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Peter Luger demoted to two stars... what has happened to the emperor's new clothes?

As one who does not live in NYC but who has gotten around to all the steakhouses many times, I have not been to PL for several years....only the recent sprouting of the many clones. I read today in the Times that they are perhaps slipping...losing business to the clones and having a real attitude problem with staff. Those of you lucky enough to actually go more than once every few years: What do you think?? Thanks

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  1. As good as ever. I offer no explanation. The demotion is the product of restaurant politics and promotion. Those who give stars take stars away, based on their own motives. Those motives might have nothing to do with food.

    1. I don't think Luger's has really changed much, if at all. The last few times I've been there have been the same, sublime meat and plain OK everything else (except bacon - also sublime), as pretty much any other time. Of course meat, by its nature, can be a variable product, and there is always some variation there. What has changed though is the culture of steakhouses in the city, and Bruni seems to be wanting some updating from Luger's to match their competition.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Woodside Al

        I think that's only natural. When Luger was the only game in town, people didn't realize what was missing, because those things -- a better winelist, more urbane service, a better room, a more sophisticated menu of complementary dishes -- simply weren't available if you wanted Luger-level porterhouse. Now that the playing field has leveled in terms of the steak, it's no longer too much to ask for to want superlative porterhouse and those other things, too.

        1. re: brooklynr

          yeah but i just dined at wolfgang's and i was not impressed at all. it may be a clone but the steak is not nearly as tender and complex, and almost no char and everything served was lacking salt. luger's deserves three stars simply because they make the best steak anywhere. what else matters? bruni can have his mediocore raw bar and dainty lamb chops but when i want the best steak i'll head right to lugers.

      2. I have never ben a huge fan of Luger's... NO streak, or any other food for that matter is worth being treated indifferently or sometimes, rudely. While I never condone that sort of behavior, sometimes, it just comes along with a $12 dinner served by a 17 yr old student who waits tables for spending money. But when the staff at the local Charlie Brown's treats it's patrons more cordially than PL's, surly staff, then something is really wrong at PL's . Just going to that dubious location is not a fun trip. There are numerous excellent steak houses throughout the City. I am always surprised at the devotion PL's nspire, especially from seasoned NYC'ers. Fine dining should be about the whole experience, not just one signature item.
        It would be interesting to resurrect/revisit an old thread and ask CH'er's to update postings of their favorite neighborhood steak/chop houses. If people don't patronize their local eateries they cannot stay in business and we all lose out. .

        11 Replies
        1. re: Tay

          Tay - I couldn't have said it better in regards to Luger's. I'm a native NY'er, save the surly attitude for the tourist. I don't find it the least bit entertaining. I'm not spending money to be treated rudley by a bunch of surley waiters. I've always felts better steak can be had in the city, with better service and better atmosphere.

          1. re: angelo04

            Actually, I think you said it better! lol!. Maybe at some point Peter Luger's held some sort of "gruff charm" fascination for some people. More like a weird sort of novelty. But now? I mean, seriously does anyone think being treated poorly is acceptable? Diners find they can have a great meal AND great service, for less than the PL "experience"..

            1. re: angelo04

              Why save it for the tourists? A sure way to lose business, regardless of who the customer is.

            2. re: Tay

              Charlie Brown's??Tay, what exactly are you looking for? "Hey there, guys, my name's Ivan and I'll be your waitron this evening! Awesome! If ya need anything, just holler!"
              I dare say some foods -- like excellent steaks -- ARE worth being treated gruffly for. And do you REALLY want your porterhouse served by a chirpy teen? It wouldn't taste as good if they were like every place else. For the record, I've always had fantastic service at PL. Steaks served by real people with a caustic point of view found only in someone who delivers revelatory platters of bloody meat for a living.

              1. re: HankyT

                Hanky T.
                With respect, I think you may have misunderstood the point I was making.
                I am saying that something is very wrong if the service at a chain like Charlie Brown's offers more cordial service then a fine dining establishment like PL's
                I respect your opinion but if a "chirpy" teen is polite, friendly and makes me feel welcome ,then I'll take his/her service over what you call "gruff" and I perceive as rude. I'm just saying that for me, the PL porterhouse is not worth the rest of the "experience". That works out well for those of you who love the place.
                More steak for you! :-}

              2. re: Tay

                tay i certainly agree that indeed fine dining is about the whole experience.....but otoh chowhounding is all about the signature item. it's the difference between a "foodie" and a "'hound." imo a place like LUGERS is a classic example of the distinction.

