For years, Peter Luger has been one of the city’s most controversial restaurants. The legendary Brooklyn steakhouse’s fans swear their allegiance, even as an increasingly loud group of naysayers claim the restaurant simply isn’t all that good.
Now, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells enters the fray with one of his most brutal reviews yet.
The review starts off by detailing his long-standing love for the ritual of eating at Peter Luger, but some 20 years after he first began dining there, the critic says, “After I’ve paid, there is the unshakable sense that I’ve been scammed.”
His first objection is to the quality of service: “Diners who walk in the door eager to hand over literal piles of money aren’t greeted; they’re processed,” Wells writes, and “management seems to go out of its way to make things inconvenient.”
But that minor knock is nothing compared to Wells’s impressions of the food: The steak sauce tastes like “the same ketchup and horseradish fortified by corn syrup.” The French fries are “mealy and bland.” The Caesar salad is “drippy” with croutons that are “straight out of a bag” and cheese that’s “white and rubbery.”
But sides are always bad at steakhouses. What about the meat? Wells concludes, “What gnaws at me every time I eat a Luger porterhouse is the realization that it’s just another steak, and far from the best New York has to offer.” He isn’t done:
Other restaurants, and not just steakhouses, can put a formidable crust on both sides of the cut; Luger caramelizes the top side only, while the underside is barely past raw, as if it had done all its cooking on the hot platter.
Other restaurants, and not just steakhouses, buy beef that is tender, richly marbled and deeply flavorful; at Luger, you get the first two but not the third.
Other restaurants, and not just steakhouses, age that beef to make flavor grow and intensify and double back on itself; dry-aging at Luger still results in a tender steak, but it rarely achieves a hypnotic or compelling or even very interesting one.
Wells concedes that most Luger diehards will disregard his complaints, but as for the rest of us, he writes, “you start to wonder who really needs to go to Peter Luger, and start to think the answer is nobody.”
The internet, as usual, has its own opinions. So many, in fact, that Peter Luger began trending in local Twitter.
And, of course, there are still (and will always be) Luger stans.