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Peter Luger Steakhouse


cjsadler
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I thought I heard in a tv interview with the woman who picks out the steaks that they also select some filets and some sirloins. "We can use them," I thought was what she said. What that means, if anything, I don't know. I would defer to Mr. S. Shaw.

As for the sundae...my daughter ordered one and loved it. I had a problem with the schlag which tasted like cool whip to me. I thought the key lime pie was terrific (without schlag).

I like the pic of the Luger coins on your table...ahh the "meatorific" memories.

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  • 2 months later...

There's been some talk lately (I think this happens every few months) of the quality at Luger's having declined over the last year or two. I'm nowhere near a regular there, but the last few months I've been a few times. Once for steak, in my review a few posts up, then twice for burgers, and just today for steak again. My heart is complaning to me, but I felt I had to take one for the team :biggrin:

Anyway, the thing I've found in my last 4 visits, is that Lugers is lacking consistency. I don't know if it's always been this way or if its more recent. The steak I had in Feb. that I reviewed above was incredible. Really delicous. But the one I had today was in a whole other ballpark. It wasn't even close. The steak I had to day melted in my mouth, barely needed a knife to cut, and had an incredible, rich, aged flavor.

Same goes for the burger. I took my wife there for the burger a few months ago, and was blown away. It was the best burger I'd had...possibly ever. I had it med rare, but I think it came closer to rare. Then when back a few weeks later, ordered med. rare and it came out closer to medium. Wasn't even half as good. (I think the meat itself was different, not just doneness)

So now I don't know what to think. I guess it's just the luck of the draw that you get a good cut, or that you have the right chef. Was it always like this? I don't know, but if yes, I think it could be considered a decline. I know that many people think consistency is as important as the food itself. I'm slightly more reluctant to drop my money there knowing that its a crap shoot as to the quality I'll receive.

~WBC

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There's been some talk lately (I think this happens every few months) of the quality at Luger's having declined over the last year or two. I'm nowhere near a regular there, but the last few months I've been a few times. Once for steak, in my review a few posts up, then twice for burgers, and just today for steak again. My heart is complaning to me, but I felt I had to take one for the team  :biggrin:

Anyway, the thing I've found in my last 4 visits, is that Lugers is lacking consistency. I don't know if it's always been this way or if its more recent. The steak I had in Feb. that I reviewed above was incredible. Really delicous. But the one I had today was in a whole other ballpark. It wasn't even close. The steak I had to day melted in my mouth, barely needed a knife to cut, and had an incredible, rich, aged flavor.

Same goes for the burger. I took my wife there for the burger a few months ago, and was blown away. It was the best burger I'd had...possibly ever. I had it med rare, but I think it came closer to rare. Then when back a few weeks later, ordered med. rare and it came out closer to medium. Wasn't even half as good. (I think the meat itself was different, not just doneness)

So now I don't know what to think. I guess it's just the luck of the draw that you get a good cut, or that you have the right chef. Was it always like this? I don't know, but if yes, I think it could be considered a decline. I know that many people think consistency is as important as the food itself. I'm slightly more reluctant to drop my money there knowing that its a crap shoot as to the quality I'll receive.

~WBC

It's been in decline for years, but critics seem to be in love with this place for some reason and refuse to say so or they don't have the experience of historical comparison. Or possibly something more sinister, but this isn't the time or place.

I first ate there in 1964 (at age 13) and it was top notch and remained so through the mid to late 80's. After that - just another steak house. Not bad, but not exceptional any longer.

Remember, there's only one truly great steak house left in this country and it's not located in NYC. To paraphrase Mr. Greely, go south young man, go south.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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It's been in decline for years, but critics seem to be in love with this place for some reason and refuse to say so or they don't have the experience of historical comparison. Or possibly something more sinister, but this isn't the time or place.

There's no need to suggest something sinister, when there are simpler explanations. To my recollection, it has been a long time since Peter Luger had a full rated review from any of the critics. Given that the critics spend most of their time on new restaurants, this is not surprising. There are probably many restaurants that would be rated differently if the critics got around to re-visiting them.

