They’re not just restaurants, they’re houses of worship
20) Cattleman’s Steakhouse, Fabens, Texas
In Texas, it’s all about the cattle, and you can’t get much closer to the source than at Cattleman’s Steakhouse, just outside El Paso. For 40 years, owner Dieter Gerzymisch has been purchasing fresh meat daily from local ranches and portioning it out on the premises, and it goes without saying that the menu is all about meat, meat, and more meat. There’s the top sirloin, New York strip, filet, and rib-eye, each weighing in at 10 ounces, and then come The Wagon Master, a 1 ¼-pound T-bone, The Cowgirl, a 1 ½-pound T-bone, and finally, The Cowboy, a full 2 pounds of T-bone goodness. Each steak comes with a baked potato, beans, coleslaw, bread, butter, and sour cream, just in case you’re still hungry. Yeah, it may be a little kitschy with its Wild West theme and gift shop, but when it comes to steak, Cattleman’s is the real deal.
19) Mr. B’s, Milwaukee
Paul Bartolotta is a renowned restaurateur, best known for his 20-year-old Bartolotta Ristorante on the Milwaukee outskirts, but he’s proven that he’s mastered the art of steak with his nearby Mr. B’s. At this classic Italian steakhouse, the steaks are aged for up to 35 days, and are flown in fresh from Nebraska or Colorado. Sit out on the patio and go for the 35-day aged Prime Colorado rib-eye; on a gorgeous night with the stars overhead, you just might think you’ve gone to carnivore heaven.
18) Murray’s, Minneapolis
If you’re looking for a classic steakhouse experience and happen to be in the Twin Cities, drop into the recently renovated Murray’s, which has been going strong since 1946. Opened by Art and Marie Murray, the restaurant is still in the family, and many of Marie’s old recipes are still used. Their famed "Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two," a 28-ounce strip loin carved tableside, is one of the country’s great monuments to a well-made steak. Thankfully, the renovation didn’t do away with any of the restaurant’s classic charm (although it thankfully replaced the banquet hall-style pink drapes and chairs), and the classic neon sign is right where it’s always been.
17) Gorat’s, Omaha, Neb.
When Warren Buffett regularly holds court in your restaurant, you know you’ve got a keeper. That’s the case at Omaha landmark Gorat’s, which has been going strong since 1944. It remained in the Gorat family until 2012, when it was purchased and given a renovation, but the quality and preparation of the steak (which comes from — where else — Omaha Steaks) is as good as ever. For the true Buffett experience, do as he does and order the T-bone, rare, with a double order of hash browns and a Cherry Coke.
16) CarneVino, Las Vegas
Powerhouse restaurant duo Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich + steak + Vegas = greatness. CarneVino, their temple to all things beef in The Palazzo Hotel & Casino pulls out all the stops, aging their beef for 30 to 60 days (and in some cases, more than a year — yes, there’s a section of the menu titled "Riserva"), and these steaks can compete with any other offering, anywhere. This "super prime" beef is developed especially for Batali and Bastianich’s restaurant group, and — oh, yeah — this is a Batali restaurant after all, so the pastas and other menu items certainly don’t get short shrift.
15) Oak Steakhouse, Charleston, S.C.
Chef Jeremiah Bacon, who’s spent time in kitchens including New York’s Le Bernardin and Per Se, might have a porky last name, but at his Charleston steakhouse, it’s the beef that’s the star of the show. His dry-aged certified Angus steaks come sizzling on a hot platter (with local shrimp compound butter on top), and while the steak, including a Prime bone-in rib-eye and a New York strip, is certainly the menu’s centerpiece, Bacon brings a farm-to-table approach to the entire menu, with standout dishes like housemade charcuterie, pan-seared sea scallops with smoked grapefruit purée, and a daily rotating seafood selection depending on what’s available at the market that morning.
14) Keens, New York City
Since 1885, this New York institution has done one thing, and done it really, really well: steak. Perfectly charred steaks and chops are served in this shrine to old New York, which is spread over two floors and three townhouses. Before you’re even served your expertly cooked, gigantic dry-aged sirloin, filet mignon, prime rib, porterhouse for two, or porterhouse for three, have a look around. There’s memorabilia from more than 100 years of New York history, including playbills, political cartoons, and photographs, as well as a collection of more than 50,000 pipes, from back when regulars, including Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt, would store theirs there. If you go once, try the steak. If you go twice, try the famous mutton chop, a 26-ounce lamb saddle that’s nearly 2 inches thick and dates back to the restaurant’s earliest days.
13) Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Dallas and Houston
If you’re in Dallas or Houston and you find yourself in need of a perfect steak, a red leather booth, wood-paneled walls, and a wine list that boasts about 2,300 options, head over to Pappas Bros. At this temple to beef, which has repeatedly been lauded as one of the state’s best restaurants since it opened in 1976, the meat is dry-aged in-house, and served bone-in or bone-out. There’s something for everyone, from a 40-ounce Porterhouse carved tableside down to an 8-ounce filet mignon, with stops along the way including an 18-ounce bone-in New York strip and a rib-eye of Texas Akaushi Kobe beef. They’re seasoned with just salt and pepper and finished with some butter, and the entire experience is about as classic steakhouse as you’re likely to find.
