Steakhouses are valued for one thing: their meat. There are no chefs, and no one goes there for the décor. So if the meat is available elsewhere, such as DeBragga and Spitler’s new retail operation, why bother with the steakhouse? The beef supplier, one of New York’s most established, was once the source for most of the city’s top steakhouses, and still supplies some of the best, such as Craftsteak and BLT Prime. Now you can buy a steak that is “exactly, absolutely” the same, says DeBragga’s Marc Sarrazin. Other top meat operations, like elite-meat specialist Pat LaFrieda, and small-farm evangelist Heritage Food USA, have made their stuff available to the public as well. So the question is this: Is it worth it?
Yes and no. If you can’t easily get into the city, the DeBragga prime beef is far better than anything available in suburban or small-town markets. Even in New York only a handful of butchers carry meat of that quality. But the ones that do are much, much cheaper: The bone-in, dry-aged, twenty-ounce rib eye from DeBragga, sold in a four-pack for $159.95 (about $40 each), is in no way better than the same cut of the same size, aged the same way, for about $21 at Ottomanelli and Sons on Bleecker Street. Heritage Foods USA sells fourteen-ounce rib eyes for $26.25 apiece, which is almost as bad a soak, but presumably worth it if you want to support small local farmers. (Heritage will even let you do so by buying a $100 five-pound bag of pork fat.) And LaFrieda, who made news selling Little Owl pork chops and Shake Shack simulacrum beef at Market Table? The meat’s grand, but gnawing a pork chop in front of your television just somehow isn’t the same as eating at Little Owl.