I’m generally pretty conscientious as far as my consumption of meat goes. I’m very conscious of the amount of resources that go into a hamburger, the damage utilizing those resources does to the environment, and the large number of people that could be fed if we all decided to forego that beef. I’m way too weak-willed to totally give up meat (it tastes too good, goddammit), but I have a few rules about it: I only eat meat at one meal a day (at most), I generally try to limit those portion sizes, and I often order a vegetarian option when I can (I’ve eaten a lot of vegetarian burritos and hummus and avocado sandwiches over the years).
With that said, I make exceptions to those rules. When I get the burrito mojado at Taqueria Cancun (my absolute favorite meal), I get it with al pastor. And for a big celebration dinner, there’s nothing like a nice juicy steak. What can I say–I’m a dude, and something about eating a hunk of meat appeals to the caveman living somewhere deep inside me. I’ve eaten at great steakhouses in the Bay Area, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York, but nothing tops Brooklyn’s Peter Luger Steakhouse.
Peter Luger sits just across the East River from Manhattan, in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge. The dining room feels like the interior of an old Bavarian tavern, and it looks like it hasn’t changed that much in the more than 125 years the restaurant has been serving steaks. The menu probably hasn’t changed all that much, either: At Peter Luger, you don’t order a ribeye or filet mignon or a New York strip. You order “Steak for Two” (or Three or Four, as the case may be), and the waiters bring you an appropriately sized Porterhouse. For its efforts, the restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star, and it is on every single “Best Steakhouse” list you can find on the internet.
Last week, I got a group of five together (be warned, Peter Luger starts taking reservations a month in advance, and you should heed that lead time), and we got an order of Steak for Two and an order of Steak for Three. This is what we got:
Looks amazing, right? Now here’s the sad part of the story: I’ve been to Peter Luger twice, and never fully enjoyed it. The first time I went was last summer, on a blowout bash with three gluttony-minded friends. We ordered Steak for Four, but I had been drinking bourbon all day (after getting completely trashed the night before), and had a good share of a bottle of wine at the table, so by the time our steak arrived, I was basically blacked out. I remember that the steak tasted really good, but I didn’t remember the details of how and why it was so good–a bitter pill when you drop $150 on a meal.
I was determined not to make the same mistake this time, but on Tuesday of last week, the day before our scheduled steak dinner, I came down with a horrible cold. I had a headache and I was sore and my sinuses were so clogged I went through most of a large box of tissues last week. But I wasn’t missing steak at Peter Luger.
And you know what? The title of this post is a goddamn lie. Because even though I felt like shit, I enjoyed every bite of that steak. The steaks were enormous and were cooked a perfect medium rare, with a light char on the outside and a chewy pink center. I basically had a meat-gasm with every bite. There were some desserts and sides and stuff as well, but I won’t even bother talking about any of them (well, except for the thick-cut bacon, which is the thickness of a hangar steak at some restaurants), because this place is all about the beef.
There are a lot of contenders for best hunk of meat in America. I can’t pretend I’ve had anywhere close to all of them. But I’ve eaten at Peter Luger, and I have a hard time believing there’s anything that can top that.