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Peter Luger or Keen's or ?

This is my first post on Chowhound, so I hope I'm not about mess up the etiquette and upset someone. For a start should I have posted on "The Best", because I want the best steakhouse in NYC. Also I have lots of questions, should I have asked them all on one post or should I ask them one at a time. Anyway here goes:

We are Londoners and are coming to New York on 19 June and leaving 24 June. I am bringing my two16 year-old daughters as a reward after their exams. We are all looking forward enormously to the food. The trip is about sightseeing, shopping (this higher on my daughters' priority list than mine) and food and so as a rule we won't be going for long lunches and usually we will be looking at fancier meals in the evening (although I think we are going to have to take advantage of the Jean Georges offer at lunch, but that is by-the-by).

Our hotel is in Times square and we will happily go anywhere in Manhattan and would prefer to stay in Manhattan, but it is not a problem if we have to take taxis or public transport.

Its taken a long time, but here is my question (you may have guessed from the title) - which is better, Peter Luger or Keen's or is there somewhere else I should consider and what should we order for appetizers and main courses (not to bothered about desserts)?

I presume my daughters will not be able to have a glass of wine anywhere (In France, Italy, Spain and England they would be asked if they wanted a glass from about the age of 10 or 11). Am I right? (Has this question gone outside the domaine of the board?)

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    1. First off, welcome to the board. All the detail you provided is going to be extremely helpful to point you in the right direction. I take it from your post that while you're looking for some great dinners, you're really only interested in knowing the better of the steakhouses to go to (Keens or Lugers or somewhere else).

      I love Lugers, but I've started to get away from recommending it to out-of-towners for one reason only. They are wildly inconsistent. I have had the best steak of my life there, but I have also had a good share of mediocre meals that left me feeling ripped off. That said, if you want to roll the dice, you could end up with one of the best meals of your life. If you go to lugers, I'd recommend the following (pretty standard) menu: bacon appetizer, porterhouse for four, german potatoes, creamed spinach, and any dessert with schlag.

      On the other hand Keens is really a new york institution. The atmosphere is better than lugers, and the steaks are excellent, and Keens is generallly more consistent than what you get at lugers. They also have the mutton-chop porterhouse which is legendary, and a selection of hundreds of different types of scotch. Add to that the fact that keens is a 10 minute walk from your hotel whereas lugers is a 30 minute cab ride, and I'd say the scales tip toward keens. If you go to keens I'd recommend the shrimp appetizer, Mutton chop, porterhouse for 2, creamed spinach, hashed browns and mushrooms.

      As for drinking, unless your daughters are 21, they will not be able to drink here.

      Also if you need other recommendations outside of these two places, definitely post them on CH. As long as you're specific with what you want, then everyone here is eager to share what they know.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Spends Rent on Food

        Thank you for your brilliantly detailed reply. It is exactly what i want to hear. And look on the bright side my daughters' bad luck with alcohol laws is my wallet's good luck. Thanks again

        1. re: walshey

          I'm actually almost positive that if you choose to order wine for you and your daughters the restaurant won't have a problem with that. Jello shots at the bar would be another story (and another establishment), but Keens and Luger's are not exactly worried about attracting underage drinkers looking to get wasted or checking IDs at the door in case they get raided.

          1. re: snaporaz

            A 10 year old? I think they would definitely have a problem with serving a 10 year old a glass of wine at Luger's. I have lived in England and Italy and mean no disrespect, but I never saw a 10 year old drinking out at a restaurant. Scratch that, I have seen that in Italy...once. Definitely not England. I don't think I would try it at Luger's or Keen's, only to avoid embarrassment.

            That being said, my vote goes to Luger's.

            1. re: malibu

              The OP said his daughters were 16. Can't speak for Keen's, but most places I've been when my children were "young adults" but under 21, I haven't had a problem with ordering wine and having the servers bring wine glasses for everyone. I don't know about all the legalities, but suspect that if I pour, and not the server, then the restaurant is off the hook.

              That said, I'd tell the OP to go to PL. View the 30-minute cab ride, particularly if it's nice weather in June, as a sightseeing tour.

              1. re: malibu

                I was at Luger's the other night. Was amazing. Totally different from Keen's in every way ,, Keen's is better if you want some hsitory. Babe Ruth's pipe for instance, or Lincoln's blood on a playbill. Keen's mutton chops are amazing,,
                Neither will serve drinks to underraged people . My pick is Luger'sif you like Porterhouse

        2. Welcome to the board Walshey. I hope that I can be of some assistance, as I am one of the steak fanatics on this board and am proud to say I have dined at most of the top steakhouses this fine city has to offer. For me the gold standard is and always will be Peter Luger. Those who tell you it is not the same or overhyped and truly mistaken and probably just spoiled by the fact that they are able to get to Peter Luger more often since they live here. Since you are coming from the other end of the ocean, you HAVE to make a visit to Peter Luger. You will not regret it and it will be the best steak dinner you have had in your life. Having said that.. it is in Brooklyn but believe me it is so worth the trip.

          For Manhattan, there are many great steakhouses as well. In NYC, I like to divide the steakhouses into two categories... the old classics that have been around forever and never stray from good old steakhouse tradition ( Peter Luger, Keens, Old Homestead, Smith and Wollensky, etc.) and those "nouveau" steakhouses that have just recently entered into the steakhouse game ( Strip House, BLT Prime, Craft, Del Frisco's Quality Meats, etc.). So it really depends on what you are looking for- the great thing about New York is you have both options.

