After all these years, I have finally ventured into Peter Luger. There are two locations — Brooklyn and Great Neck — and for ease and convenience, we endeavored into the Great Neck location. Peter Luger has been named a top steakhouse in NY for many years now, and it is considered a classic and a legend. Upon arrival, you drive into a small entryway to give your car to valet, and then make your way to the front entrance, where you will be surrounded by touristic and excited individuals taking pictures in front of the restaurant’s name (I can’t really poke fun at them, since I also took said picture).
When you arrive, you give them your reservation time and name, just to find yourself waiting for potentially another 15-30 minutes. Apparently, everyone who enters has a reservation, but it is still “first-come-first-serve.” This is a fascinating concept, since I thought it’s always been fairly logical that the point of a reservation is to — well — reserve your table. Nonetheless, can’t argue with Peter Luger. After waiting in their iconic wooden bar area, we were seated soon enough.
The interior is very rustic and traditional. At some level, some may even say stuffy. But, it’s all part of the experience — the chandeliers, the wooden beams, the bare wooden tables. You get a fork and a steak knife. What more do you need?
Next, to be super frank — I was very surprised by how casually people dressed. I always had this picture in my head of Peter Luger being filled with top-level executives dressed in clean-cut suits, half of which are there for a business dinner to discuss their plans for world domination. Evidently, my imagination mislead me quite a bit. Maybe it’s just the Great Neck location? I don’t know. Perhaps, I live in this perception that steakhouses (especially iconic or respectable ones) require a higher-level dress code. I also earnestly wish that it was the case as well, since I love a restaurant filled with dress shirts, pressed slacks, dresses, etc. Que será será.
First things first — they put a nice sauce boat of Peter Luger steak sauce right on your table, before you even have anything to eat it with (I guess you can take shots of it if you’re a die-hard). I appreciate their branding on everything. They sell their steak sauce in supermarkets.
The menu is straightforward — in fact, it may be one of the most straightforward menus I have ever come across. There is steak — your choice is how much of it you want to order. There are some other dishes, like salmon or chicken, if you really did decide to venture into Peter Luger for that. If you’re a vegetarian, you really might as well grab a piece of the bread basket and leave. The centerpiece is a porterhouse for 2-4 people.
We ordered the bacon, which apparently is iconic, and ‘Sliced Tomatoes & Onions for 2.’ They brought these items out as appetizers. I’ll start with the sliced tomatoes and onions — because that is exactly what they brought. No smoke and mirrors, no gimmicks — they throw on your plate before your very eyes a thick slice of a tomato and an onion. That’s right — it’s not grilled, it’s not seasoned, and it’s not cut into any cute shapes. You get what you order. Although I will say that the tomato and onion was very fresh and admirable, I was mildly amused at the straightforwardness of this presentation. I think I may have audibly chuckled.
I’ll move onto the bacon — it’s awesome. Thickly sliced and well seasoned, the bacon is definitely memorable and noteworthy. I could probably eat it on a regular basis, if I ever became magically immune to the effects of saturated fat & salt. I definitely recommend this item.
Most importantly, we must now move onto the steaks. We ordered the Porterhouse Steak for 3 people at medium-rare. Before they present the steak to you, they hand you the big-kid plates and put a small plate face down in the middle of the table. It is apparently a tradition to serve their steaks on an incline. The steaks are already cut before presented to your table and are served on dangerously hot plates. But yes, it is true — the steaks look damn good.
Now, here comes my brutal honesty. Don’t get me wrong — the steak is very good. It is definitely one of the better steaks I have ever had. However, I think it is possible that at some point throughout my life so far, I have had better. The sauce is also very good, but the steak would be nothing without that sauce. The steak itself lacks some degree of seasoning and depth, and could even be a bit crisper on its exterior. It’s a great dish, but was it life changing and awe-inspiring? No, probably not…
We also ordered the creamed spinach and a side of fries. Both sides were pretty good. I like the fries that are on the crispier side, but also — nothing remarkable. The creamed spinach was tasty, but I know for fact that I’ve had better (even recently, at Hendrick’s Tavern in Roslyn, their cream of spinach was excellent).
Finally, we hit dessert. Their dessert drink options are simple — black tea, decaf tea, coffee. Don’t try to order a cappuccino or espresso. We ordered the apple strudel, which was easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. They probably make their own whipped cream on the plate as well. I highly recommend the apple strudel — the flavor profile is right on point, it’s not too sweet, and it’s just overall fantastic. As they blessed us with this dessert, the waiter threw down some gold coins which are iconically part of the Peter Luger experience.
Alas, our time at Peter Luger concluded, and I was grateful for the experience. I think it’s worth the trip to see what the hype is about. I am also very curious to see how this location compares to the original Brooklyn location. Our server — Jeff — was very attentive and friendly.
It’s a charming and respectable restaurant with a strong and iconic name. Many of the features of the restaurant are very simple — some may even say austere — but I guess that’s part of the program. A lot of things about this restaurant were not what I expected (such as the rather casual dress code). My top recommended dishes, interestingly enough, are the bacon and the apple strudel. (That must hurt to read a bit, considering I didn’t explicitly even recommend the steak. But yeah, order the steak unless you want to go home hungry.) I would return again. Whether or not the restaurant lives up to its hype is highly questionable. I do not currently think it is remotely the best steakhouse in the world, but it’s quite a good one. Maybe my experiences in the future (or a visit to the Brooklyn location) would convince me. Overall, I’m grateful for the trip, and I really miss the apple strudel.