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Keen's Steakhouse - Don't Go!!!!

  • j

So last night I went out with a couple buddies for steak. We normally hit up the standards (Luger, Wolfgang's, Sparks, Strip House) all with their merits. Last night we decided to branch out. I had heard some good reports about Keen's so we made a reservation and went.

The room as fine and the service was acceptable (which is about all I would expect from a steakhouse), but the food was horrible - it was actually embarassing I thought for the price. We started with a crab dip, tomato and onion, and shrimp cocktail. The shrimp was fine although they are about 60% of the size you would get at one of the other steakhouses. The tomato and onion was pathetic. It was 5 small pieces of tomato and one tiny piece of onion. We actually had to ask for additional onion. The final straw was the crab dip. It was relatively tasteless, but the kicker was that they served it with Triscuits - yes, Triscuits. I cannot believe that we were served Triscuits when paying pretty close to $100 per person. The steak was mediocre at best. We had a porterhouse for 3 that lacked pretty much any hint of taste.

For the amount of money and calories that it will cost you at Keen's, do it right and go to Luger, Wolfgangs or Sparks.

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  1. What about for prime rib? I heard they were tops. If not, please somebody suggest a place, I'm jonesing for a big bloody prime rib which you can't find at most of the standard steak houses.

    2 Replies
    1. re: guttergourmet

      The prime rib has always been great there, although i haven't ordered it recently (i usually get: oysters, a tomato salad, asparagus, and lamb chops)...and overall, i'm surprised by the OP's review...i've never had a bad meal at Keen's...(but nor have i ordered crab dip)...the tomato salads i've had in the past were quite good, although the one w/ stilton could use more stilton...the small batch bourbon selection is the best in NYC...and the room/building has more old-NY atmosphere than any NYC steakhouse hands down...

      1. re: Simon

        Same here, I have always stuck with steak and mutton and they have always been great. I think at Keens if you pretty much stick to meat and potatoes you should do very well.

    2. The prime rib might be good, but just don't order any appetizers or sides!

      1. muttonchop at keen's rocks!

        1 Reply
        1. re: byrd

          according to frank bruni, the "mutton" chop is actually lamb, not sheep! but highly recommended nonetheless.

          read the full review here: http://events.nytimes.com/2005/12/14/...

        2. Lamb and not sheep? What is the difference?

          1. Lamb is baby sheep...nobody eats full grown tough gnarly sheep in the US anymore...the mutton (lamb) chop at Keen's is supposed to be their specialty so that's what I would get if I went there. Actually, some ethnic communities might be eating mutton but I have heard the term used for goat meat (in India) so who knows what that stuff is in the halal butcher shops in Jamaica...

            4 Replies
            1. re: kenito799

              I’m so surprised at the original posters review. Maybe they were just having an "off" night or something. I've been there more then once (even for take out!) and never had one bad meal there. That being said, I haven’t been there at all this year, so (as we all know) things could of changed.

              Thanks for the info regarding sheep, lamb and Mutton kenito799. Its fascinating the things you can learn here.

              1. re: kenito799

                In Australia I learned that up until 1 year old, it's lamb, from one to two years it's "two-tooth lamb", and older than two years its mutton. Maybe the restaurant is using animals that are in the 1-2 year old range. Considered pretty muttony in this part of the world where "lamb" is usually less than 9 mos. old

                1. re: kenito799

                  Keen's "mutton chop" is, by their own admission, saddle of lamb. Frank Bruni of the NYTimes tracked down the story when he rereviewed the restaurant a couple of years ago.


                  1. re: kenito799

                    it's goat, always goat when eating desi (pakistani or indian) food...

                  2. That is really surprising. I've never had anything but top-notch food at Keen's, and the shrimp cocktail is my all-time favorite.

                    Is it possible much of the staff is on vacation?

                    1. I've been there many times during lunch as my office was in the area (and not much other options). With a large group, the service could be slow. But I always thought all the dishes were top quality.

                      1. I don't know what was going on or who was on vacation, but a steakhouse should be able to put together a good tomato and onion salad (with more than one small piece of onion). And the triscuits? Does anyone else think that is absurd? I guess we should not have ordered the crab dip, but serving Triscuits is offensive IMHO.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: john

                          What's offensive about it? My group ordered that dish last time and nobody was offended. We all enjoyed it.

                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                            I agree with you in that there is nothing offensive about Triscuits per se; however, triscuits at a restaurant where you are paying a fairly high price?

                            To me it speaks of lack of attention to detail, carelessness and even laziness. They wouldn't lose me as a customer over that, but had I been unlucky enough to order the dish that came with the triscuits, I would have definitely communicated to the waiter my thoughts about it and demanded a change.

                            When I'm paying more, I demand more.

                            1. re: maria_nyc

                              First, let me say that I enjoy dining at Keens and have always found the food to be well-prepared and delicious.

