HOME > Chowhound > Outer Boroughs >

Discussion

Woeful Tale of the Peter Luger Baked Potato

So who writes here about Peter Luger where the main topic is the baked potato? No one, that's who. But here I am to fill that void.

Let me start by admitting that my wife and I have been going to PL for more than 30 years, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. I know there is an ongoing schism on this board about whether or not PL has declined over the years, and we are firmly in the camp that it is as good as ever. At least when it comes to the steak.

We went yesterday for a late lunch, since we both had the day off and we both know that mid-afternoon is the least crowded time there. We had made a reservation anyway because it's impossible to know when a busload of tourists might happen in just in front of you (which did happen to us once). Besides, it never hurts to have a reservation, especially at PL, and by making the reservation you are committing to actually going, which means you can spend the days leading up to your visit anticipating the meal and drooling over what you'll order.

We ordered our usual: the sliced tomatoes and onions, a single slice of that fabulous bacon, the steak for two to be accompanied by the creamed spinach and a baked potato, as well as a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot. A totally decadent lunch, but this was our first PL visit in a while.

The onions and tomatoes (where do they get those amazing tomatoes anyway?) were excellent, as always. The single slice of bacon was so good, so unctuously porky with its little bombs of flavor hidden in the partially rendered pork fat, that I was sorry I didn't get two slices. Or three. Or four. But we were there for the steak, so we were being good.

The steak, I'm happy to report, was as good as ever. It was done exactly to our desire, with a great char and almost perfect in its taste and texture. The filet portion was fork-tender but rich in steak flavor, while the larger strip steak portion was terrific, in both chewiness and flavor. I'm salivating thinking about it now.

The creamed spinach was also spot on, and my wife gobbled it down, somewhat to my surprise, as she generally hasn't been much of a spinach eater over the years.

That brings us to the baked potato. It was about the size of an oval-shaped softball. Unfortunately, though, it was not hot, and it was obvious that it had been baked some time earlier (maybe an hour, maybe a couple of hours) and slightly reheated. So I sent it back.

About five minutes later, the second baked potato arrived. Same story. Warm, but not warm enough to melt butter, and not freshly baked. So I sent that one back as well.

Another five minutes later, the third version arrived. Sad to say, it was the same as the first two versions, which was slightly reheated but not fresh. By this time our friendly waiter was apologizing as fast as he could, telling us that they need to bake the potatoes earlier because of the baking time, blah, blah, blah. So we ended up without the baked potato.

The manager came by after the third potato was carted back to the kitchen and she also apologized, and offered us a free dessert, which we accepted and thoroughly enjoyed, so she did make it right.

But it's hard for me to accept the idea that if you go for a late lunch during the week, Peter Luger can't (or maybe won't) have a freshly baked potato to go with the steak. They don't start making the home fries until 4:00 PM, so that wasn't a choice for us. Our exchange with the manager was cordial, and I told her that I just can't accept the idea that PL is unable to time a baked potato to arrive piping hot with our steak.

It was an odd thing to have happened, and I thought the Chowhound community would enjoy reading about it, so I decided to post it.

We're still PL fans, though.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. If this was Yelp that would be a one star review.

    :-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Martinez

      Nah, I'd have to give them at least two and a half on Yelp for the steak alone. We missed having the potato, but they really came through with the steak.

      1. re: BrookBoy

        Heavens, you were dining at Peter Luger. Not Spuds-R-Us.

    2. I would love to hear, like, Christopher Walken read this review. That would be dope.

      1. Potatoes are always baked ahead of time. It takes almost an hour to bake a potato. Unless you want a nuked one. The problem is more that they didn't fire the potato in time for it to get hot.

        2 Replies
        1. re: saria

          Yeah, they don't cook them individually for each customer. At least where I worked. They made a rack full of baking pans filled with potatoes before the place even opened, and then tried to keep up with it as the day progressed, when they got low. But if they mess up, it's an hour before it's ready.

          1. re: saria

            That was pretty much what they told us, that they need to cook them in advance, yadda, yadda, yadda. My reply is that in the 100 or so times we've been there through the years, this never happened before.

            Also, I didn't mention in my original post that when we sat down we told our waiter that we were in no hurry, that we'd like a leisurely pace. He got it right away, and we actually enjoyed some wine with our tomato and onion dish and the bacon. They had at least half an hour or 45 minutes to get the potato ready. It wasn't like we sprung it on them at the last minute.