That said, last year's New York Magazine annual restaurant issue listed Luger as "most overrated," and Bruni had a diner's journal piece on Luger's burgers that was extremely negative. So did Andrea Strong. However, when Bruni compared Luger to Wolfgang's (his 2nd or 3rd review after taking the job), he was in ecstasy over the Luger porterhouse, and Michelin gave it a star. So if there has been a decline, I wouldn't exactly say that it has gone entirely unnoticed. The most recent published criticism has been mixed.

When a restaurant is allegedly uneven, it can be difficult for the facts to come out. On any given day, it can be spectacular or mediocre. As you read varying accounts, it could be because the restaurant is highly variable, but it could also be a case of "Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks." On the various steakhouse threads, all of the experts have their own favorites. There doesn't appear to be a consensus yet that Luger's has gone down. Some knowledgeable people think it has, and others think it's still as good as it always was.

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It's been in decline for years, but critics seem to be in love with this place for some reason and refuse to say so or they don't have the experience of historical comparison. Or possibly something more sinister, but this isn't the time or place.

There's no need to suggest something sinister, when there are simpler explanations.

Actually Marc, it wasn't a suggestion. There are other reasons, but I don't feel comfortable posting until I get permission and confirmation.

In my mind, the decline is quite evident. But I do understand others who say it's as good as ever. My guess is they have only been going for the last 10 years or so.

Edited to correct typo.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Actually Marc, it wasn't a suggestion. There are other reasons, but I don't feel comfortable posting until I get permission and confirmation.

Please get this permission. Now you've got me curious with all this mystery.

No mystery intended. I won't repeat what was said to me on a public forum without the individual's permission.

I was probably wrong in writing the "sinister" line in my first post. But the PL PR machine can be so grating at times, that I posted without thinking it through. That's no excuse, just a feeble explanation.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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  • 7 months later...

First time there but didn't get a chance to real this thread. Now I wish I did. Imo, this place was just over-rated. Steak was good but not worth $40. More like $20. Wish we got sides or something else with it instead of just a steak.

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First time there but didn't get a chance to real this thread. Now I wish I did. Imo, this place was just over-rated. Steak was good but not worth $40. More like $20. Wish we got sides or something else with it instead of just a steak.

While I am not disagreeing with your assessment, $40 not including side dishes is pretty much standard for NYC steakhouses—mediocre or not.
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I've been eating at Peter Luger's since I was a kid. The place and the aura has been fabled in legend and song. OK, poor attempt at being a bit melodramatic. LOL. Anyway, there is no need to discuss the service. Nobody goes there for the service or the romantic ambiance. Some may consider Wolfgang's an alternative, others not.

What I've noticed about Luger's in recent years is that I can go and have the so called "greatest steak in the world" and also go and have a steak that is so-so (by Luger standards and others as well). Consistency is a word that I have heard, even from Luger fanatics, for a few years. It's still top notch and IMO still ranks very near the top of the list.

Eric

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What I've noticed about Luger's in recent years is that I can go and have the so called "greatest steak in the world" and also go and have a steak that is so-so (by Luger standards and others as well).

In the past several years, there has been an explosion of steakhouses, including quite a few of the so-called "Luger clones" (specializing, as they do, in the porterhouse).

The alleged sophistication of the Luger buying machine is the stuff of legend. But with so many steakhouses competing for prime beef, it simply must be the case that some of the better short loins that would have gone to Luger in the old days, are now going to other steakhouses. Their sourcing can't be so good that no one else has a shot at the best quality.

I also find it unlikely that the supply of excellent beef has kept up with the demand, so it means that ordering a porterhouse, whether at Luger or elsewhere, is a bit of a crap shoot.

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  • 7 months later...

Yes, Virginia, it's true. Luger now offers a rib steak, bone-in, "sized" and priced ($38.95) for one. As such, it's too thin to be charred on both sides and cooked rare. My one (at Great Neck last night) was toward the entrecote end (just a little bit of calotte or cap--don't know if they save the other end for roast prime rib or not), had good-but-not-great flavor, and was poorly carved as they all are. Hell of a steak, but not as transcendent as the strip side of the porterhouse. They should offer a double-cut rib steak though--so you could get extra-char-extra-rare :).

My french fries were particularly bad this time. And Great Neck didn't have Brooklyn Lager last night (is this normal?).

