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