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Posts from the ‘Steakhouse’ Category

La Brigada

La Brigada wasn’t on my original itinerary, but after taking such a shining to grilled grass-fed beef we had to add another parrilla to our eating plans at the last minute. I wasn’t crazy about San Telmo, which seemed to be a favorite tourist neighborhood and felt mildly sketchy. But La Brigada (along with El Desnivel) appeared to be the biggies in the area and seemed worth at try.

La brigada interior

In hindsight, maybe we should’ve tried El Desnivel because our meal ended up being pricey. Not even close to NYC pricey (my steak was like $16 but I was aware that 50 pesos was hefty by local standards) but still like you were being gouged for choosing a foreigner’s greatest hits type place. Well, except the food was good.

Trying to find a source of comparison between La Brigada and La Cabrera (my favorite), I would say that La Brigada is like a Little Italy restaurant if those restaurants actually served quality food, and that La Cabrera would be more like an outer borough creative place like, say a di la. Don’t ask why I’m using Italian food to compare Argentine steakhouses.

La brigada provoleta

I was starting to get nervous because my time in town was running out and I hadn’t tried a provoleta yet. This had to be rectified since it was our final dinner. When gorging on beef isn’t enough, one must make an appetizer of grilled provolone cheese rubbed in olive oil and herbs like oregano (you can buy these ready to cook at grocery stores—we picked one up and ate it cold before realizing its intended purpose). And I must say that this was even better than I’d imagined in my head. Only a freak doesn’t enjoy melted cheese. The edges were crusty and added a whole other dimension of aged tanginess. This was no processed slab of dairy. Provoleta is definitely a candidate for best low carb snack ever.

Ok, so I accidentally ordered the bife de chorizo, generally an expensive cut, when I really wanted to try tira de asado (short ribs cut like for kalbi) but first asked a question about the size of the bife to gauge whether full portions here were too much for one (they weren’t anywhere near La Cabrera dimensions, one hungry person could handle them) and because of language confusion our waiter wrote down bife de chorizo as my order and I just went with it because I’m even more passive in Spanish than in English.

James ordered the lomo (filet mignon). We knew what this was but it was another weird Argentine wording just how bife de chorizo has nothing to do with chorizo the sausage. In NYC at least, lomo usually means pork.

La brigada lomo and bife de chorizo

These were some classy cuts of meat and tender beyond belief, as was demonstrated by our waiter who cut the damn things in front of us using spoons for effect. I would never ever utter wretched phrases like “melts in your mouth” or “cuts like butter” but yeah, the spoon cutting was kind of impressive.

Honestly, I prefer gnarlier cuts of meat because they have more flavor. I like fatty blobs, bones and burnt bits on the edges. These steaks were almost too pure for me.

La brigada papas fritas 
Papas fritas, of course.

La brigada panqueque

And panqueque number two. I couldn’t bear to branch out beyond the dulce de leche filled crepe even though everyone else seemed to be enjoying Don Pedros (ice cream topped with whiskey). The waiters divvied everything up here on individual plates.

Afterward, we decided to walk over to Puerto Madero and find someplace to have a drink. I couldn’t imagine what this area was like but from descriptions it seemed like a classier Atlantic City boardwalk (the insanely designed Faena Hotel is over there). In reality, it seemed like Battery Park City, and at 11pm on a Thursday, a total ghost town. We could never figure out all the hype in guidebooks about partying and drinking all night. Perhaps we were in the wrong places at the wrong times (later as our cab approached our neighborhood, bars were so packed people were pouring into the street) but things seemed dead everywhere we went and were closed by 2am.

I think we were already fueled by quite a bit of Malbec because we became convinced that the strip of flashy restaurants and new high-rise apartments couldn’t be all there was to Puerto Madero. Then James insisted that the Rio de la Plata was just beyond this development and we should go see it.

We ended up along some well-manicured parks that might be nice during the day, but felt eerie when empty. We only encountered a priest, then one lone dog, no owner in sight, standing at the top of a big grassy hill and barking mournfully into the night. I’m not scared of dogs but he was giving me the heebies. I wasn’t sure if it was ok to be in this area at night. There weren’t proper streetlights and just the occasional car passing by.