                              I don't see the connection between serving a cracker, in this case Triscuits, with a dip and the cost of dining at Keens. And I think you are way off base when you say that it indicates "lack of attention to detail, carelessness and even laziness." How exactly is serving a particular cracker careless or lazy?

                              I think you need to keep in mind that this is not a haute cuisine restaurant; it's a steakhouse, and an old-fasioned one at that. Their crudites dish which has carrot and celery sticks, olives and radishes, along with a blue cheese dip, is quite plain and very retro. Do you think they should drop that in favor of a creative "amuse" composed of expensive ingredients?

                              1. re: RGR

                                If I were buying dip from a street vendor, or even my corner diner then I might understand and even justify the triscuits.

                                However, Keens is not an inexpensive diner, or even an inexpensive steak house at that, so I expect more from them.

                                Being old-fashioned is one thing, serving supermarket crackers as an accompaniment to an appetizer is quite another.

                                Your reference to crudites is not really comparable as in that case at least some effort is put in washing, and cutting the vegetables.

                                If you read my post then you know that I like Keens, and I'll continue to go. However, that doesn't mean I agree with you that serving triscuits is the wisest choice for them.

                        2. I love Keens, their prime rib is awesome. I've had it medium and it's wonderful. The wait staff can be really pretentious especially to younger diners like myself (i'm 21 and my bf is 24), cuz they are more of a businessmen type of place. But I still love their food anyway! :) I've their tomato salad or crab dip cuz that's not what i'm going to a steakhouse for so i'm not going to rate them on those things. STEAK IS GREAT!

                          1. Yeah, like Maria_nyc mentioned, if I'm going to an upscale place, I'd certainly expect something better then Triscuits.

                            Now if I was going to some cheap, no frills steak house, I would probably understand the Triscuits.

                            1. I'm not a big fan of Keen's, i've been over a dozen times since the senior partner in my firm loves it. That said, their lamb chops are above average.

                              Serving triscuit's is fine by me if they're appropriate for the dish. This is a plce that doesn't bake its own bread or offer any other type of cracker, so if they've discovered that triscuit's happen to work best with their dip, that's fine. They do provide you with a nice bread basket, and the previously mentioned crudite platter, which you can dip into your crab dip if you're so inclined. But then, I'm not pretentious about stuff like that.

                              1. I never had a bad meal at Keens and I am surprised at this post. As others have noted, the mutton is amazing and the steak--although not in the same class as Sparks, Lugars, Del Frisco's, etc.--is quite good as well. Keens also has, IMO, one of the best bacon cheeseburgers in the city.

                                1. You must have been having a bad day, as Keen's is the BEST steak house in NYC.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: judefood

                                    I met a buddy in the bar at Keen's a couple of days ago. After a few drinks, I asked if we could be seated in the pub room. The woman I was speaking with could not have been friendlier, more polite or more accommodating.

                                    We were seated in the pub room within ten minutes (about 8:30pm on a weeknight with no reservation).

                                    My friend and I both had the pub menu mutton which was ridiculously flavorful. We also had the smoked salmon appetizer and the roasted cauliflower as a side.

                                    Overall, I can't find a single negative thing to say about the experience.


                                    1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                                      I do have to concur that we've consistently gotten the warmest, most accommodating service at Keens.

                                      We've dined there three times this year, twice for steak and once for burgers at the bar. Loved it twice, came away somewhat disappointed the third time. We'll go back.

                                  2. The OP clearly didn't enjoy his meal at Keens, and he certainly should be free to share his views. But I find his post to be so over-the-top hyperbolic that it totally lacks credibility to me. Most of us who know Keens know it to be a terrific place. But there's no place anywhere that everyone's gonna enjoy. I have an inkling that john and his buddies won't be back. It's certainly not gonna keep me from going though.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Blumie


                                      The OP was a couple of years ago.

                                      But jfood hit Keens a few weeks ago and was severely disappointed. Here is a link to Keens from jfood's experience. Oysters were great but steak was horrible. Sometimes it's either a bad night, a bad steak or not meeting all the expectations.


                                    2. If I had known you were going I would have strongly rocommended the mutton. That's about the only real good dish in the house and it's the one thing they do that not everybody else does. And I'm with you about the rest of the place. Lincoln's play bill is cool. The rest of the place is just so so.

                                      1. I'm not a big steak eater, but I have learned one thing on Chowhound. In a steak house, stick to the specialty or be disappointed. At Keen's that is mutton chops. At Peter Luger, that is porterhouse. A bad review of a steak house inevitably involves orders of the lesser offering of that restaurant.

                                        1. Since this post is being revived, and people are questioning the OP's credibility, I'll just jump in and say that my own experience was just as horrible.

