RESTAURANT REVIEW: Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn, NY

Peter Luger Steak House, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, is a New York institution. The location dates back to 1887, fifteen years before the opening of the nearby Williamsburg Bridge. Originally named  “Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley,” Peter owned the establishment while his nephew Carl ran the kitchen. Peter Luger died in 1941 and the restaurant subsequently declined until it closed in 1950 and was put up for auction. The winning bid was from one of the restaurant’s loyal patrons, Sol Forman, who was disappointed he had to find a new location to have lunch with clients after dining at Peter Luger for the previous 25 years.

The restaurant has been managed by the Forman family ever since. Peter Luger Steak House has been named “Best Steakhouse in New York” by the Zagat survey for the last 30 years and has a Michelin star.

Even though Sharon and I both grew up in the New York area, we never managed to eat at Peter Luger before we moved to Florida. Mainly because this wasn’t the type of place we’d try to visit back then. We decided to rectify that on a quick weekend trip when we had no other plans.

Making Reservations

Peter Luger Steak House has two locations, the original in Brooklyn and a second location in Great Neck, which is on Long Island. Our experience is with the Brooklyn location.

You can try to make a reservation online at the Peter Luger Steak House website. Reservations open up 6 weeks in advance. If you can’t find space online, they do hold back some seating for phone reservations, so you can try to call them at (718) 387-7400 for parties of 10 or less. If you’re feeling lucky, walk-in diners are welcome based on limited availability. There were no walk-ins being accepted when we were there.

“No show” reservations made online will be subject to a $40 per person fee if, and only if, the booking is not canceled within 24 hours of the reservation date and time.

When I booked, I was a bit lax on checking and missed the 6-week mark by a few days. I was looking for either Saturday night or Sunday lunch. By the time I checked, Saturday was booked solid but I did manage to snag a lunch reservation for Sunday.

Here are the hours of operation:

  • Monday – Thursday – 11:45 AM – 9:45 PM (last seating)
  • Friday and Saturday – 11:45 AM – 10:45 PM (last seating)
  • Sunday – 12:45 PM – 9:45 PM (last seating)

Peter Luger doesn’t mention a dress code and their website doesn’t have a FAQ. We reached out to a friend who’s dined there before and he told us the dress code was casual. Not wanting to show up at a pricey steakhouse in a t-shirt and jeans, we wore what we’d usually wear to a nicer restaurant. I went with a dress shirt and Dockers and Sharon wore a nice blouse and slacks. We fit in just fine. Some people were better dressed than us, but many guests were wearing whatever they wanted.

The Restaurant and Checking In

Getting to the restaurant wasn’t very hard. We took the J train from Wall Street to Marcy Ave. and from there it was only a 5 min walk to Peter Luger. We just needed to head in the direction of the sign on the side of the nearby building.

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Walking through the front door, you’re immediately in the bar area.

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PC: Peter Luger Steak House

The large wood bar takes up a majority of the space available. It was not this empty when we visited. Working our way through the crowd, we made it up to the host stand/cashier. I gave our name to the host, who found my name on the list and marked us as there. We had arrived about 20 minutes early so we found a seat at the bar and checked out the manual cash register and the oversized beer steins.

The Dining Room and Our Meal

Just around our twenty minute wait time until our reservation, the maître d’ called our name and showed us to our table. We were seated in the dining room to the left of the bar. This room has a wall filled with large windows along the street so during lunchtime there was an abundance of natural light filling the room. In retrospect, it was probably too much light entering the room as instead of feeling cozy it just felt, well, it felt barren.

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PC: Peter Luger Steak House

The room has dark wood floors and some paneling on the walls but the windows make the bare wood tabletops and flimsy chairs stand out way too much. I just felt like it was a really fancy diner and not a legendary steakhouse and when you’re living up to an image, first impressions do matter.

Upon seating, we were presented with our menus. If you had any questions what you are having, you’re having steak.

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Our waiter promptly arrived at our table and after seeing we already had drinks, said he’d be right back with some bread and water (tap, still or sparking). It’s NYC, so we said that tap would be fine.

The bread basket had a variety of choices and plenty for two people

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This was going to be our only regular meal for the day so we decided to get an appetizer of the sliced tomatoes with Luger’s Own sauce (for two). ($15.95)

I was a little surprised when all this consisted of was one large sliced Beefsteak tomato with a gravy bowl full of Luger’s Own sauce (which tastes a lot like cocktail sauce, IMHO)

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For the main course, we ordered the steak for two ($109.90) and a side of fresh broccoli (for two). ($10.95) After receiving the appetizer and seeing that would not fill us up for the day, we added an order of the French Fried Potatoes (For Two) ($12.95)

All the steaks at Peter Luger Steak House are Porterhouses to serve two to four people. The steak was impressive and arrived pre-sliced on a sizzling hot plate. Our waiter served the first two pieces to us, with each of us getting a cut of the sirloin and one of the tenderloin.

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All of the steaks at Peter Luger’s are dry-aged on site before serving. They don’t reveal how long the steaks are aged or the temperature or humidity levels they are stored (must be an ancient, family secret).

Our sides of broccoli and french fries arrived at the same time.

 

It made for quite an appealing dinner, ahem lunch, when we finished plating everything for ourselves.

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The steak was a perfectly prepared Medium Rare, with a crispy crust and a pink, tender inside. For a dry-aged steak, I found a bit too much fat still remained along the edges of some slices and there were even bits of gristle that I needed to discard and leave on the plate. Not something I should need to do with a $100+ piece of meat.