But then a lit café with some lingering patrons appeared in a grassy patch and I was all for just stopping there and heading back. But James was convinced the water was just across the road. There was a cement promenade that had a few makeshift stands grilling meat. This was kind of cool because I hadn’t seen any street food to speak of in Buenos Aires and am still sad I never tried a choripan. But we were full from dinner. There were a few guys hanging around in folding chairs but I still wasn’t sure if this was an ok place to be wandering around in the dark.

The promenade looked like it should be overlooking the sea but as it was pitch black we couldn’t see the horizon until we got right up on it and there was only dim grasslands. Huh? I guess the Rio de la Plata was further than we thought. There was nothing more than a big marshy pampas patch that creeped the hell out of me. There were big, wide stairs to go down closer but I was afraid creatures might jump out. Or more realistically we’d stumble upon random sex acts—it was then that I noticed anti-prostitution graffiti stenciled on the cement.

Later, I figured out that this is an ecological preserve and looks much less ominous during the day.

I never know when to be genuinely on guard in foreign cities. After getting robbed in Vancouver B.C. (seriously, Canada?!) years ago, the only city I’ve ever visited where anything bad has ever happened, I’ve learned not to be a cocky New Yorker (where you can’t always judge a neighborhood’s dangerousness based on how ratty it is). If you have a bad feeling you should trust it.

Tgifridays margarita

So, we hightailed it back to the populated well-lit docks and couldn’t find anyplace suitable for a drink (everything seemed about to close or more of a restaurant than bar). In desperation, I singled out TGI Friday’s where I was treated to an expensive margarita that barely tasted alcoholic and was rimmed with table salt. But at least I got to fit one American chain into the vacation.

La Brigada * Estados Unidos 765, Buenos Aries, Argentina

La Cabrera

1/2 La Cabrera is the perfect starting point for Buenos Aires restaurant rehashing (which I’m trying to keep short and sweet) as it’s where we wildly indulged in steak on the day we arrived and the day we left the city. Of the four parrillas we tried, this was easily our favorite.

It’s definitely baffling because they kind of embody much that I hate: long waits, stifling crowds and rickety tables cramped closer together than the worst Manhattan perpetrator. And normally, being passed over when all the other customers waiting outside for seats were being handed free glasses of champagne would’ve been the last straw. But yes, the fact that we returned six days after our first visit is a testament to their allure.

It did have the advantage of being a ten-minute walk from our apartment, just across the railroad tracks, but that was just a happenstance bonus.

The steakhouse is not traditional in that it’s a touch more stylish them some (though not slick). The décor is typically woody and rustic, but the music is more ambient techno than acoustic guitar folksy, and instead of standard papas fritas on the side, you’re plied with baker’s dozen of ramekins containing pickled and creamed vegetables and starches, banchan-style. The portions are enormous, completely high quality and were priced well below our expectations ($61 for meat, sides, dessert, bottle of Malbec and glass of champagne, all for two). It set the standard for the rest of the week where meat wasn’t always so monstrously sized, wine glasses weren’t filled so tall and desserts not as decadent. We practically peaked on night one.

La cabrera bread  

Bread basket and pimento cheese spread. Southern hemisphere meets the American south.

La cabrera steaks

We couldn’t gauge portion sizes based on price because everything seemed reasonable by NYC standards. We initially ordered a bife de chorizo (sirloin) and an ojo de bife (rib eye) and thankfully were told that that was insane (I think my Spanish classes are finally starting to pay off—while I still can barely speak coherently, I understood way more on this trip compared to Mexico City last May, and had little trouble communicating). Instead, it was suggested that we order media portions of each, which still ended up being gargantuan at half-size. Being big leftover advocates (which is kind of frowned on here, but I just can’t waste food), we were excited to learn that para llevar is completely normal in Buenos Aires and we were offered doggie bags throughout the week for things that even I wouldn’t normally bother wrapping up.

The sides on the plank include white beans two ways, one with parsley the other with tomatoes, an eggplant caponata, endive with creamy dressing, baby potatoes in another creamy sauce and the only accompaniment that scared me: cold rice tossed with what I suspect was mayonnaise.