          I don't want to keep on flapping so I suggest you do a search on my various and detailed reviews on all of the steakhouses I have been to. Just as a little summation though if you just want to narrow it down to say three I'd do PL, Keens, or Strip House.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Keens.

              also: Luger's drowns their steaks in ladles of melted butter: gross...

              And, for the drinking, in most moderate-upscale non-bar-oriented restaurants in Manhattan, your daughters will have no problem drinking wine as long they don't make their under-age status too obvious ...and if you order a bottle for the table and request a few glasses, i'd bet that no one will even look twice...(but as someone posted above, if you go to a bar or bar-oriented restaurant like, say, Pastis, and they order Cosmo's: that probably won't work...

              16 Replies
              1. re: Simon

                I've never had a PL steak drowned in "ladles of melted butter". Ever. But that is only my experience, YMMV.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  not disputing your personal experiences there, but have you ever seen a food/travel network show/segment on Luger's? (there are many)...the owners/cook sort of brag about how they drown the steaks in butter: "We put a 'shine' on the plate and the steak", etc...they show how they pour melted butter on every plate, and on the steak, then put it back in the oven briefly to give it a greasy crackling...i'm sure it's tasty to many many people and they should enjoy whatever they like, but it's just not my personal taste...

                  1. re: Simon

                    This is more like the steaks I've seen at Ruth's Chris. I don't doubt the butter is on the PL steaks but I only see a sheen. The juices on the platter are primarily from the steak in my experience.

                    1. re: Simon

                      The juice from the bottom of the plate at Peter Luger is aided with some butter, but it is mostly the natural juices from the steak itself.... and believe me those juices are AMAZING and what really sets Peter Luger's steak apart IMO.

                      1. re: steakrules85

                        By all means, enjoy...but if you see a video of them cooking the steak, you'll see how much butter i'm talking about...

                        1. re: Simon

                          The only video I've ever seen is On Colamecco's Food Show and I don't recall seeing a lot of butter. Is there anything online?

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            i looked on youtube and couldn't find anything (other than lots of random homemade video's -- i.e. "Me and my cousin Joe on vacation eating at Luger's!", etc)...

                            Have seen more than one on tv, but i recently saw a segment on either Food or Travel network...they emphasized the butter...

                            1. re: Simon

                              Most likely show you are thinking of is Steak Paradise. Anyway to the OP this i what I always order....

                              Slices of bacon for appetizers to share
                              Steak for two bloody rare with a charred crust
                              French fries well done
                              Creamed spinach
                              Onion Rings
                              Holy Cow hot fudge sundae and pecan pie

                              Go home in a food coma ahhh

                              1. re: steakrules85

                                I actually go lunch more often. Don't do the onion rings, but add a burger and a shrimp cocktail as apps. Except for those differences our choices are exactly the same.

                                How are the onion rings?

                                Edit, whoops, forgot about the hash browns...

                                1. re: tpigeon

                                  The onion rings are great. They have just the right amount of batter on them truly great. Much better than the hash browns.

                          2. re: Simon

                            Simon, Have you ever eaten at Lugers? I respect your decision if you have not eaten there based on what you've seen on TV. But it's another thing entirely to recommend/ not recommend a place to someone else when you yourself have never tried it.

                            As it happens I had a bet with a friend about weather or not Lugers use butter or if that's just the fat from the steak they pour over it. To settle the bet we went to lugers. Over dinner, we asked the server if butter was used during the cooking process, the server brought out one of the chefs. As the chef explained it: They cook the steak only in it's natural juices. When the steak is done cooking they add the butter to the fat that the steak was cooked in (on the 500 degree plate) . They then spoon the mixture over the cooked steak. They do not then put it back in the oven (not arguing what you've seen just explaining what they've told me.)

                            Full Disclosure: I lost that bet. I've had lugers many times and the taste doesn't come off as greasy or buttery (as it does in lesser steak house chains). I was convinced only the juices from the steak were poured over the dish. For that reason, I recommend you try lugers before you write it off as not to your taste.

                              1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                who said i'd never tried Luger's?...heh...

                                i have been to Luger's...twice...though both times were several years ago...at that time, i didn't think about whether they used butter or not, but i wasn't at all wowed by my experience or the food...

                                a google search will reveal many complaints about overly buttery steak...

                                but i'm not suggesting anyone shouldn't enjoy Luger's regardless of the butter issue, as obviously it's very popular...

                                and for me, my many experiences at Keens have been superior in every way...more varied menu, awesome vibe, ambience, service, etc...

                                re: butter, can't argue with what the chef told you when you were there, but the food show makes a big deal of the butter and shows them ladling a huge amount onto the steak and then proudly putting the plate back into the oven to give it a "shine"...

                                1. re: Simon

                                  Apologies for jumping the gun there, I've run into a few people this month who have posted negative comments about places only to discover they had never been there (makes my blood boil). Your earlier post made it sound like it was the pictures on TV that was keeping you away.

                                  I'm with those who dislike buttery steak (Ruth's Chris I'm looking in your general direction) - I've just never had that complaint at lugers.

                                  (Here I am, defending Lugers, when I clearly think Keens would be the better option for someone from out of town).

                                  Walshey, Any chance you can make it to both? Then you can tell US what YOU think.

                            1. re: steakrules85

                              I love to sop up the steak juices with the various rolls provided. I'm going to lugers next Saturday. It always wins Zagat as best steakhouse, at least for as long as I can remember. BTW I enjoy a Brooklyn Lager with my steak. Do not miss the onion and tomato salad, add crubled bacon and steak sauce.

                              Do not put steak sauce on the steak, only on the salad.

                              1. re: phantomdoc

                                Actually I like the steak sauce with the bread.