by Murray Brown
A recent conversation on Facebook brought up the subject of steaks and steakhouses. Is there any food more beloved by horsemen than a good slab of beef? None that I’ve ever encountered.
Andrew Berg suggested on Facebook that the subject of steakhouses might be a decent subject to discuss in my column.
I’ve grouped them separately in geographical areas.
Most are in the proximity of horsepeople, others might not be.
Some, I’ve never been to, but have great reputations. I will indicate by an asterisk that I’ve never been there.
Here they are with my favorites listed in order:
Montreal High End
Moishes — My all-time favorite anywhere. It has everything a great steakhouse should have: great meat, terrific service, in addition to steaks a varied menu, fantastic sides, especially their Monte Carlo Potato and a terrific wine list.
An added attraction, especially in winter, is the coat check person who takes your coats, boots, hats, scarves without giving you a ticket for them. It’s a fairly large restaurant, but he still remembers each person and what belongs to them.
Gibby’s — A gem in Old Montreal. I don’t believe it has been around as long as Moishes, but it has been around a long time. Great atmosphere with nothing lacking.
Rib N Reef — Another old timer. It’s located on the Decarie strip. They have it all, including what is reputed to be the best wine list in the city.
Montreal Lower Priced
l’Entrecote St Jean — It serves only one main dish on its all-inclusive menu. That is the named entrecôte (rib steak) which is served with their special dressing with fries and a salad. Your only choice is how you want your steak cooked. They recommend rare and frown on well done.
Schwartz’s — Yes that Schwartz’s. The one that is the most famous smoked meat purveyor in the city, which in Montreal means the world. I actually much prefer their steaks to the smoked meat. It’s a fairly large steak that comes with a small appetizer piece of hot dog and liver, together with French fries, coleslaw, pickle and a stack of rye bread.
The Main — Directly across the street from Schwartz’s. Their steak dinner is essentially the same as Schwartz’s except that it isn’t the institution that its neighbor is. You don’t have to face the long lineups, nor do you have to share your table with strangers as you do across the street.
Toronto High End
House of Chan — My favorite steakhouse in Toronto that has been around forever. Not fancy, but the food is excellent and the quality is reflected in their prices. An added plus is that they also serve good Chinese food. My favorite meal there might be won ton soup, an egg roll followed by a steak with fried potatoes.
Barberians — An old downtown favorite. It checks all the boxes, plus it might have the very best wine list in the city.
*Jacobs and Co. — Never been. Highly recommended with a high price tag to go with it.
*Harbor on 60 — Same as above.
Toronto Lower priced
The Keg — Locations throughout Toronto and Ontario as well. A good piece of meat with all the accoutrements for a reasonable price.
*Cote Boeuf — I’ve never been, but it comes well recommended.
Le Barotin — Toronto’s version of Montreal’s L’Entercote St Jean.
North Jersey High End
River Palm Terrace — The best of a small chain of three restaurants in North Jersey specializing in top of the line meat, but with a very all-inclusive menu. Everything here is excellent, including their sushi and sides. There are very few places in the New York metropolitan area where I’d sooner eat.
Ruth’s Chris — I know it’s a chain, but it’s a consistently good one. The one in Weehauken is the best of several that I’ve experienced.
The Capital Grille — Another chain, but one that’s consistently good. It checks all the boxes, great food, very nice room, good service and a better than average wine list.
North Jersey Lower Priced
Steve’s Sizzling Steaks — I’d probably be tarred and feathered if I didn’t list Steve’s on top. As for me, I think it’s very good but I don’t get all the raves people give it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to eat there. But I wouldn’t make a special trip to go.
Houston’s — It doesn’t exactly fit the lower-priced category, but it isn’t high priced either. It’s somewhere in between. If you like Palm Beach Grill, you will like Houston’s as well. It’s part of the same company and has pretty much the same menu. The only thing missing is the $18 hot dog. Their prime rib is as good as you will find anywhere.
Arthur’s Steakhouse & Pub — It’s been around forever. The steaks are big and good. Everything that I’ve ever had here has been at least good.
Lexington High End
* Jeff Ruby’s — I’ve never been. But everyone I know that has been there has told me that it’s the best in Lexington, maybe the best anywhere. I’ve been told that the prices are comparable or even higher than those found in New York’s best steakhouses including the ridiculously priced The Grille which is very good, but nowhere good enough to justify what they charge.
Tony’s — Excellent and consistent, with prices to match. Everything here is good, but not cheap, but generally less than Jeff Ruby’s.
Malone’s — At least three locations, all of them good to excellent. I haven’t eaten at Ruby’s, but I still think for what you get and what you pay it would be more reliable, if that was what I was looking for. They have a great salad, second to none.
Lexington Lower Priced
Le Deauville —Not exactly lower priced and certainly not known as a steak house, but their steak frites is excellent and fairly priced.
The Chop House — Located a bit off the beaten path and not generally well known to horsepeople. It’s part of a small chain. Everything I’ve ever had here is excellent. If you want good wine, this isn’t the place to get it.