La cabrera bife de chorizo & ojo de bife

As you can see the ojo de bife on the right is a little pinker because I asked for it “jugoso.” I’d heard horror stories about overcooked meat, but that never turned out to be a problem even when doneness wasn’t specified.

La cabrera sides

Clockwise from the top: whipped sweet potato, mashed potatoes, black olives in a tomato sauce, creamed mushrooms, roasted garlic, raisin applesauce and onions pickled in red wine vinegar in the center.

Here’s what I hate to admit: I swear I can’t tell the difference between grass-fed beef and our corn-fed style. I don’t doubt that I could detect nuances in a side-by-side taste test but I only eat steak in the US maybe two or three times a year so the flavor wasn’t easily conjurable.

I’ve never been beef-crazed, but while in Buenos Aires I found myself wanting more and more meat, seriously, even while chewing I was already planning ahead to where we could try more the next day. When I thought for sure I would burn out after two meals and the opposite occurred, I realized something unusual was going on.

Most beef here is just boring, that’s the problem. This meat had some chewiness, the flavor strong and pure. Much of the wow came from the contrast between outer char and inner tenderness. I do think they trim their meat less, leaving desirable (to me) pockets of fat.

La cabrera panqueque con dulce de leche & helado

I love dulce de leche filled crepes, a.k.a. panqueque. This was a fancy rendition with fresh cream, peach slices and ice cream that tasted like nutmeg and cinnamon. For someone who’s not supposed to be eating sugar, this is the type of tooth-achey concoction I’ll make an exception for because I like my desserts super-sweet and gooey, all or nothing.

We did receive a complimentary glass of champagne after dessert, which nearly made up for being alcohol-slighted during our 45-minute stint outside. Yes, even while trying to relax on vacation I hold grudges.

* * *

La cabrera morcilla

Luckily, we were able to squeeze in a lunch before having to head to the airport and I finally got my morcilla. The dark innards inside the casing were very moist and soft and slightly sweet. If they weren’t called blood sausages, I don’t think Americans would be so scared of them. Ok, I guess the blobs look scary, too. They cracked out chimichurri (which doesn’t come with most steaks in Buenos Aires, contrary to the condiment’s ubiquitousness in US Argentine restaurants) as well as an oniony tomato puree.

La cabrera media ojo de bife

We ordered half an ojo de bife. Interestingly, the sides weren’t exactly the same this time and included hummus which was a tasty oddity. And yes, we took the steak remnants to go, packed them in a suitcase and ate them for dinner back in Brooklyn. Quite possibly the best souvenir ever.

La Cabrera * Cabrera 5009, Buenos Aires, Argentina

AJ Maxwell’s

1/2 I’d never heard of AJ Maxwell’s, but then there are countless steakhouses with men’s names so it’s not that surprising. Last year at this time I was working a block away from AJ Maxwell’s and it still didn’t ring a bell, though it’s not the sort of place I would’ve been dining on a part-time news library salary anyway. Wendy’s and Au Bon Pain were about as good as it got.

Oysters on the half shell were really too large for our two-seater. They had to take our bread basket away (with the promise of its return) to make room for the presentation. And of course, they forgot to bring the bread back. Carbs are important to me.

There’s something highly impressive about the dinosaur-like bone poking from the rib eye.

I tried lamb chops just to be different, though I would’ve preferred beef. Despite the pretty greenness, jellied mint sauce rarely does much for meat.

Brussels sprouts with bacon were extremely good. Because we’re scrounges we wanted to take leftovers home. Unfortunately, they tossed everything except the meat. I suppose that implies that the typical clientele would never take home uneaten hash browns and brussels sprouts. Though just a few weeks earlier I ate at Ben & Jack's on my own dime and no one had a problem with doling out doggie bags.

Read my straight-shooting review.

AJ Maxwell’s * 57 W. 48th St., New York, NY

Ben & Jacks Steakhouse

3/4 I’m fairly certain that I haven’t eaten at a steakhouse in nearly two years, and that on-the-fly indulgence happened to be at a Morton’s in Hong Kong. That’s just not right (that is, not visiting a steakhouse in two years, not that I ate at one in Asia).

