SF steakhouses 2011
- Robert Lauriston Oct 11, 2011 09:08 AM
Lots of new places, lots of old ones that closed, should probably start from scratch.
dry-aged: Alfred's, Boboquivari's, Epic Roasthouse, Harris'
menus specify dry-aged for certain steaks: 5A5 Steak Lounge, Alexander's Steakhouse, Bourbon Steak, Lark Creek Steak
to be determined: Izzy's (menus just say "aged")
wet-aged (all branches of out-of-town chains): Bob's, Morton's, Ruth's Chris
2100 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109
369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
Lark Creek Steak
845 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103
1450 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA 94123
5A5 Steak Lounge
244 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
448 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA
I think the advantage of a steakhouse is that they can sell enough beef to dry-age their own. At most of the places with dry-aged meat, steak is just a fraction of the menu.
Bob's, Morton's, and Ruth's Chris seem like total anachronisms to me. I presume most of their business comes from tourists who don't know any better.
My (limited) wisdom on this remains unchanged. I don't generally go to steakhouses, but if I do go, Harris' is the spot for me.
Adding a link. Jonathan Kauffman reviewed it quite positively this week in SF Weekly. The beef is not dry-aged. The prices are relatively low.
Is there really any such thing as wet aging? I don't think sitting in a walking in a cryovac bag does anything to improve beef.
Leatherneck Steakhouse & Lounge
609 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102
I like Alfreds.
Mortons is a chain but they have the advantage of having the bar open early if you happen to get in early.
At the Harris you can not get in the door till 5 or 5:30, but they have an excellent steak.
More lamb than sheep but it is indeed one hell of a chop. I love everything about Keens: from the portrait over the bar, to the barkeep's three questions, to the clay pipes on the main dining room ceiling.
side note: I try to eat there with some measure of frequency (wife typically meets me in the bar, we grab a table in the pub near the fireplace if attending a game or concert at MSG and save the dining rooms for serious meals when we can dedicate the right amount of time). One time, my waiter asked how I was enjoying my steak. I said it was pretty good but a little overcooked. Next thing I know the captain, my waiter and someone from the kitchen were at my table, making apologies and replacing our porterhouse, all sides and wine. I was a little embarrassed. Since then, I've been a tad more careful with casual comments.
Keens is a Manhattan treasure.
Some notes I made in trying to pick one.
aged 28-42 days
30-oz. rib-eye $46 incl. one side
additional sides $4-8
corkage $20, free if you buy a bottle
2007 Chateau Goudichaud Graves De Vayres $28
2007 Chateau Dutruch Grand Poujeaux Moulis-En-Medoc $64
2005 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol $115
aged 28 days
25-oz. rib-eye for one $54
32-oz. rib-eye for two $42 per person = $84
corkage $25 for the first two, $35 for the next two, four-bottle limit
2004 Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva $50
2010 Broc Cabernet Franc $55
2001 Château Lalande $55
2007 Nino Negri, Valtellina Superiore Inferno $57
2008 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria $70
1999 Clos Margalaine Margaux $86
2000 Coto de Imaz Rioja Gran Reserva $90
? days, ? oz. rib-eye $48 incl. veg & potato
corkage $25 first three, $50 thereafter
2008 Chinon, Marc Bredif $40
2005 Château Laffitte-Teston, Madiran (100% Tannat) $46
2006 Château Bellisle Mondotte, Saint-Emilion $50
2003 Domaine Bunan, Moulin des Costes, Bandol $53
2006 Château Haut Selve, Graves $55
2003 Cedula Real, Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain $65
2006 Tedeschi Amarone $95
? days, 22-oz. rib-eye $47
2004 Chateau la Bessane Margaux $59
2001 Chateau Feytit-Clinet Pomerol 115
? days, 15-oz. ribeye $60
corkage $35 with a two-bottle limit?
2009 Catherine & Pierre Breton Borgueil Nuits d’ Ivresse $65
2005 Château Petit-Bocq $70
2008 Catherine & Pierre Breton Borgeuil Les Perrieres $85
2001 Château Malartic Lagraviere $110
? days, Certified Angus, 18-oz. ribeye $50
2004 Baron De Ley Rioja Reserva $61
nice wine list for millionaires; at least on Web site, cheapest red Bordeaux is $155
Lark Creek Steak
28 days, 16-oz. rib-eye $50
? days, 32-oz. porterhouse for two $89
at least on Web site, no imported or aged wines
re: Robert Lauriston
I'm surprised to see so few mentions of the Buckhorn Steakhouse in Winters, even on the California board. I never had one of their full steaks, but the (presumably non-aged) meats they serve at the Davis Farmer's Market, their catered events, and the steak bites at the restaurant are all fantastic. The decor is classic steakhouse, mounted taxidermy animal heads and all.