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just noted this on another topic where the specific issue was under discussion, however since this is the main Peter Luger topic I thought I should note it here as well. There's a story in today's Wall Street Journal about how to reproduce steakhouse-style steaks at home, from dry-aging in your own refrigerator to reproducing steakhouse cooking methods. In the story, there's an account of how a Peter Luger steak is cooked.

One essential piece of information was new to me: at Peter Luger, the steak receives additional cooking after it has been sliced. The reporter, Katy McLaughlin, was allowed to observe a steak being cooked at Peter Luger, and noted the following:

Mr. Truskolaski grabbed a cold porterhouse, placed it on the grill rack of the broiler and sprinkled it with some salt. He then removed it while it was still raw inside, cut it into pieces, put it on a plate, and broiled it to medium-rare.

(This link works today, however Wall Street Journal articles tend to go into the premium archive quickly -- so act fast if you're not a subscriber but want to read the full article.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, Frank Bruni demoted Peter Luger from three stars to two. To anyone who has followed recent accounts of this place, the demotion is hardly a surprise. Indeed, from the text of the review, one star could very well have been justified.

Luger always had a number of significant drawbacks: location, refusal to accept credit cards, a limited menu and wine list, gruff service, beer hall ambiance, and the difficulty of getting reservations. Its only claim to fame was a porterhouse to die for.

But now, there are a good half-dozen Luger clones in Manhattan. Most of them do not have Luger's drawbacks. If Luger's porterhouse is better than the clones, it's only by the narrowest of margins. After all, what Luger is doing isn't rocket science; sooner or later, others were going to duplicate it. On top of that, with so many restaurants chasing limited quantities of prime beef, it stands to reason that even Luger sometimes cannot get the best short loins.

The timing of the review was a little odd. It mentioned that renovations are in progress. Given the typical 10-year gap between re-reviews, would it not have been better to wait until the renovations were complete?

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Sounds like a zero-star review to me.

Basically Bruni cites that there's only one great dish, which is not even consistent and is available at several other restuarants. The sides are mediocre, the rest of the menu is uterly worthless and the wine list is practically non-existent. Oh also the service and ambiance sucks.

Two stars!!!

Super shady as usual.

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Sounds like a zero-star review to me.

Basically Bruni cites that there's only one great dish, which is not even consistent and is available at several other restuarants. The sides are mediocre, the rest of the menu is uterly worthless and the wine list is practically non-existent. Oh also the service and ambiance sucks.

Two stars!!!

Super shady as usual.

with all respect, that's completely unfair.

it's an existing three star restaurant...that has't radically changed since when those three stars were given (hasn't changed concept or menu etc.)...he can't just give it zero. especially not when it's the best of its genre when it's on.

edit: dropping a revered NY institution by three whole stars (instead of one) would be quite the statement...

look at it this way...Spice Market is a one-star restaurant. but when it is (inevitably) downgraded...it'll get two....no matter who the Times restaurant critic is at that time.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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Sounds like a zero-star review to me.

Basically Bruni cites that there's only one great dish, which is not even consistent and is available at several other restuarants. The sides are mediocre, the rest of the menu is uterly worthless and the wine list is practically non-existent. Oh also the service and ambiance sucks.

Two stars!!!

Super shady as usual.

with all respect, that's completely unfair.

it's an existing three star restaurant...that has't radically changed since when those three stars were given (hasn't changed concept or menu etc.)...he can't just give it zero. especially not when it's the best of its genre when it's on.

edit: dropping a revered NY institution by three whole stars (instead of one) would be quite the statement...

look at it this way...Spice Market is a one-star restaurant. but when it is (inevitably) downgraded...it'll get two....no matter who the Times restaurant critic is at that time.

If you look at the review alone, its a zero star. Who cares what the previous review was? To accept that one review affects another is to say that the entire process is politicized (which it is of course, but not openly so).

Nowhere is it even indicated that Lugers is the best of its genre. It seemed pretty clear that Bruni felt when all things were considered, there were much much complete and polished steak houses in Manhattan.

And I think Bruni would give Spice Market one star or even zero, because I don't believe he can operate with any consistency even where re-reviews are concerned. He gave Vong a zero, it would make NO sense to give Spice Market two!

