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RESTAURANTS: How To Choose The Best Steakhouse

Prime cut ribeye steak. Photo courtesy Allen Brothers.


On Father’s Day, many families will be heading to steakhouses to treat Dad to a splendid meal. If you want the best steakhouse experience, what should you look for?

We live in a city with many choices. So we turned to Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse, which has restaurants in New York City and White Plains, New York. With 35 years manning the grill—20 of those at the venerable Peter Luger Steakhouse—he shared eight items to look for if you want a premier steak experience.

1. The Restaurant Serves Only USDA Prime Beef
A great steakhouse only serves USDA Prime meat, a tiny percentage—2%—of the world’s beef production. USDA Prime Beef is the highest quality, and truly superior to the next cut down the scale, USDA Choice. Prime has more marbling, rendering it a more tender, flavorful cut of beef (see all of the beef grades). Only USDA Prime beef can be dry-aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly-distributed marbling content.

2. The Beef Is Hand-Selected
In a top restaurant, the chef visits the markets at the crack of dawn to hand select the best produce, meats and proteins. The chef of a steakhouse visits his meat purveyor on a daily basis and hand selects every cut of steak that he purchases. He picks out the superior meats and leaves the rest for someone else.


3. The Beef Is Dry Aged In House
The dry aging process is the key aspect of serving best-tasting steak: It’s what sets a good steak apart from a great steak, and a good steakhouse from a great one. The process involves hanging the loins of beef to dry at for several weeks under controlled temperatures and humidity. The process deepens the flavors and enhances tenderness. Only the more expensive cuts of meat can be dry-aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly distributed fat content. Every cut at Benjamin Steakhouse is aged for exactly 28 days, rendering a more juicy, tender and extremely flavorful piece of beef.

4. The Grill Is Sizzling Hot
When you’re not in the kitchen, it’s hard to determine this one. But top beef chefs get the grill as hot as possible to sear in the juices and deliver a superior plate of meat.

5. A Great Chef & A Great Beverage Director
Beyond a mastery of cooking juicy cuts of dry-aged beef, the chef pays equal attention to serving top-quality sides and desserts. The beverage director should ensure an ample supply of affordable bottles of very good wine and wines by the glass.

6. You Receive Exceptional Service
From the reservationist who answers the phone to a pleasant greeting when you arrive to the responsiveness of waiters and busboys, you should feel welcome and cared for. If the quality of the food is your first priority, service should be the second.

7. You Like The Ambiance
This is a matter of personal taste. Restaurant decor can range from a grand room with brass chandeliers, vaulted ceilings, plush leather banquettes and fireplace (like Benjamin Steakhouse) to something more contemporary. The atmosphere can be tranquil or lively. But whatever you choose, it should emphasize that you’re having a special dinner.

8. There Is Consistency
The restaurant maintains these high standards on a daily basis, year in and year out.

TIP: If anything is not to your liking, don’t hesitate to speak with the manager. Even if it’s something that can’t be fixed on the spot (“too noisy,” for example), your constructive feedback can be used to make improvements. If they aren’t aware of it, they can’t change it.

Check out our Beef Glossary.


Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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