                1. re: mrnyc

                  mrnyc..... (Really cool handle, BTW)
                  Not being fluent in cyberspeak, You have me at a disadvantage. I have no idea what 'otoh' represents. That being said, I can see your point and I'm happy you expressed it so cordially (Unless, of course "otoh is short for "old toad old hag" lol!) Nevertheless, I still respectfully disagree.Through my eyes If anything
                  a "Foodie" is all about the food. regardless of pretty much anything else. To me, a Chow Hound appreciates and evaluates the entire experience of dining, from the greeting to the check. Of course the food is the primary drive, but no matter how wonderful I deem any dish, signature or otherwise, the days of patronizing any establishment that treats me poorly, are waaaay past over.
                  I think PL's Porterhouse is...Sublime, really I do, but having said that, I'm not going to patronize nor recc any eateries that don't hold to some basic standard of cordial treatment. Especially in a place like NYC, where the price of a good dinner can easily equal a mortgage payment. Why anyone (except possibly an intimidated tourist), would put up with anything less remains a mystery to me.
                  Thank you for disagreeing so.... Nicely. :-}

                  1. re: Tay

                    sorry tay for the gibberish cyberspeak. otoh = on the other hand.

                    you got the gist of my point tho and we do indeed disagree.

                    even as a 44yearold person myself, i care very little about service, unless we are talking **** restaurants. in that case i certainly do care! but generally speaking i would walk thru hot coals for the world's best bureks, stews, dan dan noodles, etc..

                    however, i also think it's fine to define foodie/chowhound differently than i do. i know total experience is important to a lot of folks, in fact most folks.

                    otoh (ha!) i bet i got ya on one true 'houndy thing....i think we all agree waiting forever in cramped and often dingy DIFARA'S is worth it for the pizza. assuming you know that place and experience....well then that's my point!

                    1. re: mrnyc

                      Ahhh...'otoh' OK... Thank you. NOW I get it, Much preferred to the toad/hag, thing. and yes, I figured out the gist (SAT word Showoff! :-} ) of your point. And you're right: We can agree to disagree
                      Let me just refine what I said. When I referred to "service'" I was really referring to the "Nice Factor" Over time, I've eaten in my share of, "Hole-in-the-wall, food shops./stands/bakeries-turned-Delis-turned-restaurants. I'm just fine with limited, inexperienced, barely there,close-but-no-cigar,, service. I would just like the staff to be friendly or at least cordial. In a fine dining restaurant like PL's I expect to be treated by a polite and pleasant staff. I don't mean being fawned over, Of course, I'd like to think it comes from the heart, but if it doesn't I don't care. It just means it's easier for some than others.
                      And..... I hate to change the. 'Can't we all just get along," mood, but no,
                      I definitely do NOT agree that waiting forever in cramped and always dingy DiFara's is worth it for the pizza. They need to hired more help or just use a, take-a-number, system and put a stop to the people who cut the line.Their pizza is great, and even though I'd like to be a returning customer, for me the hassle taints the experience to the point where it just isn't worth the aggravation.

                      1. re: Tay

                        Again Tay, we disagree (I just commented in the Pizza post about DiFara's). It's not that it isn't about the whole experience, including the service, but that many of us value some of the elements the service at PL while we may agree with you about it's negative characteristics. It negatives are integrally entwined with its positives, and to many of us those positive elements far outweigh the negatives. So again, saturated fat and $$$ limit our trips to PL to rare treats, but we always come away enriched by the experience.

                        1. re: bobjbkln

                          bob...As with the Di Fara posting, You have made it hard for me to remain annoyed by what I consider unacceptable behavior.. Your postings have a calm logic about them. And you make perfect sense.
                          Please don't interpret my feelings about what I perceive as rude or indifferent service as any lack of respect torwards the many folks who love and patronize PL's. I'm still slightly mystified by it but your thoughtful posting provided some clarity. I hope you continue to enjoy your trips to any and every dining establishment you love.
                          You are a great Chow Hound...

              3. the ny times keeps on demonstrating, this time with their restaurant revue, how as the years progress their irrelevancy increases accordingly.

                1. PL really has not changed much except for the strange porterhouse policies. As to the wait staff being rude, believe it or not that was common 'schtick' in Brooklyn, and was considered endearing. Most of those old 'yiddish' places are closed, the surviving lower east side places don't bother any more. It's a shame I always liked being told I was a slob by a 60 year old waitress peddling $15 Kosher pastrami. I swear where did this nice crap come from. Why should they be nice, they have crappy jobs, and you aren't exactly royalty. What do you want for you 15% tip.

                  There are no PL clones, Name one Germanic theme steak house that has opened up.

                  PL fans fear not. The bubble is bursting, at some point those expensive leases the newer steak houses signed will not be supported by downgraded Wall street salaries, and tourists from Canada/Europe/Japan (and god forbid China). Things look bleak but PL will have the last laugh, I promise you. BTW, you might want to lock up a civil service job now, while you can still claim you are doing it because you want to 'give back' to the community.