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first off, he didn't give Vong a zero. (edit: and Spice Market is less tired and is much prettier...or at least dramatic)

second, "politicized" is not a synonym for "following precedent"...there is a body of work predating Bruni and he must respect that (many think he doesn't respect that enough but that's a separate discussion...he'd really have them up in arms if he dropped a restaurant three stars).

third, no review is written in a vacuum. context matters. there are two star reviews (like Little Owl) that read like four star reviews (if you ignore context)...but are really saying "this is an over-achieving one-star restaurant which is as good as possible for its category so it gets two"....and then there are reviews which are intended to be wake-up calls to once great restaurants (the Peter Luger review, the Bouley review) that are basically saying "get your house in order"

and guess what? every reviewer writes these.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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Sounds like a zero-star review to me.

Basically Bruni cites that there's only one great dish, which is not even consistent and is available at several other restuarants. The sides are mediocre, the rest of the menu is uterly worthless and the wine list is practically non-existent. Oh also the service and ambiance sucks.

Two stars!!!

Super shady as usual.

I'll try to reply to Sethro without running of-topic.

Demotion reviews always seem unusually negative, because the critic is explaining why the old rating is too high. Almost all of Bruni's demotion reviews have seemed more severe than a new review at the same star level. He is pretty consistent about this, and the PL review has to be read in that context.

There is always a respect for precedent in Bruni's re-reviews. He never suggests that the prior review was wrong. Rather, he explains how the restaurant has changed in the intervening years. Ruth Reichl's three-star review was based on the premise that Peter Luger is all about the porterhouse, and Bruni seems to have accepted that. At one time, PL had four stars, and I'll bet that was the premise even then.

Notwithstanding all of that, it did not read like a zero-star review. Over the years, Bruni has filed some pretty negative one-star reviews, as long as there were some high points that he could mention (e.g. Morandi, Russian Tea Room). A restaurant doesn't have to clear a very high bar to receive one star. This read like a one-star review. Bruni has filed a few two-step demotions, so it certainly wouldn't have been unprecedented for him to award one star in this case.

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I fundamentally disagree with the premise.

I'm not talking about the stars. For all I care, Peter Luger can get one star or zero stars because the nomenclature of stars makes no sense when applied to real steakhouses. However, while I haven't been to Peter Luger as many times recently as Frank Bruni has, I've been there plenty and I don't buy into the notion of a decline. Peter Luger has always been inconsistent, or at least it has for the past 20 or so years. Peter Luger has always overcooked plenty of the steaks. It has always been possible to get better and worse steaks. And the service has always been problematic. In other words, Frank Bruni's complaints are nothing new. They're the same complaints people have made about Peter Luger all my life.

For as long as I can remember it has been trendy to say Peter Luger isn't as good as it was back in the day. Were it true every time anybody said it, Peter Luger would be pretty awful by now. But it's not. Peter Luger still serves the best steak in America and perhaps the world.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For as long as I can remember it has been trendy to say Peter Luger isn't as good as it was back in the day. Were it true every time anybody said it, Peter Luger would be pretty awful by now. But it's not. Peter Luger still serves the best steak in America and perhaps the world.

I agree 100%. While it is somewhat inconsistent, the inconstency is between a transcendant piece of steak, and a steak that is merely as good as the rest of the NY steakhouses (which then is a dissapointment, as I expect Luger's steak to be head and shoulders above the rest). To me, that was the point of the review and the downgrade. Is that, when not at it's best, there is little gap between Luger's and the "others"; and in fact when the steak isn't transcendant on a given night, the slightly better beef may be offset by better sides, ambiance, service, wine list, etc., depending on your priorities.

Personally, I have no problems with the service at Lugers, which may be gruff, but is effiecient and if you go in knowing what you want (which we always do) you can have fun with it. In fact on 2 recent occasions we've had very good service (possibly as Oxymoron at PL), once when taking my parents for their first visit in 20 years, not rushing us at all, and pacing things more slowly than they normally do.