                                          I don't mind packaged crackers in some instances. Oyster crackers, or even those individually wrapped salteens can be perfectly fine in the right context.
                                          I don't condone parbaked bread that's been refrozen, and ice chips on the previously frozen wrapped butter. Not at those prices, and not for a *fine* steakhouse. Like many older establishments, they do not appear to use fresh ingredients.

                                          I wish I had seen this post before trying Keens, probably about a year or two after the OP had. I still read gushing reviews and find it all very curious. On top of it, the meat itself was of unacceptable quality, overcooked with tough fat running through it, and the management was unapologetic.

                                          My preference in the past has been the Strip House, in large part due to their sides...but my experiences aren't recent ones.

                                            1. re: guttergourmet

                                              i cant see how anyone could hate keens...i just dont believe the op.

                                              keens is my favorite steakhouse period.

                                              1. re: sam1

                                                I, too, can't imagine how anyone could not love Keens. The food is seriously delicious, and the old New York ambiance is unmatchable.

                                            2. I have a huge problem with a post that says "Don't Go!!!!" about a restaurant, then offers as flimsy a reason as this. How about something like, "Keen's Steakhouse -- Disappointing Appetizers," which would be more to the point? Then I could read your criticism and decide for myself whether it's major enough to chase me away. "Don't Go!!!!" implies something dire, like health code violations. I'm disappointed that this has been allowed to linger for this long.

                                              13 Replies
                                              1. re: Hinterlander

                                                I'm just curious if in your opinion there is a side, appetizer, or anything besides the meat which you would say is top notch, and some of the best in the city? That may not even be your personal criteria for a steakhouse, but I do wonder what you found remarkable?

                                                It doesn't take a health violation to warn someone if they feel a place is a rip off.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  You want to know what is great there besides the meat (which is the main reason WHY you go to a steaskhouse)? I have a few for me....

                                                  1. French fries- Ask for them well done and I think they are some of the best I have ever had.

                                                  2. Creamed spinach- They make one of the tops in any steakhouse I have been.
                                                  3. Great mushrooms sauteed with onions.
                                                  4. Roasted carrots in brown butter.
                                                  5. Great desserts- Hot fudge sundae, bananas foster, blueberry cobbler (when they have it), coffee cantata.

                                                  Hope this helps....

                                                  1. re: steakrules85

                                                    I agree that the creamed spinach and the carrots in brown butter are first-rate. The hash browns and the asparagus are not too shabby either. As for dessert, just thinking of the seriously delicioius coffee cantata, our favorite dessert there, is making my mouth water.

                                                    1. re: RGR

                                                      I know you love Keens just like me RGR. In fact, I really haven't had anything bad there. The only things that were somewhat disappointing were the mashed potatoes which were rather pedestrian, and the lobster salad was kinda paltry and not worth price. Other than that everything is great at Keens.

                                                      I see that they added King Crab Legs as as appetizer and are featuring their roasted cauliflower now which I always wanted to try. Looks like they added some new desserts as well such as a meringue, and some cilled fruit soup with fruit sorbets.

                                                    2. re: steakrules85

                                                      I never posted about my dinner at Keen's, but wanted to mention the following. I had read mixed reviews of the hashbrowns, so when I was there, I mentioned to the waiter that I'd heard that sometimes they were great, and sometimes not so great. He replied that if I didn't like them, he'd bring the french fries instead. And, indeed, I thought the hashbrowns were decidedly mediocre that evening, and the french fries he brought us were delicious.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        Yes, and the staff is awesome as evidenced by that request.

                                                        1. re: steakrules85

                                                          Yes, our waiter was lovely. We had a very amusing exchange w/ him as our Swiss guest ordered a "Martini". The waiter kept asking how he wanted it, and I finally realized he wanted just Vermouth!

                                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                                          Instead of the plain hash browns at Keen's next time order the prime rib hash-hash browns with bits of prime rib and a fried egg on top. mmmmmmmmmm.

                                                          1. re: guttergourmet

                                                            Agreed. i recently advocated the same in a recent post. Some felt the fact that the prime rib is done well in the hash would not be a good contrast for a medium-rare steak. I, for one, think its one of their best sides.

                                                        3. re: steakrules85

                                                          I agree you want a great steak when you go to a steakhouse, but it's not like the rest of the meal is inconsequential, which is why I asked.

                                                          Out of that list, I've had the creamed spinach which I found subpar, with barely any cream. It's possible they brought us the wrong spinach, but either way, it was almost all stems, and bitter beyond belief. Oh well. I do wish I had the same experience everyone else has had there. It's a neat room.

                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                            I did think that the lobster appetizer was awfully good.

                                                        4. re: sugartoof

                                                          I didn't say I found anything remarkable. Didn't even address that. My point was instead of posting "Dont Go!!!!" just state what the problem was, then I'll decide for myself whether or not I want to go. Posting "Don't Go!!!!" makes it seems like there's something dire rather than a disappointing dish.