12) St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis
Setting foot into St. Elmo is like stepping back in time, to 1902 to be exact. The saloon-style décor hasn’t changed save for a '90s-era expansion, and neither has the menu: there’s a wide selection of wet-aged steaks and chops, surf and turf, a classic shrimp cocktail with sinus-clearing cocktail sauce and saltines, a wedge salad, and a loaded baked potato, all served with the professionalism you’d expect from a place that’s been doing it for more than 100 years (one waiter has been on-staff since 1976). St. Elmo is steakhouse-meets-comfort food, an inviting place where time really stands still. That commitment to keeping the past alive doesn’t mean that quality suffers, however; the menu proudly displays the names of 17 local sources for the food served.
11) House of Prime Rib, San Francisco
Since 1949, the House of Prime Rib, one of San Francisco’s most legendary and perpetually packed restaurants, has focused on one menu item, and done it very, very well. Giant prime ribs are aged for 21 days, roasted in a salt crust, rolled (yes, rolled) in a stainless steel cart to your table and carved to your specifications, and served with salad, mashed or baked potato, creamed spinach, and a Yorkshire pudding. And that’s it. Sure, there’s a token fish dish, but you come here for the prime rib and the dessert cart or you don’t come at all.
10) Barclay Prime, Philadelphia
Sure, this Stephen Starr steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square might boast a selection of as many as seven different steak knives and a $100 Wagyu rib-eye and foie gras cheesesteak that comes with a half-bottle of Perrier-Jouët, but that doesn’t mean it’s gimmicky. Described as a "luxury boutique steakhouse" on its website, the restaurant replaces red leather with green and yellow suede, a clubby soundtrack, and slightly incongruous crystal chandeliers. While the setting is undoubtedly 21st century, the menu is as classic as can be: steaks are dry-aged for 28 days, and their rib-eye, from Gachot & Gachot, is arguably the best steak in the city, with world-class service to boot. Don’t forget to order the shrimp cocktail; these monsters come four to a pound.
9) Jess & Jim’s, Kansas City, Mo.
In a town known for great steak, Jess & Jim’s stands apart from the pack, and did so even before Calvin Trillin put it on the map in 1972, when he named it one of the country’s best steakhouses in Playboy. Family owned and operated since 1938, this no-frills, casual steakhouse is no pomp, and all steak. The beef is from Wichita-based Sterling Silver, and is hand-cut daily (trimmings are ground into meat for world-class burgers). It’s served completely seasoning-free, all the better to taste the meat in its unadorned glory. You could go for the KC Strip, a cut that this restaurant helped to popularize, but you might as well go all out and order the Playboy Strip, named in honor of the publication that helped make this place famous, a 2-inch-thick, 25-ounce sirloin. Save room for the twice-baked potato.
8) Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, New Orleans
This French Quarter power broker staple is located in a clubby, basement-level space, and is a regular hangout for the city’s wheelers and dealers and high-rollers. With a swanky bar and six private dining rooms, Dickie Brennan’s serves USDA Prime steaks with a creative New Orleans twist; the 6-ounce House Filet is topped with fried oysters and béarnaise sauce, the Barbecue Rib-Eye is topped with Abita beer barbecue shrimp, and any steak can be topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or Danish blue cheese. That’s not to say that you should avoid unadorned steaks; the 16-ounce strip is seared in a cast-iron skillet, and just might be New Orleans’ finest steak.
7) Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Chicago
If you were to close your eyes and try to imagine what a 24 year-old steakhouse in downtown Chicago called Gibsons would be like, you’d probably hit the nail right on the head: red leather booths, wood paneling, martinis, high rollers, flawless service, giant steaks, and lobster tails. The USDA Prime steak served here is second to none, and the old-fashioned menu of steakhouse classics includes spicy lobster cocktail in a steamed artichoke, wedge salad, and classic cuts of beef including a few uncommon ones, like a bone-in filet mignon, London broil Bordelaise with roasted bone marrow, and the 22-ounce W.R’s Chicago Cut, a mammoth bone-in rib-eye. If you’re looking to dine here, make sure you call well in advance; reservations are hard to come by. And while the website states that jeans are OK, we’d advise wearing something a little more suited to the upscale surroundings.
