What’s the Deal with Peter Luger? Gimmick or Must Go? A Review of a NYC Steak Establishment. 

For his 29th birthday, my fiancé wanted to go to Peter Luger in Brooklyn.  I made the reservation about 5 weeks in advance.  (I didn’t know I had to make it so far in advance, but my fiancé gave me a not so subtle hint to do it.)  You also have to call for a reservation, as they do not use OpenTable.  Up until the day we were supposed to go, I had not looked at the menu.  All I knew was that the place is cash only, it’s old, and it’s known for steak.  (Note: They take debit cards now, but still no credit cards.) The day of the reservation, I finally looked at the menu.

I was initially very disappointed when I took a closer look. The appetizers were basic and uncooked.  One of the appetizers on the menu was sliced raw tomatoes, another appetizer was sliced raw tomatoes and raw onions–both were $14.95 each.  I glanced further down the menu and Ceaser salad was another option–yippee.   The sides were all large batch items that are pre-prepared–fries, German potatoes (hash browns), creamed spinach, unseasoned broccoli, etc.  Regardless, we decided to give the place a try to see what the hype is all about.  It is after all a NYC establishment.

We had a pretty late dinner reservation and arrived around an hour and a half early, let them know that we were there, and if possible would like to be seated early.  (In the meantime, we went next door to Velvet Lounge for an apertivo.)  Ultimately, Peter Luger seated us almost 40 minutes earlier than our reservation.  The service that far was excellent.  We really liked our table, and we were in a little nook that provided privacy and a good view.  Bread was immediately brought to our table (not warmed), and the Peter Luger sauce was already at the table.img_2121I asked the waiter what the sell was with this raw tomato and onion on the menu.  He explained that the tomato and onion were to be eaten together with bacon and the Peter Luger sauce.  I was hesitant to pay $14.95 for raw roughly sliced vegetables and another $5.95 per bacon slice, but I wanted my fiancé to have the full experience and we ordered it…  ($14.95 plus $5.95 x 2 for bacon…$27.85…oh boy…) We put in the rest of our order and let the ride begin.

First came our Peter Luger bottle of cabernet sauvignon and the appetizer.  Once the bacon appetizer arrived, my fiancé and I dug in:We assembled the appetizer as per the instructions: Alright this combination really was delicious, but I’ll probably buy the Peter Luger sauce and make it on my own at home.  For $27.85 I can make at least 8 servings of this at home.  The sauce tastes kind of like barbecue sauce and cocktail sauce mixed together.  Tomato, onion, bacon, and sauce close up:The medium rare steak and German potatoes arrived next.  (We also ordered creamed spinach but it never came, and at that point we were too full and didn’t care anymore.) The steak arrives pre-cut and ready to share.  It was $103.90 for steak for two.  The steak for two/three/four etc. is the only thing on the menu.  You don’t have multiple choices like at other steakhouses, because Peter Luger is know for their special aging process of the meat, as well as the particular T-Bone/Porterhouse cut.I will admit that the steak was perfectly cooked and extremely flavorful–medium rare gone right.  The steak didn’t really seem seasoned, but the meat itself was excellent. Here’s a close up of the main event:We did not order dessert, and instead opted for after-dinner cognac, since there was no grappa on the menu.  In the meantime, our server brought us each a few gold foil wrapped Peter Luger chocolate coins.  I thought that was a quaint touch. The chocolate coins were also imprinted:One unique and interesting thing was the to-go bag.  The bag was lined in aluminum foil, and when the server came they just put each hot item into the aluminum part, and put your bread on top. This way you have a different bag for each item and the juices don’t mix. We finished our cognac and headed out. Since we had some leftovers of the steak, some potatoes, and two sticks of bread, we decided to make steak and eggs for breakfast. Steak……plus eggs……make a great brunch…My fiancé and I had great steak and we’re glad we tried Peter Luger, but neither of us think we’ll go back.  The experience felt a little gimmicky and we didn’t think it lived up to the hype.  It felt like something to check off the NYC bucket list, rather than go back to repeatedly.

I had great service (minus forgetting the spinach), but I can see how friends and colleagues of mine have felt shuffled through the dinner or said that the servers were short with them.  My colleague shared that he went there with a few people, and the server was curt and dismissive.  He went up to their table and basically said, “so what do you want, the steak for 4, potatoes, and spinach?”  Of course, that was not my experience, but observing other waiters, and the extremely fast moving pace of the restaurant, I can see that happening.

The steak was cooked perfectly, and the house brand Cabernet was excellent.  (The sauce was good too, but sauce won’t bring me back to a restaurant.)  The lack of more sophisticated restaurant appetizers, unseasoned side dishes, and ambiance didn’t leave me hanging for more.  I think the restaurant could greatly improve by adding some better appetizers and less cafeteria tray-style sides.  I understand that the restaurant is trying to preserve the authenticity, and keep it simple and focused to what they’re known for–steak–but something is definitely missing.  It was missing basic components of an expensive meal–ambiance, and menu items you can’t duplicate at home.

Links to reviews:

4.1  Yelp

4.0  TripAdvisor


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