 2015 at 11:34 am

      While there weren’t prices on the website menu (shown above), the menus at the restaurant did have prices. I agree that they should be shown online too…even if they might lead to indigestion:-)

      • Reply
        Laura
        October 14, 2015 at 11:44 am

        I like transparency! It’s obviously expensive, but if the “average joe” wants to go for a special occasion, it helps to look online to figure out what it’s going to cost. I don’t like any kind of place that doesn’t list prices.

  • Reply
    Josie
    October 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks Irene for this lovely review. You know we’re always looking for a new NY experience, and you have supplied us with several!
    Wishing you many more tasty travels!
    ~Josie

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    October 14, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    That big steak looks very juicy – but you’re right, huge! We find we have to share entrees in the U.S. (a main course is too large for one person).

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 14, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      I love restaurants that offer two sizes of the same entree.

  • Reply
    Sheryl
    October 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Being a non-steak eater, reading this STILL makes me want to go…if for nothing else but that bacon and yummy-sounding salad and dessert!

  • Reply
    Arline Zatz
    November 1, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Your comments, Irene, bring back fond memories about Peter Luger’s restaurant. I worked one block from there over 50 years ago – when wise people wouldn’t walk in that neighborhood at night because it was considered dangerous. During the day it was fine and i was never afraid, even at 15 when I started working as a part-time secretary, I had to be there. Later, when I announced my engagement, the bookkeeper decided to treat me to what she considered one of the best restaurants around – which turned out to be Luger’s. I was so young, never ate in expensive restaurants before, and was amazed at the quiet interior with sawdust all over the floor. One look at the menu made me happy someone else was paying for the lunch. I was afraid to order anything but a hamburger, but that was so memorable and so delicious, as were the ‘waiters’ and everything else about the place, that I never forgot it. You’ve brought up great memories of that happy occasion — and now I know where I’d like to go for our 59th wedding anniversary this November 4th. It will also be nice to cruise around the old neighborhood – Williamsburg – where I grew up. Thank you for the great write-up.
    Best, Arline

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      A 59th anniversary sure is a cause for celebration! I would highly recommend lunch because I think the bar area is less crowded and chaotic and it will also give you the opportunity to see the neighborhood. I bet you can find a walking tour in the area.

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