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Mar 30, 2007 08:29 AM

Why are steakhouses so popular? [moved from Boston board]

what is it with this city's fascination with steak houses? I just don't get it. Isn't it the most easily replicated type of dinner at home, especially since you can buy the same cuts of meat from a lot of the restaurants themselves. I just don't get it.

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  1. I'm constantly amazed that visiting business clients often prefer dining at a steakhouse that probably has an outlet in their home city, rather than seeking out some local specialty. We are not yet a nation of Chowhounds, I'm afraid.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      it's the upscale version of eating mcdonald's while visiting paris. it's familiar.

      fleming's is also opening a 2nd location on the waterfront, btw.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I wouldn't assume that every visitor here comes from a place with an upscale steakhouse chain. I've business traveled to plenty of places where the only things around are a Bennigans on the road outside the hotel. For many people this may be their chance to live larger than the Olive Garden. I Agree that it's not adventurous, but convincing a group with whom you work and barely socialize to venture out can be more trouble than the path of least resistance.

      2. I think that for some people, it's more for the change of scenery; in other words, the "going out for steak with friends" part of it is more important than the steak itself, since yes, it would be easy enough to cook the same meal at home. I just wish there were more mid- and low-end steakhouses that had good cuts of meat. I can't justify spending $50 on a steak, no matter how good it is (unless someone else picks up the tab, of course).

        And I totally agree with MC about the lack of adventure on business trips. I guess for some, familiarity is more important. I went on a business trip to San Diego awhile back and it seemed that so many people were hitting the chains (both hi- and low-end) for meals, while I kept sneaking out to Coronado, La Jolla, and Point Loma to find the local joints.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hiddenboston

          I think too for traveling business folks it's consistency. For ex: Flemings in Boston is going to be the same quality as Flemings in Colorado as Flemings in Florida and a menu bound to please the entire group too (not too far out there). You can trust it - must be why chains are doing so well - mid range and high end. Amazed at the up and coming higher end chains - loving em.

          1. re: lexpatti

            I see nothing to love about the homogenization of the restaurant world and the way they're really starting to choke the life out of everything that's independent, unique and soulful about this industry.

            1. re: mao

              but there's still an advantage when you're in a hurry. You don't need to find out if xyz is good when you already know that you like Flemings or Bonefish Grill - personally I agree with you I love independant restaraunts but it takes hit or miss and time/$$$ to find the gems we love.

        2. It is not specific to Boston, most major metropolitan areas in the US suffer from this affliction.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gabatta

            Well, it's not exactly a new thing. Hotel food was once similarly common across nations, even internationally.

            The bulk of business dining is purposefully conventional and not geared towards chowing. That's been that way for many many decades.

          2. I think there are a variety of factors. First guess is that people like steak but are afraid of ruining a good piece of meat, afterall not everyone reads CH or watches Alton Brown or for that matter can cook. Second, nostalgia. Good food prepared in novel ways is not for everyone. Going to a steakhouse might be a comfortable, no surprises kind of place for them. Last, steak houses tend to be middle of the road, with exception of not serving a lot of vegetarian/vegan entrees the steak house usually has something for everyone. It makes it an easy venue when going out with a group.

            1 Reply
            1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

              so true, how many so called friends do we have that call them selves "grill masters" do you want to grab the bbq tools and tell them to go sit down? :-) I can't tell you how dissappointing it is to have someone take a beautiful cut of meat and then ruin it by way of cooking. For all those that at least admit it, go out for a good steak.

            2. I challenge the contention that a good steakhouse meal is easily replicated. Something like 95% of the USDA prime beef in America goes to restaurants and never makes it to the retail market, and where it does, hardly anyone buys it (Savenor's in Beacon Hill sells some, but it's almost as expensive as actually going to Fleming's or Ruth's Chris).

              Add to that the fact that most steak places dry age (Capital Grille, Peter Luger, Morton's) or at least wet age (Ruth's Chris, Flemings) their meat. Do you have an aging cellar in your house?

              And, finally, the ones that make the best steak have 1200 degree broilers which home grills or ovens can't really hope to replicate.

              I don't disagree that the places are overpriced and over the top, but it's certainly not as if they offer nothing. I usually enjoy them a lot when someone else is paying. And then there are those places that aren't chains....the day Peter Luger shutters it's doors the world will be that much darker!

              2 Replies
              1. re: tamerlanenj

                most steakhouses finish the steaks with something like rendered beef fat or butter after grilling. not many home cooks have containers of rendered beef fat, now do they? ;)

                there is something fairly primal about a big slab of beef on a plate that appeals to some folks too. factor in americans' propensity for large portions and steakhouses are a no-brainer.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Add on the fact that Prime cuts are really not available in most small localities (cities, villages etc) and you see the value of finding a great meal with great basics to enjoy that special night out. Further, steakhouses focus on the main item on the dish and do not "fuss" with it and the diner gets a simple concentrated usually well presented dish and has the pleasue of relaxing (without the spouse having to work that evening in his/her own kitchen).