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Aug 2, 2013 11:44 AM

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.

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  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 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.