                                                          1. re: Hinterlander

                                                            I think the OP did more than just post "don't go"....and while I will probably never go back to Keen's, it was still interesting to read responses about dishes people had found remarkable. That was more helpful to me in understanding the appeal than previous posts I had read about the place.

                                                      2. As mentioned many times, the 'mutton chop' is stellar. I'll similarly vouch for the hash.

                                                        Additionally, their bloody mary's are perhaps some of the most charismatic in the city, though I feel bad ordering them during the after work rush because it takes the bartender off the line for too long.

                                                        Unable to specifically defend ordered items, which are admittedly steakhouse standards, and shrugging at the onion/tomato thing, Keen's still deserves a visit for its perhaps less conventional but wholly rewarding food.

                                                        1. I know the original post is now three years old, but I have gone to Keen's several times over the past 10 years. Verdict: some of the best steak in NY. Prime dry aged. I honestly don't understand how you could claim that a prime dry aged porterhouse had any hint of taste. That escapes me. Hash browns are subpar, but the steak is one of the best in Manhattan.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: steakman55

                                                            With three years of hindsight, I would agree both the title and the wording of the original post were a bit strong; however, I standby my overall account of the evening. While I understand people love Keen's, we had a bad evening. Not all steaks are created equal and I have had some fantastic ones at Peter Luger and some pretty sad looking ones there as well. On the night in question, we had a pretty bad one at Keen's at it was my only data point. I don't really remember the sides - but, they were probably pretty good. The apps, though, were disgusting. How hard is it to get some big juicy tomatoes and decent sized shrimp? Just got to Chelsea Market...

                                                            I thought I should at least defend myself a bit!

                                                            1. re: john


                                                              Really no need to "defend" yourself. After all, that was *your* experience, and you told it the way you saw it. I, for one, won't fault you for that.

                                                              Since all steaks are not created exactly equal, it certainly is possible for even a restaurant of Keens high caliber to serve one that is occasionally below par. It's unfortunate that you got stuck with one of those on your first visit, and so you were understandably left with a less than positive impression.

                                                              The shrimp cocktail is one of our favorite ways to start our meals at Keens. While they do vary in size to some degree, none of those we've been served has ever been puny.

                                                              Looking at the date of your original post, I see you were there in August. I do agree with you that in the height of the summer vegetable season, there is absolutely no excuse for being served anything less than, as you put it, "big, juicy" tomatoes,

                                                              1. re: RGR

                                                                I went to Keens five years ago w/a client. A co-worker and I ordered a 5 lb lobster to share. Our food came out and on my co-workers plate were 2 tiny claws and some bits of tail meat. I asked where my 1/2 was and they pointed to my co-workers plate and said that was it. Since I was with a client, I didnt make a fuss but there was no way in hell that lobster was 5 pounds. Besides the lobster disaster, the food was ok. I will NEVER EVER go back there- so MANY better places in NYC.

                                                          2. I would say it's not the BEST of the steakhouses, but it does have a mean prime rib, and the mutton chop does rock.

                                                            However, it's the BEST for lunch. Hit the bar. All regulars. Order a scotch and the filet skewers. Always smart.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: chrispypanfry

                                                              Now, I really have to try Keen's. Very curious. Esp. about their mutton chops.

                                                              1. re: chrispypanfry

                                                                The other thing I liked about it, for me, is that it didn't seem to have that seriously Alpha Male steakhouse vibe.

                                                              2. Love the Keens.

                                                                Been going there for more years than I care to remember. Still, a plate sometimes just doesn't reach expectations and that's a simple fact of life.

                                                                Not too long ago I mentioned my beef was slightly overcooked. I was responding to the standard waiter speak: "How is everything?"

                                                                Next thing I know I had the waiter, his boss and the manager expressing their apologies. My plate disappeared. In fact all of the plates on my table disappeared only to be replaced in short order with an appropriately cooked rib with fresh sides. All three (waiter, boss, manager) stood at table-side when I took the first taste. It was good.

                                                                It was all good. These guys were really concerned that I got just what I wanted. They stuck around to make sure all things were correct. I've been going to Keens for many years but I was impressed. Further, my wife was impressed.

                                                                I like a restaurant that puts the customer first.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: steve h.

                                                                  I'll share my story again - they served us overcooked meat, with tough unchewable fat running through it (sadly not the nice, juicy good kind of fat). The plate was drowning in juices before we had even cut into it. The manager arrived at our table, not to replace our meal, but to inform us that everything looked jiffy, and tell us nobody had ever complained at Keens before. So, you know, different experiences. It happens.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                    Hi sugartoof,
                                                                    I was just relating an experience I had when things didn't work out at Keens. Bad stuff can happen anywhere. It's up to the house to make the customer whole.