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8 Old-School Steakhouses to Try in NYC

Dry-aged beef, ice-cold martinis and oysters await
June 2, 2017
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by Margaret Sutherlin

The classic steakhouse was practically invented in NYC, and to no one's surprise, many of these old-school institutions are still going strong after 100-plus years. There's something iconic about dining in one of these hallowed spaces, and in 2017, there's novelty in old-school traditions like tableside service. Here are some must-visit prime cut destinations in the Big Apple.

Peter Luger Steak House
This top-rated temple of meat is worth the excursion across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Originally opened in 1887 as a bowling and billiard club in a predominantly German neighborhood, the beer hall vibe survives today, setting it apart from the other spots around town. So does its USDA prime beef porterhouse, which is aged in-house, seasoned with just salt before it’s broiled and served in a buttery au jus which pools at the bottom of the plate. Bring a big appetite for monster portions, and a lot of cash because this spot doesn’t accept cards.

Must-order: USDA prime beef porterhouse for two is the quintessential Luger experience when you add thick-cut bacon, creamed spinach, German-style fried potatoes and fries to the order.

178 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-387-7400

Delmonico's
Diners have a lot to thank Delmonico's for: lobster Newberg, baked Alaska, eggs Benedict and yes, the modern restaurant. This FiDi original, open since 1837, can claim its title as the first fine-dining spot in the U.S. While the interiors, owners and menus have evolved over time, patrons can still count on an impressive wine list, pricey cuts of beef and an array of hearty sides.

Must-order: If it’s your first trip, order the Delmonico’s steak. The seared and seasoned boneless rib-eye cut is the most popular order. (The kitchen goes through over 45,000 pounds of it a year.) If you’ve been before, give the trendy eggs Benedict burger made with a prime rib patty topped with truffled hollandaise, eggs and slow-roasted bacon a shot.

56 Beaver St.; 212-509-1144

Keens Steakhouse
Since 1885, New Yorkers have flocked to this steakhouse near Herald Square for its legendary mutton chops, dry-aged steaks and the authentic old-school New York ambiance. Fans love the quirky art and know to look up to the ceiling at the famed clay pipe collection (going 50,000 strong) belonging to some pretty noteworthy owners — and Keens fans — like Babe Ruth and Herbert Hoover.

Must-order: Keens may be a steakhouse, but the mutton chop is the icon for a reason. The meat is butchered in-house and aged over a few weeks before it’s seared and roasted in housemade au jus made with butchering scraps and carefully crafted spice blend.  

72 W. 36th St.; 212-947-3636

Old Homestead Steakhouse
Among the chic galleries of the Meatpacking District, look for the giant cow looming over a doorway and you’ll know you’ve arrived at Old Homestead. Serving since 1868, this chophouse can claim its place as the oldest continuously running steakhouse in the U.S. The cuts of meat are thick, the wine list is long, the raw bar features plenty of oysters and the side portions are big, and fans appreciate the throwback atmosphere with old-school wait staff.

Must-order: As far as steaks go, the 18-oz. USDA prime dry-aged New York sirloin steak is the classic. Start the meal with the “colossal crab cakes” (they’re that big). No one does creamed spinach and potato hash with a pan-fried egg quite like this spot either.

56 9th Ave.; 212-242-9040

Gallaghers Steakhouse
If there’s one thing this Midtown place knows (besides steak) it’s how to pour an ice-cold cocktail. After all, the restaurant opened in 1927 as a speakeasy, which was a favorite with Broadway babies and sports legends. Today, the spot has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation, but the clubby charm is still there, right down to the huge windows that peek into the famous meat locker.  

Must-order: The legendary porterhouse may be the ideal pick for those in a steak mood, but the classic steak tartare with cornichons, shallots and parsley is a standout pick to get the meal going. The wedge salad and clams casino are also standby bets.

228 W. 52nd St.; 212-586-5000

Smith & Wollensky
In 1977, TGI Friday’s owner Alan Stillman debuted his latest restaurant, Smith & Wollensky, in the famed Manny Wolf’s Steakhouse spot on Third Avenue in Midtown East. It’s been serving up sizzling steaks and martinis in the iconic green and white building ever since. While you’ll certainly spot plenty of suits at lunch, the quirky art and reviews plastered on the walls gives it the old-school charm of some of its older compatriots. The dry-aged steaks butchered in-house, seafood selection and wedge salads are also big draws.

Must-order: This spot’s specialty is the USDA choice prime rib, seared and seasoned to order. Other top picks include the Cajun rib steak and classic Maryland crab cake.

797 3rd Ave.; 212-753-1530

Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse
Opened in 1926, Frankie & Johnnie’s holds a special place in the hearts of the theater crowd with its sizeable portions of USDA prime beef and vast wine list. The original on 45th Street was best known for its hidden bar accessible only through the kitchen (a relic of its speakeasy days), and though the Midtown location recently relocated on 46th, there’s plenty of dark wood and plush details to feel like a new classic. Those looking for a real throwback should head over to the 36th Street outpost inside the former townhome of John Barrymore.

Must-order: The prime cuts over at this spot are the porterhouse and the rib-eye, but frequent diners know the shrimp scampi is every bit as delicious as the steaks.

Multiple locations

Wolfgang's
After 40 years in the business at Peter Luger’s, head waiter Wolfgang Zwiener struck out on his own with this chain of upscale eponymous steakhouses. The Park Avenue flagship may only date back to 2004, but it’s every bit a modern classic as you could imagine. Located in the historic, former Vanderbilt Hotel there is plenty of old-world charm with the blue tiled ceilings and a menu of classics from steak and raw-bar picks, to a number of salads and seafood plates like Chilean sea bass and yellowfin tuna.

Must-order: Try Zweiner's take on the dry aged porterhouse for two, and polish off the meal with a jumbo baked potato and spinach served creamed, sauteed or steamed. 

Multiple Locations

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