          2. Oh well..in a 120 or so visits, one "off-day" on a potato would hardly ruin me for life on the place.........and.........OMG.those amazing tomatoes and onions!!!! I do adore them

            Might have been the hour....short of nuking...much too late to have some pre-cooked to be ready to pop in for the final treatment.

            But it sounded like they at least tried to handle it with aplomb. Thanks for the info

            1 Reply
            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              Yeah, this was in no way a knock on the great PL. Something else I didn't mention in my original post was that when we showed up (about half an hour earlier than our reserved time), we refused the first table they showed us. It was in the dining room that would be behind your back if you stood facing the bar, one of the two original rooms and the original non-smoking room. The first table was in the center aisle, and when I sat down I felt the waiters brushing my back as they walked by, so we decided to ask for another table.

              The same manager who later comped us the dessert handled my table request, and she was great about it. I told her I didn't like the original table and she just got up, checked the other two dining rooms and gave us a nice corner four-top in the newest dining room.

              So the meal actually was pretty great. It was just the odd thing with the potato that kind of stood out...

            2. So it's one -two - three spuds you're out at the old steak house? Note to self: no late lunches, go for home fries.

              1. I'm daft. So help me here...

                If Peter Luger can't get a baked potato "right" how do others, across the world, who offer that choice, pull it off?

                11 Replies
                1. re: RedTop

                  I'm sure they can get it "right," and usually do. It could have been the time of day. It could be the proverbial Busload of Tourists just left, who knows. Even if it's pre-baked, which is a reasonable thing to do, it will still take a good 20-30 minutes to heat up cold spud.

                  A place I worked about a million years ago used to keep their baked potatoes in a warming oven. It just dawned on me; what if someone forgot to turn on the warming oven and their afternoon stash of spuds were all cold? Just a thought.

                  It does seem odd they could get you a hot potato, but they do take a while to bake/heat, so if something weird happened, there's not a lot they can do to fix it in a timely manner.

                  At least all of the important things were spot-on.

                  1. re: egit

                    Yeah, my take was that it was just that time of day. The lunch crowd had dwindled, the place was actually pretty empty, and it was clear (to me, at least) that the staff kind of lets down around this time. I decided to post my anecdote because it seemed like this might happen often around that time of day, so Caveat Emptor, as they say...

                    1. re: BrookBoy

                      You know George, I thought your write up struck just the right balance. You like Lugers, you liked your meal, but you just figured they ought to serve the baked potato hot. That seems like a fair and reasonable position.

                      I just did a price check of the items you ordered. Based on my quick calculation the initial check came to 170. With tax and tip, $215. I can only speak for myself but when I lay out that type of change I figure they should get it right.

                      The $6.00 Spud Supreme was luke warm. That sounds like a reasonably easy thing to fix. Microwave one of the pre-cooked potatoes for 60 seconds to heat the center and then stick it in to oven for 10 minutes to crisp the skin. Would the taste be exactly the same as a fresh oven baked potato? Probably not, but it would have been a hell of a lot better than the procession of lukewarm ones they served you.

                      You didn't have lunch at Joe's Diner, you went to Peter Luger's and spent a nice chunk of change. They ought to be able to hit on all cylinders.

                      ETA - Let me anticipate some of the horrified responses about how microwaves are the invention of Satan. (I think, used appropriately, they have their uses.) But fine. Luger could have used a commercial grade convection oven and baked that potato in 30 minutes.

                      Some people seem determined to make this *your* problem. It's not - it's the restaurant's problem.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        The chain restaurant I worked in didn't have microwaves, god forbid. They had "quick ovens".

                        1. re: coll

                          My assumption is that a "quick oven" is a convection model.

                          It's amazing that $215 won't buy you a properly cooked potato at Luger's. But it's not their fault. It's the diner's fault.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            No! It's a microwave oven, your basic cheap kitchen model. So funny, this was back in the 1980s so people thought you'd grow a second head if you used one. They just made up a new name.

                            1. re: coll

                              Thanks for clarifying.

                              I'm really surprised Luger's doesn't have some convection models.

                        2. re: Bob Martinez

                          I hope it didn't sound like I was blaming the OP for the potato problem. Eventually the restaurant did the right thing and said "sorry, we can't get you a hot potato."

                          Bob, what if they don't have a microwave oven in the kitchen at Lugers? Their menu is not that big and it's possible (likely) they wouldn't have one if they don't have a use for it several times a day.