They also own the Buckhorn Grill chain of restaurants scattered throughout the Bay Area. The Grill's webpage doesn't mention aging the meat, so you'd have to head to Winters.
Went to Alfred's. The place really preserves a bit of old San Francisco I thought was extinct. The waiters were all guys and most seemed like they might have been working there since before the move from Broadway. Elegant but casual and friendly, some people were dressed up and some were the kind of tourists that would put Michael Bauer's panties in a bunch. The booths are comfortable and have glass panels between them for extra privacy without blocking the view of the meat locker at the end of the room.
Old-school sourdough bread was fresh and crunchy but a bit bland the way it seems to be everywhere but Tadich.
Antipasti misti ($16) had very good prosciutto, burrata, Cerignola olives, and hot toast points, plus a few kinds of pitted olives, roasted red peppers, and roasted zucchini that were just OK. Perfect light starter to perk up our appetites for the steaks. A glass of Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc was a very good value at $7.50.
"Chicago" 30-oz. bone-in ribeye steaks ($48 each including one side) were mesquite-grilled perfectly to rare and medium-rare as ordered, only odd thing is that they don't season them. The waiter said they were aged three weeks, I prefer longer but the dry-aged flavor was definitely there. Bearnaise and horseradish sauces also perfect though the meat didn't really need anything but salt. Creamed spinach was just like homemade and a huge portion. Vegetable side was steamed broccoli and carrots, nicely al dente, good for dipping in the bearnaise. We only ate a little over half the meat, next time we'll split one.
The 2005 Ch. Bonalgue was the only Bordeaux left on the list, the one on the Web is out of date. It was good and at $105 priced at the standard markup, but not a great value. Next time I'll bring a bottle.
For dessert we split what was described as "cappuccino ice cream" ($7) which turned out to be a very light, not very sweet semifreddo just like in Italy. They get it from someplace called Gotta Have It in San Rafael.
They have a 17% service charge. The bill comes with a short but excellent essay explaining why.
On our way out we looked around. The lovely bar was almost empty and has one of the biggest selections of whiskey in the city. At some point I realized I'd eaten in that building before, just months before the Blue Fox closed in 1993.
Alfred's is a delight and while not cheap one of the best values around.
re: Robert Lauriston
Went to Alfred's this week for only the second time, the first being years ago. Our group of 5 enjoyed the "Bull Market Special", $40 for a starter, 8oz filet or 14 oz ribeye or NY strip with side, and dessert. We split a couple bottles of an interesting Argentine Cab, very reasonably priced. My ribeye, ordered rare, was perfectly cooked with a great high temperature sear and smoke flavor from the wood grill. I totally agree about the lack of seasoning. The sauces were pretty good, but I particularly liked the pepper sauce (a few small boats were delivered on request). We also had the gnocchi which were pillowy and tasty in a herbed cream sauce.
It wasn't full, so might make a convenient last minute dinner option. I'll certainly think of it again soon.
I like Harris' and Alfred's- but THE BEST steak in the city by far is at Bobo's. Bone in Filet $39 is heaven on a plate. Great dry aged flavor! Hands down the best steak in town and in the country!
Alfred's is a great place to enjoy the full steakhouse experience, so is Harris'. They do everything well there but they still can't beat Bobo's steak.
re: Robert Lauriston
Nice to see Epic get a little love on this board. The two of us generally grab a four-top in the upstairs bar, gently slump into the cushy club chairs, order some happy-hour drinks and small plates and watch the sun go down.
On a different tack, I'm curious about the Epic backstory. Specifically, what exactly did it take to get approval to build both Epic and Waterbar on such choice real estate? There's a story here that I just haven't taken the time to research.
re: steve h.
I think the Rincon Park restaurants were a relatively noncontroversial part of the Port / city redevelopment plans for the Embarcadero. Most of the opposition I heard about was focused on hotels. The project did take over a decade, partly because the original developers went bankrupt.
re: Robert Lauriston
Thanks for the link. I think drewski may have a point. I'll dig a little deeper when time permits.
I like the way the project ended up. Waterbar's demilune zinc bar and Epic's second-story Quiver Bar offer great views and strong drinks at the end of a busy day. The park is pretty but the bow and arrow thing is just plain goofy. Dogs seem to like the park as well as fancy photographers making models look glamorous. Pity it took a decade to put it all together but sometimes that's the price of poker.
re: steve h.
Yeah, it was non controversial for the developers.
I lived a block away at that time.I hate that stupid sculpture.
I was living practically under the Bay Bridge in a condo when 9-11 happened. For a year the end of my street was blocked off by the military to make sure no one blew up the bridge.