6) Killen’s Steakhouse, Pearland, Texas
Even though it might look like a roadhouse from the outside, once you set foot inside the surprisingly elegant Killen’s Steakhouse, you’ll know that you’re in for a world-class steakhouse experience. Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Ronnie Killen opened the restaurant in the outskirts of Houston in 2006, and it’s since been hailed as one of the top steakhouses in the state by innumerable publications. It’s one of the few restaurants in the country that has separate menu sections for wet-aged and dry-aged steaks, which are sourced from Allen Brothers in Chicago and Strube Ranch in Pittsburg, Texas, and options include a 34-ounce dry-aged long bone-in rib-eye, a Mishima center-cut filet, and even a chicken-fried sirloin. As another nod to the Lone Star State, the menu also includes fried chicken, jumbo fried Gulf shrimp, and smoked pork and black-eyed pea gumbo. Be sure to save room for the crème brûlée bread pudding, which Food & Wine Magazine named one of the top 10 dishes in the United States in 2008.
5) Kevin Rathbun Steak, Atlanta
Located in up-and-coming Inman Park in a former Clorox factory, Kevin Rathbun’s steakhouse is part of an empire that also includes Rathbun’s and Krog Bar, all located on the same street. At his spacious, whimsically appointed steakhouse, Rathbun is serving steakhouse classics like escargots, seafood towers, dry-aged porterhouse for two and three, a 22-ounce cowboy rib-eye, and 16-ounce New York strips, but there’s also a wide selection of items that you don’t see on most steakhouse menus, like Coca-Cola baby back pork ribs, eggplant fries, lobster fritters, ahi tuna poke, and Asian-style meatballs. If you go twice, order whatever you like. But if you go once, get the steak; we’d recommend that cowboy rib-eye.
4) Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Oklahoma City
Not to be confused with Cattleman’s Steakhouse down in Texas or any of the other restaurants with the same name across the country, this 103-year-old gem is Oklahoma City’s oldest continually operating restaurant, and is located right in the heart of the city’s famed Stockyards City. The no-frills temple to the noble steer is as popular with cowboy-hatted locals as it is with former President George H. W. Bush when he’s in town, and one look at what’s on everybody’s plate — beef, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — will tell you what this place is all about, as will the giant illuminated photo of grazing cattle along the back wall. The beef here is sourced locally, aged "according to a closely guarded house secret," the website says, portioned out on-premises, broiled under an intense charcoal fire, and served with natural jus. Go for the T-bone after your appetizer of lamb fries (don’t be afraid, they’re good), and finish it off with a slice of homemade pie. Now that’s a country steak dinner we can love.
3) Peter Luger, New York City
When you sit down at your table at the perpetually packed Peter Luger, located in an off-the-beaten-path corner of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, don’t ask for a menu. Just order the tomato and onion salad, some thick-cut bacon, creamed spinach, hash browns, and the steak for three, a massive porterhouse, broiled under extreme heat before being sliced and presented on a platter. Sure, the waitstaff might be a bit gruff in this surprisingly casual German-styled old steakhouse that’s been here since 1887, but that’s all a part of the show. The star attraction, the steak, is the best you’ll find in New York City. It’s dry-aged and butchered on-premises, and when it’s presented, in all its crusty, well-marbled, beefy glory, your jaw will drop. Use the house steak sauce to douse the onions and tomatoes (don’t let it anywhere near the steak), and be prepared to drop a wad of cash on the table before leaving — no credit cards accepted here, big spender.
2) Bern’s, Tampa, Fla.
Don’t come to Bern’s if you're on a diet. Bern's is about wonderful excess. There are 20 kinds of caviar on the menu of this big, old-style, legendary establishment; also two preparations of foie gras, two kinds of steak tartare (one with truffles), oysters three ways, endless varieties of fish and shellfish, 16 different cheeses both domestic and imported, nearly 50 desserts (including gluten- and sugar-free varieties) — served upstairs in a special dessert room — and a list of about 7,000 wines (5,500 of them red). Oh, and did we mention steaks? Seven different cuts, in a total of 51 different sizes (from 6 ounces of filet mignon to 60 ounces of strip sirloin), broiled to eight different temperatures, from very rare ("no crust, cold and raw") to, gulp, well-done ("sturdy little crust, no color, no juice, dried out"). Come hungry.
1) Cut, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Wolfgang Puck helped invent California cuisine (and gave us California-style pizza) at Spago, pioneered Asian fusion food at Chinois on Main, and even figured out a way to produce decent airport food at his many Wolfgang Puck Express outlets, so we shouldn't be surprised that he has also reinvented the steakhouse, with CUT in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (there are now spin-offs in Las Vegas, London, and Singapore). The traditional red leather booths and bucolic paintings have given way to a cool white interior by rationalist architect Richard Meier and a series of pieces by conceptual artist John Baldessari. In place of iceberg wedges and grilled swordfish, look for warm veal tongue with baby artichokes and roast Maine lobster with black truffle sabayon. Oh, and the steaks? Not the usual four or five choices, but a total of 17 cuts and places of origin, from Australian filet mignon to Illinois bone-in New York sirloin to genuine Japanese Wagyu rib-eye from Miyazaki Prefecture. Puck has reinvented the steakhouse experience at CUT, and what he’s done is nothing short of mind-blowing.