07 December, 2009

Guest Blogger Babe: The Traveling Carnivore

Our faithful blogger and ‘wife of the year’ has been working hard so I decided to give her a day off. Trying to decide what to write about was not difficult since eating steak is beyond a hobby for me and more like a passion.

I’m on the road often (or always) and one of the pleasures in which I indulge is dining out. Lately I’ve been in NYC (along with interspersed trips to Europe and Asia) and with my digs at the Waldorf, Midtown has been the default area of exploration. In the past 3 months, I’ve been a familiar face at every steakhouse within walking distance of 50th and Park; here is the typical experience…

…with an unpredictable schedule and working late nights – I often eat alone, making the bar my dining preference. I judge all places on two food items: the porterhouse and creamed spinach; let’s face it, if the establishment can’t get these right, it’s not worth investigating anything else. I eat the filet side first, and intermittently load some creamed spinach on the plate, just so it absorbs a small amount of the juice – this is repeated until only the bone is remaining.

After months of hard work, I have four Midtown suggestions with winners by four categories: Food, Service, The Experience and Bragging Rights

Food: Morton’s
Hands down, the best steaks – most tender cuts and always cooked to perfection (for me, ‘as rare as possible’). The creamed spinach is deliciously lumpy and actually looks like spinach. George at the bar is old school New York which rounds out the atmosphere nicely.

Service: Bobby Van’s
Steaks are very good but not amazing and same with the spinach. The differentiator for BV’s is the service. Ask for Johnny at the bar – the nicest guy who will give you two half sides and charge you for one whole (add the mashed potatoes please…). I feel like an old friend when eating here.

The Experience: Maloney and Porcelli’s
Steaks and creamed spinach are very good and, if you dine here, make sure to get a seat at the Kitchen Counter where you can watch the kitchen prep all of the impeccable food. Very cool experience.

Bragging Rights: Smith and Wollensky’s
Smith and Wollensky – of course, the classic NYC steakhouse. Everything about the food is mediocre (by fine steakhouse standards) and I’m not a fan of the creamed spinach. It is the strangest shade of green you’ve ever seen and is so pureed it could be mistaken for baby food. The redeeming value of this place? Impressing the layman by being able to say ‘I’ve eaten at Smith and Wollensky’s’.

I would be remiss to not mention Peter Luger’s, every steak connoisseur’s Mecca. Although my favorite of all establishments, I find the trek to Brooklyn too taxing after a long day at the office. But if I am ever in a position to request a last meal, I hope I’m close enough to Brooklyn that my Luger’s steak is popping and sizzling when it’s served.

*Disclaimer* there are some great steakhouses not represented – don’t worry I’ll get to those soon enough

Kindness of Allie for putting so much diligent effort into the blog, I hope you enjoy the day off. And, if you ever find yourself in Midtown, between 8:30 – 10 pm, try one of the haunts above, you may find me refining my assessment of the porterhouse and creamed spinach.

Allie's two cents: Unlike Babe, my measuring stick is the dessert. I like Shula's for their Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, Morton's Chocolate soufflé and Bern's in Tampa for the sheer amount of dessert offerings and the fact that you can reserve your own private dessert room for indulging. On another non-dessert note, be sure to order the burger if you ever find yourself at Lugers during the lunch hour. Don't want to forfeit the steak? Get it as an appetizer as Babe and I did once upon a gluttonous time. And, thank you Babe for taking time during your abbreviated weekend to rescue me mid meltdown..XXOO


  1. My twin sons adore steak and on one trip to the pediatrician, at the age of about 2 and a half, the kind Dr. asked my son what were his favorite vegetables, and he "quipped" - "I like steak" - My husband and I were mortified and both pointing fingers, who's to blame for this lack of love for green (albeit and occasional salad) I am still pushing spinach, alas, one loves it and the other shudders with every bite. Maybe creamed spinach will win him over, oh, his poor young arteries!!
    Did you try ever try "Sparks?"
    Thanks Allie for letting your carnivore give us a tasty post.

  2. Great post! Also weighing in (pun intended) on the Great Steak Stakes: check out the beef at Doubles as well as the Penn Club. Pretty darned good...best if still kickin'.

  3. You two are the sweetest team!

    Allie's Babe: Very nice of you to do all the dirty work for us at various steakhouses in NY. It will make planning our spring trip much easier.

    Allie: Bern's is awesome. So glad you put it on your list. Hope you are feeling better!

  4. Bobby Vans is good but sometimes I just enjoy having drinks and dinner right there in the Bull and Bear.


  5. Berns is a sentimental favorite in my family Allison. You can not beat the service nor the experience. Add in the largest private wine collection in North America and a dessert menu that weighs more than my head and I'm a fan for life. I will add that, unfortunately, things have gone downhill slightly since the father passed and the son took over...XXOO

  6. Thanks for the report. Sometimes it is worth a trade off for good service, nice to hear Bobby Van's offers that. We all like that "Cheers" type of vibe.

    Although I am not a big carnivore, I have three sons and a husband who are. They will be shocked the next time we are in the city and I give them a list of where we should go for good steak!

