Jowls, capillaries, paunches. Extraterrestial tomato salads, plumbous baked potatoes, humid creamed spinach. Decrepit, surly waiters. The dismaying clichés of the classic New York steakhouse are endless. Yet there are so many aspects of the steakhouse that we’d never want to be without. Now a new generation of New York chophouses are throwing out bathwater and keeping babies. Old-school stalwarts like Keens, Peter Luger, Sparks, and the redesigned Gallaghers are still formidable, as are more recent traditional additions to the scene, like Strip House and Del Frisco’s, but it’s the new independents that are showing the way with innovative takes on the classics, creative wine and cocktail lists, and progressive design.
BOWERY MEAT COMPANY
Beautiful people and beef marinate at the latest from the team behind SoHo’s Lure Fishbar, which successfully pulled off a similar glamming up of seafood. Vintage lighting and banquettes may have been done to death elsewhere, but not in an upscale steakhouse like this. So the California-style interiors read as a cutting edge stage for chef Paul Dibari’s artful departures from the norm. After all, your dad’s steakhouse won’t serve rabbit brochettes and a rare bone-in filet mignon au poivre.
It may have the same old Upper East Side steakhouse clientele, but Arlington serves new versions of the classics. And, smartly, some sushi too for the svelte obsessed among us. Start with the trademark popovers of Laurent Tourondel fame and the barbeque brisket spring roll with kimchi coleslaw. Then you’ll find the previously shunned skirt steak, albeit a $36 one, along with their estimable 28-day dry-aged filet mignon (only $5 more than the skirt, you can decide), and bone-in rib eye, both amongst the carnivorous city’s top cuts.
M. WELLS STEAKHOUSE
The king of Queens by way of Montreal’s august Au Pied de Cochon, chef Hugh Dufours, and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, were priced out of their popular former diner nearby, so they now serve their Quebecois-inspired favorites at this meat-centric spot. Move from the raw bar’s uni ravioli to the Parker House Rolls with blood sausage, but don’t get too full. You must save yourself for either the $200 lamb “saddle” or the infamous Tomahawk steak, with sauces like chicken-skin gravy and escargot bourguignon. Don’t forget a side of poutine and pricelessly named drinks like the Queeb in Paris (yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit, lemon, celery bitters) or Pétanque-a-Donk (Mina Real Silver, Cimarron Blanco, lime, pomegranate, pastis foam).
If M. Wells is the king of Queens, St. Anselm is the queen of King’s county. Its no reservations rule is trumped by its no-hormone, grain-fed beef and low markup on wine. At St. Anselm 10-ounce hanger steaks finished with garlic butter don’t break $16. But the ballers won’t feel left out. They can request a bone-in Piedmontese rib eye that ranges from 40 to 70 ounces at $2.70 per ounce. Traditional sides are spun, like pan-fried mash potatoes, grilled long beans, and thick cream spinach with crispy gruyere on top.
BILL’S FOOD AND DRINK
Located in the former 1850 townhouse of the legendary speakeasy Bill’s Gay Nineties (not what you think), it’s now Jimmy Fallon’s go-to post-taping hang. You’ll find him there on the regular playing sing-alongs on the piano and buying a round of shots for the house. Steel yourself beforehand with chef John DeLucie’s cleaned-up classics like the blue crab cocktail and a kale caesar.
Action Bronson’s old friend, the Italian-centric chef Michael White, offers fare redolent of the Boot, with seafood crudos and handmade pastas to compliment his dry-aged meat program. Costata means ribeye in Italian, and its signature meat is stored more than 40 days and served on the bone in traditional Italian fashion with dry-aged beef fat, rosemary, and a charred lemon. Sandwich it with the romaine cacio e pepe crudo (anchovies from Cetara, aged parmigiano, crispy capers), and pastas like fusilli alla convivio (pork shoulder ragu, pomodoro, robiolina) and gnocchetti (sea urchin, jumbo lump crab, bomba calabrese), and its La Dolce Vita in Lower Manhattan.
The second spot from second-generation chef Marc Forgione kicks off the party with his chili lobster, which he bathes whole in a spicy broth then serves on heretic Texas Toast. The iconoclasm soon continues with the NYC Cut. Starting out with the steakhouse standard from star butcher Pat LaFrieda, 20 ounces of USDA prime rib, apostasy is committed with a two-hour cure in a pastrami rub (coriander, paprika, garlic, onion, salt, and black pepper), before a 45-minute cold smoke over applewood. The result is grilled and served with butter and spicy mustard, along with caraway seeds, the rye bread of the equation. The rest of the 21-day wet aged and 30-day dry-aged cuts of beef can be served topped with your choice of egg, bacon, bone marrow, foie gras, or that chili lobster. Sides are equally off-kilter: latkes with gribenes, apple, and sour cream, or the much-hyped carrot glazed carrot, with mint and Maldon. All this is enveloped in black and gold art deco accents, black and white tile floors, and copper ceilings. Sidling up to the rosewood tables in the black leather banquettes or cognac-colored chairs and you’ll see why it’s the city’s new power spot.