The Absolute Best Prime Rib in New York

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The 45-day dry-aged prime rib at Cherche Midi. Photo: Liz Clayman

For years, this most elemental and grandiose of all beef-eater pleasures was out of fashion in the city’s haute carnivore circles, but lately, it’s been making a comeback. It comes in all sorts of different varieties, but the elemental pleasures of blood, bone, and the lustrous top layers of deckle fat remain timeless and the same. We’ve excluded special-order prime-rib roasts, which are available at several reputable chop houses and restaurants around town, in favor of more accessible cuts. Here are the absolute best, ordered medium rare, without ketchup, of course.

The Absolute Best

1. Cherche Midi
282 Bowery, at Houston St.; 212-226-3055

Keith McNally’s resident beef savant, Shane McBride, offers an excellent version of this suddenly chic trencherman’s staple at the new downtown brasserie, Augustine, on Saturday evenings only — but if you’re looking for a proper prime-rib fix during normal weekday (and lunchtime) feeding hours, this elegant monster is the one to get. The tender, 45-day dry-aged wheel of prime rib is trimmed of the bone and excess fat and gristle, in the relatively modest “English” style, which makes it a palatable choice, especially for dainty carnivores who are put off by the classic brontosaurus-size chops that are served around town. Order your meat medium rare, and you will notice that the rare portion of the rib is perfectly pink, instead of bloody, and that it’s surrounded by a curl of medium-cooked deckle, marbled with just the right amount of soft, non-blubbery fat. The presence on the plate of a little pod of cipollini onions, simmered in apple cider, and a drizzling of red wine adds just the right amount of composed, civilized class to this inherently uncivilized dish; and for your $55, you also get a serving of pomme soufflé, nestled in white linen, and after the carnage has been cleared away, a leafy, perfectly dressed gem salad to cleanse the palate.

2. Beatrice Inn
285 W. 12th St., at W. 4th St.; 212-675-2808

Angie Mar’s impressive homage to the ye olde English rib roast is available Sunday’s only, which is a good thing, since if you (or you and your family of four) actually manage to consume the entire beautifully aged, two-pound chop in one sitting, you may not need an infusion of red-blooded beef for several months. This elegant roast is cut to order, smothered in a rich cherry Bordelaise sauce, and set atop a buttery mash of potatoes and scallions. For maximum enjoyment, consume it in the brightly lit back room, by the gently guttering electric fire, where there’s enough space, late on a Sunday afternoon, to stretch out for a short, digestive nap.

3. 4 Charles Prime Rib
4 Charles St., nr. Greenwich Ave.; 212-561-5992

There are all sorts of pleasures to enjoy at this tiny, hyperstylized, new West Village import from the Hogsalt restaurant group in beef-loving Chicago, but if you’re a prime-rib devotee, it’s worth the hassle of obtaining a table to get a taste of the house specialty. The prime Angus beef is crusted with a simple layer of salt on its exterior, slow-roasted for many hours to a kind of soft, happy tenderness. It’s offered in three different styles, ranging from the smaller ten-ounce “English Cut” to the mammoth 24-ounce “Bone in Beauty.” For the best of both worlds, try the middle-of-the-road “Chicago Cut.”

4. Smith & Wollensky
797 Third Ave., at 49th St.; 212-753-1530

The kitchen at the flagship branch of this increasingly sprawling New York City–based chain turns over a hundred of these beauties a day, each one laid out on the plate the simple, old-fashioned way: in a pool of its own cooking juices. It’s the most reliable of the venerable old New York–steakhouse prime ribs, and for the best results, we suggest you enjoy it with a side of the house hash browns, a bite or two of spinach (un-creamed, please), and — if the depleted expense account, or your rich uncle from the hinterlands, can bear the prohibitive markup — a bottle of the inky red stuff from the house cellars.

5. Keens Steakhouse
72 W. 36th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-947-3636

Some people swear by the mutton chop here, and others by the porterhouse, but if you want to be transported directly back to the long-ago era of the classic New York beefsteak, this is the cut to get. Like lots of the product at what is arguably the most authentic and beloved of the city’s venerable beef palaces, the aging can be spotty, and who really knows whether the meat is prime, or choice? But when all the stars align (we recommend ordering it on a properly chilly winter’s day, in the tap room, at a table by the fire), there’s no more regal Beefeater meal in the city.

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The Absolute Best Prime Rib in New York