Columbia Steak House — Probably the oldest steak joint in Lexington. The place was always open late and horsemen would often go from the Tattersalls sale to there for dinner. The steaks, salads and side dishes are good. A house specialty is lamb fries, which are in fact testicles. I can’t tell you how good they are, because I’ve never been brave enough to try them.
South Florida High End
New York Prime — For a long time the very best. It used to be extremely difficult to get a reservation. It has now become somewhat easier. The food is great, but isn’t cheap. The service is good, as is the wine list. They do have a corkage policy which pleases me a great deal. It can be rather wild with loud music, especially on Wednesday evenings which is ladies night, often referred to as Boca Babes night. One of the few restaurants where you can order the outer end of the rib, my favorite cut of steak.
Abe and Louies — Almost within walking distance of New York Prime. The atmosphere comes across as being somewhat classier and more sedate. The food and prices are about the same as NYP. One bonus is that they are open for lunch and have several excellent lunch time specials including their burger which is excellent.
Meat Market Palm Beach — I think there is another one in Miami as well. Some people (Casie Coleman) rave about it. I’ve been there twice. The food is good. But in my opinion not as good as the two listed above. It’s very expensive. Worst of all, they don’t honor reservations. Always a big crowd outside waiting to be seated. I guess the fact that there is a big crowd indicates that its very good, but I just don’t see it.
NYY Steakhouse — Located within the Seminole Casino. It has a New York Yankees theme. Everything about it is very good. It’s a very nice room with plenty of room between tables. It has an excellent menu. The food is very good, but very expensive. It’s especially good if you are being comped by the casino. I’ve been told that it’s hard to get a reservation. But every time I’ve gone, it’s been without a reservation and I’ve never had a problem.
South Florida Lower Priced
(None of these are low priced per se, just somewhat lower than some of the higher priced ones above)
Palm Beach Grill — Maybe my favorite restaurant in all of South Florida. It’s extremely difficult to get reservations in season. You need to call a month out. Even then, you aren’t sure of getting in. They have a great corkage policy. The bar scene is always hopping. They have the best prime rib I’ve ever had anywhere. Everything here is excellent. They are well known for their $18 hot dog, which a buddy of mine says would be a bargain at twice the price.
Houstons Boca Raton — Owned by the same chain that runs Palm Beach Grill. The menus are similar, except this one does not have the hot dog. The quality of the food is good, but I’d give an edge to Palm Beach Grill. Its neither easy to get into, nor to get reservations. We’ve sometimes have had to wait to be seated when arriving as early as 4.30.
The Chains — Outback, Texas Roadhouse and Longhorns are omni present. They are okay for what they offer. Although in my estimation, Outback has slipped a little recently.
New York City High End
There are just far too many of them to pick from and for which, chances are one cannot go wrong. I’ll just list some of my favorites and why I like them.
Pietro’s — I’ve got to be kidding you’d say. An Italian restaurant for the best steak in the city? But if you want a strip steak, a filet mignon or lamb chops, there may be some as good, but none better. In addition their Italian food is exceptional.
Smith & Wollensky — The steaks, fish and crab cakes are as good as any and better than most. They also have Danny Collins, likely the most personable waiter in the city and a huge fan of harness racing.
Mastro’s — Great steaks and everything else. Their lobster mashed potatoes alone are worth making the trip. They also have a trio playing on weekend nights which adds to the enjoyment and atmosphere. Their warm butter cake might just well be the best dessert to be found in the city.
For the others, in my opinion you can throw them all in a hat and chances are you won’t go wrong, they include but certainly are not limited to:
Benjamin’s, Keens, Old Homestead, Gallaghers, Delmonicos, Bobby Van’s, Del Frisco, Mark Joseph, The Strip House, Frankie & Johnnies, Sparks, Porter House, Peter Lugers (despite the terrible NY Times review), The Palm, Quality Meats, Maloney & Porcelli, Wolfgang’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris.
New York City Lower Priced
Le Relais de Venise — Pretty much the same as Montreal’s l’Entrecote St Jean, and Toronto’s Le Barotin. One all-inclusive menu — a small rib steak with their mustard sauce, frites and a salad. They are all modeled after a small chain in Paris which I believe is called l”entrecôte. Le Relais de Venise has the nicest ambience of them all.
Donohues Steak House — It’s been around and has been run by the same family since 1950. It is supposedly frequented by a varied list of people including just plain folks and some of the most well-known celebrities in the world. They have a very diverse menu which includes a lot of old time foods rarely found on New York menus such as Yankee Pot Roast.
P J Clarke’s — Not exactly lower priced, but not priced anywhere near those high-end ones above. The original on 3rd Avenue is worth a visit for the ambience alone. It’s one of the oldest in the city. I’ve never been there when it wasn’t crowded. But I’ve never waited long for a table. They are most famous for their burgers which are among the best anywhere. Their steaks are pretty darn good, as well. They have a tremendously busy bar scene. Here’s an interesting tidbit. The place was owned by long time Billy Haughton patron John Lavezzo and his brother. It still might be owned by their family.