  7. Well Done Josh. When I was traveling in a previous life I use to hole up at the Daily Grill and have pork chops or a filet with a local beer or glass of wine. Great way to unwind after a long day on the road.

  8. Bern's!! I live in St. Petersburg and Bern's is always a top choice for special nights out. Yay!

    If you're ever in Naples, FL try Chops City Grille.

  9. I completely agree with Morton's being on the best steaks list- my favorite place to stop in Atlanta! I judge restaurants more on their s/mashed potatoes though...

  10. Yum, I'll have to try at least one of these when I'm in the city this holiday season.

  11. PS....Smith and Wollensky is where LFG's mom had too much sambuca and blew groceries in my just purchased Edward Green shoe box...the shoes removed two seconds before emesis. Oh the Gotham memories...

  12. Oh there is nothing more delicious than a good steak dinner. However I tend to cut the steak some slack (enjoy my pun?) if they get the other three things right: the iced tea (don't give me any Mango Mist - I want normal Orange Pekoe) the bread (I want it warmed and preferably sourdough) AND the caeser salad (lots of croutons please, AND big slices of parmesan cheese on top)....if they can't get these things right (or even one of them) I ain't going back for even the best steak in the world. I need all of the above for a great dining experience.

    Our Smith & Wolensky closed after only a year or so (not sure why) and our Mortons is delish and is downtown...walk outside the front door and you are only steps from where Kennedy was shot. Al Biernats (a favorite here) ONLY has flavored tea (ugh) and the bread seems like they just cut off slices at Whole Foods...plus it's cold...no thanks (great steaks though)...Ruth's Chris overuses the butter "sauce"...Oh I could go on and on because I live in Texas and there seems to be a steakhouse on every corner (along with barbecue and mexican food)...

    Babe (can I call you that? hehe)...if you ever come to Dallas, go to Bob's Steakhouse. It's our favorite (and more sophisticated than it sounds) and only about 5 minutes from my house. It's where the Texas Rangers took A-Rod when they were luring him here.

    Suddenly I'm very very hungry...

    Great post! :)

  13. I know you said there are more to come, but I am just going to throw Del Frisco's and Porter House out there. The atmospheres may be a bit cheesy (?) but the food is delish.

  14. Yes, you can never, never go wrong with my home city's beloved Bern's dessert room. My friends and I would even go there in high school for a different atmosphere every now and then.

    Now I'm ready to travel home to Tampa soon.

  15. I love a man that is passionate about his meats! I'm a vegetarian, so maybe the contrast is what is attractive...hopefully some carnivore will be willing to take me :)

  16. What a great guest blogger you are Mr. Babe! And such a considerate hubby. I am also a big fan of classic steak houses with rare cooked cuts and great creamed spinach! I love your list and would like to add, a little off of the classic course:

    - BLT Steak- for the next time you step off of Park after a long day, step onto 57th St. to Chef Laurent Tourondel's midtown spot-- in lieu of (or with) the creamed spinach try the parmesan gnocchi-- it is heavenly and melt in your mouth, along with the light and airy pop overs that they serve for bread-- amazing. Oh, and the porterhouse is quite nice.
    - if you step off of Park much further south at 13th and University in the Village, you must try Strip House. I think it will satisfy your 'Experience Category' along with great cuts of meat, charred and delish....a siren red interior adorned with b/w shots of women of the Studio Manasse in early 1900's Vienna- a real sensory experience.

    And believe it or not, of all of the steaks in New York, my husband and I love best the succulent and savory churrasco meats at Sushi Samba (Park Ave South at 20th.) They are just the most flavorfully cooked meats in town served with brazilian sides of rice, black beans, collards and farofa. The brazilians make a JUICY steak!

    Bon appetite Mr. Babe-- look forward to your next guest posting! ox

  17. As someone who visited New York regularly for work I also sought out good steak restaurants either in the 50th street and Park neighborhood or Times Square area. On my first visit to Boby Van's to have my usual Fillet,I noticed Chilean Sea Bass on the menu. Based on the very friendly bartender's response that it was the best in New York I ordered the dish and continued to reorder it on all subsequent visits to Boby Van's.The treatment I received on all ocassions was unparalled. Frankie and Johnny's on 45th between 7th & 8th Ave had the best fillet and service as friendly as Vans. Also I always had their excellant creamed spinach finished the night with a cappuccino.

    Josh's Favorite Father in Law,
    Barry "P"

  18. Oh no! And here I was feeling quite virtuous after having prepped and eaten a "raw" meal (vegan ergot, no meat).

    I must confess that I adore a great steak. Porterhouse, although wonderful, is usually too much of a good thing. Ribeye is my steak of choice and nothing beats a skirt steak at home (as referenced by
    Ann vis-a-vis Brazilian churassco.

    I must concur: Morton's is the penultimate steak house.

    Good work, "Babe"

    p.s.: I abhor logging on as an "Anonymous" entity. I, however, similarly loathe opening a Google account to comment on this-albeit fabulous- blog!