And just last week, when the steak for 3 (medium rare), came out blood red (rarer then the rare steak for 3), taking it back w/o being asked (he pulled it out to serve, and said it wasn't right), and came back 3 minutes later with it perfect. We also mentioned at the beginning of the meal that we wanted Streudel and asked him to hold a piece for us (they ran out on our previous visit). Later in the meal, he said they were indeed running low, so he brough us out a foot long piece (covered in parchment), and sat it in the window for us to save for dessert.

No doubt Luger's has it flaws, and is not perfect, and that there are other steakhouses that have very good beef and better other features (that may or may not be important to various diners). But even on an off night, the Porterhouse is still outstanding, and when it's an "on" night, there is nothing better...

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For as long as I can remember it has been trendy to say Peter Luger isn't as good as it was back in the day. Were it true every time anybody said it, Peter Luger would be pretty awful by now. But it's not. Peter Luger still serves the best steak in America and perhaps the world.

I agree 100%. While it is somewhat inconsistent, the inconstency is between a transcendant piece of steak, and a steak that is merely as good as the rest of the NY steakhouses (which then is a dissapointment, as I expect Luger's steak to be head and shoulders above the rest). To me, that was the point of the review and the downgrade. Is that, when not at it's best, there is little gap between Luger's and the "others"; and in fact when the steak isn't transcendant on a given night, the slightly better beef may be offset by better sides, ambiance, service, wine list, etc., depending on your priorities.

Personally, I have no problems with the service at Lugers, which may be gruff, but is effiecient and if you go in knowing what you want (which we always do) you can have fun with it. In fact on 2 recent occasions we've had very good service (possibly as Oxymoron at PL), once when taking my parents for their first visit in 20 years, not rushing us at all, and pacing things more slowly than they normally do.

And just last week, when the steak for 3 (medium rare), came out blood red (rarer then the rare steak for 3), taking it back w/o being asked (he pulled it out to serve, and said it wasn't right), and came back 3 minutes later with it perfect. We also mentioned at the beginning of the meal that we wanted Streudel and asked him to hold a piece for us (they ran out on our previous visit). Later in the meal, he said they were indeed running low, so he brough us out a foot long piece (covered in parchment), and sat it in the window for us to save for dessert.

No doubt Luger's has it flaws, and is not perfect, and that there are other steakhouses that have very good beef and better other features (that may or may not be important to various diners). But even on an off night, the Porterhouse is still outstanding, and when it's an "on" night, there is nothing better...

I highly agree with FG and Jon (and not just because he's my friend!). More bluntly stated, if you want hotel style service and atmosphere, go to Atlanta, Dallas or some other such mall-centric city and go to Ruth's Chris, or one of the many branches spun off some formerly good NY steakhouse, or some other nonsense and be happy. If you're hoping for a thumping soundtrack (and to impress some gold-digging cougars with your finance job and wilingness to overpay for perceived luxury) to go with your steak, then try one of the places that offer 17 kinds of fake and supposedly real Kobe beef, none of which have been prepared correctly, preferably in the Meatpacking District or Midtown. However, if you want a shot at what on a good day is still the best dry aged porterhouse available in the US, go to PL, and hope they're having one of their great days. The only other place with comparable meat and aging processes is probably Bern's in Tampa, and that, after all, is located in Tampa.

Another thing that seems not to have been addressed here is the idea that the service at PL, like that in many old school NY icon establishments, is to be viewed with a sense of humor. While there are cases of crappy service, it's amazing to me how many people don't have the advance information that at many such places (PL, Manny's Roumanian, Katz's, Carnegie Deli, the list goes on), the seeming gruffness of the service is part of the "schtick". While servers may take too much advantage of this when they're in poor moods, they are encouraged to behave this way as part of the atmosphere. If, instead of being reduced to making catty remarks after you leave, you decide to give it back a little, you'll often find that they're kind of kidding about the whole thing, and treat you very well if you play along. And even if they don't, your steak will still taste the same. When in NY, do as the NYers and give him shit back if he's rude to you. You'll be glad you did.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd love to know what, exactly, is wrong with the service at PL. I've never had an inefficient or particularly rude waiter, and I don't really see what's wrong with gruffness. Orders are taken quickly and efficiently, food comes out as ordered, and plates are cleared, glasses filled, etc. Plus the service staff DO have a sense of humor, as mentioned abovethread. All in all a charming experience IMO.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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