The post office was at the other end of the street. Don't forget those anthrax scares.
So that arrow just makes me think of war and death.
My condo had a sweeping view of the Bay when I bought it. I was told another condo was being built in front of it but that project would take seven years. The building was completed in six months. buh-by view.
I got involved in another development off of first St. Our tenant association,Rin-ten-ten (Rincon tenacious tenants) taught me to get the developers attention you had to make noise and get the press involved.
For a while, we battled for our little neighborhood and got all sorts of concessions. I was thinking at the time, a lot of those promises could be easily reversed once the buildings were completed.
One by one we bought our own houses and condos. A year after the last tenant moved, the developers moved in like wolves and ate up the street with their way to big for the street buildings ... and there was zero promised parking and no open space.
I like Epic and Waterbar well enough ... but my view wasn't blocked.
re: Robert Lauriston
I haven't seen anyone but me mention Bobo's- or did I miss something.- Their dry aged steaks are, in my opinion better than all other steaks in the city. Plus, at $39.00 they are a good deal compared to the prices at Epic, Bourbon, Morton's, Harris', Ruth's Chris. Sometimes their sides and apps are hit and miss...................but the steaks are GREAT!
re: Robert Lauriston
Bobo's prices are Very new, last time I was there, August 2011- I paid $39.00 for the bone in filet. The average size of the filet at Bobo's is generally bigger than any other filet that I have had in the city or elsewhere. I agree Alfred's and even Izzy's has the better deal that includes a side with each entre, but, I have NEVER had a better tasting steak than the filet and even NY, than the ones served at Bobo's.
Alfred's has made some changes in recent years to improve the dining experience, $20.00 corkage or, bring one bottle then buy one house wine on their wine list and they waive the corkage. They also have free 3 hour validated parking across the street.
Bobo's has always had free valet- right in front of the restaurant and a $15.00 corkage fee- which is also a good value.
I like to watch Check Please Bay Area and enjoyed the reviews of Alfred's, Izzy's and Bobo's- but I think that while all three reviewers liked Alfred's and Izzy's, only two out of three really liked Bobo's steak- one didn't even order the steak and the other woman didn't like sitting close to other dinners.
I have to get back to Alfred's soon.
Any news of long dry-aging going on around here? I was just reading in Saveur about the chef at Carnevino, the Batali-Bastianich place in Las Vegas, serving a porterhouse that had been aged 260 days. That seems dubious, but I do like six or seven weeks, and haven't been seeing much more than three unless I buy a whole prime rib roast.
When Tyler Florence reopened El Paseo, he was aging a special Holstein porterhouse for 38 days, but there's no sign of that on the menu today.
re: Robert Lauriston
Seems like something that the Bay Area should have. There are plenty of transplants from areas that appreciate their steaks, so educating customers wouldn't be that much of a challenge. I think we're still a ways away from seeing a 40-day dry aged, bone in filet with classic sides, anywhere.
It still requires a lot of overhead (less of the meat is usable, longer prep), and the facility/oversight, if you're aging in volume.
Tried Harris' for the first time last Saturday. Wow, what a hopping scene. Dining room (mostly if not all booths) full, lounge full, private room full, back room full. I was happy to be seated in a booth in the dining room though the lounge looked like a lot of fun. There was a live piano trio, they were discreet enough that I didn't realize the music was live for a while.
They bring out little rusks and a ramekin of creamcheese, cheddar, and port spread, basically Christmas cheese log. That was fun.
Steamed clams marinière ($15) were simple, excellent, and a large portion, a really good choice for something time-consuming to nibble while drinking a delicious bottle of 2004 Alban Roussanne, which at $77 was a luxury but also a bargain in the sense that the few retailers who have any are charging about that. Two crabcakes ($14) were tasty and good-sized but to my taste a bit rich for the context, and I found the pimeiento a bit too dominant in the mix.
The bone-in ribeye ($49) was good and cooked properly medium-rare, but Alfred's was larger and I though had more flavor. Included sides, the al dente green beans and julienned carrots were good, I thought the baked potato (we split one steak and they brought us two) was dry and flavorless, probably because I wasn't in the mood to douse it with the traditional boatload of butter, sour cream, and so on, should have gone for the mashed. Creamed spinach ($9) was good, seemed to me on a par with Alfred's, neither uses enough nutmeg for my taste. 2005 Ormes de Pez St.-Estphe was pleasant enough though for $90 I thought it should have had more to offer.
Warm apple tart ($9) with Calvados (?) ice cream and somes sort of caramel sauce was excellent and another great value.
So for me, Alfred's is still the champ for a steak dinner, but I might go back to Harris' to explore more of the menu. The prime rib I saw at nearby tables looked really good.