I know that might be picky but I’m not comparing this to Outback Steakhouse. I’m comparing it to the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had some great steaks, like every time we travel to Bern’s Steak House in Tampa.

The french fries were fantastic. Like fries that were cooked in oil that hasn’t been changed for a long time (when that’s a good thing and not a rancid oil thing).

The broccoli was unfortunately boring. It was just a stalk of steamed broccoli. I could do the same in a steamer bag in our microwave at home.

Did we finish the meal? Heck yeah, we did! While I thought we’d be bringing some steak home, we managed to eat every single piece. We did leave some of the broccoli behind.

After dinner, we decided to skip dessert. We were a bit full and decided to walk around Brooklyn a bit and try to find somewhere for some ice cream, which we did and it was awesome!!

Once you get the check, there’s one more thing to be aware of. Peter Luger does not accept credit cards. Accepted forms of payment are the Peter Luger Card, US checks with ID, US debit cards and cash.

Final Thoughts

After tax and tip, how was our $200+ lunch at Peter Luger Steak House? In Sharon’s words, “It was ‘aight’.” I’d tend to agree with her. The meal wasn’t bad, far from it. The steak was very good, if not great. Not the greatest we’ve ever had but better than most. The decor was a definite negative for both of us. It didn’t feel old in a welcoming way, but more in we’ve never renovated the place in the last 70 years kinda way. We’ve been to old bars and restaurants and this one didn’t keep any of that kinda vibe.

I also can’t help but feel the prices don’t match the total package. Our waiter, while dressed all in white, seemed to belong at a hip place selling smoked bourbon and charcuterie platters than an upscale steakhouse. I also couldn’t help feeling like we were being rushed through our meal. From seating, ordering, appetizers, dinner, and getting the check, we were at the table for 75 minutes. I know it’s a busy place and you need to turn tables but it’s an art to do that and not let the guests know you’re doing it. Peter Luger Steak House hasn’t perfected this yet. Maybe if we give them another 125 years, they’ll get it down pat.

I’m glad we went to Peter Luger Steak House. It’s an NYC classic. An Institution. A Landmark. Now we’ve been, I don’t feel a need to go back. There are plenty of other places where we can spend $200 for a steak lunch/dinner and get the same or better experience for our money. Just goes to show that no matter the Zagat Reviews or Michelin stars, Your Mileage May Vary. 

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “RESTAURANT REVIEW: Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn, NY”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. We were somewhat disappointed with this place given it’s reputation. Very pricey (which you’d expect) but I didn’t feel the quality warranted it. I got the distinct impression they are coasting on their reputation and most guests are tourists. No need to go back.

  2. Just like everything in NYC overrated and over hyped. Used to live in NYC and could not stand then how self centered the people are. They actually believe the world revolves around them. How everything in NYC is better then anywhere else on earth. That is until they move somewhere else and realize life is better in most other places on earth.

  3. Your review resonated with me on so many levels, Joe.

    As a native Brooklynite who never patronized this establishment, I returned to New York one day to sample the the fare from this venerable institution — and I arrived at conclusions which were similar to yours and Sharon’s. Some people believe that gristle and fat are part of the steakhouse experience; but I prefer my steak to be lean.

    “It’s NYC, so we said that tap would be fine.” My sentiments exactly, as I imparted about New York City tap water in this review of a Kosher delicatessen which has since closed:

    https://thegate.boardingarea.com/review-bens-best-kosher-delicatessen-in-rego-park-new-york/

    “I know that might be picky but I’m not comparing this to Outback Steakhouse. I’m comparing it to the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had some great steaks, like every time we travel to Bern’s Steak House in Tampa.” You have every right to be picky when paying $109.90 for steak; but I do not necessarily completely agree with your assessment of Bern’s Steak House, as I have reviewed it myself:

    https://thegate.boardingarea.com/review-berns-steak-house-tampa/

    “The french fries were fantastic. Like fries that were cooked in oil that hasn’t been changed for a long time (when that’s a good thing and not a rancid oil thing).” My late uncle — who grew up in Coney Island — had similar sentiments during the last time he visited Nathan’s Famous and had their thick-cut French fries, which are some of the best fries in the world, in my opinion. Even better is that they are significantly less expensive than those at Peter Luger’s.

    “The broccoli was unfortunately boring. It was just a stalk of steamed broccoli. I could do the same in a steamer bag in our microwave at home.” Exactly. I would never pay $10.95 for a few stalks of broccoli — or for that matter, $15.95 for a sliced tomato and sauce or $12.95 for fries. Instead of ordering the side items and the appetizer, I would head to Carvel for some dessert if I were still hungry — again, significantly less expensive — or go for the ice cream which you went for after lunch. I have an unwritten rule: never spend an exorbitant amount of money on something you can have at home for a substantial fraction of the price. A classic example is that stupid wedge of lettuce steakhouses sell. I can get a couple of whole heads of iceberg lettuce, dressing, and water to rinse the lettuce off for what some of these steakhouses charge — and the product is no different than what you can enjoy at home.

    Anyway, thank you for the review.

  4. Berns/Tampa; you’ve got to be kidding; that place was the most overrated Steakhouse, ever! Shifting from room to room; doesn’t do it for me; Steak was Meh, at best; certainly, NOT Luger quality; P L E A S E

  5. Ugh, the vegetables are a huge fail. Very bland and uninspired. Also, the dirty menu is kinda icky. I live in Brooklyn and have been to PL’s once and don’t ever need to go back. I was not a fan of the atmosphere.

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