Steak had been on my mind lately due to little influencers like the last meat-heavy Saveur issue (I might be thinking of avocados instead if the current issue had made it to my apartment) and Diner’s Journal chatter. For James, all it took was a late-night, low-budget Ben & Jack’s commercial to prompt a reservation a few days later. I had been contemplating less traditional steakhouses like Strip House or Quality Meats but a Manhattan near Peter Luger clone didn’t draw any complaints from me.

Ben_jacks_baconAnd essentially, the two menus are replicas. I never thought the service was as gruff as purported in Williamsburg but customer attention is the most noticeable difference with this midtown offshoot started by former waiters. Glasses are never left unfilled, the second your plate nears empty, two more slices of steak are placed upon it using the two metal spoons tong-like approach. In fact, they continue to gregariously serve you throughout the meal, which was kind of unsettling when a giant mess of potatoes plopped all over the tablecloth, not thanks to me.

I never touch the salads or shrimp cocktail. Whoever dreamed up slabs of singed, fatty bacon as a starter is right up there with the inventor of bacon toffee. One $2.95 strip is plenty but we each got two so we’d have a smoky treat the next day.

Ben_jacks_porterhouseOur steak order was textbook: porterhouse for two, medium-rare. The sputtering grease flecked serving plate isn’t pretty (and my photos are even less so) but it must be so. And this is one of the only places where a warning of, “be careful, the plates are hot” is genuinely warranted. The first slices are presented with flourish and a quick tap and press along the bottom edge of the ceramic, inducing a hiss. I didn’t want to fill up on bread but the pool of juices and butter at the bottom are made for an onion roll.

Medium-rare is served on the pink side, but the soft rawness is tempered by the charred edges and the best hyper-meaty parts near the bone. In fact, I really noticed the aged, minerally quality more the next day while gnawing on a room temperature bone.

Ben_jacks_plate There’s not much to say about the creamed spinach and German potatoes since they’re perfunctory, yet necessary. 

I swear, in the past we’ve eaten the entire steak but that seemed like an impossibility on this occasion. After four pieces, I was heading into uncomfortable territory. And even though this was a carnivorous event, I couldn’t help but thinking of the possibility of a hot fudge sundae. 

Ben_jacks_hot_fudge_sundae I was wondering if they’d replicate the “holy cow” hot fudge sundae from Peter Luger. And yes, they did, merely swapping bovine genders to create the holy bull. An avalanche of serious schlag dominates the first handful of bites, and by the time you reach the intense concentrated fudgey remains, you’re done in. “The drink,” as I’ve always called that painfully sweet, last syrupy bite that’s tough to choke down, is almost my favorite part of a sundae. I half-seriously considered ridding my stomach of its contents before dessert arrived, but I don’t possess that can do spirit.

Ben & Jacks Steakhouse * 219 E. 44th St., New York, NY

El Chivito d’Oro

1/2 I really wanted Uruguayan food to be distinctly different from Argentinean so I could be more emphatic in my piece about unique Latin American food, but at least as far as grilled meat is concerned they're kind of interchangeable. There is an Uruguayan and Paraguayan bakery in Woodside but as far as sit down restaurants go, I'm fairly certain that Chivito d'Oro is the only Uruguayan restaurant in NYC.

For some unknown reason, 37th Avenue is home to a slew of parilladas. This strip also seems to have some rule about consistent awnings and storefront, many seem to have a '90s nearly suburban style. One block south on Roosevelt it's mish mash paradise, the signage is a mess and practically every Latin American cuisine you can think co-mingles with Thai, Filipino and Tibetan. 37th is steakhouses, but not in the Peter Luger dry aged vein. Mixed grills are the specialties and the bargain of $19.95 for a single serving ($27.99 for two) that easily feeds two (or three daintier eaters) isn't lost on patrons. On weekend, the foyer at Chivito is jam packed. We didn't even bother on a Saturday around 10pm and went to Izalco instead.

Chivito_doro_chicken Due to the Italian influence on this part of South America, pastas are prevalent, but I'm barely a fan of even exquisitely prepared Italian food by Italians (I know, I'm a freak) so I've never ventured to that side of the menu. James wanted to be different and opted for a chicken dish, which isn't necessarily lighter than the red meat. His chicken francesa consisted of two pounded, breaded cutlets in a lemon sauce. I didn't taste it but with rice it could've nearly passed for Chinese food.