                          Let's just chalk it up as a funny/bizarre story. I think we all know that under normal circumstances PL is fully capable of delivering a well cooked spud at the correct temperature.

                          1. re: egit

                            I never thought you were blaming me for the potato problem. I wrote about it because I thought it was funny/bizarre, as you said, and I thought the Chowhound community would enjoy the story.

                          2. re: Bob Martinez

                            I'm with you 100% on this, Bob. If the baked potato came with the steak at no additional charge, I'd still think it wasn't much of a potato, but I wouldn't have posted here. But you pay extra for a baked potato, and you'd think that of all places, Peter Luger's would get it right. We like butter (as opposed to sour cream) in our baked potato, and none of the three they brought out would have melted the butter.

                            But at the end, they did the right thing, and we'll be going back to PL. We'll be just as vigilant about the baked potatoes, especially if we ever do another late lunch.

                            1. re: BrookBoy

                              I think what happened was more than a bit inept on the kitchen's part. If they cant figure out how to deliver an acceptably hot baked potato outside of main meal hours, they should just tell you they cant serve a hot potato at that time and let you decide what to do. I dont know how that kitchen is staffed but somebody ought to have made a judgement before they sent the first, second and THIRD potatoes out. Obviously this isnt a judgement on the core products of Lugers - theirs is a simple product thats hard to do well and they do it really well. but somebody wasnt on the ball that day.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          You watch. Someone is going to complain about the white rice at some Chinese restaurant.

                          You. Just. Wait.

                      1. Note to self: Send warm spud back to kitchen three times for reheating and later receive complimentary dessert. Easy enough.

                        1. If I was served 1, let alone 3 lukewarm, sorry excuses for a baked potato, I would have put my foot so far up the managers ass

                          1. This is a silly question, but can't potatoes be par-baked and then finished off for fifteen minutes or so?

                            Does it affect texture or taste?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Violatp

                              They're cooked all the way through and re-heated. It would still take a long time to finish cooking a partially baked potato. The potatoes re-heat just fine provided they're given enough time.
                              I was in no way blaming the OP when I pointed out that baked potatoes aren't made to order, just that the trouble was obviously not firing the potato on time so it would be hot. It takes a little while to get a baked potato warmed through and so the moment the order went in it should have been fired by the cook. As a result they then tried to rush out the baked potatoes after that, so of course they weren't warm either.

                              1. re: saria

                                Oh, sure. From my perspective, PL dropped the ball.

                                Of course, now I'm craving a baked potato...

                              2. re: Violatp

                                I'm no expert on baked potatoes, but I do know that when we've had a baked potato at PL in the past, it always arrived too hot to touch, let alone pick up. When I would use my fork to break up the actual potato inside the skin, steam would rise, and the potato itself was fluffy in a way that always indicated freshly baked to me. Cold butter would melt in moments.

                                The three potatoes they brought to us at that meal were tepid at best, easily picked up with no discomfort, and the potato inside the skin had toughened somewhat, changing the texture, as it does when the potato sits for a long time after baking. I think what happens is that the steam inside the potato changes the texture when it isn't released soon after baking (but, again, I'm no expert on this).

                                I actually don't mind a tepid baked potato, and I'll sometimes have one at home or someone's house, when the potatoes have been sitting for a while. But our hearts were set on a piping hot potato with melted butter to go with our steak, and it never occurred to us that we'd get anything else at Peter Luger's.

                              3. I wanted to post this followup on my original post. My wife and I have been back to Luger's a couple of times since the above incident, but in the evening when both home fries and freshly baked potatoes are always available.

                                About two weeks ago we went back for another late lunch/early dinner, again arriving about 3:00 PM. (The benefit of going at that time is that you pretty much have your pick of the tables, no waiting involved.) We happened to be seated at the same table where the potato incident occurred, and we had the same waiter, who actually remembered us (and the potato incident).

                                He gave us a warm welcome and two pertinent pieces of information right off the bat. The not so welcome info was that the baked potato situation hadn't changed. Apparently you just cannot get a hot baked potato at Peter Luger's at that time of day.

                                The other piece of information obviated the whole thing, though. Luger's has started serving the home fries at lunch. Problem solved for us, as we prefer the home fries anyway. So we had yet another fine meal at the great Peter Luger's.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: BrookBoy

                                  All's well that ends well. Maybe your earlier visit prompted them to solve the afternoon potato famine!

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Which just shows why they have been around so long, someone is actually on the ball.