                  1. I have been to Luger perhaps a half a dozen times of the past few years, and only on my most recent trip did the staff seem at all rude. On my list trip, it seemed that the waiter was upset that everyone in our party ordered burgers instead of steak, and he let it show. I thought that was a little unprofessional, but it certainly didn't change the burger or the bacon, which are still sublime.

                    On other visits, I've found the staff very polite. To answer the original question, no, I don't see any evidence that PL is slipping.

                    1. I went for the first time last month and thought the service was good. The waiter was informative, prompt with food and drinks and had just a bit of Brooklyn 'tude. We had fun dishing it right back. As other posters have noted, the steak, bacon and schlag (try some in the dark beer for a float) were fantastic, everything else was pretty good.

                      1. I'm not a regular, but I have been there several times, most recently this summer, and have never ever been treated rudely by bartender or waiter. and the steaks... well... they've been the stuff dreams are made of each time

                        1. I was there in the spring and although I was never there when it had 3 stars, I wouldn't be surprised if the demotion was based on the service. What I expect for my 15% tip (actually 18%, but that was my husband's doing; he's in the industry and typically tips at least 20%) is that I be treated like a customer and not an imposition. If the wait staff wants to be left alone, they should stay at home.

                          1. We had a terrific waiter the last time--professional, with a dry sense of humor. When he poured the butter over the steak, he said it was Luger's famous "protein sauce". Not effusive, but great old-style New York. As a sidenote, I miss Dave at the B&H Dairy Restaurant in the East Village--he had a neurological condition and when a lady asked him why his hand was shaking, he said "because I'm looking at your face." She did not tip him.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: whs

                              whs
                              Now THAT"S funny in a way that most NYC'ers would appreciate .Soooo typically NYC !. Her inquiry as well as his response

                              1. re: Tay

                                yeah but lets not celebrate the local culture of rudeness.

                                err...ok ok i confess i laughed out loud at that anecdote too. thx for sharing it whs (see? i nicely thanked the op and it did not hurt me at all - lol!).

                                1. re: mrnyc

                                  I promise not to celebrate the 'local culture of rudeness' if you promise not to let the Porterhouse seduce you into accepting less than cordial treatment....:-}}

                                  1. re: Tay

                                    Tay - I still agree with you however I couldn't put it as eloquently.

                                    I may get crucified for this so anyone help me out. I know food and I know it well. I dine out frequently, my wife and I cook a lot and we do that well.

                                    That said, I don’t get how the PL porter house is "sublime" I don't like my porter house sliced and served on a communal platter. This just irks me. To me, when I'm out a steak should be served on my plate one hunk of well charred, juicy and pink on the inside goodness.

                                    1. re: angelo04

                                      Angelo,
                                      Mea culpa. I should clarify. I found the TASTE of the Porterhouse steak at Pl's to be sublime. I agree with you RE: The style and presentation of service.
                                      I prefer mine served as you specifed.

                            2. Some people just love to kick a restaurant when they think it is down. This is the case with Perter Luger, being trashed by many who have never even dined there.

                              Many of Frank Bruni's points are well take, and every fine restaurant can use some improvement, and needs to keep up its reputation, no matter how good or well deserved. The review overall was still very good.

                              We had dinner at Peter Luger last week, and the food was sublime, the service courteous and professional. If there is a better steak served anywhere, I don't know where that would be.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Fleur

                                forget about the damn service,

                                but when you're paying upwards of 85 bucks for a porterhouse for two, the steak better deliver, it really sucks when you go to such a heralded restaurant as Luger's and then have an off nite. there shouldn't really be that much inconsistency in the steaks if you're paying upwards of 150 per person all said and done. and yeah, usually i could care less abou the service, unless of course the waiter is a real dick or very condsecding (but i haven't witnessed that myself at luger's).

                              2. Bruni spends a bit of time on the personality of the server. As much as I love the place, I gotta tell you that two trips ago I had this younger, bald guy, who was fairly new and who was almost rude. We're pretty cool with the guys there, they act like know it alls and that's the deal- but I was there with my little girl and the last thing I needed was this particularly unpleasant service. I keep going back, but I request a specific waiter in advance. If Bruni had this waiter, it wouldn't matter what they served, the meal was ruined.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: addictedtolunch

                                  Exactly my point. No one (Well no one who has posted here) has expressed dissatisfaction with the food in general and the porterhouse in specific.
                                  It's definitely an attitude issue. For many, the reward of excellent steak makes it worth it. For others...Not so much. It's an individual's call