Chivito_doro_parrilladaIf you order the parillada, which you should, your carnivore's delight comes on a little tabletop grill warmed by candles. The contents include skirt steak, another kind of steak that I'm not sure about, morcilla (my Spanish tutor didn't think I knew what this was when recounting my meal the following week. Hey, I'm all about sangre, no fears here. The blood sausage is actually one of my favorite parts of the whole shebang), ribs, pork sausage and sweetbreads. They went easier on the organ meats than the Argentinean steakhouse I tried a few years back. My choice of starch was roasted potato wedges. I made it through about half of the items. The vinegary chimichurri is a must and cuts through the richness. Of course, it's oil-based and rich in and of itself. You can't think about calories in these situations. You might as well stay home and eat microwaved Amy's enchiladas, if you have food fears.

Chivito_doro_potatoes The clientele was a mix on our weeknight visit. There were plenty of Hispanic families, but there was also a table of Eastern Europeans who came after us, breezed through their meat and left before our last bites. There also wasn't a shortage of Queens-y types getting take out and reminding the counter guy not to forget the rolls (which are quite good and charred with grill marks).

I'm not schooled enough to recommend Chivito d'Oro over nearby favorites La Porteña or La Fusta or countless others, though I don't want to say they're interchangeable either. It's worth a jaunt on the 7 train to investigate, though.

El Chivito d'Oro * 84-02 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Outback Steakhouse

Maybe it's the 44 ounces of Foster's talking, but this eerie Midtown Outback totally rules (sorry, no rules, just right). I've been eyeing this branch ever since I started a new job across the street from their take out window. There's something absurd about advertising curbside service ("no rules just right to your car") in a city where no one drives. But then there's something absurd about an Outback Steakhouse on the cusp of the Upper East Side, too.

Nothing pleases me more than the absurd so I was thrilled to finally pay this anomaly a visit. The most glaring difference between this Outback and every other one I've ever been visited, is that there wasn't a wait. In fact, half the tables were empty (though there was a minor male dominated happy hour scene at the bar) I've waited over 60 minutes in Edgewater for the privilege of a seat. This lack of large families with toddlers crowding the entrance was unnerving. Of course the prices are all a couple bucks higher ($8.95 Bloomin' Onion as opposed its $6.96 New Jersey counterpart), but that's the price you pay for NYC class.

To be honest, I'm not fanatical about steaks, meat is meat (well, Peter Luger is pretty convincing). I just like the rigmarole and side dishes. I never know which cut to order and really I don't know how much it matters. I ultimately went with a 9-ounce center cut filet, medium rather than my preferred medium-rare because even ordering medium gives the waiters conniptions. I'm sure it's part of their training, but they insist on explaining what medium means, emphasizing that there will be some pink in the middle like they're trying to scare you up a doneness notch. I don't think they're even allowed to serve anything prepared rare.

So yes, the steak was meaty. And after filling up on onion loaf, a peculiar dressing-heavy blue cheese chopped salad (I only ordered it because I never realized you got a choice besides the standard Caesar) bread and butter and a giant mug of beer, I only had room for half of my filet and chunky mashed potatoes. I don't think I've ever tried dessert at Outback. I'm not even sure what they offer–oh, that's right, The Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, duh. Maybe I'll get really wild and stop in for the disturbingly named hot fudge brownie sundae some night after work.

Outback Steakhouse * 919 Third Ave., New York, NY


Predicting the future can be tricky. Theres no way I would have ever guessed that my final meal in Asia would be at an astronomically priced American steak house chain. We were spending our last day in Hong Kong trolling around Kowloon, and somehow got it into our heads that for dinner wed check out this massive mall food court I'd read about, a few subway stops further out at Kowloon Tong.

Well, the mall existed (complete with a university attached–odd) but this supposed fast food mecca was nowhere to be found. All we could see was a KFC, Café de Coral, Yoshinoya, a mediocre Thai place and a smoothie joint. We were starving, and by now it was too late to take advantage of another harebrained idea wed had–to hit Mortons during happy hour for their skyline view of Hong Kong and free mini steak sandwiches.

