It’s time to tackle the eternal, much-debated question of where to find the top steakhouse. The definition of this sacred New York dining institution has changed over the years, but the top ten on our list share certain time-honored qualities. The rooms should exude a familiar steakhouse verisimilitude; the side dishes should be numerous, familiar, and generally extremely rich; and the reason to visit the restaurant shouldn’t be the quality of the chicken, or the fish, or even the vegetables, but that of the judiciously aged haunches of American beef.
2. Sparks Steak House
210 E. 46th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-687-4855
In our humble, highly subjective opinion, the signature $55 prime sirloin at this venerable midtown joint is the best single cut of beef in the city. Order it at the bar before the dinner rush, while watching the first pitches of the Yankees game, with a goblet of inky red wine from the restaurant’s impressive cellar, and you’ll feel the rumbling, Beefeater ghosts of the city — from Paulie Castellano down to the great Diamond Jim Brady himself — rising up all around you.
3. Bowery Meat Company
9 E. 1st St., nr. Bowery; 212-460-5255
In the hectic tradition of many next-generation steak joints, Josh Capon’s downtown establishment offers something for everyone, including strips of “zucchini carpaccio” for vegetarians, an excellent duck lasagna, and one of the city’s best cheeseburgers for the legions of burger loons. But the specialties of the house remain the expertly prepared steaks, which — in variety, quality, and, yes, even price — are hard to beat.
4. Keens Steakhouse
72 W. 36th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-947-3636
No chophouse in the city (and therefore the country) has a stronger pedigree, and none exudes a more pleasingly funky sense of old-fashioned charm. With apologies to mutton-chop lovers everywhere, the dish to get is the imposing “King’s Cut” rib chop, preferably on a snowy winter’s afternoon, in the pub room, by the gently guttering fire.
5. St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-384-5054
“Grass fed” is not a phrase you often hear echoing through the dining halls of ye olde steak joints around town, but the fine grass-fed strip at this next-wave Williamsburg restaurant stands on its own. Pay attention to the side dishes (the carrots, the fennel, the iceberg lettuce and blue cheese). At $39, you won’t find a better price for your slap-up haute-barnyard sirloin dinner.
M. Wells Steakhouse
43-15 Crescent St., nr. 43rd Ave., Long Island City; 718-786-9060
You can get servings of pig’s head at Hugue Dufour’s entertaining, slightly cockeyed, nose-to-tail establishment in Long Island City, as well as a Caesar salad touched with herring, and saddles of lamb rubbed with coffee. The dry-aged porterhouse costs $225, it’s true, but it also comes with enough elaborate trimmings to feed a family of five for a week.
113 MacDougal St., nr. Minetta Ln.; 212-475-3850
Beefsteak (the côte de boeuf, the bone-in strip, the increasingly pricey burger) is still the thing to get at this seminal postmillennial, non-steakhouse steak destination, although the quality of the kitchen seems to have gone slightly downhill since the departure of the two founding cooks, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr.
178 Broadway, nr. Driggs, Williamsburg; 718-387-7400
We aren’t fond of the indifferent service, the unruly mob atmosphere, or the tyranny of cash only or the “Luger Card” option. But during the quieter lunchtime hours, Luger’s can still be Luger’s, especially if you order the burger, or luck into a properly aged, fat-spattering porterhouse.
11 E. 12th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-838-9197
We’ve long been partial to this gilded downtown beef destination, thanks to the ornate European-style sides, the quality of the New York strip, and also because we happen to live directly across the street. The chain was recently purchased by the same sprawling restaurant conglomerate that runs Bubba Gump Shrimp, which bumps it a few apprehensive notches down the list.