While I got something tiny to hold me over (four KFC Baby Wings, which are truly infantile, perhaps even premature–the point was not spoiling my appetite and they certainly didnt) James sorted out his credit card being frozen. After a little semi-desperate hemming and hawing, we realized it was getting late, we were in the middle of nowhere and we had to be up early to catch a flight back to the U.S. We said, fuck it, lets just go to Mortons and get a big, fat juicy decadent American meal.

Just a few days earlier, Alvin, James coworker and Singapore transplant, had been telling us how hed thrown a company Christmas party at Mortons and that the staff seemed sort of baffled by the meal. The massive portions and meat-centric concept kind of freaked the locals out.

What freaked me out were the prices. Wow. Ive never been to a Mortons so I dont know how Hong Kong compares to America. But I'm sure theres a mark up. That afternoon I had been staring longingly at the See's Candy display at Festival Walk. But at nearly $40 for a one pound box (which can be ordered online in the U.S. for $13.60), I just couldnt bring myself to spring for 16 ounces of nostalgia. Mortons has you over the same hump. Their porterhouse for two was HK1100 ($141). For comparison, Peter Luger, which many would say is America's, if not he world's best steakhouse, a total different league than Mortons, version for two is $75.

We put price out of our minds and drank up Bombay Sapphire gin and tonics and Johnny Walker Black (theyre obsessed with JWB in Asia) scotches and sodas. I got the $63 double cut filet mignon. We had giant salads filled with blue cheese and anchovies, sides of hash browns and of course, creamed spinach. My side of béarnaise ensured I was getting enough cholesterol. We couldnt even finish our steaks, but never relinquishing our thrifty cores, we got doggie bags and packed them in our luggage the next morning.

This was an atypical total high roller, power dinner, and it was really really fun. I'm sure a kick-ass sharks fin, birds nest, abalone and all Chinese banquet wouldve set us back as much and been more locale appropriate, but sometimes you have to go with your meat-loving gut and make chain-hating travel purists cringe.

Back in NYC: gnarly-looking nibbled-on leftover bone

Mortons * 20 Nathan Rd., Hong Kong


I've declared Keens the fertile-making steak house. I'd always considered
myself more of a Luger (not Lugers, dammit, no extra Ss, just like it's not
Barnes & Nobles either) girl, and now I know why. James's college pal, Pat,
the recent transplant, got in his head that Luger was the place to impress,
the spot to take the ladies (nevermind that he didn't have a lady, and the
few dates he eventually scored were with a vegetarian).

Then another old college buddy that James isn't fond of took Pat to
Keens and that's when all hell broke loose. Keens took the place of Luger in
his mind as the chicks-dig-it restaurant (I don't know where he got the idea
girls are nuts for meat and potatoes from in the first place). His fate was
sealed when he took a mousey, classic meat and potatoes gal/coworker out to
Keens. Soon after, we don't know if it was actually that night, he knocked
her up.

There might be something to all this. I recall a beef council commercial
where the old stodgy guys get scared because their steakhouse has been
overrun by women, one very pregnant. What, is iron the latest aphrodisiac?
Beef might be what's for dinner, but you'd better think twice about what
you're going to get for dessert.

KeensSteakhousee * 72 W.
36th St., New York, NY

Peter Luger

Beef, it's what's for dinner. At least when it comes to the special
occasions in my life. I've always felt a little out of the loop, since it
seems like everyone in the world has eaten a Peter Luger at some point. It's
a local institution to be sure.

I was definitely into the idea of it, though at first I was a little
intimidated since the waiting/bar area was wall-to-wall men in khakis. But I
quickly got into the old-school surroundings, ordered a whiskey sour and
even snuck my fingers into the sauce boat while perusing the menu (which
screams novice–they ask if you want a menu, assuming you know exactly what
you're there for)

I opted for the shrimp cocktail instead of the onion and tomato salad
that appeared to be de rigeur. Steak for two followed, and a side of creamed
spinach. The fries seemed like overkill–maybe next time. The meat was
medium rare and fine as can be. You could feel years being shaved from your
life as the waiter ladled the rich pan juices over the steak. But birthdays
are about coming to terms with your mortality anyway, right? The meal closed
with a shared slice of pecan pie coupled with an entire bowl of whipped
cream. No joke, it was almost as impressive as the meat itself.

It was creepy fun watching the power salesmen at the communal table next
to us. Who's to say what their actual profession was, but a sleazy internet
vibe was definitely in the air. Company parties are a strange ritual, not
that I would know first hand as I've only been a part of miserly start-ups
gone (going) bad. A pizza party would be asking too much in my case.

The evening was satisfying, yet with that all said, I'm now going to be
an ungrateful wretch for a moment. I don't go in for spendy, overhyped
clothes, neighborhoods, clubs and the like, but when it comes to food I
don't mind indulging my fancy every now and then, especially when it comes
to special occasions. Don't get me wrong, I was raised on a strict meat and
potatoes diet (nary a fresh vegetable graced my plate), but after Peter
Luger for my birthday and Churrascaria
for Valentine's Day, I wouldn't say no to something
more…er, refined next time 'round. I'm a lady, dammit. Mabye 30
will herald the aesthetic experience I'm seeking. (7/25/01)

On a whim, James called for reservations the Sunday before Independence
Day, and was surprised by a 7:45 quote. However, when we showed up he was
not on the list, the host scoffed at the fact that we thought we would could
get a seat a mere four days in advance, and my blood started boiling. Then
they found his name on a waiting list. We weren't told about a waiting list
on the phone, or why would we have bothered showing up? Anyway, we were
seated, as the place was not filled to capacity. Steak is steak at Peter
Luger. The new discovery was the grilled, thick, perfect Canadian bacon
served in strips as an appetizer. I thought about it for days afterward.

PeterLuger * 185 Broadway,
Brooklyn, NY

Outback Steakhouse Edgewater

1/2 Yay, finally. I was thwarted before, at this doozy in an Edgewater, NJ Target parking lot, waving-distance from the upper west side. This is one of the few big chain restaurants that I've never had the opportunity to enjoy.

Since steak is in their name, I felt I should order one. But I didn't pay close attention to the menu and, ended up being talked into one that wasn't steaky so much as roasty and came with a bowl of au jus. Boy, that baby was big. 16 oz. I think. After those Kookaburra wings and Caesar salad, I could seriously could only eat about a third of it. But the next day, fried up with eggs, it made quite a breakfast.

Part of the fun of chain restaurants is calculating the timing between drink order, when the salad and bread will comes, to when the main dish will arrive, to when they'll ask if you want a refill. It's all so wrong, but so accurate. How do they do it? We practically had it timed to the minute from ordering to when the food came out.

Outback Steakhouse makes for a fun afternoon excursion. At 4pm on a Sat., it was our first meal of the day, but clearly many were doing that odd early dinner thing that families and old folks seem to love. But maybe they're on to something. The last time I tried to eat there, it was around 6pm and the projected hour wait (they know their timing so there was no doubt it'd be a single minute earlier) was just too much for me.

You may be tempted to sit on benches outside and enjoy the view of the Hudson River, but the sludge and stink from the little inlet could change your mind. When I think cement shoes, this is exactly the sort scenery I imagine. (5/26/01)

Why are Outbacks so popular? Who waits over an hour for Aussie chain restaurant steak and Bloomin' Onions? I do. I don't know, I can't help myself. What's more baffling about the experience is their choice of music, which you become acutely aware of while waiting hungrily for such long periods of time. It's an '80s mix, smattered with Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen standards, but primarily consists of tunes of the mildly "alternative" persuasion. Old pre-radio Cure "The Walk," Talk Talk, The Smiths "Ask" and the like. This is my youth, it might be the programming director's youth, but it's certainly not the youth of the average tri-state Outback customer. I could be wrong, but I just don't see the Puerto Rican families with five toddlers and stereotypical Jersey couples, complete with crispy curls for girls and pleated khakis for guys, who appear my age since they're married with children, but are probably in their early-mid 20s, and black guys drinking foofy colorful drinks (what's up with that? I've spotted this a lot lately) listening to this music 15-20 years ago. For a true experience head to the restrooms or stand outside the front entrance where it's piped twice as loud as inside. A little tipsy from my giant Foster's, I almost busted a gut while peeing to the sounds of Kim Wilde's, "Kids in America." Am I Outback's intended demographic? Because I kind of liked it. (6/15/02)

OutbackSteakhouse * 539 River Rd., Edgewater,NJ